Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Harry Reid admits Obama Administration a Failure

For two years, Obama and the Democrats have been trying to sell the notion that the economy is improving because of their policies. However, once in a while a Democrat will slip up and admit that they have royally screwed up our economy, to the point for example where 8 percent unemployment is considered a GOOD thing. Today, Senator Harry Reid, once again trying to explain how his complete inability to pass a budget in the past year and a half since the start of the previous year's budget is actually the Republicans fault, let again slip that the Pelosi/Reid/Obama economy is a sham, a shambles, a pathetic shell of what was a once great American Economic Engine (from the National Review):

This budget that we have spent so much time talking about is really about making tough choices, hard choices, difficult choices. The American people understand this. They understand tough choices. They have to make them every day, especially now with the economy being in the shape it’s in; so should their representatives in Congress make tough choices.
Yes, especially now that Obama and his incompetent allies Reid and Pelosi have weighed down business with inexplicable regulations and onerous burdens, thrown the housing and other markets into disarray, and worked overtime to suppress the growth of the economy, all the while pretending they have our best interests at heart. Of course, Reid wouldn't think to actually have his party MAKE any touch choices. The fiscal year started October 1st; yet he never passed a budget during last year, or even after this year started. And he still hasn't passed a bill to fund the rest of the year, which would then be reconciled with the hosue version.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

County Redistricting is a joke

My column in the News/Messenger this morning is about the extreme district maps put out by the Senate Democrats in an attempt not only to elect more democrats, but also to protect their specific incumbents; the house did much the same, with slightly better maps. But here at home, our own county maps are much the same, only in this case they seem to be drawn to punish lesser-liked incumbents, while protecting favored incumbents from challenges within their own party. I don't like gerrymandering to eek out better outcomes for a party. I'm less concerned about competitive races than I used to be, because I'm tired of having to care so much about who wins an election. I used to feel that while there would be differences, both candidates would act mostly for the good of their constituents. I certainly don't feel that way about a lot of democrats anymore, and as I said in my column, I imagine democrats feel the same about republicans. But there is a difference between splitting voters so that more conservatives are grouped together in one place, and more liberals in another, and splitting so one party wins more than their votes suggest. In some ways, the first is good grouping, putting like-minded people with similar concerns together. But when a state like New Jersey has 52% republican vote, but only 41% republican representation in the legislator, that's a problem. Bringing it back to the county, if the county had a majority democratic vote, it would be silly to still have a board split 6-2 for republicans, and it wouldn't reflect reality. Worse, while I would personally love the representation, it would frustrate those who felt cut out by the system itself. Our society can exist peacefully only to the extent that the people believe they have a say. When the Supreme Court says "abortion is legal, no matter what the people want", it causes strife, tension, and a feeling of disempowerment. Likewise, when one political party's voters feel that, no matter what they do, they can't get a majority because they all have to vote in one or two districts, it will make them rightfully angry, and they will feel powerless and hopeless to change things in the civil manner of elections. I love conservatives winning elections, because they have better solutions. I love when they can convince the mass of independents that conservative principles are better, and can get re-elected because, regardless of party, the people they represent feel appropriately represented, and just WANT to re-elect them. I wouldn't want to appoint conservatives to rule against the will of the people. In some ways, extreme gerrymandering does just that -- artificially puts one party in power at the expense of the will of the people expressed through the vote. You can't expect there NOT to be some games played with the redistricting maps, and I wouldn't want to put the process in the hands of unelected people with unknown biases and no accountability. Technically, we can vote people out if we don't like how they draw the maps, although I realise the maps are drawn to help them NOT be voted out. So, if I had to change ONE thing about redistricting, I would do this: No map takes effect until after an election held for the people who drew the map. This would mirror the federal constitutional rule that no raise takes effect until an ensuing election. That way, if the elected officials take too much of a liberty with the lines, the aggrieved voters can respond by voting them out. To make that useful, we'd also have to have a rule that every map needs two votes, with the second after the election. Unfortunately, this could drag the process on forever, so maybe instead there could be a referenda on the maps with a simple up/down vote of the electorate. For the county maps, there is an emergency meeting on April 17th. Show up and show your disapproval of maps drawn to protect incumbents at the expense of the voters. Explain why you don't want to vote in different precincts that aren't even in your district, and why your neighborhood wants to vote together, and not be split between districts.

Monday, April 04, 2011

How the Voting Rights Act contributes to gerrymandering

The Voting Rights Act requires some states to maintain "majority-minority" districts. These districts exist in the belief that only minorities can represent minorities. A black person can only be represented by a person with the same skin color. An African-American, by virtue of the color of their skin, has more in common with other people who have the same skin color, than they do with people in the community they choose to live in. That's the principle. For decades, it has been used to dilute the power of minorities, by herding them together into their own districts, so they can't interfere with the elections in other districts. Perversely, by granting people representatives matching their skin color, the Act has forced in many cases incompetent representation on a large segment of our population, eliminated their ability to choose candidates by essentially building "can't-lose" districts where they chosen democrat wins the primary or caucus and cruises to victory. The report of the Independent Bipartisan Commission on Redistricting hits on this problem without emphasizing it (H/T to Virginia Virtucon):
Voting Rights Act Requirements. Because an increasingly mobile African-American population means that they do not always reside in distinct communities, drawing compact majority-minority districts while maintaining communities of interest became the greatest challenge facing the student teams. So, given the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, student teams sometimes sacrificed compactness in order to achieve the appropriate number of majority-minority districts.
Let's parse that. "Increasingly mobile African-American population" means that the blacks are no longer sequestered in their own compact segregated communities, but instead are integrating into communities throughout the state. This apparently is a problem that we have to solve. "They do not always reside in distinct communities" -- they are blended in with other non-minorities, sharing communities, facilities, and having common interest with people of different races, colors, and creeds. Rather than allowing themselves to be identified by the color of their skin, these minorities have chosen to live with people they have something REAL in common with. Kind of like you don't have a community made up of sexy blonde women -- people don't restrict themselves to living with people who "look like me" anymore. "drawing compact majority-minority districts while maintaining communities of interest" -- it would be nice if this meant what it said -- that they were balancing the needs of the VRA in creating majority-minority districts with the real-world idea of instead grouping people with REAL common interest, not just common melatonin levels. Unfortunately, it's clear that's not what is meant -- because of the "drawing compact districts" caveat. It would be easy to draw a compact district that put communities of interest together, if they meant communities of real interest. So clearly, they mean "communities of interest" to mean "common skin color". The implication is that even though blacks have moved away from each other, they still share this common bond that is more important than the bonds they have chosen to be important. So we drag them back together, by the color of their skin, because the VRA knows better than them what their "community" really is. "sacrificed compactness in order to achieve the appropriate number of majority-minority districts" -- see, the blacks chose to live amongst the non-minorities, so we sacrificed drawing districts based on where people live, so as to cut out the blacks from where they live and virtually put them back in their sequestered, segregated "communities" they chose to abandon as meaningless. The VRA was passed in a time when the Rev. Martin Luther King could only dream of an age when people would be judged, and seen, by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. He could hardly imagine that, decades later, the very laws which were supposed to start that process instead perpetuates it. It is time to abandon the voting rights act, and let the minority community do what the rest of us minorities do -- choose who we associate with, and fight amongst other minorities over who will represent us. Sure, they might not elect a minority, but they will have a stronger voice as more elected officials are beholden to their support. Rather than one crank special-interest representative everybody can ignore, there will be a half-dozen serious representatives who need to serve their constituents of all colors. And if that means the minority community doesn't get what they want, they can join the club, with all the religious minorities who are underrepresented, all the social conservatives who fight to be heard, all the environmentalists who don't get to be grouped together in a voting block, and all the other frankly more reasonable groupings that could exist. Like I said, nobody takes all the blue-eyed, brown-haired people and thinks they need a blue-eyed, brown-haired representative -- because we know how silly it would be to think that every blue-eyed person thinks alike, or has the same interests. It's time to stop pretending every minority cares about the same things, thinks primarily of themselves as that minority, and has a unique set of concerns that couldn't possibly be understood by people with the wrong skin tone.