A Proposal to Redistrict California: Central Coast

This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.

This post will concentrate on the Central Coast region. There are four congressional districts covered here.

CA-17 (Dark Slate Blue):


Population – 45.5% white, 1.7% black, 43.4% Hispanic, 6.2% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.8% other

Majority-Minority District

This district is centered around Santa Cruz and Monterey – affluent, liberal coastal communities. It also includes some more Latino inland communities, such as Salinas and Gilroy. Gilroy specifically has little in common with Santa Cruz or Monterey; given the shape of the other districts, however, there is nowhere else but CA-17 for it to go.

CA-23 (Aquamarine):


Population – 50.7% white, 2.1% black, 40.5% Hispanic, 3.9% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 2.3% other

New White-Majority

CA-23 is one of the more easy districts to draw; it starts at the end of CA-17 and then simply adds population until the end of Santa Barbara County. Unlike its previous incarnation, CA-23 is majority-white. However, the proposed CA-24 is majority-minority (unlike the previous CA-24) – so there’s no regression.

CA-24 (Indigo):

Population – 48.3% white, 1.7% black, 41.1% Hispanic, 6.3% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.3% other

Over-18 Population – 53.1% white, 36.3% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

CA-24 starts where CA-23 ends. It then stretches along the coast of Ventura County; the three centers of population are in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and Thousand Oaks. To the best of my knowledge, nobody else has mapped Ventura County in this elegant, cleverly compact way. The only weakness is that Thousand Oaks is put in a different district from Simi Valley and Moorpark, both of which have a lot in common with it.

CA-25 (Pale Violet Red, located in the center-right of the map):

Population – 53.0% white, 5.1% black, 30.7% Hispanic, 7.9% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.9% other

CA-25 takes in the less urban parts of Ventura and Los Angeles County. Most of its population is located in Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley. Unfortunately, Lancaster is split from its sister city Palmdale – the two really ought to be in one district, but I couldn’t find a way to do it given the constraints I put on this map.

Final Thoughts

Most of the Central Coast keeps communities of interest together extremely well, certainly more effectively than the previous gerrymander. Nevertheless, there are some bad community splits. These splits are ultimately a function of three decisions: the decision not to split San Francisco, the decision to create an Asian-majority district in the South Bay, and the decision not to cross county lines into Central Valley.

The next post will take a look at Los Angeles County.

--Inoljt

 

A Proposal to Redistrict California: Central Valley

This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.

This post will concentrate on the Central Valley region.

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Northern Central Valley

The Northern Central Valley is home to two congressional districts, along with the parts of several others. It is quite easy to redistrict; both congressional districts fit very neatly within the county boundaries:

CA-11 (Chartreuse/Green):

Population – 35.8% white, 7.0% black, 39.6% Hispanic, 13.8% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 3.4% other

Over-18 Population – 40.8% white, 34.8% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

Since 2000, this district has had the most interesting history in all California. It’s the only district which changed party control since the incumbent-protection 2000 gerrymander; Democrat Jerry McNerney defeated Republican Richard Pombo in 2006. In 2010 Mr. McNerney nearly lost his seat, in an extremely tight race.

The old seat took in parts of the Bay Area and Central Valley. Since the Bay Area’s population growth has lagged behind, this seat now shifts to be entirely Central Valley-based. It also, quite unintentionally, turns from a white-majority district into a Hispanic-plurality one. The main population base is in San Joaquin Valley, centered around the city Stockton. Stockton is both a Bay Area exurb (many people commute there), an independent region of its own, and some of the most productive farmland in America.

CA-18 (Yellow):

Population – 40.2% white, 3.0% black, 47.3% Hispanic, 6.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 2.6% other

Over-18 Population – 46.0% white, 41.5% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District

This district takes in all of Merced County and most of Stanislaus County. It’s famous for the rich agriculture grown in it. This primarily agricultural district is home, California-style, to several cities – Modesto and Merced – where most of the population resides.

CA-19 (Yellow-Green):

Population – 54.3% white, 2.1% black, 36.9% Hispanic, 2.8% Asian, 1.5% Native American, 2.4% other

This district is the enormous yellow-green district at the far-right of the first map, stretching from the Lake Tahoe to San Bernardino County. Part of the district is home to national parks amid sparsely populated desert and mountains: Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, and the Mojave Desert. The majority of the people, however, actually live in agricultural Tulare County.

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Southern Central Valley

CA-20 (Pink):

Population – 22.8% white, 3.7% black, 68.1% Hispanic, 3.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 1.5% other

Over-18 Population – 26.9% white, 62.7% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; Majority-Hispanic

Here is the first majority-Hispanic district in the proposal, with many more to come. This district is drawn to have as many Hispanics as possible, while at the same time deliberately not entering the cities Fresno or Bakersfield. This rural district is home to some of the richest agriculture in America – yet also some of the poorest communities in California.

Ironically, despite being two-thirds Hispanic, this district may still not represent the Latino population adequately. This is because the Hispanics here are disproportionately young, poor, and undocumented (the undocumented ones often work as fruit-pickers). Indeed, the electorate might actually be majority-white. The ratio of Hispanics living in CA-20 to Hispanics actually voting in CA-20 might be the most skewed in the entire nation, with the exception of South Texas. It is therefore quite possible that a VRA challenge might be attempted here, with the argument that this district ought to take in areas with higher rates of Hispanic voting (i.e. the cities). Such a hypothetical district would be highly gerrymandered, which is why it is not done here.

CA-22 (Sienna/Dark Brown):

Population – 42.8% white, 5.5% black, 44.9% Hispanic, 3.7% Asian, 0.8% Native American, 2.3% other

Over-18 Population – 48.3% white, 39.6% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

CA-22 takes in the whole of the city Bakersfield (which previously was split into two pieces by the 2000 gerrymander). It then includes all of Kern County. While the district is plurality-Hispanic, whites almost certainly compose a large majority of the actual electorate.

CA-21 (Maroon):

Population – 34.7% white, 6.0% black, 44.9% Hispanic, 11.5% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 2.3% other

Over-18 Population – 40.3% White, 40.1% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District

In the 2000 gerrymander the city of Fresno was chopped up into multiple congressional districts. This proposal remedies that by placing the entirety of Fresno into one congressional district. Credit for this idea goes to the users of swingstateproject.

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Final Thoughts

It is possible that this entire region might be subject to a VRA challenge. Hispanics compose strong plurality of this entire region, and one would therefore expect that the plurality or majority of congressmen elected in the Central Valley to be Hispanic. However, it is quite possible – given low Hispanic participation and ability to participate – that every single elected congressman would be white. Even the 2/3 Hispanic district could quite conceivably elect a white congressman who would act contrary to the interests of the Hispanic population (e.g. by announcing strong opposition against the numerous undocumented Hispanic immigrants living in the district, constituents whom said congressman would speak for rather than attack in an ideal world).

This is the trouble with redistricting; drawing congressional districts according to communities of interest and compactness usually hurts minority representation dramatically. A less pretty map could probably send 2 to 3 Hispanics to Congress. On the other hand, it would probably result in spaghetti-style districts that rip apart communities of interest. Thus the conundrum.

The next post will take a look at California’s Central Coast.

 

 

A Proposal to Redistrict California: the Bay Area

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

This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.

This post will concentrate on the Bay Area.

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The North Bay

CA-6 (Teal):

Population – 68.4% white, 1.9% black, 21.4% Hispanic, 4.7% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 3.1% other

California’s sixth congressional district is barely changed from its previous incarnation. As in the past, it consists of a Marin County-based district which then stretches north into Sonoma County. It is also surprisingly Hispanic. The wealthy, somewhat rural communities here have a distinctive nature: if one is on a quest for hipster companionship, California’s 6th congressional district is probably the place to go.

CA-7 (Dark Gray):

Population – 43.3% white, 11.2% black, 26.5% Hispanic, 14.0% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

This is an ugly district. It basically puts together all the leftovers that weren’t placed in other Bay Area and Central Valley districts. The core of the population is in Solano County. Substantial population also comes from the northern parts of Contra Costa County. The district finally reaches an arm into Central Valley, between Stockton and Sacramento, to scoop up left-over population from CA-3 and CA-11. The communities do have some things in common, but not much.

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San Francisco and the East Bay

CA-8 (Slate Blue):

Population – 46.3% white, 5.9% black, 13.4% Hispanic, 30.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.7% other

Majority-Minority District

San Francisco. Enough said.

CA-9 (Cyan):

Population – 36.3% white, 16.5% black, 21.2% Hispanic, 21.1% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

This is another one of California’s great melting-pot congressional districts. It’s composed of a core of inner East Bay Area cities: Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond. Generally these cities are considered the “poorer” parts of the Bay Area, although in reality they are richer than the national median. Indeed, there are pockets of great wealth here. Finally, these communities are famous (or infamous) for their liberalism, second only to San Francisco.

CA-10 (Deep Pink):

Population – 57.2% white, 5.4% black, 19.7% Hispanic, 13.4% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 4.1% other

This district is composed of East Bay suburbs, including the Tri-Valley. This region, one of the richest in America, has long been carved up, for political purposes, into separate congressional districts. Here, for the first time, they will be in one compact district.

CA-13 (Dark Salmon):

Population – 33.0% white, 13.7% black, 29.8% Hispanic, 19.5% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 3.7% other

Majority-Minority District

This district is somewhat of a hybrid between the two districts above. Part of it is composed of the inner East Bay: Hayward, San Leandro, and part of Oakland. The other part is composed of East Bay suburbs: Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore.

To be honest, the East Bay suburbs and the the inner East Bay cities should be in separate districts. Unfortunately, trying to actually put those communities where they belong creates some very awkward-looking districts.

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The South Bay

CA-12 (Cornflower Blue):

Population – 39.6% white, 2.3% black, 21.5% Hispanic, 32.8% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.7% other

Majority-Minority District

This district is somewhat difficult to see, since it’s not fully in the picture. It goes from South San Francisco into San Mateo County, which is the core of the district. Silicon Valley is the main word associated with this district.

CA-14 (Olive):

Population – 42.7% white, 2.6% black, 20.5% Hispanic, 30.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.6% other

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

Like CA-12, this district is the center of Silicon Valley. Its extremely wealthy San Jose suburbs are home to many of the technology industry’s most famous companies.

CA-15 (Dark Orange):

Population – 23.1% white, 3.2% black, 18.8% Hispanic, 50.9% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.8% other

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Asian

Here we encounter the first district in which whites do not compose the largest racial group. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to the largest population of Asian-Americans in the United States, and this district is intentionally drawn to be majority Asian under the VRA. Over 99% of the population lives in the western half of the district; the eastern half is simply mountains whose purpose is to make the district look more compact.

One ought to note that although Asians are the majority of the district’s population, the actual electorate will almost certainly be majority-white (given low Asian voter participation, registration, and citizenship rates). However, because Asians are very spread out in the Bay Area, it is impossible to increase the Asian percentage much further without very obvious gerrymandering.

CA-16 (Lime):

Population – 33.7% white, 2.8% black, 38.4% Hispanic, 21.9% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.9% other

Over-18 Population – 37.2% White, 34.2% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District

The second district in which whites are not the largest ethnicity, CA-16 is plurality Hispanic (and there are many more districts like it to come). Like CA-15, this district intentionally draws Hispanics together. However, the over-18 population is still plurality white; there are just not enough Hispanics in the South Bay to effectively create a compact, Hispanic-controlled district. The district itself is essentially composed of downtown San Jose.

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Here is a picture of the overall Bay Area:

Link to Picture of the Overall Bay Area

The next post will take a look at California’s Central Valley.

--Inoljt

 

 

A Proposal to Redistrict California: Northern California and Sacramento

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

Right now states across the nation are engaging in congressional redistricting, as mandated by law after the 2010 Census. Most redistricting is in the hands of politicians and thus heavily corrupted; the political party in control of the process is now busily gerrymandering districts to ensure it stays in power.

California is an exception to this rule; it is undergoing a unique experiment with a citizen’s redistricting committee. This committee will draw districts according to communities of interest rather than political expediency.

This post, and the ones following it, will outline one possible way to redistrict California. It uses the program Dave’s Redistricting Application, which allows anybody to draw congressional districts. Credit should be given to the many users on swingstateproject.com, whose maps of California provided much of the basis for this drawing. Particular inspiration was taken from the maps of users DrPhillips and roguemapper (whose maps everybody should look at too).

Because California is such a big and complex state, the proposal will be divided into eight regions:

1. Northern California and Sacramento

2. the Bay Area

3. Central Valley

4. Central Coast

5. Los Angeles County

6. Orange County

7. the Inland Empire

8. San Diego

Each region will be the subject of one post. I have also sent this proposal to the California Redistricting Committee.

In drawing these districts, several factors have been considered. These are outlined below, in order of importance:

Equal Population – Congressional districts must have equal population, to the exact person. This proposal puts each congressional district to below 1,000 people of the target. This is actually a hard barrier to meet, since the voting districts of California are incredibly large (some have over 100,00 people) and difficult to deal with.

The Voting Rights Act – The Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates the creation of majority-minority districts under certain circumstances and regulates the use of race in drawing congressional districts. It is an incredibly complex piece of legislation, with numerous court cases, and something I admittedly don’t fully understand. This proposal attempts to follow the VRA as best as possible, by not regressing current majority-minority districts (easy to do, given the growth of California’s minority population). It also draws new majority-minority districts where reasonably possible – a very subjective thing, true, but so is the VRA.

Communities of Interest – Drawing congressional districts that put together like communities is an extremely important part of this proposal. Too often California’s politicians have gerrymandered together unlike communities for their own political ends (which is the reason California now has an independent redistricting commission). This proposal attempts to stop that.

Compactness – No more weirdly shaped, spaghetti-style congressional districts. Unfortunately, compactness and the VRA do not go together – drawing majority-minority districts often leads to less compact districts. Since the VRA is supreme by federal law, it takes precedence; here compactness is sacrificed several times to the VRA’s mandate. Nevertheless, compactness is still a priority.

County and Town Lines – Town lines are useful indicators of communities of interest, while county lines aid compactness. This proposal attempts its best to respect both.

Partisanship – Actually, this proposal does not consider the political leanings of a community; it was drawn entirely without political data. Speculation of how these districts would vote is entirely absent from this proposal.

Now, let’s begin with Northern California and Sacramento:

Northern California

Link to Picture of Northern California


CA-1 (Blue):

Population – 59.6% white, 1.5% black, 27.3% Hispanic, 7.0% Asian, 1.6% Native American, 3.1% other

This district ranges from the vineyards of Napa Valley to the marijuana groves of Mendocino County. It covers a lot of space, but almost all the people live in the medium-sized towns and cities along the coast and dotted throughout the rest of the district (interestingly, it’s a lot less white than I initially expected). Perhaps the biggest problem with this district is that it divides the city Napa in two, the consequence of decisions made elsewhere in the map.

It is possible to advocate for a coastal district stretching from upper Sonoma County to the top of the state. This proposal decided not to do that for the sake of compactness; nevertheless, such a district would be well worth considering.

CA-2 (Green)

Population – 78.0% white, 1.4% black, 11.8% Hispanic, 2.4% Asian, 2.9% Native American, 3.6% other

This enormous district covers the northern-most portion of California. Like CA-1, there’s a lot of land covered here – but most of it is just empty space. Most of the population actually lives along the coast and in Redding.

CA-4 (Red)

Population – 79.1% white, 1.0% black, 11.9% Hispanic, 4.2% Asian, 0.8% Native American, 3.0% other

This district is composed of two entities. First are the exurbs of Sacramento, located in Placer County and composing the about half of the district’s population. They are joined by the communities in the mountainous Sierra Nevada, too small by themselves to form a single district.

Sacramento

Sacramento County is populous enough to support about two districts.

Link to Picture of Sacramento

CA-3 (Purple)

Population – 57.3% white, 7.7% black, 16.3% Hispanic, 13.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 4.8% other

CA-3 previously constituted a very gerrymandered district connecting suburban Sacramento with a bunch of unrelated communities. Since suburban Sacramento’s population has grown so much, it shrinks rapidly to compose only the eastern and southern suburbs of Sacramento.

CA-5 (Gold)

Population – 38.6% white, 12.3% black, 26.8% Hispanic, 17.2% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

A wonderful example of California’s amazing diversity, CA-5 takes in downtown Sacramento itself. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are almost equally distributed – with whites composing a plurality despite being just 38.6% of the population. Moreover, this area is one of the most racially integrated in the United States; the district does not lump together a bunch of 90% white, 90% black, 90% Hispanic, and 90% Asian communities in one (as too often happens elsewhere). Rather, each people of different races actually live in the same neighborhoods.

The next post will take a look at the Bay Area.

--Inoljt

 

There's more...

Why Does Mississippi Vote Republican?

This post will attempt to explain why Mississippi is a Republican stronghold today.

But before doing that, let’s describe another state – call it State X. Looking at State X is very useful for analyzing why Mississippi votes Republican. I invite you to guess what state it is.

Here is a description of State X. Demographically, State X is very rural and very white. There are no major cities in the state; one has to cross state lines and drive more than a hundred miles to find the nearest metropolitan area. Racially, the state is homogeneously white; indeed, it is the second whitest state in the entire nation.

State X has almost always been a one-party stronghold, and that party has generally been the Republican Party. The Republican Party has almost always taken this state’s electoral votes; indeed, it voted for a Republican president for more than a century. State X has only elected one Democratic senator in its entire history.

I am talking, of course, about Vermont.

Despite its history of supporting Republicans, Vermont is currently a one-party Democratic stronghold. In 2008 it gave President Barack Obama 67.5% of the vote. It currently sends Socialist Bernie Sanders to the Senate (in addition to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the only Democrat the Green Mountain state has ever sent to the Senate).

What does this have to do with Mississippi voting Republican?

Well, Vermont and Mississippi almost never vote the same way for president:

Link to Table of Mississippi and Vermont Voting Patterns

Indeed, there are only seven elections out of 48 total (since Mississippi became a state) that the two have supported the same candidate for president: 1820, 1840, 1872, 1972, 1980, 1984, and most recently 1988.

Oftentimes during presidential landslides, Mississippi or Vermont are the only states which refuse to go along with the rest of the country. In 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt won an enormous landslide, taking the highest percentage in the electoral vote since the beginning of the two-party system. The only states to go against him? Maine – and Vermont.

In 1964, on the other hand, President Lyndon B. Johnson likewise won a stunning landslide, taking the highest percentage in the popular vote since the beginning of the two-party system. This time, however, it was Mississippi that went against the president.

In 2012, barring an epic meltdown on either the Democratic or Republican nominee, Mississippi will vote Republican and Vermont will vote Democratic. This trend is likely to continue in as far as the eye can see into the future.

It seems that there is just something that drives Mississippi and Vermont different ways. Vermont is a symbol of the Yankee North; Mississippi of the Deep South. Since the founding of America, the two have been culturally and socially at odds. Sometimes this division occurs in trivial ways, such as nasty stereotypes or different voting patterns. Sometimes the division takes on much more significance, most famously in the Civil War.

So to answer the question in the post’s title, Mississippi votes Republican because Vermont votes Democratic. Or, to put it another way, Vermont votes Democratic because Mississippi votes Republican. And as long as presidential elections continue to happen, Mississippi will probably be voting the opposite way of Vermont.

--Inoljt, mypolitikal.com 

 

The 2010 Midterm Elections, and the Black Shift Republican

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Republican strategists often refer to the African-American community with a tone of hopelessness. Blacks are just so, so amazingly Democratic. No matter what the Republican Party does, these people think, the black vote inevitably ends up giving Democrats more than 85% of the vote. Even when the Republican candidate himself or herself is African-American, the black community still votes around 80% Democratic. This hopelessness is especially pronounced in the age of Obama, an individual to whom the black vote is uniquely loyal (as the first black president).

It is true that blacks vote very, very Democratic. In other ways, however, they behave quite like other groups of voters.

Take the 2010 midterms elections. These were a disaster for the Democratic Party, which took a pounding and lost the House of Representatives. The Democratic share of the vote plummeted, hurt by a weak economy and unpopular policies:


Democratic Republican Margin 2010 House Elections 44.8 51.6 6.8 2008 House Elections 53.2 42.5 10.7 2008 Presidential Election 52.87 45.6 7.27

In this rightward shift, everybody voted more Republican than in 2008. Every region of the country was redder. Women voted more Republican. Men did. Republicans did. Independents did, especially so. Democrats did too. With regards to ethnicity, Americans of every race and nationality voted more Republican. Hispanics did. Asians did. Native Americans and Pacific Islanders did. Whites did, very much so.

So did blacks:


Democratic Republican Margin Black Vote: 2010 House Elections 89 9 80 Black Vote: 2008 House Elections 93 5 88 Black Vote: 2008 Presidential Election 95 4 91

Now, this table obviously shows that blacks still voted very Democratic in 2010. The point, however, is that – like everybody else – blacks also shifted Republican in 2010. The presence of President Barack Obama did not magically prevent Republicans from gaining black votes in 2010.

It is true that Republicans gained less amongst blacks:


2010 Republican Improvement From…
2008 House Elections 2008 Presidential Election Overall 17.5 14.1 Blacks 8 11

Partly this is because blacks are a highly Democratic constituency. When the nation as a whole shifts Republican, highly loyal Democrats move less rightwards than the average. Partly this is due to Mr. Obama’s popularity amongst blacks.

Without this rightward shift in the black vote, however Republican victories in Illinois or Pennsylvania’s senate races would have been a lot closer – or turned into losses altogether. The same holds true for close Republican victories in the Ohio and Florida gubernatorial elections. Democrats would probably hold a handful more House seats, from North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district to Alabama’s 2nd congressional district.

If Republicans had done the same amongst blacks as they did in 2008, Democrats would have won a number of races they lost. The Republican gain amongst blacks played an important part of their overall national victory.

 

A Fascinating Graphic: Comparing Chinese Provinces With Countries

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Several months ago The Economist released a fascinating graphic on China, titled “Comparing Chinese Provinces With Countries.” As the title implies, this graphic compares each of China’s provinces with different countries. The comparisons are GDP, GDP per person, population, and exports. There are a number of interesting things that the graphic shows.

Unsurprisingly, China does “best” in the population graph. While everybody knows that China’s population is the largest in the world, the sheer size of China’s population can still sometimes come as a shock. The province Anhui by itself has the same population as that of Great Britain, for instance. And there are seven provinces with higher populations than Anhui; the most populated province, Guangdong, has 58% more population than Anhui. On the low side of things comes Tibet, which covers a lot of space but has a mere 3.0 million residents (smaller than some American cities). It’s pretty astonishing to see how small Tibet’s actual population is, given the huge amount of news coverage devoted to it.

The exports graph is also interesting. Most provinces have absolutely tiny exports, belying China’s reputation as an exporting power. Beijing, for instance, exports only 29.2 billion in goods – about the same as Oman. Five coastal provinces account for 77% of China’s total exports; of those five, Guangdong alone is 30% of China’s total exports.

Humorously, the highest rated comment (by far) on the article goes “I cannot find Taiwan.”As a newspaper published by the United Kingdom, The Economist does not include Taiwan as a Chinese province. A Chinese version of the same graphic, of course, would include Taiwan.

Finally, there is one area where China does quite badly: per capita income. The average income each person makes for most provinces reads like a who’s list of Third World, developing countries – Angola, El Salvador, Namibia. This is after thirty years of enormous economic growth, which really makes one think about how poor China was back in the days of Mao Zedong.

The poorest province of China is Guizhou, in which GDP per person is only $3,335. GDP per person in Guizhou is lower than that of the African countries Congo-Brazzaville and Swaziland. But guess which country Guizhou’s GDP is closest to:

India!

GDP per capita in the poorest province of China – a province poorer than several sub-Saharan African countries – is the same as GDP per capita in India. It makes one realize that India, for all its recent economic success, is still really really poor.

 

 

The Many Varieties of Arabic

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

If you’ve ever read a speech, you’re probably aware that there is quite a difference between written English and spoken English. Spoken English is generally quite relaxed, often ignoring grammatical rules. Written English, on the other hand, is quite formal. Most written speeches would sound quite awkward if used in casual conversation.

This situation is not unique to English. Many languages, in fact, have more formal written than spoken forms. Indeed, many of these take the formality much further than English.

Arabic seems to be one of these languages. If there is a gap between written and spoken English, then there is a chasm between written and spoken Arabic. Written Arabic has had centuries more time to develop than English; therefore the dialects of Arabic are far more different (and harder to comprehend for an Arabic speaker) than the different accents of English. Imagine if all French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish-speakers still wrote in modernized Latin. That basically seems to be the situation with Arabic today.

There appear to be multiple levels of “formalness” in Arabic; the language gradually goes from extremely formal to extremely casual. There is classical Arabic, the “holy” language of the Koran. There is Modern Standard Arabic, which is used for formal written occurrences (e.g. speeches). There is the somewhat formal Arabic used in formal spoken situations and between Arabic-speakers from different countries. Finally, there is the language of the street – the many mutually incomprehensible dialects of Arabic that most people use in daily life. Unlike English, there are grammatical differences between each of these styles of Arabic. Indeed, one could make the argument that the different dialects of Arabic actually constitute separate languages, except with the same written form.

During the Arab Revolutions, there were several fascinating examples of this system. Most speeches in Arabic seem to use Modern Standard Arabic, which is quite different from the language of the street. This is true both in pronunciation and grammar, unlike the case in English.

However, some dictators attempted to add a bit of local dialect when addressing the populace. Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, instead of speaking in the formal Modern Standard Arabic (as is the norm), decided to speak in the Tunisian dialect. More recently Saif Al Islam Gaddafi (the son of Muammar Gaddafi), in a speech to the Libyan people, stated:

Today I will speak with you… without a written paper, or a written speech. (N)or even speak to you in the Classical (fuṣħā) Arabic language. Today I will speak with you in Libyan dialect, and address you directly, as an individual member of this Libyan people. And I will speak extempore. Even the ideas and the points are not prepared in advance. Because this is a speech from the heart and the mind.

On the other hand, it seems that – despite his words – Mr. Gaddafi’s speech was mostly not in the Libyan dialect of Arabic, but rather the normal Modern Standard Arabic.

Not all dictators followed this route. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak never used the Eygptian dialect in his speeches to the people, preferring the more formal standard Arabic.

Now, none of this probably had a significant effect on the Arab Revolutions. Both Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Ben Ali fell from power, despite their different approaches to speechifying. Other factors are far more important than the form of Arabic that a dictator decides to use when making a speech.

Nevertheless, the difference between written and spoken Arabic is still a fascinating topic to explore. Many English speakers (and probably speakers of other languages too) naively assume that all languages are like English. This is not in fact true. As the example of Arabic shows, English is far more standardized and less diverse than most currently prominent languages. Exploring the difference between English and other languages remains a fascinating subject.

 

 

A Modest Suggestion on Improving High School Education

 

College education is different in many ways from K-12 education. Unlike high school or elementary teachers, for instance, professors actually know what they are talking about. Another difference: America’s colleges are the best in the world, while its high schools are quite mediocre.

There are many reasons why this is so. One reason is that the average college student pays several thousand dollars for his or her education, funding the average public high school can only dream of. Another one is that American society respects college professors, but not high school teachers so much.

Nevertheless, there is at least one thing colleges undeniably do better than high schools – and which high schools can readily adopt. This is the professor evaluation. At the end of every class, college professors hand out anonymous evaluations for students to fill out. College professors then get an unbiased view of what students think of them, and what their weaknesses are.

For some strange reason, high schools have never implemented this procedure. Most probably nobody has thought of it before.

They should. Nowadays education reformers are quite passionate about improving teacher performance. What better way to do so than by asking the students themselves?

For this reason, however, teacher unions may be resistant to the idea; they may argue that high school students are not mature enough to effectively evaluate a teacher. There is also a simple way to address this opposition: keep teacher evaluations for teacher’s eyes only. This does little to dilute the effectiveness of this reform, because teacher evaluations have their greatest effect on the teachers themselves. It also gets rid of the fear that bad evaluations may lead to teachers being fired.

Teachers truly do care about their job, and they often strive to improve themselves. Yet often they are groping in the dark. A teacher may hear rumors that he or she is boring or too political, but students are naturally reluctant to say this to his or her face. Anonymous student evaluations enable teachers to actually find out what they’re doing right and wrong. Indeed, they probably are the most effective way of doing this.

Teacher evaluations are simple, extremely effective, and cost practically no money. There’s no magic cure to the ailments that assail America’s high schools, but instituting teacher evaluations may come the closest that there is to one.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

“How Puerto Rico Became White”

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

College education is different in many ways from K-12 education. Unlike high school or elementary teachers, for instance, professors actually know what they are talking about. Another difference: America’s colleges are the best in the world, while its high schools are quite mediocre.

There are many reasons why this is so. One reason is that the average college student pays several thousand dollars for his or her education, funding the average public high school can only dream of. Another one is that American society respects college professors, but not high school teachers so much.

Nevertheless, there is at least one thing colleges undeniably do better than high schools – and which high schools can readily adopt. This is the professor evaluation. At the end of every class, college professors hand out anonymous evaluations for students to fill out. College professors then get an unbiased view of what students think of them, and what their weaknesses are.

For some strange reason, high schools have never implemented this procedure. Most probably nobody has thought of it before.

They should. Nowadays education reformers are quite passionate about improving teacher performance. What better way to do so than by asking the students themselves?

For this reason, however, teacher unions may be resistant to the idea; they may argue that high school students are not mature enough to effectively evaluate a teacher. There is also a simple way to address this opposition: keep teacher evaluations for teacher’s eyes only. This does little to dilute the effectiveness of this reform, because teacher evaluations have their greatest effect on the teachers themselves. It also gets rid of the fear that bad evaluations may lead to teachers being fired.

Teachers truly do care about their job, and they often strive to improve themselves. Yet often they are groping in the dark. A teacher may hear rumors that he or she is boring or too political, but students are naturally reluctant to say this to his or her face. Anonymous student evaluations enable teachers to actually find out what they’re doing right and wrong. Indeed, they probably are the most effective way of doing this.

Teacher evaluations are simple, extremely effective, and cost practically no money. There’s no magic cure to the ailments that assail America’s high schools, but instituting teacher evaluations may come the closest that there is to one.

 

 

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