Friday, 27 November 2009

UKIP comes out for positive discrimination

...for the mentally ill. From the BBC's profile of their new leader:

"In his time he has declared war on, among others, Lloyd's of London, the Home Office and Marxism."

Fascinating. Wait! There's more!

"...the Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us". He says: "I don't know at what point they reach such a number we are no longer able to resist the rest of their demands."

Who would have thought that UKIP, of all parties, would be the first to combat discrimination against those with severe and delusional mental illness? While I'm not exactly sold on positive discrimination, UKIP's u-turn on the issue is, I think, one to be welcomed.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Oor Wullie

A little detail of interest from the recent Glasgow North East* by-election reproduced from the blog of BBC's Scotland's political editor:

"Big question for [the SNP] is why the seat is so different from Glasgow East, which they won in the summer of 2008.

Party strategists say the big difference is that, in east, they were able to corral aspirational voters and persuade them things could and should be better.

Faced with the hopelessness witnessed in Glasgow North East, that was a much tougher task."

Fascinating. Not because it's true (it isn't much more than a classist slur - the main difference between Glasgow North East and Glasgow East being that the latter includes a surprisingly large swath of lower middle class suburbia, while the former is about as close to being totally proletarian as places get anywhere. There are minor exceptions, but only minor exceptions. Of course, that in itself doesn't explain the massive disparity in the results - all it tells us is that there was never any chance of Glasgow North East being lost) but because of what it says about the SNP's real attitude to the Working Class and to poverty. Much the same can be said of the disgusting tendency to argue that poor people voting Labour is an example of pure studity and nothing else (a line of "thought" demolished (though surely not for the last time) over here). Anyway, the real question is this: why should political parties that accuse people of being stupid and "hopeless" be surprised when these people don't vote for them? And why should these people be criticised for voting for political parties that value them as human beings?

Update: I see that a Scottish Labour activist is appropriately irritated by the SNP's "aspirational" and "hopelessness" comments.

*I miss the old Glasgow constituency names - and Glasgow Springburn was one of the best.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Actually they did this on Christmas Day, but it's related...

On a happier note, the last movement of the Bernstein "Ode to Freedom" version of Beethoven's 9th can be found here.

Presentism and the Berlin Wall

There's no point going into great depth about the historic importance of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Empire and so on and so forth, as that has been done better elsewhere. And while it's easy to rail against the human obsession with dates, anniversaries and so on, to do is ultimately to be a hypocrite, because we all do it*... and it's wrong to do so, because of its importance in keeping the historical memory of important events alive. So I'll pick up on something else - the disappointing tinge of presentism to much of the coverage (in Britain anyway) of the anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. If you'd only watched the BBC coverage of the marking of the event earlier and knew little else about it, you could be forgiven for assuming that the real significance of the Fall of the Wall was that it ultimately allowed Angela Merkel to become the Chancellor of a united Germany. At its most absurd, it almost seemed as though the journalists commenting on proceedings believed that Merkel was a significant figure in East Germany at the time or even some kind of resistence leader (which is nonsense - she, like the overwhelming majority of Ossies, made her own private compromises with the regime in order to pursue her career and to get on with her life). It is almost as though the British media is incapable of understanding the historic importance of anything unless it can be placed in a comfortable and easy-to-understand contemporary framework.

*Though it's certainly legitimate to rail against the tendency to be so mindlessly and utterly obsessed with such things as the media tends to be. Though quite futile.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Demographic analysis of the New York Mayoral election - part three

Ethnicity and yet more cultural fragmentation

The final part of this little series concerns ethnic origin - which, due to the institutionalisation of the concept of "race" and the country's history as a beacon for mass immigration- has a slightly different meaning in the United States than it does over here. To a large extent "ethnic" means white immigrants (including and especially 19th century ones) and their descendants - non-white immigrants are covered by "racial" catagories (with several exceptions, more of which later). As whites (as currently defined) are a minority in New York only a minority of people in 2000 fitted into one of the census bureau's ancestry-ethnicity groups. The following a basic list in order of size:

Other ancestries - 53.2%
Italian - 8.7%
West Indian - 6.9% (the important non-white exception)
Irish - 5.3%
German - 3.2%
Russian - 3.0%
"American" - 3.0%
Polish - 2.7%
English - 1.6%
Subsaharan African - 1.5%
Greek - 1.0%
All other groups were under 1%

And now, the fun stuff...


29% - Bloomberg 4
19% - Bloomberg 4, Thompson 1
12% - Bloomberg 6, Thompson 1

Bloomberg took over 70% in three of the four most Italian districts.

West Indian

31% - Thompson 4
13% - Bloomberg 1, Thompson 10


16% - Bloomberg 2
12% - Bloomberg 6


10% - Bloomberg 2


8% - Bloomberg 7


11% - Thompson 1
6% - Bloomberg 3


6% - Bloomberg 6

Subsaharan African

4% - Bloomberg 1, Thompson 5


7% - Bloomberg 2

At some point I may look at the same sort of thing at block-group level. Finally, something else relating to cultural fragmention... the percentage born outside the United States:

41% - Bloomberg 16, Thompson 14

Fascinating. It's quite clear that whether an area is full of immigrants or not had no bearing on its voting patterns - what mattered is who these immigrants are. For example, Bloomberg took over 80% in AD 45 (which has lots of Russian immigrants) while Thompson took over 80% in nearby AD 58 (which has lots of West Indian immigrants).

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Demographic analysis of the New York Mayoral election - part two

Class, inequality and the election

Class is, of course, notoriously difficult to define in precise statistical terms and I've made no attempt to do any such thing here. What I've done instead is simple - several possible indicators of class and of inequality used in the same way that the various (and in America legally precise) "racial" catagories were in the previous post, but to a slightly different end. This is an attempt to slowly build up an impression of a single variable, rather than comparing and combing different groups. Again, mistakes are possible and will be corrected as soon as possible.

The first list is of the percentage employed in managerial or professional occupations - an obvious place to start:

55% - Bloomberg 8
41% - Bloomberg 5
33% - Bloomberg 10, Thompson 3
25% - Bloomberg 8, Thompson 10
16% - Bloomberg 3, Thompson, 19

A fairly stark pattern with no exceptions at the top end. The lower end exceptions are two of the districts that were also exceptional in the minorities table, and 38 - also in Queens, also minority-majority and also with a low Black population and a relatively high (about 12%) Asian one.

Some more occupation statistics now, though only for the higher tiers. First, percentage employed in "construction, extraction & maintance occupations":

8% - Bloomberg 9, Thompson 7

And now, percentage employed in "production, transport & material moving occupations":

13% - Bloomberg 9, Thompson 13

Thompson was very strong at the upper end of the latter catagory.

And finally, percentage employed in manual service-sector occupations:

25% - Bloomberg 1, Thompson 20

From which we can conclude that in terms of occupation, it appears that Bloomberg's base was the city's bourgeoisie while Thompson's came from the lowest strata of the proletariat. The "geological" pattern within obviously Working Class occupation groups is hardly surprising, but is interesting and worth noting all the same.

Moving away from occupation statistics now and on to housing. First up, median monthly (gross) rent in 2000... but only at the extremes (between the two things get a little complicated because higher rates of owner-occupation in the outer boroughs scew the figures):

Above $931 - Bloomberg 7
Below $543 - Thompson 8

As no further comment is needed, I'll move swiftly onto tenure...

Over 80% rented - Bloomberg 4, Thompson 18
Under 50% rented - Bloomberg 8, Thompson 3

It's certainly interesting that the difference is sharper at the upper end of the table than the lower. This doesn't just relate to the fact that property prices in Manhatten are too high even for most yuppies, but to the "racial" patterns of the previous post - owner occupation dominates in even the majority Black parts of eastern Queens.

Income brackets are always an interesting way of looking at this sort of election, and so can't be avoided even if their relationship to class is complicated. I've used median household income from 2000:

$65,000 - Bloomberg 5
$49,000 - Bloomberg 8, Thompson 2
$38,000 - Bloomberg 11, Thompson 3
$29,000 - Bloomberg 8, Thompson 10
$17,000 - Thompson 17

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pattern is rather stark. And finally, I'll also add that Thompson won all fifteen districts where over 30% of the population is classified as being in poverty for official purposes.

What can be concluded from all this? The obvious point is that class was a significant factor in this election - perhaps not quite on the same level as "race", but then the two are difficult to fully divide in large American cities. It's an important point to make, despite being obvious, as there's a tendency to downplay the significance of class in American electoral behavior - it is clear that at a municipal level class polarisation is certainly not dead in New York, even if it has played second fiddle to "race" for decades.

Demographic analysis of the New York Mayoral election - part one


I suppose that the first thing to say is how oddly pleasing the overall numbers were - Bloomberg didn't lose (alas) but came far closer than the idiotic journalistic consensus suggested; more proof that journalists and their ilk do not understand municipal politics. Anyway, what follows is a very simple demographic analysis of the election results by Assembly District and using the 2000 census (way out of date, but I've not seen ACS data for AD's yet). Minor errors possible and will be corrected when spotted.

Minorities and the Politics of "Race"

The following is a list of districts broken down by how they voted and the % non-white in the 2000 census:

80% - Bloomberg 3, Thompson 27
60% - Bloomberg 3, Thompson 2
50% - Bloomberg 4, Thompson 1
40% - Bloomberg 9, Thompson 2
30% - Bloomberg, 5
20% - Bloomberg, 6
10% - Bloomberg, 3

The numbers here tell their own story, really. Thompson's main strength was with Black voters, Bloomberg's with Whites - not exactly a surprise (Thompson winning two white majority AD's perhaps is - perhaps demographic shifts from 2000 will explain part of that). Thompson's best AD's (56, 55) are both over 80% Black, while Bloomberg's best (73) is the whitest district in the city outside Staten Island. Things were slightly more complicated in heavily Hispanic districts:

80%, Thompson 1
60%, Thompson 5, Bloomberg 1
50%, Thompson 6, Bloomberg 1

Clearly favouring Thompson, but not so overwhelmingly as heavily Black districts - two of Bloomberg's 80% minority AD's appear on the above table. Doing the same with Asians*, however...

50%, Bloomberg 1
40%, Bloomberg 1
30%, Bloomberg 5, Thompson 1

...and the last 80% minority AD for Bloomberg is explained. Perhaps the other two to an extent as well - while 34 and 39 are Hispanic majority, they both have large Asian populations.

It is worthing noting that, despite "race" dominating voting preferences to a great extent, in some cases "racial" polarisation clearly declined in this election - in both 2001 and 2005 Bloomberg polled around 77% on Staten Island. This time he polled less than that even in his best AD on the island (74% in 62). It's interesting to speculate quite what have happend had Bloomberg faced a credible White challenger.

The next post on this subject will concern variables linked to Class and income.

*In an American context, this means something different to how it's used in Britain. In the case of New York, most Asians are Chinese.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

American off-year elections

Today is election day in the U.S - for a wide range of different positions at state and municipal level. Most of these are only of interest to dedicated election junkies, but some are interesting enough in their own right. They are;

*New York Mayor - while the result itself seems like a foregone conclusion (Bloomberg being defeated would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the city) it ought to be closer than last time. But the reason for its importance is in the details; municipal politics in New York has broken down on extremely stark "racial" lines since Dinkins ousted Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary (and especially since Giuliani defeated Dinkins in 1993 - a nasty election even by New York standards and fought against the backdrop of the Crown Heights riot) and this has been as true of Bloomberg's elections as Giuliani's. But there have been a few indications that this may be breaking down to an extent, perhaps as a result of Bloomberg getting the rules changed to allow him to run again. While I wouldn't be at all surprised if such indications prove to be illusions, attention must be paid regardless. It should also be noted that there has been a marked anti-incumbent trend in recent municipal elections in the U.S (the recent Republican victory in Albuquerque being the most dramatic case) and that this extended to the Democratic primaries for New York City Council. Socialists should, by the way, hope for Bloomberg's defeat and not just because of his wealth and his status as a successful capitalist. Do not be fooled by his apparently moderate stance on national political issues - in terms of municipal politics, he's the leading example of the sort of vapid municipal conservatism that residents of London and Birmingham (amongst other places) should now be familiar with. He's unlikely to lose, but hope springs eternal.

*New Jersey Governor - on one level this doesn't matter at all; Corzine is the sort of worthless business Democrat (literally - he used to be the CEO of Goldman Sachs) and has (like Bloomberg) used his personal fortune to buy himself political office, while Christie appears to be an equally unpleasant Republican hack. But it matters all the same, in part because a Corzine defeat will be spun as representing a defeat for the Obama administration (and who knows what the knock-on effect of that might be), but also because of the domination of New Jersey politics by laughably corrupt political machines combine with it stark social divisions (some of the most disgustingly bourgeois suburbs on Earth plus wealthy seaside resorts combined with proletarian banlieu and decayed industrial cities) make its electoral patterns endlessly fascinating and unusually revealing about the nature of class and political organisation in the U.S.

*NY-23 by-election - I'm not going to go into detail about the ins and outs of this strange, mad race in the far north of Upstate New York, all I'm going to do is write why it matters, why it is important. The election coalition of the Conservative Party candidate resembles (or appears to resemble) nothing so much as that of a class early 20th century mature fascist party - and the NSDAP in particular.