Friday, March 18, 2022

Last Call For The Buckeye Purge

Ohio Republicans took a constitutional amendment on redistricting to the voters in 2018, and it passed overwhelmingly. Of course, with the GOP having a two-thirds supermajority in the state House and Senate, when the "bi-partisan" vote for redistricting went south, the "independent" redistricting commission formed to rectify the situation was made entirely of Republicans, along with GOP Governor Mike DeWine. It should have been a slam dunk for permanent Republican rule in the state, except for one thing...

The state's Supreme Court got the final say on the redistricting maps. And despite a 4-3 Republican majority on the bench, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is siding with the court's three Democrats to declare the maps unconstitutional.  In fact, the state GOP is now 0-3 as of this week, putting the state's scheduled May 3 primaries in jeopardy.

But now, the state GOP has decided to make its counterattack, and House and Senate Republicans in the state realize they have the numbers to impeach and remove Justice O'Connor from the court completely.
House Republicans are discussing whether to impeach Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a third set of legislative maps and effectively ended all hope of a full May 3rd primary.

The court struck down the maps on Wednesday with O'Connor as the deciding vote, sending the Ohio Redistricting Commission back to the drawing board for the fourth time. A ruling on the latest congressional maps is expected any day.

O'Connor, a Republican, is seen as an independent voice on the court and sided with Democrat justices to throw out multiple sets of maps, arguing they did not comply with constitutional rules for redistricting. That's increasingly made her a target of fellow party members who contend she's shirking her responsibilities.

"It's time to impeach Maureen O'Connor now," Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wayne County, tweeted Thursday.

An email from a Republican state central committee member, obtained by USA TODAY Network Ohio, said an unnamed lawmaker disclosed that they would be filing an impeachment charge against O'Connor. Multiple House Republicans said there have been discussions about the matter, but it's unclear if any decisions have been made.

"I don’t understand what the woman wants," said state Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton.

A statehouse insider, who requested anonymity to discuss the situation candidly, also confirmed Republican lawmakers are mulling impeachment and may move forward in the coming days.

"I don't know if it moves or not," the source said. "Judging by conversations I'm aware of, there is growing support for this move. I don't know if there's enough."
We're at a point where Ohio Republicans are going to try to impeach a state Supreme COurt Chief Justice because she ruled against their maps giving them permanent control of the legislature.
This is an extremely dangerous point in history, folks.
Stay tuned.

The Greatest Generation Gave Virginia To The GOP

As Ed Kilgore points out in new voting analysis from last year, Virginia's deep red turn in 2021 wasn't angry suburban moms complaining about COVID precautions at all, but a massive spike in turnout in those 75 and older, the Greatest Generation.

The prevailing conventional wisdom has been that Republican Glenn Youngkin won and Democrat Terry McAuliffe lost because suburban swing voters upset about education and, to a lesser extent, economic issues switched from voting Democrat to Republican between 2020 and 2021. Indeed, a lot of influential focus-group work on the election began with the assumption that these voters made the difference and tried to interpret why they swung rather than how far they swung and how much it mattered. And the more that analysts dwelled on education issues as crucial, the more they agreed that school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic may have damaged Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey (where Democratic governor Phil Murphy had a surprisingly narrow winning margin) even more than Republican attacks on the alleged teaching of “critical race theory” or other culture-war topics related to schools.

Now comes a new study from the data-analysis firm TargetSmart that calls this narrative into question even more than past dissents. As TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier notes, comparing the Virginia results to data on school closures calls into question the idea that the latter affected the former:

Of the top 10 counties in Virginia ranked by days with in-person education during the 2020-2021 school year, 6 of the 10 saw a larger swing towards Republicans than the state average swing of 5.3%, while the remaining 4 counties saw a slightly below average GOP swing. In fact, the biggest swings towards Republicans occurred in southwestern Virginia, where schools were open for in person instruction for most of the year.

Conversely, those counties that conducted virtual learning for most of the 2020-2021 school year saw a smaller shift towards Republicans than the state average — the top 10 counties for days spent in virtual learning in 2020-2021 saw a 3.8% average swing towards Republicans, well below the statewide average of 5.3%.

More generally, TargetSmart took a look at the voter-file information recently made available by Virginia and drew attention to some rather dramatic turnout numbers that seemed to suggest parents of school-age children in the Washington and Richmond suburbs weren’t the keys to this election:

Turnout among voters age 75 or older increased by 59%, relative to 2017 while turnout among voters under age 30 only increased by just 18%. Notably, turnout of all other age groups combined (18-74), which would likely include parents of school-aged children, only increased by 9% compared to 2017.

These are massive changes in the electorate in an election that was far from a blowout: Youngkin won by just 2%.

It’s common for seniors to turn out to vote significantly more than younger cohorts in non-presidential elections. But the figures for Virginia in 2021 were unusually large: 
Voters age 65 and older are an estimated 15.9% of Virginia’s population according to the census, yet accounted for 31.9% of all ballots cast in 2021.

348,314 more seniors (ages 65+) voted in Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election than in the 2016 presidential election.

TargetSmart calls it a “silver surge.” Whatever you call it, it seems to suggest that variable turnout patterns rather than swing voting was the biggest deal in Youngkin’s win. It’s also what a December analysis in FiveThirtyEight of precinct-level data showed, indicating that the big net gains by Youngkin were in Democratic- and Republican-base areas, not in highly competitive swing areas. And for that matter, that’s what the much-discounted exit polls suggested, as Ron Brownstein pointed out right after the election:

Compared with the 2017 governor’s race, or the 2020 presidential contest in the state, the electorate Tuesday was older, whiter, less college-educated, and more Republican, the exit polls found. Census figures show that voters of color have increased as a share of the state’s eligible voter population since 2017, but in the exit polls nonwhite voters plummeted from about one-third of the electorate in both 2020 and 2017 to only a little over one-fourth this year. Voters under 30 fell from 20 percent of the vote in 2020 and 14 percent in 2017 to just 10 percent Tuesday. College graduates shrank from nearly three-in-five voters in 2017 to just under half. And although Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 11 percentage points in the 2017 electorate, the exit polls found that GOP voters almost exactly equaled them this year.

None of this is to say that Youngkin’s victory over McAuliffe was some sort of aberration or that it shouldn’t alarm Democrats. But what it takes to boost turnout by Democrats without further boosting turnout by Republicans is not the same as what it takes to persuade a narrowly defined suburban swing vote upset principally about schools. Narratives matter, and Democrats should take care to ensure they aren’t telling themselves the wrong story.
The story in Virginia was that angry 75+ seniors turned out in massive numbers.  The GOP turned out the base across the state, while the Democrats did turn out, the GOP turned out much more.

Call it the FOX News effect. Rage gets people to vote on the GOP side. If Dems don't find a way to counter, we're all screwed in November.

The Night The Bits Went Out In Texas

Regulation-free Texas wants to become the home of many a cryptocurrency mining operation, but the state's third-world "independent" power grid with dozens of providers in a wild west style fight over customers and infrastructure will need millions, if not billions of dollars of upgrading to handle the kind of power needs a major crypto mine needs, and absolutely nobody wants to pay for it.

David Naylor’s knowledge of cryptocurrency was limited, to say the least, when Bitcoin miners started approaching him last year about buying power from the utility he runs across a 16-county stretch of rural Texas.

“I was writing it down, B-i-t-c-o-i-n,” said Naylor, chief executive officer of Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative Inc., which provides power to about 229,000 customers — mostly small towns and homes — north and east of Dallas.

Naylor has had to get up to speed quickly. He’s received multiple proposals to build Bitcoin mines, with rows of electricity-guzzling computers that solve mathematical problems to create digital coins, on what’s now ranch land. Two of the mines would each require as much as $20 million to fortify power lines and avert blackouts. Each would consume enough electricity to power as many as 60,000 Texas homes. Utilities like Rayburn have to provide service to miners if it’s technically feasible to do so, but upgrades to the grid threaten to drive up bills for consumers already shouldering price shocks for almost everything.

Rayburn’s talks with Bitcoin miners illustrate the conundrum utilities face as crypto companies like Riot Blockchain Inc. and Argo Blockchain Plc flock to Texas, spurred by almost nonexistent regulation, relatively cheap electricity and Governor Greg Abbott’s quest to make the state the global center for crypto mining. Besides threatening to boost power bills, the dozens of Bitcoin mines proposed are also a risk to the state’s shaky power grid after a deep freeze last year left hundreds dead and pushed up prices so much that utilities were left with massive debts or bankrupted.

“These are just challenges we’ve never faced before,” Naylor said in an interview.

Texas utilities may have to figure it out largely on their own, weighing the cost of upgrades against long-term benefits like revenue that can be invested in protecting against outages. It falls to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, to evaluate how Bitcoin mining will affect the power system. So far, Ercot hasn’t publicly disclosed what it's done, but its members will vote this month on creating a task force to understand how many mines will connect to the grid and how fast. New types of demand come with a number of risks and challenges, and “Ercot will continue to coordinate and collaborate with its regulators and stakeholders to successfully integrate crypto loads,” the grid operator said in an emailed statement.

It’s too early to estimate how much Texans’ power bills could rise as a result of Bitcoin mining. But the city of Plattsburgh, New York, may provide clues. After power prices surged, Plattsburgh temporarily banned crypto mining in 2018 until it could pass measures to regulate the industry. Two counties in Washington state took similar steps.

Overall, Bitcoin mining cost residents and businesses in upstate New York about $250 million a year in higher annual electricity bills, a 2021 University of California Berkeley study concluded. Mining pushes up monthly electric bills about $8 for individuals, and $12 for small businesses, the researchers estimated.

Industry advocates argue that as Bitcoin mining booms in the state, someone will come along to build more power plants. One year after the deadly winter storm, a record amount of solar capacity is planned for Texas. Plus, miners say their ability to quickly throttle back operations when the grid needs power will actually make the system more stable. Bitcoin mines shouldn't cost consumers much because they seek out more sparsely populated areas with electricity to spare, said Lee Bratcher, president of the Texas Blockchain Council, a lobbying group.

But Rayburn's experience shows that's not always the case. Miners are looking at remote sites, which in some cases will require millions of dollars in grid upgrades, Naylor said.

Utilities across Texas are fielding proposals. American Electric Power Co. is weighing requests from 75 to 100 Bitcoin miners to connect primarily across West Texas and is evaluating the need for upgrades to handle the mines. Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, which serves the Texas Panhandle and Central Plains, is studying inquiries from two dozen miners.

Austin Energy, which powers the state capital, says investors want to build five mines just outside Austin that would need a total of 1,000 megawatts of electricity, equal to about two-thirds of the city's current demand. That may require the utility to build more transmission lines, said Erika Bierschbach, vice president of energy market operations.

“The risk is that we don’t manage the opportunity very well,” Bierschbach said. Austin Energy, Rayburn and Golden are considering whether to require miners to pay higher power rates.

Upgrades to the power system will be needed because the grid “can’t handle all of this new load,” said Evan Caron, a former power trader in Austin who invests in energy technology. New investments in the transmission system are typically shared among Ercot’s consumers and show up in their utility bills. This year, Ercot expects more than $4.5 billion in transmission charges to be distributed among users from factories to utilities.
With Texas's power grid being nothing more than a collection of dozens of independent power providers, nobody wants to be the sucker holding the bag for the tens of millions in improvements needed to power this new "industry", itself a giant scam.  Frankly, the state and the crypto con artists deserve each other, but it's the people of Texas who are going to end up getting screwed the most when the miners eventually take the money and run.

When the crypto con gets shut down finally as the global money laundering operation/multi-level marketing scam that it is, a whole lot of people are going to discover that their entire life savings are gone for good, and then Texas will want its money back, taking it from the people.

This is going to be a massive disaster in a short time if things go how I predict they will.
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