Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Census, Redistricting and Gerrymandering

Across the country, and across the political spectrum there is a growing sense that we need to reform redistricting rules. The Constitution requires a census every 10 years. The number of congressmen allocated to every state changes as the population changes. If a state is allocated a different amount of congressmen then it must redraw the political boundaries of the election districts. Redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundaries of election districts.

One of the central aspects of the US Constitution is that our elected officials represent specific geographical areas. While we should try to get districts with equal populations we should know that that is not possible and it should not be the primary consideration.

New York (29) has 40 times (19 million) the population of Wyoming (.5 million) (1)and only 10 times the electoral votes. There is nothing wrong with this. What is wrong is how politicians use voter and demographic records to tailor districts to favor specific politicians and parties. There is something filthy and unclean about gerrymandered districts, sorting people out by race, ethnicity and voting patterns; with politicians arguing about who gets a particular group of housing district; trying to push demographically undesirable people – undesirable to the congressman that is – to another district. The arguing over demographics, while unseemly, is made vile in that tiny threads and strange loops of homes and apartments are included, the only rule being that that the districts are contiguous, that there are no separate islands of people distributed among districts.

The reason behind gerrymandering is to help oneself and hurt ones opponent. We all know that politics is a rough sport but we, the public, have to maintain vigilance to make certain that the things are played fair.

Gerrymandering allows the individuals and parties in control to stack the deck in their favor. No matter what is done there will not be an equal amount of people per district. Even the current system, with all its problems, does not perfectly apportion people. We need to introduce objectivity into the election mess and get rid of gerrymandering once and for all. We make a mockery of our system by allowing election districts can be carved up at whim. Election districts need to be comprised of fixed areas that cannot be altered by the whims of politicians and back-room consultants. Districts should be comprised of counties, towns and, in urban areas, fixed-boundaried neighborhoods.

Requiring that election districts be contiguous helped limit some of the egregious aspects of gerrymandering. Requiring that district be comprised of entire neighborhoods, towns, counties, or combinations thereof will limit further the excess now being done with the advent of demographic mapping and software algorithms.

[POSTED 2/18/2010]

Monday, July 25, 2005

Families, the importance of two-parents

There was a good article by William Rasberry in today's NYP about the lack of two-parent households in the black community.

"Fatherless boys (as a general rule) become ineligible as husbands -- though no less likely to become fathers.... The absence of fathers means, as well that girls lack ... a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them."

And, as in an earlier post (Discipline before Learning), once again we see the importance of discipline. People cannot accomplish goals without discipline and discipline needs to be learned by constant repetition, in much the same way as learning the times table. In fact learning the times table is as important as a source of discipline as it is a mathematical and educational building block.

Discipline before learning

A doctor who lost his family on a plane crash/terrorism 20 years ago created a school in his daughter's name. Discipline must exist, he says, before there can be learning. Why is this not understood here? The answer everyone says is smaller and smaller classes, but if there is no self-discipline it doesn't matter how small the classes are.

"Unless we impart the discipline, I don't think we can bring out the best out of any kid, not any human being, as a matter of fact," Sankurathri says. "So discipline comes first and then comes education to me."

See A Ray Of Light

From CBC's The National on NWI (7/25/2005

Immigration and Borders

I'm tired of watching TV documentaries that portray people who are against unfettered immigration as racist. You can be pro-immigration and not in favor of "unregulated" immigration. Before 9/11 my feeling was that immigration is a good thing; that we should promote it as much as possible.

I still think immigration is a good thing. I still think we should promote it as much as possible but now I think we need to KNOW who is entering our borders. We cannot have unregulated borders. I think this is a risky scheme in the post 9/11 world.

I also love the fact that I can throw the words "unregulated" and "risky scheme" back into the faces of those who so over use them.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Death to the Hog

Matt Taibbi (NY PRess July 20-26, 2005) spews venom at Karl Rove but never, in the whole article, does he give his reasons for why Karl Rove is to be so hated. What are Rove's transgressions? What has he done to engender such hatred? Why is he a "vile, scum-sucking pig of a human being"?

I have to say that I thoroughly dislike this form of journalism, in which the author presents his opinion but doesn't ground them in facts. Which actions did Rove take that are worthy of hatred? Or are we now on the road to civil war -- where your political adversaries morph into the devil incarnate?

People disagree over taxes, abortion, gay rights, the war in Iraq. I'm pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. My views and my positions ought to be respected by those who disagree with me. Just as I ought to respect others who disagree with me on taxes or drug laws or what-have-you.

So Matt -- what specifically has Karl Rove done, aside from being excellent at his job in promoting a conservative agenda, that deserves such venom.

By the way, it is doubtful that he did anything remotely criminal in the Plane affair.