Very, very good (detailed) update on what is happening with Franken vs Coleman election recount in Minnesota. It is now before the canvassing board to determine which ballots should be considered legit and which should not.
As the time for our deci-annual census draws near, I have little doubt that we will be hearing more about redistricting, that is, defining boundaries for voting blocs within a given state, city or other legal geographic region. Traditionally, this is a subject which is fraught with partisanship as each side jockeys to ensure that a large group of its supporters are placed into a district without many people who support the opposition party or parties.
Such struggles often result in gerrymandered districts. The image to the right shows the original “gerry mander” from which we get the term. Usually, whichever party is in power within a given state’s Senate or House (depending on that state’s particular laws governing redistricting) places itself in an advantageous position hoping to extend its time in charge. This thinking extends to districts which exist within cities as well.
Unfortunately, gerrymandering has become so expected and even normal, that when such redistricting does not benefit a particular minority group, they claim that they have been disenfranchised because the district was not set up for a bloc of minority voters to elect a minority representative. In other words, we have established de facto or even de legis affirmative action policies as regards redistricting. The problem with gerrymandering, whether based on the desire of whoever is currently in power, or a desire to ensure that minorities have an equal say in governance, is that the resulting districts are by definition inequitable.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently spoke regarding districting in Martin, South Dakota:
A federal appeals court today affirmed a decision protecting the rights of Native American voters in Martin, South Dakota. Siding with the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Eight Circuit ordered local officials to correct violations of the Voting Rights Act that prevented Native Americans from having an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice.
The ACLU brought the lawsuit in April 2002 on behalf of two Native American voters who say the redistricting plan adopted by the city that year had the purpose and effect of diluting Native American voting strength. Native Americans made up approximately 45 percent of the city’s population but would have been unable to elect any candidates of their choice to the city council because the redistricting plan ensured that white voters controlled all three city council wards.
Now, let me say that I have no wherewithal to address the merits of this particular case. However, I believe that this might well have never become a case if we were not using a system which often leads to abuses.
Perhaps there was a time when setting up districts was difficult (mathematically speaking) but with the capabilities of today’s computer processing power coupled with mapping software and census figures we should be able to ensure that districts are created with complete and entire blindness as to the composition of the people who might live there.
Justice is often represented as a woman, blindfolded and holding scales. It is time for justice to be applied to redistricting, isn’t it?
Sigh. What has happened in DC with regards to the Second Amendment should remind us that some matters are much more easily defeated before they are implemented. An update on the latest:
The District of Columbia Council passed more regulations for gun owners Tuesday, months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city’s 32-year-old handgun ban.
Among other things, the bill requires gun owners to register their weapons every three years and receive training by a certified firearms instructor.
“No constitutional right is absolute, nor is this right to possess a gun in the home for self defense,” said councilwoman Mary Cheh, a law professor at George Washington University.
I think we all understand that rights have limits. However, the limit of one right is usually where it interfaces with another one, not an arbitrary point which has been decided by those people who believe that you and I are simply too inept and, well, childish to know what is best for us.
In other news from Illinois, remember that window manufacturing company which had closed the day before the big Blagojevich scandal hit? The one that Blagojevich told Bank of America that it should have given a loan to? They’ve gone under.
They have the one plant in Illinois which they do not plan to reopen. They have another facility in Iowa which they will continue to operate. This reminds me of a company for which I once did some contract work. They were a auto parts supplier for Ford Truck, among others. My client had one facility in Ontario, another in Indiana and was setting up a third in Tennessee.
Guess which ones were union? Yeah, the old ones. The new facility in Tennessee? That was non-union. I do not think they have shut down all of the union facilities, but it is probably a matter of time–just based on the cost of doing business.
When workers at a facility stage an uprising, as was done in Illinois at the Republic Windows & Doors plant, it amounts to little more than job suicide, coming as it often does from strong belief that each worker has a right to his/her job and that no one for any reason (including the financial distress of the corporation) may take that right away.
As soon as all of us realize that no one owes us anything, the sooner we will be able to make our way through the current slough of monetary despond. As long as we believe that we are all owed a free ride, or at least a very low-cost one, we will only continue to be bogged down in the financial mess which is largely of our own making.
Oh, and in case you thought this post was about the Governor of Illinois, here’s a very disturbing thought which considers said governor’s behavior with reference to the company we were just talking about.
We are all familiar with the premise that those who do not learn from history are fated to repeat it. I have seen this to be true in my own personal experience, as well as through the many experiences of others which I have discovered through research and reading.
Today, I happened across an article which sums up very nicely what I was thinking regarding this next presidential and congressional administration’s stated goals for this country which I call home. Robert Tracinski in the Jewish World Review has this to say:
It looks as if we are going to have to relive all of the mistakes of the 20th century one more time — let’s hope it is one last time — before we relearn the big lesson of that century: the moral and material superiority of capitalism and the disastrous consequences of socialism in all its forms.
I thought we had learned that lesson well enough already, but it turns out I was wrong. Given a few decades to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union — and given an opportunity to take advantage of the ideological confusion and muddled pragmatism of the pro-free-market right — the left is making a serious attempt to reconstitute itself.
And it is not just any variant of the left. It is the Old Left, the mid-20th-century left of public-works giantism, ham-fisted labor union protests, and command-and-control central planning.
One would think that people had figured out that this didn’t work. One would be wrong. For many an unfortunate example of the thinking that socialism (let us call it what it is) just hasn’t been implemented correctly, one has only to visit the political science/history department of many a public university. Theoretically (since that seems to be the focus of teaching coming from such departments) we’ve never gotten it right, but if only we could, all would come together into a harmonious whole. (At this point, allow me to say that this sounds a bit like Jupiter aligning with Mars and the moon doing something else.)
Anyway, back to the article. The author wraps up (after addressing just how much the calls for a “car czar” smack of the old Soviet Union’s policies) with the following:
The 20th century experimented with every possible variant of socialism. We had democratic socialism in Western Europe, totalitarian socialism in Eastern Europe, and fascist socialism in South America. We had atheistic socialism and we had “liberation theology.” We had the “scientific socialism” of the Soviet central planners and the chaotic jungle socialism of the Khmer Rouge, who executed anyone with an education. We had “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and socialism with African characteristics and socialism with Hindu characteristics.
We tried it all, and every time it led to poverty and oppression.
Those results have been proven with scientific thoroughness. There is no excuse for trying it all again.
I do believe I agree with the gentleman, very strongly, I might add.
With regard to the wolf population in the lower-48, we have slipped 30 years into the past:
On December 11, 2008, recorded in the Federal Register, the Department of Interior, more specifically the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, published the final rule that places the gray wolf in nearly all of the lower 48 states, under federal protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The confusing mess this has created now extends beyond just the gray wolf. It involves every species in existence in the United States. This is a clear example of the courts having inadequate knowledge of the issues making rulings that have now put the very species we may be wanting to protect in danger as well as stripping management powers from the USFWS.
Obviously the power and authority of the Department of Interior, which includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to manage wildlife has evaporated. Any so-called environmental or preservationist organization, with money behind it, can control the courts and get what they want. The Endangered Species Act is only as good as the lawsuits permit it to be. Perhaps it is time for the states to reclaim their sovereignty.
The full article includes much more detail of the history and various rulings which have led us to the present day.
North American wolves (of which there are some here in South Dakota) are beautiful creatures. They are also avidly carnivorous, particularly when given the opportunity to address tender domestic stock. Giving these canines status as an endangered species could be construed, in part, as telling people that they (and their property) are not as important as continuing policies of dubious practical value.
As I’ve noted previously, Daschle’s appointment would seem to run afoul of Obama’s stance on the evil creatures known as lobbyists. Now, the NYT has an article which admits to some of the challenges, shall we say, of the situation regarding Daschle and at least one other appointee:
Mr. Obama’s selection of Mr. Daschle and Ms. Browner to high-level positions illustrates a potential loophole in his pledge of keeping special interests at a distance.
The ethics code that Mr. Obama imposed on his transition team takes a hard line against lobbyists.
Stephanie Cutter, the transition spokeswoman, said Mr. Obama’s team was writing “ethics rules for an Obama administration that will meet every commitment made during the campaign.”
“To prevent conflicts of interests,” Ms. Cutter added, “administration officials will recuse themselves from any issue involving a spouse, and spouses will be banned from lobbying relevant agencies.”
Did you read what I read? “ethics rules . . . that will meet every commitment made during the campaign.” That’s quite a tall order. I can only say that I am grateful that no one from the administration-to-be has called and requested any writing assistance on said ethics rules.
Page 115 of Tom Daschle’s book on health-care includes the following statement:
Health care is an intensely personal, life and death issue; overhauling the system will have a profound effect on millions of individuals, every business that pays for benefits, and a giant sector of our economy. That is why the American people need to know that decisions on coverage and cost are being made for the public good, and aren’t tainted by politics or special interests.
The “public good,” eh? Herein lies the very heart of my disagreement with Daschle’s approach. The public good is defined by whom? Oh, the government, you say? Well, how is that not a special interest? I want the decision on cost (fair market value) and coverage (everything I’m willing to pay for) to be driven by the highly interested consumer, not a supposedly disinterested bureaucrat.
I do not believe we ought to have health care predicated on the public good, a nebulous and much-twisted thing which never seems to be defined the same way twice. While our current system needs help, it does not need a makeover a la Daschle–it needs the government to do some very simple, pro-health-care sorts of things like, oh, capping malpractice judgments and defunding “special interest” government assistance programs (that is taxpayer funded health care for welfare recipients).
It is cold here today; -14F when I started up the truck for a trek into Sioux Falls. We are supposed to see a high of -5F. John at Powerline, who is caught in part of the same storm system, is thinking about heat and cold quite a bit these days:
Of course, individual localized weather phenomena prove nothing about global warming. Except that the current cold weather is no fluke; the earth resolutely refuses to get warmer:
Don’t spend much of your “worry time” on a new climate treaty, however. Global temperatures are doing their best to tell us that CO2 isn’t very important after all.
- Global thermometers stubbornly refused to rise after 1998, and have plummeted in the past two years by more than 0.5 degree C. The world is now colder than in 1940, when the Post-WWII Industrial Revolution started spewing lots of man-made CO 2 in the first place.
- On October 29, the U.S. beat or tied 115 low-temperature records for the date. Alaska, which was unusually warm last year, recorded 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit that night–beating the previous low by 4 degrees F.
- London had snow in October for the first time in more than 70 years.
The 2007-08 temperature drop wasn’t predicted by the global climate models, but it had been predicted by the sunspots since 2000. Both the absent sunspots and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation now predict a 25-30-year global cooling.
That’s a good thing, since the Chinese are asking a mere $300 billion a year subsidy to participate in a new agreement to replace Kyoto.
For the recent past, though, we have the world’s best data set here in the U.S. And it’s true that at one time, it was widely believed that the 1990s were the warmest recent decade. But that was before it was discovered that NASA’s James Hansen, Al Gore’s chief scientific ally, had been fudging the data, either accidentally or on purpose. NASA was forced to correct its data, with the result that the ten warmest years on record here in the US are as follows: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939.
What is particularly interesting about that last paragraph is that 1936 (which falls between two of the warmest years) records the coldest temperature here in South Dakota. McIntosh on 17 February 1936. It was -58F. Does a single data point mean much? Well, only if you happened to live in McIntosh and walked out your door that morning.
Joking aside, the temperatures we are currently experiencing are more usual in January and February.
The US Constitution’s Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 through 10) are 217 years old today. In honor of that remarkable event, here are the amendments in their entirety:
Amendment I — Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II — A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III — No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV — The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V — No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI — In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Amendment VII — In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII — Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX — The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X — The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.