Category Archives: Gerrymandering

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

It is the easiest thing in the world to belittle the weak, and the Texas Democratic party has been almost catatonic since J.J. Jake Pickle and Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Democratic force fell by the wayside. Texas Democrats had a brief resurgence in the 80’s and 90’s with Ann Richards as governor and with the Clinton’s in the White House; but truthfully, the Texas Democratic party of old died with Jake Pickle at about the turn of the century.

Which is probably a good thing, because the way the Democrats used to do business is mirrored in the way that the Texas Republicans currently do business. Gerrymandering. Stuffing ballot boxes. The outright purchase of votes and candidates by the wealthy class.

Media pundits know who holds the power now. It’s evident in every broadcast you listen to, every telecast you watch or any article you read. Oh, sure, they pay lip service to the notion that the Democrats are due for a comeback; but the corporate media, the corporation, that most feudal of all still existing human social structures, they make their money ass-kissing the powerful, just as their forebears did to kings and sultans, czars and sheiks. They ass-kiss the Republican party because the Republican party has shown their willingness to engage in a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence by letting a known money launderer and populist dictator wannabe take the reigns of power in the US.

As an example, here is the darling of the liberal press, NPR’s weekly politics podcast, talking about the first in the country primaries in Texas this Tuesday,


MARCH 7, 2018 Takeaways From Texas, As Midterms Kick Off

Even a casual listener of that podcast and the one that follows it can’t help but notice that the only voices heard aside from the hosts are conservative leaders. They even play the entire Ted Cruz ad, as if I haven’t heard it several times already on other liberal news organizations, as well as an interview with Ted Cruz! Free advertising and free airtime for the sitting Senator from Canada, er, Texas. Do we hear anything from his opponent in this race, Beto O’Rourke, aside from their making fun of his showing and his name, yucking it up right along with that son of a dominionist Cruz?

No, of course not. He’s never going to have any power, in their eyes. He’s just not pulling the interest of the news consumers, that skewed demographic that sits at home watching FOX news as if this was still the 1990’s or something. One might think the media would have learned a thing or two from the mess they made of the 2016 races, following the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) around like little puppies afraid they’ll miss the next tidbit of tasty gossip. All the while certain that their free advertising for this dangerously jingoist, nationalist, uninformed conspiracy fantasist wouldn’t help earn him the White House all on its own. Never consciously realizing that their dismissal of the favorite, a savvy, political insider who had been hounded by the press for nearly 40 years would end up creating a vacuum that something had to fill.

No, they just go on blithely doing the mindless reporting that they always do, looking to see what will get them the most viewer or listener numbers. Never really asking if these were the stories they should have spent their precious time talking and writing about. And so the numbers stack up in the conservative column, and the people follow the media who follow the assumed power, none of them ever asking if that leadership is a judas goat or not.

Let me break this down for you, the layman who doesn’t live and breath politics like I do. Republican primary turnout in Texas is high because in Texas you can only vote in one primary for one party. So if you are interested in selecting the leadership of your county or state (cities are generally non-partisan races by design)  you will go and vote in the primary of the party you think will carry statewide offices. And that party in Texas has been the Republican party. Democrats last won statewide office in 1994, the longest dry spell in recent US history. Only a fool votes in a primary for a party that will not control the state after the next election, or so the average voter thinks.

Ted Cruz was essentially unchallenged in his primary race, so Ted Cruz got every vote of every Texan who voted in the Republican primary unless they took the time to not vote for him. And since most Texans voted Republican he got more votes than the Democratic candidates did. Does this mean anything in the grand scheme of things? Only that most people want to be on the winning side in an election and will change their stances on subjects after the fact just to prove how right they always were.

If Texas had jungle primaries like California does, you would see something you’ve never seen in Texas before, cross-party voting on the primary ballot. You would see a lot less racism and persecution of the transgendered and homosexuals, because there would no target demographic that would vote on issues that arcane without partisan primary grandstanding. If Texas had districts that weren’t gerrymandered to a fraction of a percentage point on average party turn-out (like Pennsylvania) but were instead drawn by a non-partisan commission, you might see people voting for the other party just to get a change of government in their district. But we don’t have those things, and so the self-fulfilling prophecy of Republican victory is underscored by pundits who aren’t interested in how the opposition is hobbled in Texas, they just want to congratulate the victors no matter how rigged the races are at the outset.

Back in LBJ’s day, the Democrats did all this stuff too. It’s hard for them to criticize the Republicans for doing things that they did, that they will do again if we let them. The trick is to inform your leadership that you want a level playing field before you send them to office. That you want maximal voter turnout, sensible districting, wide-open primaries and real discussion of issues. Good luck on getting the media to stop following the easy story, the quick click reward. In the meantime you could just stop believing that pundits know what the future holds anymore than you do yourself right now. Then you might at least stop fulfilling the prophecies that they keep making.

Ballotpedia.org

The Blue Wave was real, and then it wasn’t, in the course of about a week. Stranger still, the made-up national story arc seemed to influence in-state coverage as well. Even though Democratic turnout was better than in any midterm primary since 2002, and more than than double 2014, commentators have consistently described the night as at least a mild disappointment, where the Democrats “fell short” of a goal that had been imagined for them.

Texas Observer


The thing is, the way the state goes on the electoral college map doesn’t mean very much at all for the way Texas is governed. And while it’s possible that the party jumps back to life with the shock of winning one or two statewide elections — that there will be a proof of concept, and then everyone suddenly gets serious — it’s more likely that things change slowly, over an extended period of time, and that small gains and positive signs feed bigger gambits. What’s most important in the long run is the overall composition and strength of the Texas Democratic Party at the local and state level.

In that light, the fact that Democratic turnout doubled in urban counties while Republican turnout stayed essentially flat is significant. There are quite a few winnable legislative districts around those cities. The whole ballgame for the party is getting people to vote and to make a habit of voting. Trump is helping them do that — the trick now is to get it to stick, which it most certainly did not after the elections of 2006 and 2008. – Christopher Hooks for the Texas Observer, The All-or-Nothing ‘Turning Texas Blue’ Narrative Needs to Be Retired

The interview with Christopher Hooks on the Texas Standard today spells out exactly what I’m talking about. The media, focused on national races and their outcomes, never even considers the fact that the truism all politics is local holds sway even in places as large as Texas,


Texas Standard, Is It Time To Stop Talking About ‘Turning Texas Blue’?

Progressives are making inroads in Texas, and there isn’t a damn thing that Republicans and conservatives can do about it. For Democrats to win they have to offer real improvement on what the Republicans are doing now. Funding schools. Improving safety. Protecting the environment and moving Texas into the the next century. Listening to the OHM and his canuck croney Cruz talk, you would think that there aren’t fields of windmills in West Texas providing essential electricity to the grid. That solar wasn’t the future and that the emergence of electric cars in the cities isn’t a thing that is happening. You would think that Texas lives and dies by coal, which was never true, and that we’re still in the wildcat days of the oil boom in Texas, which we aren’t.

It’s time to put the conservatives where they belong, in the past with their fear of the transgendered and the homosexual. Their need for their religion to be front and center in everything they do. We cannot afford to be side-tracked into meaningless crusades against the different and the strange. There is real work being left undone because of their fear-mongering and immigrant hating. Time to roll up the sleeves and get back to work. 

Republican, Republican; Democrat, Democratic

I spent the last few hours listening to Maajid Nawaz in conversation with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast. This is the first time I’ve heard him speak and he seems like a honest, earnest person.


Waking Up With Sam Harris #59 – Friend & Foe (with Maajid Nawaz)

…except for this one thing. This one thing that drives me absolutely nuts.

It is the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. That is how the word is properly used. Pouty Republicans and conservatives who want to discredit the Democrats invented (or reinvented) this little conundrum of wordplay as a dogwhistle to separate themselves from the rest of the liberal press, and anyone who uses this dogwhistle is either a member of the conservative press or is blind to the subtleness of word usage that propagandists rely on to spread their message.

You see, Republicans want to rob Democrats of the subliminal linkage of the Democratic party with with the democratic process; and they are attempting to do this by pretending that words when used as a party name should not be conjugated in the same way. This is false and it sounds forced when spoken.

I have an extremely hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully use the word wrongly simply to call attention to the difference between a process and a party name.

The Democrats are far more democratic than the Republicans currently are. It is the neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, Democrats who had no problem perverting the democratic process when they were Democrats, who are now perverting the democratic process by denying the vote to larger and larger sections of the population in efforts to keep their Republican conservatives in power for a few more terms before the inevitable shift of power occurs.

The true test of whether the Democrats are democratic will come when, having regained power they return to the undemocratic ways of their past. Will they readopt the same perversions of the process that they previously practiced? That their neoconservative soon to be neoliberal power brokers will want to reimpose but now from the other side? Vote suppression? Gerrymandering? Or will we force them to create systems which are actually unbiased and open for the first time in US history?

Will we pass the test our forebears failed, or will we fail as they have?

As for the rest of the subjects of the podcast? Thought-provoking if not outright wrong on many points. How many times will I have to hear the false conservative talking point “won’t say islamic terrorist?” I’m hoping I have heard it for the last time. We’ll just have to see how much difference there is now that the conservatives have everything they’ve ever wanted since 1980. Now’s your chance boys. How bad can you fuck it all up? Sadly, we are about to find out.

Included in the errata label because I once had a tendency to do this myself. A failing I have since corrected so isn’t preserved on this blog. But still, I’m trying for absolute honesty here. Well, as close to honesty as any human and his public diary can be. 

Carry On, Whether You Feel Calm or Not

This talk from Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times is exactly what we need to stay focused on, those of us capable of rational thought today. Carry on Post-Brexit, whether calm or not easily applies to the US today and for the next few months after the disastrous returns from the 2016 general election.

In the spirit of carrying-on I decided to go through Robert Reich’s points published on his wall this morning point by point, just to get a feel for what I think we have in store for us. We’ll see if my post-election predictions are as off as my predictions of the election of our first female president were.

 Waking up this morning in an altered universe, trying to avoid despair, as I’m sure many of you are. 

What to do, now? Let me offer a few suggestions.

1. The first temptation will be recrimination – against the Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and all the other establishment figures who prevented Bernie from getting the nomination. That’s understandable, but recrimination won’t get us where we need to be.

Bernie would have lost. Every other Democratic candidate presented would have lost (maybe not Julian Castro, but he didn’t want to compete with Hillary for the job either) because this is the same kind of malcontents who upset the Brexit vote. They want things broken, and their change agent will be expected to break things. They voted for him with the expectation of breaking things, that is why he is the President-elect, not for anything he promised to do, but the damage he is expected to cause. With cynics like that at the helm, be prepared for ugliness to occur.

2. As a practical matter, our first priority must be to defend civil rights and civil liberties. Trump has unleashed the furies, and the furies will now feel unbridled. Be conscious and beware. We must protect those who need protecting. Trump isn’t yet president. We still have a court system, at the least.

This is probably one of the few points that is actually doable, because we don’t have to rely on our opponents to get it done. We just have to fund the ACLU and other defense organizations with enough funds to pull this off. The one thing that the break-everything’s who won the 2016 elections cannot control is the actions of the sane half of the United States. If we keep our heads and stay focused on the important goals. Goals like that one.

3. Our second priority must be to hold on to as much of the progress already made as possible. Use political jujitsu to turn the Republican’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act into something closer to Medicare for All, which it should have been all along – based on the most popular program in the federal government. Hold on to the progress on the environment we’ve already achieved, and fight off attempts to link a carbon tax to a huge corporate tax cut. Use this populist moment to raise taxes on corporations and the rich rather than cut them.

There is a steep slope ahead for anything we do on this front (see the previous note about breaking things) the ACA is gone. It ain’t coming back. Anyone who had insurance? You will lose your insurance. The subservient congress he has been handed will tacitly do whatever he asks, and his plans are to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, disabled and non-citizen workers. Look to see a reversal of the private prisons decision and an expansion of prisoner work programs. Militias will probably start rounding up what they term “Illegals” which we will have to counter with the ACLU and other rights programs. Budget cuts for everything that isn’t the military are likely. The military will be expanded over the objections of the generals, who will probably be replaced.

Worse, Obama (whom I love) will hand the Birther-in-Chief a blueprint for how to screw all of this up in his attempts to hand off the baton in this relay race he thinks he is running, unless he suddenly gains an understanding that not all of us want the same things.

Which is why the taxes on the wealthy will be lowered, as will the corporate tax rates (which is a far more complex issue than I can outline here. Suffice it to say lower corporate tax rates are not necessarily a bad thing) the memory of Ronaldus Maximus will be served, even if the actual policies of Ronald Reagan are not.

A carbon tax has no chance now. The Birther-in-Chief thinks climate change is a hoax. So repeat this mantra till it sinks in Americans are dumber than most of us thought, the dumber than dirt kinda dumb. They voted for the conspiracy fantasist who will be sworn in next January, they are definitely not smarter than he is.

4. Those of us blessed to live in progressive states must use this opportunity to move the agenda forward at the state level — to show what can be done on the minimum wage, paid family leave, single-payer health insurance, tuition-free public college, and election reforms.

I see a mass exodus to the blue areas of the map in the near future, as if that isn’t already happening. This will further exacerbate the problems in the red areas,  areas which already do not have enough population to do the jobs they need doing, to maintain the industries they are demanding come back to the U.S. This is only going to make the in-fighting between the cities and the rural areas (blue and red, respectively) uglier, not better. How that will shape up is anyone’s guess. It might be possible to use the tax base of the cities to address problems of the rural areas that feed it, but that will take some pretty creative thinking on the parts of city managers across the country. City managers who are already underfunded and understaffed. Not holding my breath on that one.

5. Our fifth priority should be to organize with an eye to the 2018 midterms and the 2020 election. I know many of you are exhausted, and the mere thought of more politics almost sickens you. But we have no choice.

I’m trying to remain hopeful that there will be a recognizable US in 2018 at this point. I really don’t see how we get there. If we do, we better be sure that we are positioned to take back congress and the senate. That means the 2018’s start next week. Find your local precinct office, invite your neighbors, take over the party machine. Do it now so that we don’t have to think about it in two years, we’ll just be doing what we planned all along.

6. Finally, we must take over the Democratic Party, or begin a third party, in order to bridge the gap between the white working class and people of color – thereby creating a coalition that can not only win elections, but take on the moneyed interests and reverse the inequalities that have driven us to this point.

Third parties are a really bad joke. The delusion that another party will fix the problems of the party system which excludes them from the system they want to fix, is the same kind of insanity that has gotten us here (doing things the same way expecting different results) The system does not allow for them. If we are inordinately successful, a speed of change not seen in the history of the world, we might be able to see the system modified to allow for minority party voices. That means ending gerrymandering, reforming campaign finance and altering the voting system itself with some form of ranked voting. All of this will likely require amending the Constitution to be successful, and there are several active groups out there attempting this now. Go join one of them. Until they are successful, taking over the local party machines (both Democrat and Republican) is the only method we have for fixing this system which has delivered us here.

There’s much more to talk about. But I wanted to start somewhere, and to give you a sense of possibility. Please do not fall into cynicism. That’s a self-fulfilling prophesy

What do you think?

I love Robert Reich’s posts for that last sentence. Sometimes it is maddening, but the professor in him makes him ask his students, his audience, to engage the problem directly.

Cynicism is what put the Birther-in-Chief where he is supposed to be in January. Cynicism drove his candidacy and cynics elected him to break the system. If we want to do better than the people who elected this real estate developer to the highest office in the land, cynicism is the first thing we have to evict from our minds.

The least productive congress, the least popular congress in history returning to office at 96% rate. That is the definition of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’ve noticed this behavior in Texas for decades now, and I am at a loss to explain it outside of just calling it insanity. For twenty years and longer Texas has doubled down on electing the most conservative candidate they can find; and when that idiot turns out to be, well, an idiot, they elect the next idiot who claims to be even more conservative. So it has gone again and again and again and they never seem to figure out that if you want to see different results, you have to change the parameters, the criteria, whatever it is you think you want from your government, from the people you elect to government.

Until then, until we do that, we will be that crazy dude in the alleyway that keeps walking into the wall over and over again. The guy who smells like alcohol and urine, looks like he slept in his clothes for a month, and wants to bum $20 bucks off of you to buy gas for his car. The world isn’t going to follow us while we blunder into walls repeatedly like a crazy person. They will stop buying our debt, create their own default market currency and move on without us. I don’t even want to think about what happens then.

Don’t be Texas, America. Learn from our bad example. 

US Politics Fix; Starting the Process

From Robert Reich’s Facebook Feed

This will probably turn into a page of its own at some point, a book-length outline of the problems and processes that have to be reformed, and the obstacles in the way of average Americans retaking control of their government from the political bosses, corporate sponsors, and wealthy contributors who currently control it.

We have to start somewhere, so let’s start at the beginning.

A bright, fresh-faced teenager sees the problems in the world, the calcified systems in the US that seem incapable of dealing with these problems and asks himself/herself

“how do I get involved in this? How do I change this?” 

The answer to that question is related to current events, and the image at right.

In the midst of a sideshow barker taking over the Republican primary process on the one hand, and a proud Socialist trying to pull the Democratic primary onto liberal ground it hasn’t seen since the 1970’s, I find myself without a group I feel can align with once again.

I left the Libertarian Party due to their inability to separate their ideological dedication to anarchism from the goal of actually winning the democratic election process.

Now I’m wondering just what the rest of the American populace is smoking, not just the libertarians, because it must be some good shit for everyone to be so clueless all of a sudden.

I really can’t make heads or tails of the purpose of all of this noise. I’m once again reminded of the Babylon 5 episode with Drazi killing Drazi over what color sashes they randomly select.  What I can say for certain is that Americans in general are dissatisfied with the political process as we’ve come to know it.  I can say that because the only reason that two outsiders could dominate the early potential candidate fields in polling is because Americans don’t like either of the two parties.

So what about third parties? is the question now being asked.  That would be backtracking for me.  I’m a veteran of the failed political process that is third party attempts at wresting control from the two major factions. For more than a decade I worked in the trenches, canvassing, promoting, representing the Libertarian Party in Texas in the best light that I could generate for it. I was never very important to the party (as I’m sure local activists will be quick to point out) but it was important to me, until it wasn’t anymore.

It wasn’t anymore because it became clear to me that;

  1.  The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists and 
  2. Majority is what determines the leaders in a democratic process.  Finally 
  3. I was no longer personally convinced that the U.S. actually suffers from too much government. 

What the U.S. suffers from is ineffective and inefficient governance. Looking at the circus acts currently playing, one might well wonder if that wasn’t the purpose from the beginning.  Harry Browne said government doesn’t work long before Ronald Reagan said it.  Both of them are incorrect, because government works in other nations. It is just that the US government seems doomed to drown in a puddle of its own inefficiencies unless something fundamental to the process is changed.

There have always been third parties. There are several third parties right now. The system is rigged to only allow two parties to have any real power. Has been rigged since the Republicans rose to national prominence with the dissolution of the Whigs in 1854 over the question of slavery. This is the point that seems to be glossed over. It isn’t that I don’t care about third party politics. The system itself isn’t setup to recognize minority parties in any real way.  It has been codified and calcified over the course of 200 years to the point where, in certain states, it is all but illegal to be a member of any party aside from the Democrats and Republicans.  Third parties, minority parties, minority factions cannot alter the system because it is insulated from their efforts by layers of interference.

And still the question appears “how can anyone vote Democratic or Republican?” The answer is demonstrable; we vote for them because one of the two of them will win. One of the two of them will win because in the vast majority of races throughout history the political system in the US has been controlled by one of two dominant parties in the US.

Whoever the Libertarians nominate (or the Greens nominate) will lose again as they have in every previous election. They will lose because they aren’t Republicans or Democrats; which the rules at the national level and at the state level virtually guarantee will win all electoral races especially the president.

Running for President as a third party is a waste of time, worse it is a waste of resources which could be used to fund campaigns to change rules so that candidates who aren’t part of a party structure can compete. What we get from that investment of time and money is the exact same argument over and over again. Why are you voting for Democrats and Republicans?

First admit that there is a problem and that problem is the electoral rules themselves. Then fix that problem before doing anything else.

Go read Ballot Access News, edited by the magnificent Richard Winger. Top of the page today is a notification that a majority of seats in a particular state are unopposed. Tomorrow it will be a different state. Unopposed means the incumbent will be re-elected. It means no change. It means that the system will remain unaltered.  Why are the seats being handed to the incumbent?  Because ballot access is gated by a huge hurdle in nearly every state.  If the hurdle (be it signatures or party requirements) is topped, the next legislature will simply raise the bar for the next election.

The never asked question is why do Americans insist that voting by itself constitutes meaningful involvement in government? Voting is actually the very least we should be doing if we hope to ever live up to the promise of self-government. Why is the least we can possibly do that constitutes doing something considered active involvement in the political system?

If you concede that voting is not enough, and you should, then the question becomes how to make effective change in our government without reinventing it? The answer to that question is to co-opt an existing party and make it do what we want it to do.

This really isn’t news.  The religious right took over the Libertarian Party with Ron Paul as their nominee in 1980, and then shifted their support to Reagan and their membership to the Republican Party when Reagan invited them to move in and take over the GOP.  The religious right have been the motivating force behind party politics ever since, and were effective at getting their way politically until the election of Barak Obama in 2008.

Even the current President has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, modifying many of his programs specifically to accommodate demands made by them.

This lays bare the how of how to change politics for all to see.  Simply have enough agreement among the population who vote to effect change at the city, state, and national level.  But that agreement is the hard part, the part that requires attention long before you go into booth and cast your ballot.

Political veterans will tell you, it takes work. Years of work.  Which is how we got where we are today, people who went into politics with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve have been co-opted and subverted by the process of hammering out agreement after agreement in decades of struggle with people who think differently.

Eventually you end up voting for a candidate that you really don’t agree with on any specific issue, but remains the best choice given the compromises required, hopefully not loosing sight of your overall goal in the process.  Not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.

Hillary Clinton is probably going to be that candidate for me. If you read back over this blog you’ll discover that I first abandoned the Libertarian Party to support Barak Obama so that he would be President instead of Hillary.  In 2016 I would vote for Hillary Clinton with almost no reservations.

I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates in this election. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone like Governor Kasich I might have to revise my opinion of them, but I don’t see much chance of that, of Republicans being willing to compromise enough to embrace a man who supports the ACA.

I vote down ballot based on candidate qualities alone, discarding anyone who pretends at being the better conservative. These candidates generally win in Texas (because conservative=correct in the mind of the average Texas voter) outside of Austin, but you can’t fix any stupid aside from your own. In Austin the down ballot offices (state senate and legislature) are held by Democratic incumbents, usually running opposed only by independent candidates. The independents almost always get my vote, because I want to see change and you won’t get change from an incumbent.

But I’m still talking about voting, the last thing on the list.

The only way to change the system is to infiltrate the two parties and alter them from the inside, thereby altering the system they control. It has to start with ending gerrymandering and real campaign finance reform.  Opening up ballot access and ending party control of the ballots in every state in the nation. Not doing this will simply kick the can forward again. That is the forest that we must keep in sight, the big picture. Gerrymandering must be ended across the entire nation. Districts must be drawn blindly with no consideration of the political, racial or social strata that the people in the districts represent. Campaign finance must be addressed, or the corruption of our electoral process by the wealthy will continue in spite of any other change we might put in place.

Changing any of these fundamental corruptions of the system will take a long, hard effort. It will
require canvasing of your local precincts to get a feel for who supports or doesn’t support these changes. It will take joining the local precinct and becoming involved, and bringing enough people along with you to alter the votes at the precinct level. It will take making sure that county gatherings and state conventions also support these measures.

The harm of Gerrymandering Austin

Faction is why these rules, this corruption, has taken hold.  Madison was correct when he cited faction as one of the biggest threats to the Republic.  The Democrats are a faction. The Republicans are a faction. Third parties are all factions.  Faction leads generally sane people to do insane things like drawing districts to favor your party (gerrymandering) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance) never taking into account that the practices you use to force the system to cater to your faction can be used to exclude your faction when power is finally wrested from you.

…and it will be.

The State of the Union Requires No Response

As I have confessed previously, I watch the State of the Union address pretty much every year as a matter of course. Some years I grit my teeth and bear it, some years I have to watch it with an accompanying joke track (the only thing I tolerate an MST3K treatment for is politics) since Barack Obama has been President, I’ve pretty much sat down to watch with something akin to interest if not utter fascination.

The State of the Union address is provided for in the Constitution, Article 2, Section 3;

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”

George Washington and John Adams delivered the address in person. Jefferson, who hated the pomp that surrounded much of the Presidency, declined to give the address in person and had it sent to Congress to be read by the clerk. Every President followed Jefferson’s example until the time of Woodrow Wilson. Carter was the most recent President to decline to address congress in person.

I’m not sure which is more disdainful of the legislature, to have the President speak to them directly or to have his message read to Congress by the clerk. But I can say with pretty firm conviction that the worst and most presumptuous idea ever hatched in American politics is the response to the State of the Union crafted by the opposition party and read by some sacrificial lamb that they’ve convinced to stand up and embarrass themselves before the nation.

The President speaks for the people when he delivers his message; that is the point of it. Here is this year’s State of the Union address;

It has been patently obvious to this concerned voter, pretty much since I started viewing and reading these speeches, that the majority of the content was pretty uncontroversial. At least, uncontroversial at the time. What history teaches is another thing entirely. And yet, every single time that a speech is delivered these days, someone is tapped from the opposition party to make pretense that the content of the President’s address is incorrect in some real fashion.

In the years since 2008, this tendency to pose in mock outrage before the camera has fractured, though.  Not content to offer just one critique, for the last few years the various factions of the opposition have felt that they needed to voice their particular flavor of outrage lest their self-importance be forgotten.

This year was no different. In fact, the clamor for attention after the SOTU was delivered has been comic in proportion. From what I can gather, virtually every Republican member of the House of Representatives felt they had to personally put the President in his place.  Here is the video posted by the bloviating windbag that pretends to represent my section of Austin;

I say bloviating because, like all of the statements in opposition, this one is made up largely of nothing but air. They could have showed up and simply yelled fear! fear! fear! repeatedly for all the facts contained in the (mercifully) short responses.

I am regularly spammed by this… person (and both the Senators for my state) Having unwittingly corresponded with his office, I am now permanently on his spam list, as if I have any interest in anything these Republicans might say.

Which leads me back to the adjective, pretends. Pretends to Represent. This is demonstrable. Austin is overwhelmingly liberal. Not going to change at any point that is discernible to residents within Austin.  They were dope smoking, nude sunbathing hippies long before I got here, and the weed has not gotten less potent with time.  Willie makes sure of that.

The leadership of this state is elected by the rest of Texas which is angry and conservative. (medical marijuana should help with that. Talk to your doctor!) They have taken it upon themselves to attempt to remove the only liberal Representative from Texas by breaking the only liberal areas IN Texas into as many districts as they can reasonably separate them into.  So Austin doesn’t have one or two districts, which would be liberal.  No, Austin is split into no less than 5 different districts, with my district being a narrow strip through the center of Austin that then spreads out to cover 9 additional COUNTIES in Texas so as to dilute the Democratic vote in central Austin and place it in the hands of this… person.

It is also worth noting that the Republicans who have controlled this state since the dear departed Ann Richards was unseated by the then owner of the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush (you’ve probably heard of him) have failed at their dream of removing all traces of the stain of liberalism from their great state because they not only have one liberal member to caucus with, they now have two.

Back to the subject at hand.  This pretender who poses as my Representative (not that I liked the Democrat he replaced. That is another story) helpfully emailed me the text of his response, a further mercy that saves me from having to endure the sound of his voice.  Here is a snippet;

It’s been seven years since President Barack Obama took office. In that time, the United States has accumulated the largest national debt in its history, the fewest number of adults are working since Jimmy Carter’s presidency and the executive branch has expanded its power immensely – the president has chosen which laws to enforce and created new ones without Congress’ approval.  

Just the first paragraph. I can’t stomach the rest of the twisted realities presented. The first paragraph is enough anyway, because it shows the agenda of the response, of all the responses. It is the same theme I pointed out last year, the Republicans are in it for the power alone. The welfare of the general populace be damned, we have a budget to manage! Never mind that the sitting President has presided over the least spending of any President since Eisenhower, or that he has been the deportation President and the anti-drug President and the terrorist-fighting President to a tune that dwarfs the last two holders of that office, that is not good enough. Truthfully nothing would be good enough.

Democrats Organizing for America

Obama came into office with an olive branch, and the Republicans batted it away.  He adopted their policies and positions, and they abandoned them for even more radical conservative positions, taking stances on subjects like healthcare that are frankly hard to fathom. So the poor should be left to die without care? Am I understanding you correctly? We should send the children who surrendered to our border guards voluntarily, back to the gang-run South American states they fled from, so that they can be forced to join gangs or become their sex slaves?  Seriously, what is it conservatives expect to be done about these very real problems that they simply try to wish away?

Last night, Obama once again offered an olive branch to the Republicans. He went so far as to praise the new Speaker of the House, even though his work has been limited to actually doing the job that the previous Speaker simply couldn’t cope with. The Republican response? To once again bat the offer of cooperation away.  Cooperation means progress, and progress means hope. Give the people hope and they might actually vote without fear in the next election. Republican victory is grounded on a fearful voting public.

The most promising part of the State of the Union address?  Obama’s statement that he intends to campaign to fix the gerrymandered districts that plague the House of Representatives in many other states aside from my own. I welcome his help in getting sensible, non-partisan rules for redistricting put into place.  It is about time someone took this issue seriously. maybe then Austin will have a real Representative in Washington. Hope springs eternal.

Without Delay

Tom Delay has declared that he’s taking his ball and going home. Let me be the first to say “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry”. Yes I know, he’s been railroaded for doing something (gerrymandering congressional districts) that the Democrats have done for years. The truth is, they should never have been allowed to do it either.

There is a method for drawing districts that is available to us now, that would result in non-political, geographically logical districts, if we only devoted the attention to the subject that it deserved (“If you are looking for someone to blame, look no further than in the mirror”V) and made our ‘servants’ in the government understand that this was a non-negotiable issue. Don’t let me distract you from the start of baseball season, though.

Smart move on Tom Delay’s part, for that very reason. With his removing himself as a lightning rod, a good portion of the well-deserved attention the subject could have gotten will go to other things; subjects less likely to effect issues of gov’t control over the population.

Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting

Statesman news story

ScoT contact info

Computer redistricting. Anything else is Gerrymandering.

Strangely enough, this is old news. What I want to know is, why didn’t the state act on the following two years ago?

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JON ROLAND 512-374-9585

TESTIMONY FOR NON-PARTISAN REDISTRICTING

Austin, Texas, July 2, 2003 — The Texas House of Representatives Committee on Redistricting heard testimony today from members of the Coalition for Non-partisan Redistricting, Robert Howard, Jon Roland, and Patrick Dixon.

A video clip of the testimony can be viewed online at http://www.house.state.tx.us/fx/av/committee78/30702p38.ram. To view it you will need a viewer such as RealPlayer from http://www.real.com. See also http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/redistricting.php.

In their testimony, the witnesses rejected not just the proposed new redistricting map, but the map used in the last election as well, and asked the Legislature to adopt a new method of obtaining district maps that is impersonal and not subject to human tampering or political manipulation. Instead of debating and adopting particular maps, the act would provide the specifications for the computer program, called Target, to use in drawing the map, and whatever map the computer produced would be the official map to be used in the next election.

The witnesses explained that each time the computer program is run, it produces a different map. The process is random. But all of the maps will meet the specifications. If anyone doesn’t like the maps, they should advocate different specifications. But any such specifications would be explicit and subject to public debate and judicial scrutiny.

Roland suggested that if the Legislature is concerned about the computer producing anomalous maps, the proposal could be modified to have the computer generate, say, a dozen maps, and then have a certain number of “strikes”, as are used to exclude prospective jurors during jury selection, to be applied by various members of the Legislature to eliminate some maps. The final selection would then be made from among the remaining maps by random lot.

Roland emphasized that this controversy threatens the precious bipartisan collegiality that has prevailed in Texas for more than a century, which allows legislative proposals from all parties and factions to be considered on their merits. If we allow such devisive issues to shatter that tradition, the result may be that only proposals by the leaders of the dominant party will have any chance of being heard. The result would not favor good or efficient government.

The proposal is at http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/tx/redistrict/cnpr_proposal.htm.

The Texas Legislative Council site is http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/

For a demonstration of the computer software see
http://txliberty.dyndns.org/inetpub/wwwroot/webfiles/LL030517H.rm

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Our efforts depend on donations from people like you. Directions for donors are at http://www.constitution.org/whatucando.htm Constitution Society 7793 Burnet Road #37, Austin, TX 78757 512/374-9585 www.constitution.org jon.roland@constitution.org
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