Friday, July 26, 2013

Upcoming Sci-fi movies that look cool

World War Z: already out
Pacific Rim: already out
Elysium: August
Gravity: October
Ender's Game: November
Her: November
Snowpiercer: 2013/2014
The Zero Theorem: 2013/2014
Divergent: March 2014
Transcendence: April 2014
Edge of Tomorrow: June 2014
Planet of the Apes: July 2014
Jupiter Ascending: July 2014
Interstellar: November 2014
Tomorrowland: December 2014
Avatar 2: 2015
Independence Day 2: 2015
The Caves of Steel: 2015

Monday, July 22, 2013

2016 state categories for the pres election

Safe GOP    Solid GOP   Very Likely GOP   Likely GOP   Lean GOP     Tilt GOP    Barely GOP
Utah             Nebraska           Kentucky        Montana          N.C.             None         Ohio
Wyoming      Texas                  N.D.               Arizona                                                 Florida
Idaho            Kansas               Arkansas        Georgia              
Oklahoma     South Carolina     Louisiana       Indiana
Mississippi                                 W.V.              Missouri
Alabama                                    S.D.              

Safe Dem      Solid Dem      Very Likely Dem    Likely Dem    Lean Dem   Tilt Dem    Barely Dem

D.C.               Maryland         Maine                 N.M               Wisconsin     N.H.         Colorado
R.I.                New York        Connecticut         Nevada                              Penn.    
Vermont        California         Delaware            Michigan                               Iowa          
                      Hawaii            New Jersey         Minnesota
                      Illinois            Washington        Oregon            
Toss Up

Generally speaking, a case could be made for moving states in one direction or the other by one category.

Safe GOP: these states would probably never vote for the Democratic presidential candidate in a 2016 presidential election. If the Republican candidate was truly awful, they would go for a third party before the Democrats. Mississippi and Alabama were, compared to the other states, somewhat close in 2012. However, they don't have enough swing voters for them to ever actually go for the Democrat.
Solid GOP: these states might go Democrat in a blow-out. You could make a case that Nebraska and Kansas belong in the safe category, while SC and TX are "merely" very likely Republican.
Very Likely GOP: Obama actually did ok in the Dakotas in 2008, but got crushed there in 2012. Alaska has a bit of an independent streak. The others are all states that Bill Clinton won, and that were formerly more Democratic. It will be interesting to see whether or not Democrats can make a comeback there.
Likely GOP: If you're looking for a darkhorse contender for "state no one talks about that could flip in 2016," Montana could be it. I don't think candidates campaign there very often, but Obama only lost by two points in 2008. Indiana and Missouri were close states in 2008; while they appear to be trending away from Democrats, a D victory there isn't impossible. Arizona and Georgia are states where growing minority populations could eventually have a major impact.
Lean GOP: I think North Carolina definitely has a Republican lean, but a Democratic victory there is certainly plausible.
Barely GOP: Republicans have a slight advantage in both of these states, but only a slight one.
Tossup: I think Virginia is the one state where neither side really has an advantage.
Barely Dem: Democrats have a very small advantage in Colorado.
Tilt Dem: Democrats have a clear advantage in these states, but they are also certainly within reach for Republicans.
Lean Dem: Democrats have a slightly larger advantage in Wisconsin than in e.g. PA.
Likely Dem: Michigan and Minnesota are tempting targets for the GOP, but the GOP has continually come up short in these states. Oregon is a liberal Northwest state that isn't quite as liberal as Washington. New Mexico and Nevada are former swing states, but growing minority populations have (for the most part) taken them out of play.
Very Likely Dem: These states could go Republican in a fairly big win, but are otherwise probably not competitive.
Solid Dem: They could go Republican in a blow out.
Safe Dem: These states would probably vote for the Green Party before the Republican Party if they had to.

Here's another attempt at categorization:

Conservative Western states: Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas
These large but sparsely-populated states are all quite unlikely to vote for Democrats.

Somewhat conservative Western states: South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Alaska
Republicans have the advantage here, but they aren't as conservative as some other Western states.

Racially-polarized conservative states: Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama
These are states where the whites vote Republican and the minorities vote Democratic in a more polarized fashion than the rest of the country. In all three states, there are more whites.

Growing GOP states: Texas, Georgia, Arizona
Republicans have the advantage in all three states, but growing minority populations could put them in play for Democrats.

Interior South: West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana
These states mostly have strong state Democratic parties, but have voted for Republicans in national elections. Louisiana is really its own unique category, but it has similarities to these states.

Republican Midwest: Indiana, Missouri
Two Midwestern states with Southern influences, both of which are markedly more Republican than their Midwest neighbors.

Swing South: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida
States on the periphery of the South that could go either way in elections.

Libertarian swing states: Colorado, New Hampshire
States with libertarian streaks. They lean Democrat, but are also willing to vote Republican.

Midwest Swing States: PA, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin
Midwestern states that are all competitive.

Democratic Midwest: Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois
Midwestern states that lean Democratic a little more than do PA, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Democratic Southwestern states: New Mexico, Nevada
Sparsely-populated states where growing minority populations have made the states trend towards Democrats.

Pacific West: California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii
Liberal Western states.

Fairly liberal Northeast: NJ, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware
Democratic-leaning states that aren't quite as Democratic as the other Northeast states

Liberal Extended Northeast: NY, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, DC, Maryland

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If I were randomly given power over the US political system...

Here's what I would do:

Constitutional changes:

Make all states use vote-by-mail. Have states automatically register citizens to vote.

Make felon disenfranchisement unconstitutional. Make privately-owned prisons unconstitutional. Try to shift the prison system to be more about rehabilitation. 

Create a non-partisan commission to draw all Congressional Districts; allow Congressional Districts to cross state lines. Make House terms last three years.

Establish a separately-elected office of the Attorney General. Mandate that election to that office be non-partisan, and that no one who serves as Attorney General can ever serve as president.

Amend the constitution to say something like "money does not equal free speech." Ban corporations and any organizations of any kind from giving money to political candidates or organizations. Ban any charitable institution from having any kind of lobbying arm.

Make the death penalty unconstitutional.

Pass an amendment saying that the federal government and state and local governments share sovereignty over regulating the economic affairs of the country.

Get rid of the 2nd Amendment. Mandate universal background checks for all gun purchases. Keep a register of all guns and gun owners, and set up a warrant system that allows law enforcement to look at the register by applying for a warrant from a judge. Pass a law that allows hunting rifles and pistols for self-defense, while banning assault weapons (my definition is anything that meets any one criteria of the 1994 federal assault weapon ban); leave the rest to the states.

Pass an amendment enshrining the right to abortion before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Leave the rest to the states.

Pass the Equal Rights Amendment, but add that equality under the law shall not denied or abridged based on sexuality either. Specifically say that this includes gay marriage.

Change copyright law (the provision in the constitution) so that copyrights can only last for a period of up to thirty years.

Get rid of a debt ceiling separate from the normal budgetary process.

Enshrine the war powers act, potentially with some changes, into the constitution.

Pass an amendment requiring that all states use the same method to determine the allocation of their electoral votes. Abolish the position of elector and make the electoral votes go automatically to the presidential candidate who won them.

Pass an amendment establishing the right to privacy.

Pass an amendment that specifically says that religion shall play no role in government, and the government shall have no affiliation with religion.

Get rid of age and birth requirements in the Constitution, but allow Congress to pass them into law.

Re-write the constitution to make it more understandable to modern readers.

Legislative changes:
Economic Issues:

Pass another stimulus bill.

Institute single-payer health care.

Institute a millionaire's surtax, a graduated estate tax, and generally raise taxes on the rich and lower them for the poor. Try to simplify the tax code, but also increase the number of tax brackets.

Institute a carbon tax. Try to pass a worldwide climate (and, more broadly, environmental) treaty. Raise gas taxes. Invest heavily in renewable energy, and phase out coal power as much as possible. Promote nuclear energy.

Raise the minimum wage to $8 and index it to inflation.

Aggressively raise fuel economy and automobile safety standards.

Invest heavily in medical research, especially regarding cancer and heart diseases.

Speed the passage of the various Dodd-Frank rules, and impose a tax on large, systemically risky banks. Re-institute the Glass-Steagall bans on affiliations between commercial and investment banks. Impose strong liquidity and capital requirements.

Get rid of, or at least minimize, agricultural subsidies. Increase funding for food stamps.

Fund programs to help the long-term jobless find jobs.

Social Issues:

Pass EFCA and ENDA

Ban lobbyists from holding public office for ten years after their time of employment, and vice versa.

Legalize and tax marijuana. Raise taxes on cigarettes. Dramatically lower the the penalties for drug dealing and possession of drugs.

Legalize and regulate prostitution.

Outlaw nicotine (except for therapeutic purposes), and raise taxes on all tobacco products.

Pass immigration reform generally along the lines of the Gang of 8's proposal.

Make a strong push nationwide to prevent suicides. 

Institute a program to encourage more active lifestyles, including building parks, promoting amateur sports clubs, etc. Impose a carefully-designed "fat tax" on food, with the revenue from the tax going to fund healthy-eating options.

Ban the public subsidization of private schools; institute this ban over time.

Foreign Policy:

Set the defense budget to be about 3% of gdp, and start to withdraw troops from overseas bases (and not just from Afghanistan). Cut the size of all four branches of the military. Force the Israelis, Koreans, and others to be more self-sufficient in meeting their military needs.

Continue to try to lower the amount of nuclear weapons worldwide, especially in North Korea and Iran.

Fund pro-democracy NGO's worldwide, but especially in China, Russia, Iran, Ukraine, Egypt, and Nigeria (at least as much as I can get away with).

Try to help solve international conflicts and disputes like the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Kashmir Conflict, Cyprus dispute, etc. Offer these countries large amounts of aid if they can settle these issues.

Push through TPP and TAFTA, without strong intellectual property enforcement provisions. After passing TPP, try to expand it to all of Asia (especially Indonesia), and work on a Western Hemisphere Free Trade Agreement.

Invest heavily in Latin America, particularly Mexico and Brazil.

Move towards closer relations with India, including a free trade agreement and increased investment, with the goal of India becoming a major non-NATO ally.

Close Guantanamo Bay Prison and send all of the detainees to US prisons. Give the courts a one-time waiver to use otherwise inadmissible evidence in prosecuting the detainees.

Set up a "no-fly zone" in Syria, the same way we did in Libya.

Other initiatives:

Stack the courts and other public appointments with individuals who generally agree with my policies.

Have the courts automatically grow in size with population, with new seats added every four years.

Get rid of the filibuster for appointments, but continue its use for laws.

Establish multiple commissions on education reform, and try to go with some of the best ideas of each commission. Invest heavily in education.

Make D.C. and Puerto Rico (including the US Virgin Islands) states; in Puerto Rico's case, hold a referendum with the only options being statehood or independence, and go with whatever they vote. Make the various Pacific Islands into one state, or make them become independent countries.

Create new federal appellate courts and federal reserve banks to better serve the Western half of the country.

Invest in a manned spaceflight program, with the goal of reaching Mars ASAP, followed by space colonies, with the long-term goal of terraforming Mars and/or Venus, along with establishing permanent inhabited space stations and moonbases (the first to be called Gingrich Moonbase).

Partition Texas into five states, California into four states, Florida into three states, and New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Arizona, and Virginia into two states.

Invest in city beautification efforts, especially against littering. Maybe give grants to areas that the can keep their streets clean.

I'd probably re-write the constitutions of some or all of the states (e.g. the constitution of Alabama, which still requires racially segregated schools), and ban the Confederate Flag. I'd impose term limits of 8 years on all governors and "big city" mayors, while requiring that legislative term limits be no fewer than 20 years combined (between the upper and lower house).

Preside over all these changes for about ten years, then fake my death and live in obscurity. Before I do so, constitutionally ban a dictatorship like the one I just had, and return the government to normal, except with the changes outlined above.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Potential new Senators in 2014

Potential New R's

Alaska: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell 58
Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton 37
Louisiana: Rep. Bill Cassidy 57
Montana: Rep. Steve Daines 62
North Carolina: State Rep. Thom Tillis 54
North Dakota: Governor Mike Rounds 60
West Virginia: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito 61

Potential New D's
Georgia: Non-Profit CEO Michelle Nunn 48
Iowa: Rep. Bruce Braley 56
Kentucky: Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes 36
Michigan: Rep. Gary Peters 56
New Jersey: Mayor Cory Booker 45
West Virginia: Sec. of State Natalie Tennant 47

Friday, July 12, 2013

Age of each appellate judge as of 2013

Supreme Court 5R-4D
Roberts R 58
Scalia R 77
Kennedy R 76
Thomas R 65
Ginsburg D 80
Breyer D 74
Alito R 63
Sotomayor D 59
Kagan D 53

50's 2D, 1R
60's 0D, 2R
70's 2D, 2R

For the purposes of this, I'll assume Obama will appoint 23 more judges by filling all 17 vacancies and replacing 6 judges over the age of 70.

I'll then assume that the next two term president will have the chance to replace 1/3 of those under 60, 1/2 of those between 60 and 70, 3/4 of those over 70.

DC 9R-5D-3V (4-4 non-senior)
Garland D 61

Henderson R 69
Rogers D 74
Tatel D 71
Brown R 64
Griffith R 59
Kavanaugh R 48
Srinivasan D 46
3 Vacant
Edwards D 73
Silberman R 78
Williams R 77
Ginsburg R 67
Sentelle R 70
Randolph R 70

50's 1D, 2R
60's 1D, 2R
70's 2D, 0R
3 Vacant

D Pres: 8D, 3R
R Pres: 6D, 5R

1st 3D-2R-1V
Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
Lynch D 67
Torruella R 80
Howard R 57
Thompson D 62
Kayatta D 60
1 Vacant

50's: 0D, 1R
60's: 3D, 0R
70's: 0D, 1R
1 Vacancy

D Pres: 5D, 1R
R Pres: 3D, 3R

2nd 8D-5R
New York, Vermont, Connecticut
Jacobs R 69
Cabranes D 73
Pooler D 75
Katzman D 60
Raggi R 62
Wesley R 64
Hall R 65
Livingston R 54
Lynch D 62
Chin D 59
Lohier D 48
Carney D 62
Droney D 59

50's: 3D, 1R
60's: 3D, 4R
70's: 2D, 0R

D Pres: 10D, 3R
R Pres: 5D, 8R

3rd 8D-5R-2V
Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey
McKee D 66
Rendell D 66
Ambro D 64
Fuentes D 67
Smith R 62
Fisher R 69
Chagares R 51
Jordan R 56
Hardiman R 48
Greenaway D 56
Vanaskie D 60
Shwartz D 52
Two Vacant

50's: 3D, 3R
60's: 5D, 2R
70's: None
Two Vacancies

D Pres: 12D, 3R
R Pres: 7D, 8R

4th 10D-5R
Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina
Traxler D 65
Wilkinson R 69
Niemeyer R 72
Motz D 70
King D 73
Gregory D 60
Shedd R 60
Duncan R 62
Agee R 61
Davis D 64
Keenan D 63
Wynn D 59
Diaz D 53
Floyd D 66
Thacker D 48

50's: 3D, 0R
60's: 5D, 4R
70's: 2D, 1R
2 Vacancies

D Pres: 15D, 2R
R Pres: 7D, 10R

5th 10R-5D-2V
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi
Stewart D 63
King D 75
Jolly R 76
Davis R 77
Jones R 64
Smith R 67
Dennis D 77
Clement R 65
Prado R 66
Owen R 59
Elrod R 47
Southwick R 63
Haynes R 50
Graves D 60
Higginson D 52
2 Vacant

50's: 1D, 3R
60's: 2D, 5R
70's: 2D, 2R
2 Vacancies

D Pres: 11D, 6R
R Pres: 4D, 13R

6th 10R-6D
Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee
Batchelder R 69
Martin D 78
Boggs R 69
Moore D 65
Cole D 62
Clay D 65
Gibbons R 63
Rogers R 65
Sutton R 53
Cook R 61
McKeague R 67
Griffin R 61
Kethledge R 47
White R 59
Stranch D 60
Donald D 62

50's: 0D, 3R
60's: 5D, 7R
70's: 1D, 0R

D Pres: 10D, 6R
R Pres: 3D, 13R

7th 7R-3D-1V
Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin
Easterbrook R 65
Posner R 74
Flaum R 77
Kanne R 75
Rovner R 75
Wood D 63
Williams D 64
Sykes R 56
Tinder R 63
Hamilton D 56
1 Vacant

50's: 1D, 1R
60's: 2D, 2R
70's: 0D, 4R
1 Vacancy

D Pres: 8D, 3R
R Pres: 3D, 8R

8th 8R-3D 
Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
Riley R 66
Wollman R 79
Loken R 73
Murphy D 79
Bye D 75
Smith R 55
Colloton R 50
Gruender R 50
Benton R 63
Shepherd R 52
Kelly D 49

50's: 1D, 4R
60's: 0D, 2R
70's: 2D, 2R

D Pres: 7D, 4R
R Pres: 1D, 10R

9th 18D-9R-2V 
Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington
Kozinski R 63
Pregerson D 90
Reinhardt D 82
O'Scannlain R 76
Thomas D 60
Silverman D 62
Graber D 64
McKeon D 62
Wardlaw D 59
Fletcher D 68
Gould D 67
Paez D 66
Berzon D 68
Tallman D 60
Rawlinson D 61
Clifton R 63
Bybee R 60
Callahan R 63
Bea R 79
Smith R 71
Ikuta R 59
Smith R 64
Murguia D 53
Christen D 52
Nguyen D 48
Watford D 46
Hurwitz D 66
2 Vacancies

50's: 5D, 1R
60's: 11D, 5R
70's: 2D, 3R
2 Vacancies

D Pres: 24D, 5R
R Pres: 12D, 17R

10th 5D-5R-2V
Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming
Briscoe D 66
Kelly R 73
Lucero D 73
Hartz R 66
Tymkovitch R 57
Gorsuch R 46
Holmes R 52
Matheson D 60
Bacharach D 54
Phillips D 53
2 Vacancies

50's: 2D, 3R
60's: 2D, 1R
70's: 1D, 1R
2 Vacancies

D Pres: 9D, 3R
R Pres: 5D, 7R

11th 6D-4R-2V
Alabama, Florida, Georgia
Dubina R 66
Tjoflat R 84
Carnes R 63
Barkett D 74
Hull D 65
Marcus D 67
Wilson D 59
Pryor R 51
Martin D 58
Jordan D 52
2 Vacant

50's: 3D, 1R
60's: 2D, 2R
70's: 1D, 1R
2 Vacancies

D Pres: 10D, 2R
R Pres: 5D, 7R

Federal 5D-5R-2V
Rader R 64
Newman R 86
Lourie R 78
Dyk D 76
Prost R 62
Moore R 45
O'Malley D 57
Reyna D 61
Wallach D 64
Taranto D 56
2 Vacancies

50's: 2D, 1R
60's: 2D, 2R
70's: 1D, 2R
2 Vacancies

D Pres: 10D, 3R
R Pres: 5D, 7R

Current Court Balance: 6-4-3
Vacancies-filled Court Balance: 9-4-0
2 Term D Court Balance: 13-0-0
2 Term R Court Balance: 1-11-1