Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting

Texas Republicans in control of the state legislature shifted congressional district boundaries enough in 2003 that 8 million people — including large blocks of Hispanics — were placed in new districts, represented by different U.S. House members, justices were told.
Kennedy, a centrist swing voter, focused his concerns on how the shift affected Hispanics in South Texas. “It seems to me that is an affront and an insult,” he said.
The Texas boundaries were changed after Republicans took control of both houses of the state Legislature. DeLay had helped GOP legislative candidates in 2002, and was a key player in getting the new map that benefited him and other Republican incumbents.
Since then, however, he has struggled from the fallout. He was charged in state court with money laundering in connection with fundraising for legislative candidates. He gave up his leadership post and is fighting the charges.
DeLay also was admonished by the House ethics committee for asking a federal agency to help track aircraft that flew several Democrats out of state as part of quorum-breaking walkouts during the bitter fight over maps.
Justices did not mention DeLay, and he was not in the crowded courtroom.

Austin American Statesman, High Court Tackles Political Boundry Case
March 2, 2006

Supreme Court of Texas 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?


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

“Vertiginous Air”

While struggling with a vertigo attack today, I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors Stephen R. Donaldson, a portion of which titles this compilation of previous postings on the topic. When I visited his site today looking for the release date for the next book, I discovered that I’m going to be waiting a long time. 2007, is the best guess; and the quartet of books isn’t due to be finished until 2013. This could be a new test of patience on my part. And I thought waiting on Harry Potter books was hard…


Concerning “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever” which I finished re-reading for the 4th time recently.

I stumbled across several words that seemed, well, obscure at best, this time around. I was trying to explore the unexplored with this reading (in preparation for the next series of books) so I’ve been taking time to research a few of the more impenetrable words on the ‘net. I was pleased when I Google’d up this thread online. In fact, it was the only reference for the word “unhermeneuticable“, which was how I found it in the first place. Words like “Formication” (a feeling like insects crawling under your skin) can be found there as well.

[Edit. I have removed the direct links to the Kevin’s watch website, replacing them with links to the Wayback Machine archive. The site appears to be infected with malware as of 2018.]

her·me·neu·tics
Pronunciation: -tiks
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction
: the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of
the Bible) (from www.m-w.com)

Which, as “unhermeneuticable” would be something like “a non-methodological principle of interpretation”. Basically an “inexplicable conclusion”, most likely with religious overtones.
[The author himself has answered this question, here]


A few words on the proper reading of Donaldson, from an expert:

  • Unless you are reading the first Covenant trilogy, prepare your brain to be stretched to new proportions. SRD writes on a college level. He pulls no punches, and he doesn’t explain obscure concepts unless they are key to the novel’s progression. You are expected to keep up. The first Covenant Trilogy was written under extreme editorial pressure. They sliced out whole chapters, and re-edited much of the writing to make it appeal to less-educated and younger people. He himself has commented on this, and included one of the chapters that was removed in the short story collection Daughter of Regals. Every other set of books that he’s written has been longer and far more difficult to understand than the first Covenant trilogy.
  • Plot progression can be slow. Glacially slow in some books. That’s OK, because plot isn’t what you read Donaldson for. As an example, the first two books of the Gap series are merely an intro to the story that the Gap series tells. It doesn’t really get rolling until the third book and the introduction of the grafted Thermopyle (pronounced “Ther-MOP-i-lee, BTW) character.
  • Donaldson is obsessed with exploring the concept of redemption. Because of this, pretty much every character he creates suffers horribly through a good portion of the story. I’ve had several people tell me that they couldn’t get past the descriptions of leprosy in the first few chapters of “Lord Foul’s Bane”. But if you don’t understand the suffering of the character, you won’t appreciate the monumental task of redeeming that character. Exploring the world of leprosy brings you face to face with the impossibility of Covenant’s ever accepting himself in the role of hero. Reliving the crimes of the characters in the Gap series (explored in the first two books) gives you an idea of what those characters face when the true nature of the threat to humanity is revealed in the later novels.

That pretty much covers it. I finished the second book in Gap and went that’s it? The next one better get better and doggedly went on. I was rewarded with a pretty decent story from that point onward. It was a lot like reading Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. Doesn’t make any sense unless you read God Emperor of Dune. That’s where the payoff is.

“Stone and Sea are deep in life, two unalterable symbols of the world. Permanence at rest and permanence in motion, participants in the Power that remains.” – Giantish truism

Out of the frying pan…

So, we had a freeze last night that involved ice on the roads. In Austin, this is nearly a freak occurrence; something that only happens once every few years. They had the cops and emergency services out in force..


I heard a pretty funny quote from one of the Highway maintenance people. They were going to apply a special chemical “prophylactically” (his exact word, I kid you not) to keep ice off the roads. He had the guys at the radio station scratching their heads about it for about an hour.


…Covering all the bridges and generally creating a confused mess. In the midst of all this, I try and make my way home. Nearly there, I come across one of the helpful public servants who has parked his neon yellow vehicle across the 4 lane bridge and is directing traffic…

…Directing traffic onto the FLY-OVER RAMP! Single lane, 30 feet higher in the air than the bridge he had so helpfully closed with his vehicle. And he couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t follow his directions, if you can believe that.

I did finally make it home (obviously) but it makes a great point about government assistance, doesn’t it? Really guys, I appreciate the thought, but I’d like to be allowed to make my own decisions. If it isn’t too much trouble. OK?

Well actually I’m going to do it anyway, just thought I would ask first.

A day… That won’t be my son’s birthday!

We had originally been told that this would be pumpkin boy’s birthday. It may have been this information that inspired the early arrival, at least according to The Wife. Not having to share a day with Pearl Harbor day. Like my father’s beef with being born on September 11th these days. It’s probably better to be born on Halloween, if you look at it in hindsight.

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“Righteous indignation”

I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile. I dragged myself out to vote November Eighth. I do this every time an election rolls around, not because I think my vote will be counted properly (another rant in the making) and not because I think it will change anything (most of the issues go the other direction by hefty majorities. I blame it on education) I do it because it gives me a license to bitch when the will of the majority goes awry. As it has in the past. As it will this time around too.

With the passage of Prop. 2 here in Texas, the majority has officially endorsed the end of “equality before the law”. What do I mean by that? Quite simply, they have stated that certain individuals have more rights than others, according to law. That if you cohabitate with ‘A’ member of the opposite sex, you can declare what you have a ‘marriage’, and claim the privilege that come along with it. Things like tax exemptions, health insurance coverage for ‘family members’, etc. Things not available to people who happen to cohabitate with any number of other people (no matter what sex they are) for whatever reason. Prop. 2 writes into the Texas Constitution that a household formed of one man and one woman has rights that others in the state don’t have, setting up preferential treatment for a specific portion of the population. Some of us (and since I’m one of the special people who happens to cohabitate with a woman, I’m one of ‘us’. Go figure) have more rights than others, and it’s written right into the ‘law of the land’. Equal before the law? Not any more.

How dare they put their faith above everything else? “Marriage is Sacred” they say. Then why can it be performed by a judge? It’s just another contractual arrangement now, no matter what it was in ancient times. If they wanted to retain the ‘sacred’ rites of marriage, then they should never have allowed the government to take part in the rites at all. It should only be performed in a church.

Back at the dawn of the internet, I used to spend time arguing on various forums on CompuServe (back when I was simply known as 71613,115@compuserve.com, before AOL bought the company and gutted it of its hardware) on the Gay and Lesbian forum I had several arguments with well intentioned people who were convinced that they needed special laws to protect them. I only ceased arguing with them when they provided proof that they were still persecuted in modern day America. I ceased to argue with them, but my views have not changed. There should not be ‘special’ laws for any group in America. Not for Gays, not for Women, not for Minorities; and most definitely not for ‘Marriage’.

I was, and still am outraged at this; especially in light of the ‘straight’ majority in Texas having now added one more misbegotten and meaningless amendment to the Texas constitution (a document that with each passing election shouts it’s need for complete replacement; just try reading it sometime) that will most likely backfire as have most of the ones before it. And I really hope it does. Just waiting for that case that opens the can of worms. “What do you mean, no marriages are ‘legal’ in the state of Texas? How could that be?”

Charges in fatal dog attack not likely, sheriff says

The story as it appeared in the Austin American Statesman (which has since removed it from the archive):

AUSTIN, Texas — The owner of six dogs that fatally mauled an elderly woman as she worked in her yard will likely not be charged with a serious crime, Milam County Sheriff Charlie West said Monday.

West said that he has consulted with District Attorney Kerry Spears and that they have been unable to conclude that owner Jose Hernandez committed a felony.

“There are no laws that apply,” West said. “We are still looking, but it is going to be hard to make anybody responsible for it.”

Five of the dogs were euthanized Monday; the victim’s husband shot the other dog.

West has said that Hernandez apparently kept the six pit bull-Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs in a pen behind a 3-foot chain-link fence. It was not clear how they got out of the pen.

Hernandez could not be reached Monday, two days after the dogs attacked and killed Lillian Stiles, 76, as she was tending her yard and flowers atop a riding lawn mower. Her body was taken to Dallas for an autopsy, which officials said had not been completed Monday.

Stiles’ husband Jack was inside their house north of Thorndale, Texas, about 50 miles northeast of Austin, watching a football game when the attack occurred. Two passersby, Weldon and Maurita Smith, saw Lillian Stiles’ body in her yard and tried to help.

Weldon Smith also was attacked and injured before Jack Stiles shot one of the dogs.

West said the euthanized dogs were sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services for rabies and other testing.

West said Hernandez is cooperating with the investigation and has said that his knee-high grandchildren have played with the dogs.

He said investigators have no indication that the dogs were being used for fighting and that a veterinarian who examined them said they had no signs of “war-like injuries,” such as cuts or broken bones.

“To him (Hernandez), the dogs weren’t vicious,” West said. “They were just pets.”

In 2003, the most recent year with available statistics, 288 people were hospitalized for dog bites and one person died, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Hernandez’s house, down a dirt driveway from the road that runs in front of the Stiles’ property, appeared empty Monday afternoon. A nearly full 50-pound bag of dog kibble sat on the screened porch and the gate one the fenced yard had a metal “T” painted with the visage of a bulldog — the Thorndale school district mascot.

The Stiles’ next-door neighbors reported seeing a big black dog near Lillian Stiles around 3:40 p.m. Saturday as they returned from Cameron.

“Oh, they’ve got a new dog,” Lauren Shumaker said she told her husband, Don. The couple said they had never seen a pack of dogs along the road.

Jimmy Hinistroza, pastor at San Gabriel Evangelistic Christian Church, lives immediately north of Hernandez’s house and said he saw two of the six dogs at the church’s property line early Saturday afternoon. He shooed a black Rottweiler away, he said, but the other one — a pit bull — “kept staring at me.”

“I’ve seen those two dogs many a time,” Hinistroza said. “I’d never seen the pack. I never knew this man had other pit bulls. If I’d have known, I would have talked to him because I know what pit bulls can do.”

Children routinely hike several acres of turf behind the church on Sunday afternoons, he said, but he temporarily barred anyone from going outside Sunday because the shot dog had yet to be found; the dog’s body turned up in the Stiles’ back yard.

“It could have been worse if all those children were out there,” Hinistroza said.

Hinistroza dedicated his Sunday sermon to Lillian Stiles, whom he described as a fixture on her rider mower, tending a lawn and garden that “looks like a little paradise,” Hinistroza said. “We all loved her.”

The following is a letter I wrote expressing my outrage at this travesty.


To: Kerry Spears [District attorney for Milam County]

This is an outrage. According to the reports that I have heard, the dogs were kept behind a fence that was just over 3 feet tall, they attacked in a coordinated pack (as if they were used to hunting together) and they killed a woman in her own front yard. They also attacked a would-be rescuer.

…and there isn’t anything to charge the dog owner with? Manslaughter? Criminal negligance? Anything? The fence was of insuffcient height to keep the animals contained, they had been trained to attack in a pack (or had been foraging enough to have learned the behavior) and they have a registered owner. I don’t know what else is needed to charge the man with SOMETHING.

I for one am sick and tired of this mantra that we “don’t have a law to cover this” (as if dog attacks are something new to the 21st century) You are tasked with upholding the law and seeing that justice is done in your county. This woman’s death will be on your heads as much as the dog owners if nothing is done about it now.


If you also feel the urge to send a comment to the District attorney in Milam county, you’ll have to send it by fax or snail mail. Only the Sheriff’s office has a working email address. Even the commissioners court is without internet service, apparently. Talk about not being in the 21st century.

Emotional Investment

Remember back in those early years (if you are under 40, you don’t qualify for this, BTW) how strong an emotional response you could evoke with the word ‘hate’. How someone who had crossed you (even your best friend) could become the most loathsome creature on the planet, so loathsome that it blinded you, so powerful that you could feel the pressure to lash out at anything in your path? No? Funny, neither did I, until today.

I crossed the teenager today. During a discussion, I suggested in an overly loud voice that perhaps thinking about the situation at hand was what was needed, rather than attempting to make something work that wasn’t going to. What followed was a “I hate you”, and a steadfast insistence that all parents wish to make their (teenage) children suffer. No amount of reason (yeah, funny. Reasoning with a child, right? Sometimes I kill even myself) made the slightest dent. I was being unfair, and being unfair is an unforgivable sin. The hated one was not going to be given an inch of respite, no matter how many hours the argument drug out too.

Fine. As an ‘old guy’, I have a emotional investment cap that I set for myself. At some point I just have to say “do I really care that much about X?” (‘X’ being whatever the child, or whoever, is raging about at the moment) If the answer is ‘no’, I don’t make the investment in working up a decent rant, and I walk away none the worse and not feeling any regrets. In the ever more infrequent instances that the answer is ‘yes’, then I have to make a stand.

So here it is. It’s ‘not’ unfair to expect teenagers to pull their weight and do household chores; and I really ‘hate’ it when someone thinks they are exempt from doing them, whether they get paid or not.

Yes, I know. A radical stand, and a serious emotional investment in working up such a lengthy rant as well. Sometimes you just have to draw the line.

Your ALD and ELD have doubled!

The base value for an ounce of silver in the ALD system doubled from 10 dollars to 20 dollars at the end of last November. Anyone currently holding certificates or rounds denoted “10 dollar base” has effectively doubled their money. Silver rounds are available NOW. The “reminting fee” will be a buck fifty until January 20th, when it will go up to 3 dollars. Certificates, as stated in LIBERTY DOLLAR NEWS will be available in March of next year.

NRA comes callin’

The NRA has called me several times over the last few weeks. It hasn’t really added to the problem of 10 or more calls from telemarketers that I get every day; maybe I just expect better from the defenders of the second amendment than to be harassed at home by their monetary fishing expeditions.

A few years back I responded to a survey that the NRA sent me and ever since then they’ve decided that I’m a great untapped fiscal resource. While I think it’s sweet that they thought of me, I have a little problem with them, and here it is. The NRA wants to protect hunting. Not the right to keep and bear arms, hunting. For the NRA the argument is only about the rights of gun owners to go out and shoot at animals as a sport, not about maintaining an adequate defense of the nation from enemies foreign and domestic. And that is a problem for me.

I’d give to the NRA if they only had the balls that they act like they have. If you want to know what I mean, drop by the GOA (Gun Owners of America) site and take a look at what they have to say on the issue of guns and gun possession, and then go and read the documents that formed the republic that was the US. Once you’ve done this you’ll probably begin to understand that hunting was never an issue for the framers. Oh, hunting was part of the deal, while you were out drilling with the militia you had to eat something; but they didn’t want the average person to have guns so that they could hunt deer on the weekends. The reason is, that an armed and trained population is a force to be reckoned with all on it’s own. The ability to stand up and say no when push comes to shove is something that keeps the power hungry at bay. Or it should.

(And this is the real problem with focusing on the right to bear arms as the key issue right here and now)

The average man not just having, but being trained in the use of weapons is key to the deterrent effect. Outside of a few active militias, that training is sadly lacking. Without the training, guns in the hands of average citizens is a minor deterrent at best, which probably does more to explain the current state of the union than anything else. Without education, without an understanding of how and why things work the way they do, all our potential is wasted. A loaded gun just waiting to be misused. And misused it most likely will be.


This is the first post I wrote on the subject of guns for the blog. While I’ve owned guns for as long as I can remember, I never felt much of a need to write about them. Living in the small towns that have been home for most of my life, I never met anyone who didn’t own a gun. In Texas there are few people, even in the cities, who don’t own firearms.

It was Austin where I met my first gunphobe (as opposed to a gunnut or ammosexual) someone with a pathological fear of firearms. Over the years I’ve met many of them, so I don’t doubt they exist.

But like christians insisting that they are persecuted when they can’t promote their religion everywhere they want to, gunnuts are convinced that they have to be allowed to display their favored fetish everywhere or they are being disarmed. This is the problem that has developed with the NRA in the years after writing this post. This always was a problem with the GOA (which has rightly run afoul of watchdog organizations that track hate groups) it just wasn’t recognizable until after the court decision that allowed citizens to defend themselves with firearms wasn’t enough. After a dozen states and more had passed Stand Your Ground laws that have been shown to be horribly flawed pieces of racist legislation.

Disarming the population isn’t a solution to the violence problem, although it will reduce the number of gun deaths. People will still beat each other to death with bats, stab each other to death with knives. On The Other Hand, giving everyone a gun will actually lead to more gun deaths, this is a statistically unavoidable outcome. It will happen as a simple side effect of there being more weapons in more hands.

No, the firearm problem is best addressed with something like what Jim Wright offers over at Stonekettle Station in his piece Bang, Bang Sanity. Solutions based on the NRA’s own gun safety guidelines.

If we pursued liability for gun miscreants as Jim outlines, mass shootings would rapidly become a rare occurrence again. It is too bad that not even the NRA can recognize their own rules anymore.