Archives for: February 2011
It isn't often that we in Missouri get to laugh at legislators from Illinois. We are, after all, the state that last year told sawmills that they are no longer sawmills. They could choose to be called farms or flower shops. Sawmills no longer exist within the borders of Missouri. Missouri tax laws put the burden on individuals in order to give some special classes of businesses the same lower rates that farms get. You know ... like flower shops. So the renaming is to let sawmills get in on the con. The author of the bill, Representative David Day, explained, "In most cases government just needs to get out of the way and let the entrepreneurial spirit of Missourians flourish." So sawmills are no longer sawmills under the laws of Missouri, and the rest of us carry the load.
But we do have Illinois as a neighbor. A new member of the House of Representatives, Republican Bobby Schilling, last week gave one of the weirder interviews to News 8, WQAD out of Moline. It seems his area wanted, really wanted, a new rail system that would help the United States catch up to Europe. But the Republican leadership in the House ordered everyone to march in lockstep, and that meant everyone. Schilling insists he's really for the project. It's worthwhile. It will help the country. It will bring jobs to his area. But he had to vote against it.
He was sitting down with Channel 8 to explain his vote, but first he needed to blast the opposition. He has never made a secret of the fact that he really doesn't care for the Democratic Senator from Illinois, Dick Durban. "Any politicians out there that are lambasting me, specifically (Davenport Mayor Bill) Gluba and Durbin, calling me names and things like that, they would understand that this is just part of the negotiation." Negotiation? "If you look at the people who are complaining the most are the same exact people, such as [Durbin], who have gotten us into this mess." Okay, now that he's blamed Durban, who backs the rail system Schilling voted against, he explains how it all works.
"It's time to take a solid look. It doesn't mean that rail is gone at all. I mean, I don't know why they are trying to paint me as this huge bad guy. I don't believe that rail is gone. I mean, it was in there. I mean, they're unwilling to tell you that I voted for rail in one of the amendments." Got that? He was for it before he was against it.
He's met with key folks in the district, who explained to him why the area needs this project. and he's with them "almost 100 percent". So... "I'd be with it, yeah."
He points out the proposal, the one designed to make America's rail service competitive with that of the rest of the world, the one that will bring jobs to Schilling's district, helping to raise the nation from unemployment, is still alive. You know why? Because he can count on the fellow who is one of the enemy, the one he attacks whenever he can, to join Republican Senator Mark Kirk in acting responsibly. "Durbin and Mark Kirk aren't going to let a lot of this stuff flow through, and then it's going to come back and then we break it down on an individual basis." So we can count on Illinois Senators to undo the damage Schilling has done? That is his explanation? "You know, that's just how the process works."
The nation needs more of this sort of reasoning. He was for the rail proposal. It would help the nation. It would bring jobs to his district. It would help move the country away from recession. So he voted for, then against, the rail system in his district, the one he's almost 100% for. But he reassures everyone. They can count on the Senator he attacks all the time. Dick Durban will protect them. from. Schilling's. vote. against. them.
It's like a scream for help.
Manifesto Joe sees a few hopeful signs in Texas, but fears the effect of Fox on more than extreme Republicans. Joe can be read at Texas Blues. Joe is a favorite with a few treasonous members of my own family, who describe him as the best blogger anywhere:
Burr, I hope you are right. There are early signs of a GOP crackup here in Texas, even as they celebrate their most successful election year ever. They are now having to take meat axes to all manner of services amid the huge state budget deficit. Lots of people will remember whose watch this was when all this happened.
But mass indoctrination is a hard thing to overcome. Who would have forecast in the late 1960s that John Birch Society views, largely subject to ridicule back then, would be part of a seeming mainstream now?
Anyway, it will be interesting to watch. But perhaps like the old Chinese curse -- may you live in interesting times.
Jack Jodell, of THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, devotes a considerable portion of his time to encouraging newer bloggers fight the good fight. His comments are ubiquitous. However, Jack chastises both Tim McGaha and me for taking a too complacent approach.
Both of you seem to be treating the conservatives as though they are an honest political movement, which I would suggest they are not. Here is my reasoning:
The Tea Party "movement", which I believe is a sham, is the most obvious and visible vestige of this phenomenon, was begun and is still funded by a very small number of reactionary wealthy individuals. They really represent nobody or nothing except their own desire for a government-free, laissez-faire economic system. They have managed to attract millions of like-minded dupes along the way. They will say, do, or use anything and anybody to get the power they need to accomplish their agenda. Club for Growth; Americans for Prosperity; Tea Party Express - it doesn't matter. They will lie, cheat, steal, or fund anyone it takes to get what they want. It is a loosely-knit conspiracy which has no central leader and which has no respect for any of our institutions. It is in hot pursuit of individual profit, plain and simple, by any means necessary. Currently, it has the srew of Fox "News" as its main spokespersons, with Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Grover Norquist, and a number of others acting as parrots for it. It spreads disinformation like wildfire, in part to disguise its own devious intentions, and in part to divide and keep in constant turmoil all the rest of us.
That is why Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck get so much attention and traction among the significant minority who are rabid followers, and why the Tea Party is currently in vogue to a degree. These people are led and bred for a very sinister purpose: to divide and confuse the general public while these big money boys gobble up even more cash daily.
We on the left are at a critical point. We must fight this well-funded, well entrenched group of dishonest capitalist pigs, but we must do so [against] overwhelming odds and with relatively little resources. We must continue to hammer out the truth in the face of all obstacles against a foe who is greedy, diabolical, and only gaming the system for its own selfish benefit. It is a grueling task, but it is why we fight.
Jack sees events shaped by the well-funded, well entrenched group to which he refers. This band of manipulators shapes events from the shadows. He is correct, in part. However, I think what evidence we have shows conservatism moving beyond the control of any group of rational decision makers. It has become a genuine grassroots movement with several self-destructive tendencies.
Joe sees an electorate that may be moving to the right. I see some evidence of a longer trend toward the moderate left, while the GOP goes crazily rightward.
That is why I see the end of the Republican Party as a meaningful participant in national politics by the end of this decade. This seems bold in our current political climate. But Republicans have become a political Donner party. The GOP will continue to shrink as extremists consume each other. It is a process that cannot be stopped.
The evidence is still thin, but it is enough to give the rest of us more than a glimmer of hope.
Chuck Thinks Right takes an Obama quote out of context, "I won. So I think on that one, I trump you." and thinks he's scored a huge point. In fact, within days after taking office, Obama had just expressed openness to an Eric Cantor presentation, "Eric, I don't see anything crazy here." He did point out that there would be differences in ideological approaches, and added (Here's Chuck's big score) "I won. So I think on that one, I trump you." Republicans told reporters they were impressed with Obama's bipartisan approach. Here's the context that, for some strange reason, escaped Chuck's notice. How odd.
At Slant Right, poor John Houk embraces a false dichotomy, equating anything other than unregulated capitalism with Marxism. Since Marxism killed millions, this proves unions should be driven to extinction. Oh my.
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated, offers his take on union-busting. He proposes rank majoritarianism, arguing that, whenever conservatives gain even a momentary majority, they should be able to deprive others of rights without these bothersome obstructions. The same case might be made for depriving gays of basic rights. Of course Ned would never do that, right?
James Wigderson decries bogus comparisons of opponents to Hitler, but echoes the call for legislative majority rule when it comes to dismantling unions in Wisconsin. He argues that it is a necessary step to solving budget shortfalls. James neglects to mention that unions had agreed to all the governor's budget demands, leaving only the dismantling of the unions themselves as an issue. Now why would James not mention this? Lack of space, perhaps.
Manifesto Joe of Texas Blues does not much care for historical revisionism concerning President Reagan, or when it comes to much of anything else.
- The Mind of Bryan Lee Peterson relates yet another instance of his fictional writing becoming true. This fellow Bryan is turning out to be one scary guy.
Part of this makes perfectly good sense. The modern conservative movement is cocooning itself, and baking out its moderates. But I don't think it'll end with the demise of the GOP, for a couple of reasons.
First, there are some structural advantages inherent in the U.S. Constitutional system that promote a two-party system. The fact that we have only very rarely had successful third parties points to that fact. Plus, not everyone being ejected from the Conservative tent is going to feel welcome under the Liberal one. At the end of the day, there will be a national party that is the counterpoint to the Democratic party.
Second, that party will probably wear the label "Republican" whether or not it bears any real resemblance to the current GOP or not. Institutions endure. Historical connections matter. When the Conservative movement recovers from its bout of the howling crazies, the very first thing they'll do is attempt to recover the "Real Republican" banner.
Third, the reason I think that's going to happen is that while the cocoon is cheap, cheap is not the same as free, and someone is footing the bill for all of this. Crazy isn't the same as stupid, and they'll notice when no one is in the halls of power fighting for their viewpoints. Sooner or later, they'll pull their funds from what's not working, and start looking for something that does.
The hard-core, the craziest of the crazy, they'll continue to wrap themselves in a nice, warm blanket. But the rest will eventually wake up, start dealing with the real world, and put up an honest fight.
As always, Tim provides wisdom in his disagreement. His prediction, in this case, is too pessimistic. At least from my point of view.
The experience of CPAC and other movement organizations seems to indicate that the extremist acceleration has become endemic to conservatism. In pretty much any rightward movement, moderate conservatives will be driven out, then the guns will be turned on 2nd and 3rd degree moderates - those who consort with untouchables. After that, ever milder heretics will become targets.
What this means politically is that, eventually, the voting public will identify any given conservative political party with extremism. That is because any given conservative political party will, in fact, become extremist.
The fuel will continue to be technology. The cocooning to which Tim refers was not as easy to accomplish a generation ago. "Crazy isn't the same as stupid." That is true. Crazy does, however, tend to be delusional.
This seem to be happening to a much greater extent among conservatives. Liberals are not as likely to succumb. It is hard to be certain why this is the case. But we can speculate.
Most liberals are not reflexively in favor of government activity, unless there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Unless there is sufficient reason, "statism" is a myth. When the facts do suggest a problem, liberals look for likely solutions. That means liberals are more likely to be swayed by evidence. It is a matter of motivation.
Conservatives are reflexively opposed to government except when it comes to culture war. This would suggest resulting conspiracy theories, denial that problems even exist, and denigration of those in need. This in fact, seems to be what often, not always, occurs.
Conservatives will be split between
- those committed to an extremist agenda, and
- those committed to the art of the possible
The first group will continually take comfort in the views with which they surround themselves. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh will enjoy phenomenal success as long as they provide a comforting alternative to reality. If they falter, others will push in ahead.
The second group will continually find themselves expelled by the first group.
Our working theory of inevitable Republican Party collapse depends on more than raw numbers. The numbers are there, but they don't tell the whole story. The theory rests on the proposition that the GOP downfall is inevitable, but not because of a series of bad decisions. Bad decisions will be made, to be sure, but the prospective disappearance of the Party has gone beyond that. The decisions of national leadership not to apply the brake as their vehicle accelerates rapidly toward the edge of a great cliff become understandable when you realize that there exists no brake. The coming crackup of the party will result from a powerful sociological phenomenon. For the model to work, destroying the GOP, two factors must prove to be true.
The new dynamic must be fueled by technology. Republicans must embrace news sources that everyone else rejects, a gap that has to increase. This allows conservatives to adopt extreme positions, and do it without comprehending the damage it will do in actual elections. There is a considerable body of evidence that this is becoming true.
And the party must shrink, as less extreme conservatives are driven out by more extreme rightists. Let's see how that hopey changey thing works out:
Party declines have happened before. Membership in political parties ebb and flow. But for nearly a generation, the GOP has ebbed and ebbed and ebbed. The ratchet effect is not entirely unique to our times. The Whigs experienced a similar fate in the mid-1800s. But, since then, parties have gone down, then bounded back.
In Britain, Labor went into a steep decline in the 1970s. It began to come back in the early 1980s as the militant Derek Hatton began to lose battles to the more moderate Neil Kinnock. Tony Blair inherited Kinnock's role and led Labor back to victory. Here's the key: Kinnock's support was largely fueled by the prospect of Labor continually being beaten up by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party. Ideologues value principle, partisans value victory. Most activists are both. When a party loses multiple elections, it makes for gut wrenching conflict, often an internal struggle as each individual engages in brutal self-examination.
The Republican Party has been shrinking steadily since the mid 1980s. Win or lose, for better or for worse, flush or broke, their membership has steadily decreased. Arm in arm with that decrease, the party has lurched rightward. This is no coincidence. As liberals were thrown out, moderates lost influence. As moderates were thrown out, conservatives who were not extreme lost influence. This past year, extreme conservatives were tossed out of office in GOP primaries for consorting with liberals on issues that right and left agree about.
This doesn't happen only in the GOP itself. A vision of the future can be seen in CPAC, that annual umbrella gathering of conservative conclaves. This year, participation of gay conservatives became the center of angry controversy. Now activists want to prevent future participation, not of gay groups, but of those conservatives who are not adequately anti-gay.
It is a rough parallel of what is happening in, well, pretty much all conservative groups. Like, for example, the Republican Party. Moderates were guilty of a sort of second degree liberalism. Rational conservatives were guilty of third degree liberalism. They weren't liberals themselves, but they would talk with, negotiate with, and even seek areas of agreement with, those terrible liberals. It would have been amazing two years ago that Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are targeted for defeat by ultra-conservatives. There is evidence both Senators will be ex-Senators after their next campaign. "In the past, we’ve ended up with more centrist candidates as consensus candidates," says one conservative leader. "We don’t see that as a possibility in the future."
We can laugh now at the prospect of future attacks on conservatives who associated with those who were insufficiently isolated from liberal cooties. But it will happen. When Republicans graduate to accusations of six degrees of guilt, we will see a national convention being held in someone's kitchen.
It may seem like a bold prediction. Republicans took state houses across the country, the US House of Representatives, and nearly the US Senate. They are pounding their chests and issuing primal screams. By the end of this decade, they will be no more.
Last week I was struck in the forehead with clairvoyance. Sounds odd, but I just didn't realize it at the time.
I was writing about a bill introduced in the South Dakota legislature that would have the unfortunate effect of making it legal to assassinate doctors willing to perform abortions. The author of the bill said it had nothing to do with abortion, but at least one co-sponsor contradicted him, and the language of the bill listed circumstances of justifiable homicide. One was to prevent actions committed "in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child." I made what I thought was a clever point.
You believe, really believe, human life begins at conception, and ought to have the full protection of the law? So how about changing the law to allow the assassination of any doctor willing to perform an abortion?
It sounds like a debating point, joining countless other reductio ad absurdum arguments. How about investigating every miscarriage with an eye to charging the woman with negligent homicide? How about outlawing in vitro fertilization, since countless fertilized eggs are discarded to give one zygote a better chance of survival? Most fertilized eggs never make it to the uterine wall, and are discharged undetected. Must every woman submit to examination by conservative authorities after sexual activity, just in case?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Abortion opponents roll their eyes. That sort of argument, take-the-opposition-to-its-extreme, can be turned around as well. You don't want to kill a baby the moment it is born? What about the moment before? How about a month before? And on and on. As reductio goes, so goes absurdum.
Silly me. "How about investigating every miscarriage with an eye to charging the woman with negligent homicide?" is a suggestion that has already been proposed by Republicans in the state of Georgia.
The proposed law defines a fetus as a legally protected person from the moment of conception, a moment the egg medically becomes a zygote. It defines the killing of that cell as murder. And, in the event of a later miscarriage, "the proper investigating official shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall prepare and file the report within 30 days."
Every miscarriage must be investigated with an eye to charging the woman with murder. Other circumstances which should be reported to authorities include "knowledge or facts concerning any birth, death, spontaneous fetal death, marriage, induced termination of pregnancy, divorce, dissolution of marriage, or annulment."
The bill is a logical extension of the principle of personhood at conception. When the sperm hits the egg, the chances of survival are not all that good. Fertilized eggs compete to get the uterine wall where there is some chance to go on to develop. So there are many reasons a sexually active woman may have to defend herself to suspicious authorities. Illegal miscarriage is only one milestone to which anti-abortion logic can lead.
In Georgia, reductio is on its way to becoming absurdum.
I was quite taken by a movie which most folks I know never heard of. Like many of the films I like, it came out a generation ago, in this case in 1981. Four Friends was a sort of journey from innocence chronicling the experiences of friends from high school through college during the 1960s. The reviews were mildly positive (Roger Ebert liked it) but I don't think it was a commercial success. So, of course, I enjoyed it.
I especially recall one scene involving a youngster who disrupts a school assembly. The guest speaker is a busy corporate executive taking time from his busy schedule to instruct youngsters on the wonders of industry.
"I don't think it's an exaggeration at all," says the executive, "to begin by saying that America was built by steel." And that's as far as he gets.
An enraged student screams at the startled speaker. "That is not an exaggeration, it's a lie!" The student continues to shout his rebuttal. "America was not built! It grew out of a dream." He goes on, protesting that an educational institution should not be the place for historical distortions. He is quickly expelled from the assembly, as I recall it. The phrase I remember most vividly is the not-an-exaggeration-a-lie beginning of the rant. "That is not an exaggeration, it's a lie!"
Disruption, demonstration, and conflict seem to be the order of the day in Madison, Wisconsin. "Remember the good old days when Democrats could get away with anything they wanted?" asks my joyful conservative friend James Wigderson. Republicans have a majority in the legislature and, led by Governor Scott Walker, are fighting public employee unions. They don't have enough members to declare a quorum without at least some Democrats, which allows Democrats to block anti-union moves by simply being absent. The Governor has the power to compel them to attend. He can have police arrest them and carry them kicking and screaming into the legislature.
Problem is they do not seem to be in Wisconsin. They have fled to neighboring Illinois. This prompts the speaker of the Illinois Senate to issue a public letter. The press release put out by his staff reports it this way:
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is again thanking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his contributions to Illinois’ economic rebound.
“I must say, I really did not expect Governor Walker to work this hard to make Illinois look so good... The Senate President also thanked Walker for the added and unexpected economic boost.
“He’s even helping our tourism. What can’t Governor Walker do for Illinois?” said Cullerton.
Since his election, Walker has worked tirelessly to bring jobs to Illinois and promote its economic stability.
“When Scott Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs, I mistakenly assumed he meant in Wisconsin,” Cullerton said. “He’s certainly turning out to be a great neighbor.”
Governor Walker inherited a surplus. Then he cut taxes, creating a deficit. So he is calling for sacrifice. This is to be achieved by reducing worker benefits, pension and health care, that unions have negotiated with the state. He also wants to make it illegal for unions to represent public employees in such matters. He says the cuts and the law making it illegal to negotiate will not apply to firefighters, police, and inspectors. It is mere coincidence that those are the only unions that backed his election, while the rest opposed him. Politics, says the Governor, has nothing to do with it.
The unions say they will go along with the slashes in pensions and health benefits. They just want to have the right to represent the workers in those areas. Seems reasonable enough to the casual observer, which is to say me. The Governor gets all the cuts he wants, the unions contribute to the solution to his problem, and the unions get to keep the right to negotiate, which is kind of what makes them unions. So everyone should be happy, right? Except the Governor says no. Why, when the unions are volunteering to give the Governor all he wants in order to balance the budget? Here's why:
"I’m not going to let tens of thousands overload or overshadow the millions of people in Wisconsin, the taxpayers of the state, who want us to do the right thing and balance the budget."
As I ponder this, I think back thirty years to the young kid disrupting a school assembly. The Governor's statement is not an exaggeration.
JOHANNESBURG — Dozens of students, trade unionists and political activists who gathered to watch Al Jazeera and BBC news reports on the uprisings that brought down autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
- More -
In 1998 an email alert went around the world. Alabama had passed a law redefining pi, the mathematical relationship between the diameter and circumference of a circle. It's used in everything from construction to aerospace. Problem is it's an irrational number. You can never write it out exactly in decimal, binary, or any other numbering system. If you ever try to write it out, you'd better pack a lunch cause it'll take you forever. It has an infinite number of digits. It's so inconvenient, there oughta be a law.
Besides, the Bible defines pi in the First Book of Kings. Solomon commanded the construction of a huge vessel where priests could clean their hands. "Then he made the molten sea (that'd be the vessel); it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference." So ten cubits across and thirty around, and there's your ratio. Pi is defined by the Bible as 3.0, right? And since everyone in Alabama knows the Bible was written directly by God, it can't be wrong. So let the law be passed, pi is now declared to be 3.0. If buildings crumble and planes fall from the sky, let God's will be done.
Problem with the story is it never happened. Alabama never considered, let alone passed, such a law. The story was originally written as an April Fool's parody and was published by NMSR Reports. It went viral, emailed and re-mailed as an authentic story. The arguments were so similar to those actually used by creationists that it seemed believable.
The story did contain some element of truth in another context, though.
There was a similar bill that really was passed in 1897 by the legislature of Indiana. A legislator handed a copy of the bill to a visiting professor and asked if he would like to meet the sponsor. The professor "replied that he was already acquainted with as many crazy people as he cared to know." He did hold overnight sessions educating enough politicians so that the house bill never got through the Indiana state Senate. It was laughed off the agenda. Indiana owes a lasting debt of gratitude to Professor Clarence Abiathar Waldo of Purdue University.
You would have thought the war on science would have been over when cigarettes were determined to cause cancer. A lot of industry CEOs perjured themselves before Congress, insisting they could see no causal connection between smoking and the Big C. What a bunch of wusses.
If they had shown the creativity of today's Montana state government, they would have added that cancer is really beneficial to a smoker's health. House Bill 549 got its first reading in the Montana state legislature on Friday. It finally acknowledges that global warming is a fact. There is simply too much evidence to deny that without looking too silly, even for science deniers. The proposed law declares global warming to be a good thing, "beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana." Reaction from scientists ranges from laughter to outrage. Imagine passing a state law to repeal the effects of climate catastrophe.
It would never be considered in Alabama, except in an April Fool's joke.
Cigarettes are safe for pregnant women
I was intrigued a few months ago by a religious controversy in Texas. It seems a group of atheists rented advertising space from the Fort Worth transit authority and put up messages. "You are not alone" was one of them. "Good Without God" was another. The idea, in this case, was not some sort of Hitchens/Dawkins negative evangelism. It was to encourage nonbelievers to seek out others. A similar campaign in St. Louis went without controversy, or even much notice. But in Texas, a lot of folks wanted the ads banned.
Not every opposing group was composed of political conservatives. The local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, was angry as the devil. And not every religious leader was offended. The pastor the largest local Methodist Church was unfazed. "It doesn’t seem to me as an in-your-face, God-is-not-good message...My very strong opinion is that, as people of faith, the very thing we should not do is lash out and condemn." Yaayyy Methodists.
A few years ago a local St. Louis radio personality was blowing hard about Muslim taxi drivers in Minnesota. Several were refusing, for religious reasons, to transport passengers who had been drinking. Two other participants occasionally threw in their own comments, as our local guy loudly condemned the imposition of personal religious beliefs on non-believers. It was entertaining.
I don't care, said the bellower, what a person believes. For all I care, said he, you can believe the moon is carpeted in felt green and populated by gophers who... A co-participant interrupted. "Why're you picking on me?"
I'm not to where I don't care what a person believes. Sometimes personal beliefs involve others. Some are dangerous. Sometimes true believers deny medical treatment to their children, thinking that is what God wants. They are not to be confused with Republican legislators, who want to deny treatment to all children whose parents cannot afford it. Some folks are willing to kill abortion doctors. Others are willing to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. Others simply try to prevent the building of houses of worship by those whose religious views differ from their own. But aside from actual physical destructiveness or trampling on the rights of others, I'm fine with those of different beliefs.
In fact, I'd go a little farther than our Fort Worth Methodist pastor. I wouldn't mind at all if that little group of atheists was evangelizing. I would have been okay with an "in-your-face, God-is-not-good message." I like the idea of publicly competing views. We do that at FairAndUNbalanced at times.
Debates on our site are usually civil, often friendly, even when folks throw the occasional jibe my way. Reader, contributor, and sometime blogger, JMyste does tend to be a little unfair. That is because he uses the mystic/magic weapon of humor when he jabs me, and he is very, very good at it. In one note, he complimented me for so ably defending such an indefensible idea as the existence of God: "... it is usually difficult for one who practices critical thinking to also embrace religion, a feat that requires a greater degree of excellence, than rejecting it." In fact, my embrace of mostly Methodist beliefs is a product of my own inability to achieve a complete attachment to any alternative.
Gregory Peck's James McKay character in "The Big Country" is challenged with a hypothetical question. Would he not fight to the death to defend, say, his father's honor? McCay answers thoughtfully that it never occurred to him that his father's honor would ever need defending. I suppose my own attitude toward God is similar. I doubt God is offended by insult, or by our sometimes silly attempts to define him.
When I have the opportunity, I encourage folks to seek out those with similar views. I think it is healthy to find a church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or Ethical Society. So I was all in favor of the atheist campaign.
I suppose that makes me an evangelist for nobody-needs-to walk-alone.
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated is unimpressed with WI Democrats, unions, and bargaining rights. He reports that public employees are allowed to negotiate wages, just not anything the Governor wants to cut to finance tax cuts.
Michael John Scott at Mad Mike's America reviews GOP plans to cut back women's ability to get contraceptives, reproductive health counseling and cancer screenings in an effort to appease us Bible thumpers. Well ... some of us, anyway.
Manifesto Joe of Texas Blues watches Fox News so you don't have to, and finds Pravda reborn. Okay, I know Pravda was print, but I wouldn't be able to say the name of the old Soviet television network, much less spell it. I can pronounce "Fox" however.
Hillary Clinton ignores a protester who tries to disrupt her speech, and Chuck Thinks Right thinks that reveals something just terrible about the Obama administration. Chuck is kind of stretching.
- SJ at RANDOM THOUGHTS remembers part of the high price paid for Egyptian freedom.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for someone in pain. A lot of them out there this week, the next few could find any of us among them.
Republicans had won a majority in the Texas legislature in the 2002 elections. So as the politicians took office in 2003, they decided on a full Monty Python. The something completely different was gerrymandering. Gerrymandering comes right from the US Constitution. Now it isn't called that, of course. But the Constitution says the government has to conduct a census in all parts of the country every ten years. And it also says Congressional districts have to represent everybody pretty much equally.
So every year ending in zero carries with it the United States census. And every state legislature carves up the state into districts, one per Congressional representative. They get to do the carving in a way that benefits the party in power in that state.
In the early 1800s the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, led his party to redistricting that became a joke. One district was so narrow and twisted that someone remarked that, on a map, it looked like a salamander. Someone else responded that it wasn't a salamander. It was ... wait for it ... a Gerry-mander. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Okay, it was probably funnier in person.
Anyway, the redistricting went on everywhere like clockwork every ten years, right after the census was totaled up. And every ten years, the districts were twisted and turned to benefit the party in power in each state.
This went on from 1790 right up through 2000. Then Texas Republicans listened to Tom Delay. Delay was a DC politician, now on his way to prison, who was very powerful in the US House of Representatives. In 2002, he became the House Majority Leader, pretty good for the former owner of an exterminating company. He was already known as "The Hammer" because he was a "ruthless Republican", which in Texas is actually one word. The census had come and gone. The redistricting was also finished. Republicans looked forward to the next one way off after 2010. But there should be no delay, said Delay, and, right after they took office in 2003, instructed his party to gerrymander right then.
Democrats screamed about it, but what could they do? Well, as it turned out, Republicans needed more than a majority. They also needed a quorum, enough legislators attending to legally do business. Democrats boycotted the legislative session. So Delay had authorities go out to arrest them and drag them into the legislature to form a quorum. So they went into hiding. So Delay told officials of the US Department of Homeland Security to have a group of agents take time out from fighting terrorists to track down the Democrats and drag them into the legislature to form a quorum. Under Delay's orders, the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center in California went into action, found the Texas Democrats in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and dragged them back to the legislature. Republicans, with their majority, and now also had their quorum. They passed the unusual redistricting and got 5 Democrats removed from the US Congress.
Delay was widely criticized for ordering the redistricting without waiting for the next census, and for using US agents who should have been assigned to fight terrorists. But he eventually faced ... well, actually, faces ... prison for something else entirely: political money laundering.
What got me thinking about Tom Delay is Wisconsin. The new Governor, Scott Walker, wants to eliminate unions for public employees and slash their benefits. It's pretty much a sore point. Lots of folks really truly believe in the right of employees to be represented by unions, who should be allowed to negotiate for them. Democrats have gone into hiding to keep Republicans from having a quorum. The hiding is kind of an open secret, since everyone knows they are actually in Rockford, IL at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center. Republicans want them arrested and brought home, but nobody has the authority to invade Illinois and actually carry them back. Homeland Security is busy fighting terrorists.
Where have you gone Tom Delay? Your party turns their desperate eyes to you. But the Hammer is busy in Texas preparing appeals.