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.

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.

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 – 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. 

There Never Were “Good Ol’ Days”

Anyone who talks about the good ol’ days is lying to themselves. Any student of history can confirm this.

On the Media – The (Nonexistent) Good Old Days – April 3, 2017

In the midst of several days of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings last week, Judge Neil Gorsuch took a moment to wax nostalgic for the days when the process took only 90 minutes and a nominee could relax, even smoke cigarettes, throughout the process. Later, one of Gorsuch’s interrogators, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, did some reminiscing of his own, pointedly recalling a time when nominees offered up useful answers to questions and engaged in sincere discussion. Ah, the good old days.

I don’t see it as anything nuclear or even unprecedented witnessing the Gorsuch hearings as On the Media discussed in the episode. This is just more “same as it ever was” and the funny part will be when Democrats retake the Senate and the House and do to the GOP exactly what is currently being done to them. If there still is a GOP.

I have worked in party politics for years. Studied politics for decades. Having a plan and the authority to execute that plan is how you make the changes you want. The GOP doesn’t have a plan aside from some vague hand-waving about the prosperity gospel (Ayn Rand meets Jesus) and the anarchist delusion that government doesn’t work. That is why they can’t govern, because they have disarmed themselves with their own beliefs.

I am getting really tired of the sophomoric “it’s easy” solutions to thorny political issues. If it was easy, would it have taken 6 months to write the Declaration of Independence? Two attempts and more than 20 years to get a functional union in the American colonies? Politics isn’t easy and it takes compromise with the people you think are poison to make it work. That is just how it goes. That is politics.

Having a plan is the important part. ending gerrymandering with nonpartisan redistricting, ending campaign finance with public finance and barring monetary contributions to members of government, ending factional power by instituting non-partisan primaries and removing the 435 cap on congress (the 435 cap being the easiest thing to change, frankly, and would make the most difference immediately) these changes would alter the political map for the first time in a century. We can see what to change after that as we move forward.

Executing the plan; encourage everyone who thinks they want to take back government of the people, for the people, by the people to join their local precinct meetings and advocate for the kinds of changes that will make government institutions themselves more responsive to the people.

It’s not easy, but it is an achievable plan, especially ending the 435 cap on congress. Breaking that log jam will completely alter the power and makeup of the House, requiring that they work directly with the 30k-ish people they will represent. Compromise with the thousands of representatives that will make up the new House. Institute new policies and procedures for dealing with such a large and uncontrollable body as a properly responsive house can and should be. Parties will no longer be able to control them and most parties will be regional at best. The political map will be altered permanently with just this one change, and that change can be made with a simple piece of legislation from the House.

We need Congress to signal their abandonment of party adherence. We need them to back this kind of proposal as a litmus test for being reelected. No more politics as usual. If you are going to be part of government, you are going to start fixing government.

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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 and 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 a hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully using a word incorrectly 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 adopt 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, they were 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.

This article is tagged errata 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

The State of the Union Requires No Response

As I have confessed previously, I watch the State of the Union (SOTU) 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.

Featured image is from nbcnews.com

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

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