31 July 2023

Social Media Isn't Driving Rising U.S. Suicide Rates

[R]eported suicide rates are not rising everywhere - they are falling in many countries, but rising in the US. And no, there is no big rise in teenage suicide rates in the US, the increase is concentrated in people over 19. This makes global social media an unlikely cause.

From this Tweet

Stray Thoughts

Domestic affairs: 

* Back to the issue of the definition of "manhood". This is an intense crisis on the right and not so much on the left. This is because there is a definition of manhood out there, albeit a vague one, and most men on the left can come close to it or aspire to get there. Men on the right are distressed and want a new definition of manhood because they can't even realistically hope to live up to the prevailing definitions of it. They are educational and economic failures. They resort to violence or threats of violence. They are sympathetic to rapists because they can't cause women to have sex with them voluntarily without heavy pressure. They aren't emotionally stable. They can't sustain positive relationships with women. They are either not fathers at all, or are divorce absentee fathers who don't even pay the child support that they owe.

* Maybe someday, we will adapt to warm American summer climes with a world where professionals wear shorts and short sleeves without a necktie in the summer, and maybe even stop their days for siestas, while keeping their offices a bit warmer.

* The GOP base doesn't seem to care that Trump is facing two felony prosecutions and is likely to be indicted on felonies in two other cases with pending grand jury investigations in Atlanta and the District of Columbia respectively. Realistically, Biden's announcement that he will run again will keep viable Democrats out of the race for the 2024 Presidential election. So, we seem likely to have another Trump v. Biden race in 2024, unless Republicans change their mind following one or more felony convictions of Trump (which seem likely). If that does happen, the race is likely to be less close as liberal Gen Z replaces older more conservative voters in the electorate and turns out to vote more than younger voters in the past, and as Trump's legal problems sway swing voters to avoid him and discourage more moderate Republican voters from voting at all.

* The U.S. has seen far more population growth in Southern latitudes, both in the Southwest and the Southeast, than other places. Some of this is chasing jobs, but a lot of it seems to be driving by older people retiring somewhere that they no longer have to deal with snow and cold. As summer temperatures in the Southern U.S. relentlessly rise, water shortages strike some places, and warm temperature bugs and beasts move north, will this trend eventually reverse itself? Insurance companies withdrawing from or limiting their exposure to Florida and California seems to presage these trends.

* The trend towards Florida, Texas, and other Southern states doubling down on their backwardness ought to be had for them in the long run. Will that happen? Will it discourage smarter and more sane people from moving there? Will it at least lead to more political polarization? Is this a strategy to keep liberal migrants out in order to prevent old school conservatives from being diluted away to political irrelevance?

* The coal industry is collapsing. This has to bode ill for the economic futures of Wyoming and West Virginia, the two states most dependent upon coal economically. Oil is used predominantly for transportation, which is transitioning steadily towards electric vehicles. Will that make a dent in the economies of states like Alaska and Texas that are stereotypically dependent upon the oil industry?

* Rural America is depopulating. There have been few decades when Americans haven't been migrating from rural areas to cities to make our nation more urban since the founding. Rural school districts have undergone multiple rounds of consolidation. Rural areas have half the per capita income of urban areas, despite subsidies of rural America. Robots and drones threaten to push the trend further by allowing for the greater automation of farming. When automation facilitates farms with more acres per farmer and more acres per farm, that inevitably depopulates farming communities, but also makes the farmers who remain more affluent.

* Eugenics is an almost taboo word in modern political discourse. But on the soft side of eugenics, it would seem better for our society if college educated couples had more kids and if economic struggling people and felons had fewer kids. It seems like the demographic trends at the bottom are trending that way. But educated people are marrying later and are less likely to have kids at all.

* Another paradigm challenging data point is that homelessness is higher, predictably, in places with higher home prices, but unforeseen, in places with low poverty rates:

A study from the real estate website Home Bay suggests what metro Denver and other regions with high home prices really face is an affordable housing crisis, of which homelessness is the most visible sign.

“Since 1985, housing prices have risen four times faster than incomes, even after adjusting for inflation,” said Matt Brannon, a data analyst with Home Bay’s parent company, Clever Real Estate. “The relationship between homelessness and housing affordability needs to be talked about more.”

The U.S. may be the wealthiest nation on the planet, but last year about 582,000 of its residents were homeless. . . . One of the most vexing problems is that economic prosperity does not improve housing outcomes, but more often than not, worsens them.

An analysis of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas that Brannon conducted found that those with home values above the national average have homeless rates 2.5 times higher than metro areas with below average home values.

Take San Jose, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, which epitomizes the nation’s high-tech prowess and ability to create high-paying jobs. It boasts the lowest poverty rate among the 50 metros studied at 6.9%. Yet it also has the country’s highest typical home values at $1.39 million, and the nation’s highest homeless rate of 637 per 100,000 residents — 3.6 times the U.S. rate. . . .

Right behind San Jose are San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the high rank on home values lines right up with the rank on the homeless rate — second and third. Seattle, Sacramento, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Ore., and Denver all made the top 10.

Metro Denver had the seventh highest typical home value in the nation at $559,309, and the fourth-lowest poverty rate at 8.4%. It also had the 10th highest rate of homelessness at 231.6 per 100,000, based on 2022 counts from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

. . .

Dallas ranks 38th for its homeless rate and Houston 47th. Even Austin, which like metro Denver has faced rapid home price gains due to strong in-migration, ranked 17th.

Although high home prices typically align with higher rents, renters are more likely to become homeless than homeowners. The Home Bay study also looked at that relationship.

Cities with higher rates of homeless have an average rent of $2,274 a month, while those with below-average homelessness have average rents of $1,596, based on the Zillow Observed Rent Index, which covers a broad range of rental properties. . . . Western states hosted 10 of the 12 metros with above-average homeless rates. New York and Hartford, Conn., were the exceptions.

Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston, and Cincinnati had the lowest homeless rates among U.S. major metros, all below 50 per 100,000 or under a third of the U.S. average of 175.5 per 100,000.

And Brannon points out five metro areas that have done better at bucking the correlation between higher housing costs and more homelessness — Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas. 
Of those, Boston is the most comparable to Denver when it comes to home values — $577,160 vs. $559,309. Despite Denver having a slightly lower home value than Boston, its homeless rate is 2.5 times higher. In 2015, Boston’s mayor at the time issued a comprehensive plan to reduce chronic homelessness called “Boston’s Way Home.” The program counts more than 15,000 people without shelter who have been housed. Only one in 50 homeless people in Boston sleep outside on any given night, the lowest rate of any major city and a fraction of the nearly four in 10 estimated nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. . . . 

Despite criticisms that outgoing Mayor Michael Hancock didn’t do enough, Denver boosted spending on homelessness from $8 million when he took office to $190 million authorized last year and another $254 million this year, including $77.7 million in federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act. . . . 
The Home Bay study is based on 2022 numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. A point-in-time count conducted on Jan. 30 across metro Denver and released on July 24 found a 31.7% increase in the number of people living in temporary shelters or on the streets across the metro area. That number went up from 6,884 to 9,065 people.

My go to solutions for homeless are to reduce the shortage of affordable housing with market based housing facilitated by zoning deregulation and to focus on "housing first" solutions. Fully funding (or even more heavily funding) Section 8 HUD spending would do a lot as well.

* Air taxi service, an economic development I incorporated into fictional scribblings in the early aughts, is just about ready for prime time and is getting FAA regulations to go with it. I think it would be a great industry to organize primarily with mutual companies (i.e. consumer co-operatives).

International affairs:

* I still haven't seen a good clear narrative explanation of the riots that swept France a few weeks ago. I'd like to understand it better.

* Islamic terrorism is alive and well in Pakistan, with ISIS allied extremists targeting comparative "moderate" Islamist political and religious movements. The Sahel war is also ongoing. Islamic terrorism seems to have greatly diminished in North America and Europe, however.

* Israel is presenting itself as an example of what happens in a parliamentary political system with proportional representation producing quite pure majority rule, with few institutional checks and balances, and also with a fragmented political culture that can't rely on widely held political and legal norms to prevent abuses. In addition to disturbing reforms to its legal system, it is also continuing mistreatment of people in Palestinian territories unabated. I'm ambivalent. There is a lot of good about Israel which has provided a haven for the Jewish people worldwide, and the U.S. with the other largest group of Jewish people in the world has a unique obligation to protect Israel from genocide at the hands of hostile neighbors. But, Israel, feeling the existential threats it faces keenly, isn't exactly behaving well either.

* Ecuador had record murder rates, among the highest in the world, and rampant gang violence and extortion. It imposed draconian violations of civil rights and massive deployments of law enforcement. This worked. Murders have plummeted, and organized crime seems to have collapsed as well. One would think that it could eventually return to a more normal state. But massive organized crime and murders are a problem that is very rarely broken and they seem to have managed it. It is certainly an instance that calls for "reevaluating of priors." It doesn't disturb, however, the intuition that perceived likelihood of being caught is far more important that perceived punishment severity.

* The Ukraine War continues. The Ukrainian counteroffensive is making only slow gains, but has intruded into Russian territory a few times. Russia is still acting with disregard for basic standards of humanity, calling off its fragile grain shipment deal and attacking civilian centers with no military importance out of spite. The quality of Russia's military force continues to decline, however. Russia narrowly survived an abortive coup by its mercenaries who had been hung out to dry by the ordinary military. Russia has lost so many experienced and often high ranking soldiers and so much equipment that its conventional military capabilities in Europe have been vastly diminished and its neighbors are ramping up their own military might and expanding NATO. This engagement has greatly downgraded Russia's international standing as a military power. Without the economic base of the full Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe, it can't maintain a Soviet scale military force as it has tried to.

* The U.S. is inherently in its origin story, a nation of immigrants. Most countries are nation-states. Does that change the legitimacy of anti-immigrant xenophobia in those countries in ways that it does not in the U.S.?

28 July 2023

Manhood, Self-Governance, And More

Recent op-eds in the New York Times and the Washington Post both bemoan the perception that men don't have a model for manhood on the left. The Scholar's Stage blog, well off the beaten path, quotes a historian and reaches back to the 19th century U.S. to aptly address the dilemma:

In the face of suffocating managerialism or institutional decay, it is easy to lionize the outputs of previous eras like the nineteenth century. Many imagine the great American man of the past as a prototypical rugged individual, neither tamed nor tameable, bestriding the wilderness and dealing out justice in lonesome silence. But this is a false myth. It bears little resemblance to the actual behavior of the American pioneer, nor to the kinds of behaviors and norms that an agentic culture would need to cultivate today. Instead, the primary ideal enshrined and ritualized as the mark of manhood was “publick usefuleness,” similar, if not quite identical, to the classical concept of virtus. American civilization was built not by rugged individuals but by rugged communities. Manhood was understood as the leadership of and service to these communities.
The same analysis also highlights "the benefits of enshrining public brotherhood as an aspirational ideal", a "commitment to formality", and "the usefulness of scale and hierarchy". Noting that:
The fraternities, federations, and even political parties that these men belonged to embraced extravagant rituals, parades, and performances designed to build fraternal feeling among their members while reminding them of their public responsibilities. . . .

Through practical experience, nineteenth-century Americans realized that formality was an important tool of self-rule. Formally drafting charters and bylaws, electing officers, and holding meetings by strict procedures seems like busy work to those accustomed to weak associational ties. But the formality of such associations expressed commitment to the cause and clarified the relationships and responsibilities needed for effective action. . . .

an embrace of functional hierarchy that allowed local initiatives to scale up to a very high level…. neither hierarchy nor scale is inherently opposed to agency. Many of the postbellum institutions that dominated American life operated on a national scale, occasionally mobilizing millions of people for their causes. However, the lodge and chapter-based structure of these institutions ensured those local leaders had wide latitude of action inside their own locality. Local leaders relied on local resources and thus rarely had to petition higher-ups to solve their area’s problems.

These chapters thus not only served as vehicles of self-rule at the lower level but also prepared leaders for successful decision-making at higher levels of a hierarchy. Wielding authority at the lower levels of a nineteenth-century organization closely mirrored the experience of wielding authority in its highest echelons. Absent such training, leadership does in fact become the impenetrable closed circle that disturbed the advocates of “human scale.” Centralization, not hierarchy, caused the demise of local dynamism.

The blog's analysis is embedded in the theme that:

America was once a place where institutional capacity was very high. Americans were a people with an extraordinary sense of agency. This is one of the central reasons they transformed the material, cultural, institutional, and political framework of not only the North American continent, but the entire world. That people is gone. The social conditions that gave the Americans their competence and confidence have passed away. Where Americans once asked “how do we solve this?” they now query “how do we get management on my side?” . . .
Self-government is communal. It comes with the confidence that you and the citizens around you are capable of crafting solutions to your shared problems. Self-government is less a particular set of institutions than a particular set of attitudes. If the institutions needed to solve a problem locally do not exist, the citizens of a self-governing community will create them.

The author makes some important points, but I don't wholeheartedly agree with this analysis either. 

The focus on brotherhood didn't have to be male exclusive and their rituals now strike the average educated person as stupid and childish. Formality taken too far leads to wasted time, stilted and empty discourse, and undue emphasis on lawyer-like parliamentary procedure skills over more useful knowledge. Hierarchy is prone to harmful centralization and bureaucracy if the organizational garden is not subject to perpetual and ruthless pruning.

I've spent plenty of time in far-left political circles and can attest that extreme aversion to hierarchy is as problematic and self-defeating as excessive centralization. It leaves you disorganized and forces you to walk through the social mud of endless meetings and consensus building to get anything done even when the right course of action should be obvious. 

Certainly, "agency", which is to say a belief that it is your place to make things happen in your own life, is the lifeblood of change in business, civic society, and politics. But taken too far, an excessive sense of "agency" can lead to unjustified dismissal of developments that are sweeping the larger society, and of the importance of being part of the larger society and the broad social movements within it, which can leave people too trapped in their own bubble to be aware of their larger context prone to making decisions that are ill-informed. Self-determination often entails copying the ideas of others and implementing those ideas in your own community, in order to allow your own community to participate in progress.

The author isn't wrong that a capacity for self-organization is a remarkable national virtue when it is present, and is deeply rooted in a nation's culture. The British and the Japanese, for example, are both much better as self-organizing than Americans, something that is apparent during natural disasters and when citizens of the respective nations were interned in prisoner of war camps, for example. 

More generally, the author's focus on the importance of a healthy civic society isn't wrong. But, later research, by scholars such as Richard Florida, has also shown that Robert Putnam's civic capital, which can be so strong in small towns, can also stifle innovation despite the sense of agency that these communities possess. Innovators do better in societies where they have large fragile networks of shallow acquaintances and society's power to sanction people who break the mold is weak. Communities with unshakeable networks of smaller numbers of people with whom leaders have deep bonds that have the institutional capacity to regulate behavior tightly in their communities, look agreeable. But they are also stagnant and are prone to being backward.

I have a more jaded opinion of local self-government than the author. When I worked as a lawyer defending county governments in Western Colorado from lawsuits, our informal wisdom was the the smaller the government, the less competent its leaders were, and the harder to defend its grossly misguided, petty, and personal their wrongdoings became. Small local governments lack the professionalism, competence, and even handedness of larger local governments. I've seen the same trends in the rural small towns where my parents grew up where I still have many relatives.

As I was taught in introductory political science classes in college, politics is about both power and choice. You need power to implement your choices, and you need to make good choices for your exercise of power to produce good results.

But back to the beginning, and building new scripts for "manhood", I prefer to favor as a starting point, the image of manhood associated with the notion of a gentleman to the image of manhood associated with chivalry. A gentleman understands that powerful, effective people eschew violence when not absolutely necessary, embrace acting honestly but act with sophistication and civility, and are at home in the urban environments that are the center of modern civilization. In contrast, chivalry is the modern embodiment of the values of a warrior class of the thinly populated rural estates of the anarchic dark ages, for whom episodes of violence are their raison d'etre. Chivalry also often crosses the line into being patronizing.

The modern scripts of manhood should also embrace at least two key virtues: effectiveness (a term I prefer to competence, as effectiveness implies better than competence the importance of working well with others and seeking guidance from others when appropriate to achieve one's ends) and unselfishness (which captures a mix of generosity, charity, heroism, and loyalty to others).

24 July 2023

Wealth And Academic Achievement

A New York Times columnist examines the complicated issue of the relationship between elite university admissions and wealth. It is complicated because to do it right from a meritocratic admissions baseline, you have to consider the fact that the children of the affluent have above average academic ability. (Hat tip to Fully Myelinated.)

About 7 percent of the country’s very top students come from the top 1 percent of the income distribution. These students tend to have scored at least 1500 on the SAT (or 35 on the ACT), received top marks on Advanced Placement tests, earned almost all A’s in their high school classes, and often excelled in science fairs or other competitions. . . . 
Perhaps the most surprising pattern involves so-called legacy students, those who attend the same college that their parents did. At the elite colleges that the researchers studied, legacy students had stronger academic qualifications on average than nonlegacy students. Similarly, graduates of private high schools had stronger academic records on average than graduates of public high schools or Catholic schools. . . .
  • Legacy is a major advantage. These colleges are inundated with strong applications. When admissions offices are making close calls among students with similar transcripts, legacy status acts as a trump card. About half of legacy students at these colleges would not be there without the admissions boost they receive. 
  • A similar advantage applies to the graduates of private schools (not including religious schools). Schools like Andover, Brentwood and Dalton do such a good job of selling their students — through teacher recommendations, essay editing and other help — that colleges admit them more often than academic merit would dictate. Many college admissions officers think they can see through this polish, but they don’t. 
  • Recruited athletes are admitted with much lower academic standards — and are disproportionately affluent. It’s not just true of the obvious teams, like golf, squash, fencing and sailing. In today’s era of expensive youth sports, most teams skew wealthy. If colleges changed their approach to sports, they could admit more middle-class and poor athletes (or nonathletes) with stronger academic credentials.
Most of these colleges do not admit only the hyper-qualified affluent students; they also admit many other high-income students. As I mentioned above, 7 percent of the country’s very best high school students come from the top 1 percent of the income distribution. But what proportion of students at elite colleges comes from the top 1 percent of the income distribution? Much more: 16 percent.

As the chart below clarifies, worst odds are for students who are neither in the bottom 70% of affluence nor the top 1%, basically, the upper middle class, and, it's best to be ultra-rich if you want to get into an elite private college, although being a top tier athlete also helps.

The latest Planet Money newsletter also looks at the Chetty study and it’s implications:
As previously mentioned, the economists find that wealthy children, even when they have comparable SAT and ACT scores to less affluent kids, are much more likely to get into these elite schools. A student from the richest one percent of American families (from families earning over $611,000 per year) is twice as likely to attend an elite private college as a middle-class student (from a family earning between $83,000-$116,000 per year) with the same academic credentials. The economists find this disparity can only be found at elite private colleges: they find no such advantage for rich kids at America’s flagship public universities, like UC Berkeley or the University of Michigan.

“I think implicitly what we’re finding in the data is that — whether intentionally or not — we currently have a system that appears to have affirmative action for kids from the richest families, the top one percent in particular, which gives them a substantial leg up in admissions relative to other kids,” Chetty says.

UPDATE July 27, 2023:

The factors that give the rich an edge are also factors with zero or negative correlation with good post-college outcomes.
Adjusting for the value-added of the colleges that students attend, the three key factors that give children from high-income families an admissions advantage are uncorrelated or negatively correlated with post-college outcomes, whereas SAT/ACT scores and academic credentials are highly predictive of post-college success.
It would be so easy to change all this, right? Use scores and grades more, legacy less, extracurriculars less, and athletics less for admission purposes.  

Via Tyler Cohen at Marginal Revolution

23 July 2023

South Asians In U.S. Presidential Politics

Two of the candidates for the GOP Presidential nomination, of the seven who are likely to make it to the first Republican Presidential debate, and the current U.S. Vice President, a Democrat, have South Asian ancestry.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a Hindu businessman, and Nikki Haley (Nimarata Nikki Haley, née Randhawa) former Governor of South Carolina and former US Ambassador to the UN who was born and raised as a Sikh, and is now a Methodist, are both running for the Republican Presidential nomination. Haley is one of the better polling candidates whose name is not "Trump". 

Vice President Kamala Harris is also of Indian decent. Her mother was from Chennai. Her father was from Jamaica. Harris was exposed to both African American Christian life and Hindu religious life as a child and is now a member of the American Baptist Church (the most politically moderate, predominantly white Baptist denomination). At this point there are no really viable announced Democratic challengers to the Biden-Harris ticket, even though a couple of candidates have thrown their hats into the ring.

Alternate Food History

A great many useful domesticated food plants come from a small number of source wild types that have been bioengineered through selective breeding and hybridization to produce the variety we see today. Many of the wild types involved in this process actually have a quite narrow geographic range in nature.

This post is a reminder to myself to follow up further to consider what other species of plants might have had similar domestication histories if these wild type plants had not been available.

One historical example is the alternate set of domesticates, now largely unknown to the general public, that developed in what is now the Southeast United States before it came into contact with the Meso-American domesticate package of maize, beans, and squash.

The family Rosaceae includes herbs, shrubs, and trees. Most species are deciduous, but some are evergreen. They have a worldwide range but are most diverse in the Northern Hemisphere.

Many economically important products come from the Rosaceae, including various edible fruits, such as apples, pears, quinces, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, loquats, strawberries, rose hips, hawthorns, and almonds. The family also includes popular ornamental trees and shrubs, such as roses, meadowsweets, rowans, firethorns, and photinias.
From Wikipedia.
Brassica oleracea is a plant species from family Brassicaceae that includes many common cultivars used as vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, Savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, and gai lan.

Its uncultivated form, wild cabbage, native to coastal southern and western Europe, is a hardy plant with high tolerance for salt and lime. However, its intolerance of competition from other plants typically restricts its natural occurrence to limestone sea cliffs, like the chalk cliffs on both sides of the English Channel.

From Wikipedia

Citrus plants are native to subtropical and tropical regions of Asia, Island Southeast Asia, Near Oceania, and northeastern Australia. Domestication of citrus species involved much hybridization and introgression, leaving much uncertainty about when and where domestication first happened.  
A genomic, phylogenic, and biogeographical analysis by Wu et al. (2018) has shown that the center of origin of the genus Citrus is likely the southeast foothills of the Himalayas, in a region stretching from eastern Assam, northern Myanmar, to western Yunnan. . . .
Ancestral species:
Citrus maxima – Pomelo
Citrus medica – Citron
Citrus reticulata – Mandarin orange
Citrus hystrix – Kaffir lime
Citrus cavaleriei – Ichang papeda
Citrus japonica – Kumquat

Important hybrids:
Citrus × aurantiifolia – Key lime
Citrus × aurantium – Bitter orange
Citrus × latifolia – Persian lime
Citrus × limon – Lemon
Citrus × limonia – Rangpur
Citrus × paradisi – Grapefruit
Citrus × sinensis – Sweet orange
Citrus × tangerina – Tangerine

See also below for other species and hybrids. 

From Wikipedia

21 July 2023

The Slow Death of God, Heaven, Hell, Angels, And The Devil

The percentage of Americans who believe in God, Heaven, Hell, Angels, and the Devil fell to record lows in 2023, following two decades of steady decline in the 21st century and significant declines before then.

The percentage of people who believe in God dropped by more than one-sixth of those who believed in 2001.

As usual, non-belief in these things was associated with less frequently attending church, not identifying as Christian (with Catholics less likely to believe in these things than Protestants), Democratic political party identity (and not being a Republican), higher household income, more education, younger age, and being male rather than female.

A majority of (1) less than monthly church attenders, (2) non-religious people, (3) Democrats, and (4) people 18-34 do not believe in the Devil, and less than 53% of college graduates or these demographics believe in either Hell or the Devil.  If the trend continues, majorities of all of these demographics will not believe in either Hell or the Devil by the year 2030. 

Belief in God is on track to fall below 70% by the year 2030 in the population as a whole.

Church attendance is at record lows (apart from a temporary steep decline due to the early part of the COVID pandemic when churches had to be closed in many places) too, although it is not dropping as rapidly since secularization has been greatest among people who didn't regularly attend church anyway.

record high percentage of people (21%) now identify has having no religion.

The U.S. isn't a secular society by a long shot yet, but the trends are very promising.

How Likely Is A Catastrophe Or Extinction Level Event?

I trust superforecasters over domain experts, because a lot of evidence has shown that non-domain expert superforecasters have a better track record. 

While their assessments of risk to humanity from different sources differed, however, both indicate that AI turning on humans is a genuine concern that ranks high on the threat list.

Superforecasters predict a 9% chance of a catastrophe (defined as an event killing 10% of all humans or more in a five year period, which is about 100 times worse than COVID-19) by 2100 including a 1% chance of an extinction event (defined as an event reducing the human population to 5,000 people or less) by 2100. While lower than the percentages estimated by "experts" and the general public, these are still troublingly high.

The main differences of agreement were over the likelihood of a catastrophe by 2100 due to nuclear war (domain experts said 8%, superforecasters said 4% - about 2-1), due to a bioweapon (domain experts said 3%, superforecasters said 0.8% -about 7-1) and due to an artificial intelligence singularity in which artificial intelligences turn on humans (domain experts said 12%, superforecasters said 2.13% - about 6-1). This led to an overall risk of catastrophe by 2100 prediction of 28.95% from domain experts v. 9.05% from superforecasters - about 3-1.

They also differed in the rank order of the threats as well. Superforecasters saw a nuclear war catastrophe as twice as likely as an AI catastrophe. Domain experts saw an AI catastrophe as 50% more likely than a nuclear war catastrophe. But they both did agree that among the five possibilities presented, these two threats were the most serious. 

Domain experts saw the #3 risk as a bioweapon, while superforecasters saw a natural pathogen as more likely than a bioweapon. 

They agreed that a non-human caused catastrophe was the least likely to be caused by something not caused by humans (among the options presented) with domain experts estimated a 0.09% chance and superforecasters estimating a 0.05% chance. They both agreed that the overwhelmingly more likely threat of mass death was from human caused events.

The extinction risk (defined as the human population on Earth falling below 5,000 by 2100) was similarly split with the biggest divide again on nuclear war risk (domain experts 0.55% v. superforecasters 0.074% - about 7-1), bioweapons risk (domain experts 1% v. superforecasters 0.01% - about 100-1), and AI risk (domain experts 3% v. superforecasters 0.38% - about 9-1). This led to an overall risk of catastrophe by 2100 prediction of 6% from domain experts v. 1% from superforecasters - about 6-1.

Both superforecasters and experts, however, see an AI event as the single most likely potential cause of human extinction by the year 2100.

From here.

19 July 2023

Progress In Reducing Mass Incarceration

Young black men still go to prison at very high rates, but a combination of falling crime rates and reduced incarceration has changed the picture a lot over the last two decades.
Between 1999 and 2019, the Black male incarceration rate dropped by 44%, and notable declines in Black male imprisonment were evident in all 50 states. . . . For Black men, the lifetime risk of incarceration declined by nearly half from 1999 to 2019. We estimate that less than 1 in 5 Black men born in 2001 will be imprisoned, compared with 1 in 3 for the 1981 birth cohort. . . . decarceration has shifted the institutional experiences of young adulthood. In 2009, young Black men were much more likely to experience imprisonment than college graduation. Ten years later, this trend had reversed, with Black men more likely to graduate college than go to prison.
From here.

13 July 2023

Ukraine War Casualty Estimate Disparities

Ukraine has lost fewer soldiers than Russia to deaths, injuries and captures. 

Ukraine has also sustained virtually all of the civilian casualties in the Ukraine War, despite the fact that there have been a handful of notable incursions onto undisputed Russian territory. 

Considering that the two sides are nearly even in lives lost and people injured, which is a losing proposition for Ukraine since it has about a third of the population of a Russia. 

Likewise, Ukraine's losses in terms of private property and infrastructure has been much greater. 

Russia has sustained somewhat more losses in many kinds of military systems, but started with more resources. But Russia has a harder time replenishing military systems that are lost.

The notion of basing casualty estimates based upon data from World War I and World War II seems profoundly misguided.
Mediazone, working with BBC, that hit all the headlines this week with an estimate of more than 27,000 Russian deaths based on publicly available information. . . . Meduza, also working with Mediazone and with publicly sourced info, pegs it at closer to 50,000 fatalities. . . . these estimates are still lower than what’s been out there, including by U.S. officials over the last six months. According to the May Discord Leaks, in February, U.S. officials believed that between 15,500 and 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, with an additional 106,500 to 110,500 wounded. The same assessment said that between 35,000 and 42,500 Russian soldiers had already been killed and 150,500 to 177,000 had been wounded. At the same time the U.K. claimed upwards of 60,000 Russians had been killed.

In January, Norway’s Chief of Defence, General Eirik Kristoffersen, claimed that Russia had 180,000 casualties to Ukraine’s 100,000, while U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was saying Russian casualties are “significantly well over 100,000 now.” These figures of course mix injuries with deaths. 
. . . those who think the popular estimates have been suspect point out the math, that 60-65 percent of casualties in the two world wars were due to artillery, and Russia has been firing (reportedly) 10 times as much artillery on the battlefield daily. To their thinking, it would be impossible for Russians to be dying at a 7 to 1 ratio (seven Russians to every Ukrainian), as some have suggested. . . . the Ukraine defense ministry posts a daily report on its website which now lists a cumulative total of 234,480 enemy personnel “liquidated,” as of July 10. Russian government officials have only acknowledged 6,000 casualties since the war began.

12 July 2023

Why Don't Professionals Delegate More Chores?

There are lots of professionals who charge high hourly rates for their services, and have enough potential work to work as many hours as they are able to work.

These professionals frequently do lots of work in their personal lives that they could have hired someone else to do for much less than their hourly rates, like folding clothes or cleaning their homes or mowing their lawns.

The very, very rich sometimes do hire people to do these things, but the vast majority of people do not.

Why not?

This seems to be a case of culture prevailing over economic logic, but maybe I'm missing economic issues as well.

07 July 2023

The Judicial Implications Of Gridlock And Its Deeper Causes

The author isn't wrong.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding 6-3 that actually innocent people who had no meaningful ability to litigate their innocence because it results from a new, retroactively effective, interpretation of the law, have to rot in prison anyway, arises in the first place because Congress wrote a flawed law restricting habeas corpus attacks on convictions that could be amended by a simple statute.

The fact that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines allow federal judges sentencing people for crimes to consider conduct which juries acquitted defendants could similarly be solved with legislation from Congress.

Congress has the power to overturn the court created doctrine of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers who violate people's civil rights, and could similarly reform other non-obvious interpretations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that also unjustifiably put the interests of bad cops above the interests of people who have their civic rights violated.

Similarly, Congress could codify Bivens actions which are a more limited court created right to sue federal officials for violating your constitutional rights.

Congress could easily pass a law ending the spectacle unique to the U.S., of forcing young children who can't even speak English and sometimes can't even read or write to represent themselves in deportation hearings that we otherwise require people to have a law degree and pass the bar exam to participate in for someone else. So far, in part due to Congressionally created barriers to Article III court review of the executive branch immigration courts, the courts have failed to address this travesty.

Congress could pass a law amending the Affordable Care Act, so that a misinterpretation of that statute that allows states to deny expanded Medicaid coverage at no cost to state coffers, to clarify that this isn't permitted.

Congress could amend the Federal Arbitration Act to forbid the extreme interpretations of the law that have turned arbitration into an unconscionably lawless forum for resolving disputes that is demonstrably biased against consumers, investors, and employees.

Congress could amend ERISA to tame the absurd lengths to which the Act's pre-emption effect produces unjust and unanticipated results.

Congress could amend the definition of "navigable waters" which courts have recently construed to end federal protections for a great many wetlands, and could expressly expand the authority of the EPA to take measures to prevent global warming, that the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled back.

Congress could rewrite the rules for granting national injunctions and the rules that allow litigants in Texas to basically choose which judges will hear their cases.

Congress could pass laws on the interstate sale of abortion inducing drugs so that U.S. law on the subject wouldn't be forced to hinge on who judges interprets a 19th century statute.

Not all bad court decisions can be overcome by rewriting laws that the courts have misinterpreted. But the interpretation of federal statutes still makes up the largest share of the docket of the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, so statutory reforms could make a huge difference.

Why doesn't this happen?

It doesn't happen because it has grown so difficult to pass laws on any issue upon which there is potential partisan disagreement that doesn't involve government spending or appointing Presidential nominees to top federal jobs. It takes the convergence a majority in the U.S. House, supermajorities in the U.S. Senate (which still have the filibuster and other minority privileges for most kinds of legislation), and Presidential support to pass a federal law. 

If a single political party doesn't have both trifecta control of the House, Senate and Presidency, and significantly more than a bare majority in the Senate to either overcome the filibuster or overcome a handful of dissenters in one's own party, signifiant legislation is impossible. And, those conditions have been few, far between, and underutilized by the party in power when they were present. Hostile courts can further complicate the task.

Passing ordinary legislation that is then upheld as constitutional is harder in the United States than in almost every other country in the entire world. In most parliamentary systems, the head of government always has majority support in the lower house of parliament (when it is not unicameral) and an upper house of parliament, if there is one, serves primarily a delaying function, which makes it much easier for the ruling party or ruling coalition to pass ordinary legislation.

It also doesn't help that very few countries have the extreme flaws in its democracy that the U.S. does associated with the Electoral College, unequal representation of voters in the U.S. Senate, routinely necessary supermajorities to pass ordinary legislation due to the filibuster and other quirky Senate rules, disenfranchisement of the residents of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico which each have more people than some U.S. states, single district plurality voting's spoiler effects, pervasive gerrymandering, elections administered by partisan elected officials, political parties who have no say over who their own candidates will be, and dismal voter turnout by international standards. 

For example, Turkey, in areas ruined by earthquakes just a few months earlier, has better voters turnout than the best performing U.S. states, and has virtually no gerrymandering due to its proportional representation system, and is also not troubled by spoilers due to its direct Presidential elections based upon the popular vote with a requirement that the plurality winner secure a majority to be elected without a runoff election. 

When correcting even obviously flawed court interpretations of legislation (or just plain old obviously flawed legislation) by passing new laws becomes too difficult, the courts, which adjudicate the status quo until new laws are passed, become excessively powerful at the expensive of Congress and the Presidency.

If the barriers to passing ordinary legislation were less daunting, the partisan tilt of the federal courts right up to the U.S. Supreme Court, would matter far less. Bad court decisions would be overturned swiftly with corrective legislation, and in response, courts would avoid making decisions that interpret legislation in inappropriately wooden and unjust ways in the first place.

Of course, the problem can't be entirely laid at the feet of the institutional design. A variety of reforms of the legislative and electoral process could solve those design problems if there wasn't another deeper problem. 

The deeper problem is that the United States is deeply divided politically, because it is deeply divided culturally. There are few times in recent U.S. history when there has been fewer issues upon which there is a broad bipartisan consensus, and there have been fewer moderates to bridge divided between the two major parties.

You would think that there ought to be a consensus that people whom we know have not committed a crime shouldn't continue to rot in prison for decades to come.

You would think that there ought to be a consensus that five year olds who don't speak English shouldn't have to represent themselves in deportation hearings.

You would think that there would be a consensus that federal government officials shouldn't be able to intentionally violate any of your well-established constitutional rights with impunity.

You would think that there would be consensus that someone shouldn't have to spend an additional decade in prison because a judge thinks by a preponderance of the evidence that someone committed a crime that a jury acquitted that defendant of committing.

But there isn't the kind of broad bipartisan consensus needed to pass laws reforming these seemingly "no brainer" statutory reforms. The Republican party (and even a handful of conservative Democrats or members of Congress who caucus with Democrats in Congress) is collectively, overwhelming opposed to passing any of these reforms.

It is hard to say why this political party is opposed to these kinds of measures. 

But basically, the Republican party has become a neofascist, far-right movement. Its base of working class, less educated, older, Evangelical Christian whites, especially white men, feels incredibly aggrieved. They don't care about reality or governing well. They are ready to resort to violent threats and tactics, and to metaphorically burn down the entire government, in order to postpone or reverse the political and demographic trends that are on track to permanently relegate them to becoming an irrelevant political fringe group. So, as a result, they have no qualms about blocking even common sense reforms. They want to provoke a crisis in the hope that in that kind of crisis environment they will have a better chance of holding onto their political clout and privileged status than they will if the system works the way it would if everyone were making policy in good faith.

How did they get this way?

One big problem has been growing economic inequality.

Working class wages have been almost stagnant for almost fifty years, and working class unemployment rates have stayed mostly high, while incomes for college educated people have soared and college educated people have experienced sustained, very low unemployment rates. Mostly, working class white men haven't actually seen their inflation adjusted incomes actually fall, but they have stayed stagnant, while black Americans, Hispanics, and women have all seem much greater progress over the last fifty years from a previously dismally low state. As jobs opportunities for women have grown dramatically in the last fifty years, and their own economic prospects have stagnated, their ability to form stable families has collapsed. 

Rather than being providers for their families, they have become economic dead weight dragging down their female partners and children. Their economic failures create situations where their children are subjected to abuse and neglect driven by economic struggles, until the state intervenes and breaks up their families.

Some of them are also dimly aware that the stability of marriages for their college educated couple peers has actually improved at the same time. They blame the immorality that those college educated people have imposed upon them, even though declining morality and acceptance of gay rights has nothing to do with their plight and is just a scapegoat.

The real problem is that low skilled jobs have moved off shore where labor is cheaper for better quality workers, or have vanished entirely as technology has replaced lots of low skilled workers who aren't very productive with far fewer medium and high skilled workers who are vastly more productive. 

Our society no longer needs nearly as many men with little education but hands on abilities to do physical labor as it did in the 1950s and 1960s when the rest of the world was still recovering from World War II, millions of men had died in the war, technology had not yet revolutionized the means of production, the baby boom was keeping women out of the work force, and mass unskilled immigration hadn't yet begun.

Cultural norms that they used to take for granted in a predominantly Christian, predominantly white, less educated era where LGBTQ people were forced into the closet, and male dominance in the family and workplace were taken for granted have collapsed. Psychologically, this makes them feel like outsiders and strangers in their own land.

Their economic malaise for their social class has produced deaths of despair and made conspiracy theories look attractive, because they can't make sense of their world. 

They have embraced religion just as secular beliefs are dramatically on the rise nationally, because religion thrives when it protects threatened cultures and can insulate them from a changing world where they no longer fit.

They are attracted to political violence and guns, because an ability to threaten to use violence masks the fact that in other domains of life they have become ineffectual and impotent. They are sick and tired of losing, day in and day out, in economic and social interactions to better educated people who've managed to find a place in the thriving upper middle class educated establishment or its coattails. The mastery of information and knowledge that this class possesses, which they who've never liked or been good at schooling or book learning can't attain, leaves them constantly outsmarted and struggling to preserve their increasingly fragile self-confidence and egos. So, rather than try to improve themselves which feels futile, they've turned on knowledge and intelligence and education itself, and have started to view science with suspicion and distrust.

There's a huge generation gap in these kinds of beliefs. Their children are far more liberal and far less conservative Christian than they are. Sustained immigration has diversified the nation ethnically, religiously, and culturally. Their own self-destructive responses to their condition is leading them to die early, a trend most dramatically in evidence in the anti-vax movement during the COVID pandemic. Far fewer people are dropping out of high school and far more people are going to college or at least getting some college even if they don't secure a degree. They are fighting their culture's decline in numbers and relevance, but even they can see the writing on the wall. Most of them recognize, at least subconsciously, that they are fighting an ultimately futile rear guard action in culture wars that their side will eventually lose, but want to keep fighting it at least for the rest of their own lives, the rest of us be damned.

The uptight upper middle class college educated conservative intellectuals who used to provide the policy ideas for the right have been left adrift. They have now fled the movement in favor of either the Democratic big tent, or the no man's land between the small and rowdy Republican tent and the Democrat's tent, while former blue collar union men, whose union jobs are no more, have crossed over to the Republican tent.

The ultra-rich have stuck around, not because they have much in common with their working class fellow party members whom they hold in quiet contempt, and have made lemonade out of lemons by playing and manipulating the grass roots of their party to achieve their own selfish ends that don't benefit their grass roots supporters at all. The ultra-rich are staying with the GOP for the same reason that Muslims and conservative black men stay the course with the Democrats: because the other party is a threat to their very continued existence, even if they have many points of agreement with it. The ultra-rich risk betrayal at the hands of their own increasingly populist party, but so far, most of them see this as the lesser of two evils.

Despite the fact that Democrats hold the Presidency and a razor thin Senate majority, a decades in the making ultra-conservative Supreme Court, a razor thin majority in the House, and trifecta control of many red states, has currently brought conservatives to a high water mark. They've rolled back abortion rights by fifty years in a huge, mostly contiguous swath of the nation. They've ended affirmative action in higher education. They've brought the nation to the bring of a default on the national debt. Their anti-woke movement is making the most concerted move to roust liberal politics from schools, colleges, universities, and businesses since McCarthy's Red Scare. They've expanded access to firearms and in their heartlands, reduced the risk of criminal liability for using them. They've gerrymandered for all they are worth, bent election rules, and made it harder to vote. They've embraced the war on science with open arms. They're starting to nibble at ways to advance white Christian nationalism. They've tried to flip homophobia from illegal behavior in most forums to government mandated behavior. They've further polarized the nation and made a failed coup attempt that only encourages them to try again next time. They've rolled back labor laws to the nineteen teens.

Will this high water mark last?

Probably not. But there's an outside chance that it could, at least in part of the nation, and that's terrifying.

06 July 2023

Good Government Colorado's State and Local Government Reforms

Alcohol Regulation

* It is absurd to regulate beer, wine, and liquor differently.

Construction Regulation

* The construction trades should be regulated at the state level rather than at the local level as they are now. This may have made sense when construction markets were local. Colorado currently has 273 active municipalities (comprising 198 towns, 73 cities, two consolidated city and county governments), and 62 unconsolidated counties, for a total of 335 different bodies licensing the construction trades. Most of these professionals should not exclude people with felony records unrelated to the construction trades.

* Each of these jurisdictions also has its own building code, based upon privately promulgated building codes that aren't even available for free which is unconscionable for binding laws. There should be a single state building code, that is a matter of public record. If localities want to deviate from it, they should have to seek permission from a state body to do so, and the local modifications ought to be a matter of public record on a state website. Aesthetic building code requirements should be tightly limited.

TABOR Elections And Taxes

* Elections over retaining growth in revenue not derived from new taxes should be abolished.

* Excess TABOR revenue should, by default, placed in a rainy day fund, rather than refunded. A supermajority would be required to touch a rainy day fund in excess of declines in revenue from the previous peak revenue year.

* The state 2.9% sales tax would be repealed and replaced with a revenue neutral income tax increase. Only local sales taxes would remain. But, all local sales taxes would be collected by the state and would be required to use the uniform state definition of taxable sales.

* School districts should be funded by state taxes and not by property taxes. As a result, there would no longer be elections for local property tax levies and bond issues for school districts.

* Higher educational institutions would have tax funding solely by state taxes, not local taxes.

Election Administration

* Elections should be administered by non-partisan civil servants, under the supervision of a partisan balanced board or boards. This task should be severed from the partisan elected offices of state secretary of state and county clerk, and from the non-partisan elected office of city clerk.

Elected Offices

* City clerks should not be elected.

* Statutory cities and towns have a city manager with the mayor elected by the city or town council as its chair, and do not have a have separately elected mayor or auditor.  Charter cities can do what they want.

* County coroners should not be elected and the institution should be replaced with a state medical examiner's office.

* County surveyors should not be elected.

* County treasurers should not be elected.

* County assessors should not be elected.

* County clerks should not be elected.

* County sheriff should be a non-partisan office. It is desirable not to give the local administration of criminal justice system a partisan tinge. This is less alienating between elections to the losing party members. Counties are often often politically homogeneous areas where intra-party competition is really more important the partisan competition anyway. This gives minority party members in a county more say in the outcome.

* County commissioner should be a non-partisan office. It handles local government issues like municipalities do. Counties are often politically homogeneous areas where intra-party competition is really more important the partisan competition anyway. This gives minority party members in a county more say in the outcome. In large counties there would be five seats elected from single member districts, all at once, for four year terms. In small counties, county commissioners would serve for six year terms with one elected every two years.

* District attorney should be a non-partisan office. It is desirable not to give the local administration of criminal justice system a partisan tinge. This is less alienating between elections to the losing party members.

* The state treasurer should not be elected.

* The state secretary of state should not be elected.

* The state attorney-general should not be elected.

* Uncontested elected offices should not appear on the ballot unless there is a declared write-in candidate before ballots are printed.

* School boards should be elected by the parents, except possibly by the students instead, in the case of high school students.

* The state school board should be appointed.

* The University of Colorado Board of Regent should not be elected by the general public. It would be better for these positions to be elected by alumni. The state still controls the purse strings, but this would strengthen academic freedom and ease the burden on the voters.

* Any other currently elected higher education district boards should be elected by alumni or appointed.

State And Local Judges And Courts

* Judges should be required to be lawyers with at least five years of experience. The four non-lawyer rural county court judges currently in office in Colorado should be grandfathered for their current terms, but not retained.

* The county courts should be consolidated to have a single limited jurisdiction division of the district court in each judicial district called the county court division of the district court, with a court house in each county and should be staffed with full time judges only.

* Judicial retention for judges not on the state supreme court should be decided by a vote of the judges at the next higher level, not the voters. So, county court division judicial retention should be decided by district court judges, district court judicial retention should be decided by court of appeals judges, and court of appeals judicial retention should be decided by state supreme court justices. These are the people best qualified to evaluate the performance of lower court judges.

* State supreme court justices should be limited to a single fourteen-year term of office, with one new justice appointed in the current process every two years in the absence of vacancies. 

* Vacancies in the state supreme court should be filled for the remainder of the term of the vacating justice (without prejudice to a further appointed term) by a court of appeals judge elected from the sitting judges of the court of appeals.

* The judicial discipline process should be more transparent.

* Court facilities and budgets, district attorneys offices, and public defender's offices should be financed at the state level, not the county level, to keep the judicial branch and district attorney's office independent from municipal and county government.

* Municipal courts should be abolished, with the ordinance violations previously in their jurisdiction prosecuted by city attorneys in the county court division of the district court before state appointed judges.

* County court appeals should be to a single judge of the court of appeals, not to a single district court judge otherwise on the same basis as under current law. There would be no municipal court appeals because there would no longer be any municipal courts.

* Colorado Appellate Rule 21 petitions (i.e. discretionary requests for extraordinary relief granted only when no other adequate remedy, including relief available by appeal or under C.R.C.P. 106, including petitions in the nature of mandamus, certiorari, habeas corpus, quo warranto, injunction, prohibition and other forms of writs cognizable under the common law) should be made to a designated panel of seven judges of the court of appeals (rotated annually) rather than to the state supreme court.

* The number of judges on the court of appeals should be doubled to allow it to process appeals more swiftly.

* Review of attorney regulation disciplinary hearings should be made to the court of appeals rather than to the state supreme court.

Remaining Elections

Candidate Elections

* There would be one election every November on election day, and a primary election (in parties and districts with contested races) in every even numbered year for state and federal offices. A partisan caucus would precede each primary election every even numbered year. Ballot issues would be restricted to November elections except for local recall elections and emergency local tax and bond measures.

* There would be one non-partisan local election in November in each odd numbered year. 

* In the year following the Governor's election there would be statutory municipal elections (with all municipal offices elected at once), and district attorney elections (and county commissioner elections in small counties) for a total of one or two offices plus city council races for each voter in statutory cities and towns. 

* In the odd numbered year two years after that there would be elections for county commissioner, sheriff and special district elections in the other (usually two or three races per voter). 

* Charter cities do what they want, but limited to odd numbered year elections except for recalls and for emergency ballot issues for referred tax matters or legally required referred charter amendments held when needed.

* There would be partisan caucuses and primaries (with unaffiliated voters allowed to participate in a primary of their choice, but not caucuses) in each even numbered year followed by a partisan general elections in November for state house, state senate, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, the Governor-Lieutenant Governor, and the President. The Governor-Lieutenant Governor election would be two years after the Presidential election. No election would have less than three or more than five offices to vote upon at a time, unless there was a U.S. Senate vacancy to be filled at the time, in which case there would be four to six offices. 

* Write-in candidates would not be allowed in primary elections and uncontested primary elections would not appear on the ballot. 

* All elected offices except the U.S. House and state house with two year terms, and the U.S. Senate with six year terms, would be for four year terms.

* All single member elected office races would require a majority to be elected, with a runoff of the top two candidates otherwise.

* City councils would fill municipal office vacancies. County commissions would fill county commissioner and sheriff vacancies. Special district boards would fill vacancies on their boards. State legislature vacancies would be filled by partisan vacancy committees. Governor vacancies would be filled by the Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governor vacancies would be filled by the Governor (unilaterally). The law would provide for Governor's succession in other cases. The Governor would fill U.S. Senate vacancies until the next even numbered general election at which time a vacancy election for any remaining part of the vacant seat's term would be held.  U.S. House vacancies would be filled in special elections as under current law.

* Recall elections of particular local elected officials (city elected officials, county commissioners, sheriff, special district, district attorney), held promptly in the time frames allowed by law.  Vacancies created by recall elections would be filled like any other vacancy. Do not allow the recall of state legislators or the Governor, although the state legislature could impeach the Governor in a mirror of the federal process.

Ballot Issues

* Referred municipal or special district tax increase or bond issue ballot issues (during municipal or special district elections as the case may be, unless an emergency is declared by a supermajority of the city council or board, two-thirds unless there are just three members in which case it must be unanimous).

* Referred county tax increase or bond issue ballot issues (during county elections only, unless an emergency is declared by a supermajority of the county commission - unanimous if there are three members, four out of five if there are five members).

* Referred local charter amendment ballot issues (during municipal or special district elections). Legally required charter amendments would be adopted by the city council or special district board by majority vote.

* Local charter or legislation citizen initiatives (during municipal elections only for municipal measures, and during county elections only for county measures).

* State ballot tax increase ballot issues (referred only, during even numbered year elections in November only).

* State ballot issues on the state constitution or state legislation referred by the state legislature (during even numbered year elections in November only).

* Citizen initiated state constitution and legislative ballot issues (not impacting taxes, during even numbered year elections in November only).

* Newly passed state legislation would not be subject to referendums.