The Whitest District of Them All, Part 1

This is the part of a series of posts examining how to create super-packed districts of one race. “The Whitest District of Them All, Part 2″ can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The Challenge

The other posts in this series pack Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. All of these groups are minorities in the United States.

Whites, on the other hand, compose a majority of America’s population, numbering more than three out of every five Americans.

This makes creating the whitest district possible an extremely difficult task. It is usually quite obvious where to look when attempting to create a district composed entirely of one minority. For Asians, one goes to the San Francisco Bay Area; for blacks, one goes to the South Side of Chicago, for Hispanics one goes to Miami and South Texas; for Native Americans one goes to Oklahoma.

Whites, however, are different. There are so many extremely white areas in the United States that it is impossible to determine, at first glance, which area is the whitest of all. One needs to go through tedious trial-and-error to find out.

Strategies

There are several guidelines to follow in trying to draw the whitest congressional district possible. Firstly, there are already some very white congressional districts out there. The state of Vermont is 95.3% white. Then there is Maine’s 1st congressional district, which is 96.8% white. That’s a good lower-bound number.

In drawing these districts, I tried to find all the precincts which were more than 98% white. I then linked the precincts together into one continguous district using the whitest precincts between them. This process led to some very strange-looking districts.

The whitest parts of America have several characteristics in common:

Geography -  Anyplace within 1,500 miles of the Pacific Ocean is not white enough. Nor is any part of the former Confederacy.

There are several reasons for this. The states in the former Confederacy do have a lot of 98% white precincts. However, one quickly runs out of them and must then start taking in precincts with significant black populations. The problem is different in the Plains; these places are very white, but population is just too small altogether. One eventually is forced to take in minorities, because nobody lives in the 98% white areas of Nebraska or Idaho. Finally, in the Rocky Mountains and West Coast there are no 98% white areas at all; they are too integrated (Oregon, Utah) and/or the minority population is too high (California, Texas).

Rural America – The whitest parts of America are almost all rural. America’s cities and suburbs are always less white than its rural areas; I have not seen one exception to this rule so far. Indeed, it is extremely rare to find a 98% white precinct in any suburb or city at all. Perhaps only Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dayton, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have 98% white precincts.

Stagnant/Hard-to-Reach – In addition, they tend to be out-of-the-way. These places are generally a fairly long drive from major cities or highways. Economically, the whitest parts of the United States tend to be fairly stagnant (or in decline); there is not much going on. Indeed, one of the surest ways to tell that a place is undergoing rapid economic growth is an exploding Hispanic population.

Republican – Whites lean Republican, and it’s not surprising that extremely white congressional districts vote Republican. There are some exceptions (e.g. New England), but most of these districts voted for Senator John McCain.

The Districts

I drew a lot of districts in the quest for the whitest district of them all. It wouldn’t do the difficulty of this task justice to just show one district. Rather, I will show the five whitest districts of all the ones that I drew. Numbers five and four will be in this post. The top three will be in the next one.

And…here they are:

#5: Indiana


Population – 97.8% white, 0.2% black, 1.0% Hispanic, 0.2% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.7% other.

Indiana takes fifth place, with a 97.8% white district. This district weaves through rural Indiana to take in the whitest parts possible. It avoids the northwestern part of the state, which is slightly less white. Notice how the district forms enormous loops around the major cities and towns of Indiana where the minority population is greater.

Politically, this district would favor the Republican Party by a large margin. It gave Senator John McCain a healthy 60.0% of the vote; President Barack Obama took a mere 38.5%. Given that Mr. Obama overperformed tremendously in Indiana, a normal Democratic candidate would probably do even worse.

#4: Kentucky


Population – 98.0% white, 0.3% black, 0.7% Hispanic, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% Native American, 0.7% other

Kentucky, the heart of the Applachians, takes fourth place. It’s interesting how the “other” population is so relatively high in the district.

This district actually looks somewhat compact. The core of its population is in the mountainous area bordering West Virginia. Indeed, that part of the country is the whitest part of the United States; unfortunately for redistricters, it’s divided into three states. The district then reaches several arms out to take some other very white parts of Kentucky to the west.

Politically, parts of this district were ancestrally Democratic; President Bill Clinton might have won it. Since then Appalachia’s white working class has shifted strongly Republican. I’ll take a wild guess and say that it went Republican in 2008.

#3, #2, and #1

The next post will deal with the three whitest districts in the United States. Try to guess which states they’re located in!

--Inoljt 

 

Harsh SB1070 copycat laws on the horizon in 2011

From the Restore Fairness blog-

Following the tragic shooting in Arizona, there has been a call for greater civility and tolerance in the political and public spheres with the hope that a more reasonable path would be favored by all. However, news of  numerous states introducing legislation similar to Arizona’s harsh, anti-immigrant law, SB1070, doesn’t bode well for the new year.

On Tuesday, Mississippi passed and signed  into law SB 2179, a copy cat SB 1070 legislation that allows local law enforcement officers in Mississippi to demand proof of citizenship from drivers whom they have pulled over for traffic violations.

From the Clarion Ledger-

The bill would authorize local law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person may be in the country illegally during any “lawful stop, detention or arrest.

The bill’s chief backer is Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Republican in a chamber that is predominantly Democrat. Reports by the Clarion-Ledger indicate that Fillingane considers SB 2179 an improvement on SB 1070 because, according to him, SB 2179 only allows officers to inquire about a person’s citizenship status as part of a secondary search, once they have already been stopped for a different, ‘primary’ offense, such as a traffic violation. The issue remains, however, that a significant percentage of racial profiling takes place when people are stopped for minor traffic violations, during stops that are at the officer’s discretion, often without accountability on the part of the officer. Further, in addition to the ways in which this law can lead to racial profiling, it is important to note that the legislation will also cost the state additional costs of housing, transportation, and hiring experts.

Following in the footsteps of Mississippi, states like Florida, Iowa, Oregon, Nevada, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky are all contemplating Arizona-style immigration laws, with conservative legislatures and governors responding to the lack of federal action on immigration by taking immigration enforcement into their own hands. There are also concerns in Oklahoma, Nebraska and New Mexico, all of which are slated to usher in anti-immigration legislation.

In Virginia a group of House Republicans recently announced plans to put forward at least sixteen bills aimed at undocumented immigrants including bills that would ensure that children without documentation could not attend public schools and colleges. Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, who is taking the lead on these bills said that state action was called for in such areas where the federal government had “completely failed.” The bills that they unveiled on Tuesday included legislation that would require authorities to check the immigration status of anyone “taken into custody,” and to ensure that the check would apply even to those who were arrested and released on bail or bond before being taken to jail. Virginia already denies driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and all taxpayer-paid services except those expressly required by law such as education and emergency medical care. The  laws proposed by this group seek to challenge even those by denying public education to children who are undocumented.

When questioned by the Washington Post, David B. Albo said that while this package of anti-immigrant bills was motivated by Arizona’s SB1070 law introduced in 2010, they were of the opinion that the laws they propose were moderate in comparison to SB1070 and hence had a chance at passing where SB1070 did not.

A consideration for lawmakers on laws similar to SB1070 are the costs involved. For example, the Senate Bill 6, Kentucky’s Arizona copy cat law, is estimated to cost the state $40 million a year in expenses.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader:

…..A 2008 study estimated that, if Kentucky successfully removed all of its undocumented immigrants, it would lose $1.7 billion in economic activity, $756.8 million in gross state product, and approximately 12,059 jobs. Meanwhile, Arizona’s Hotel and Lodging Association reported a combined loss of $15 million in lodging revenue due to meeting cancellations just four months after its immigration bill’s passage due to an economic boycott that was waged against the state.

Skeptics of Arizona style immigration laws are also looking at the issue purely from the point of view of business and how such laws are detrimental for the economic prosperity of the state in question. Lawmakers opposing the bills argue that states proposing such legislation are being “fiscally irresponsible.“For example, in just four months after passing SB 1070, Arizona lost an estimated $141 million in visitor spending.

While debates around the politics, efficacy, economics and constitutionality of laws such as SB 1070 continue to rage, it is easy to forget that eventually it is individuals and their families that are most adversely affected by these laws. As more states think of taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, it is important to keep in mind that when we deny due process to some and compromise their civil liberties, we compromise the human rights of all.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Elections and the God Factor

By now most have seen, or at least heard about, the ad that Jack Conway (D-KY) is running to attack Rand Paul (R-KY) on religion. Conway took, what I consider to be, an objectionable last-ditch effort to discredit Rand Paul. In a race where Paul has been consistently leading Conway by 4-8 points (depending on the poll), Conway was clearly desperate to hit Paul and hit him hard.

For those who are not familiar with the ad, Conway attacks Rand Paul’s membership in a “secret society that mocked Christianity” and allegedly called the Holy Bible a “hoax.” The ad also mentioned references to the now famous Aqua-Buddha supposed worship.  

Make no mistake, this post is in no way an endorsement for Rand Paul. I find myself agreeing with Jack Conway on many more things than Paul, however this lowball attack ad campaign is ridiculous. Religion should be disregarded from political elections and a heavier focus should be placed on policy issues, and what candidates are going to bring to the office they are wishing to hold (however that would be in a perfect world).  

On the other hand, from a recent episode of Hardball Chris Mathews (like him or not) pointed out that what Conway used in his ad, albeit distasteful, has yet to be proven wrong.  Rand Paul avoids discussing the issue and the voters in Kentucky don't seem too distraught by the accusations (at least not enough to put polls in Conway's favor).  

This provides a perfect segue for the latest installment of religious-based smear tactics, courtesy of everyone’s favorite millionaire: John Raese.

Raese, who has already piled a wholesome $2.4 Million of his own money into his campaign, is starting to realize he’s in trouble. The polls show Manchin up anywhere between 2 and 5 points, and Raese has begun to panic. Where to turn from here? How does a plutocrat of questionable residency appeal to the West Virginia voter base?

With just ten days before the November mid-term elections, one of the closest and most important Senate races in the country has entered the realm of “silly.”

Republican U.S. Senate John Raese affirmed his support for Lance Schultz, president of the West Virginia Conservative Fund. Mr. Schultz criticized Mr. Manchin, saying the governor supports cap and trade legislation. He added that any candidate that supports such legislation “denies the existence of God, denies the truth of His work.”

“Well I tell you, you can’t have any better support than Lance Schultz,” Mr. Raese said following the event.

(Source: The State Column)

Granted Raese did not claim directly that Manchin denies the existence of God, he didn’t denounce it either. The most baffling part of this quote is that Joe Manchin is an outspoken critic of the Cap and Trade Legislation (he literally shoots a hole in the bill)

Hopefully, John Raese will take the higher road and not pursue the issue any further. It’s a shame when candidates get so desperate that they have to question the opponent’s personal faith in God to score political points.

(cross-posted from MyFDL)

Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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