Monday, August 07, 2006

Despair amid signs of hope...

I was invited recently to a gathering that I could not attend, in San Francisco, where “New Politics” would be discussed, "re evaluating strategies and tactics" for what’s come to be called the new progressive movement.

Of course, this terminology is telling. Consider the way that “progressive” has been used to avoid a certain hot button “L word”... even as some historians are starting to discuss the historical origins of “liberal,” rediscovering tap root that lead to Adam Smith, of all people.

Here at this site, I have weighed in, calling for resurrection of the word “modernism,” complete with its implicit rejection of left-right dogma in favor of a can-do spirit, so very much in tune with FDR and Martin Luther King, as well as Dwight Eisenhower, embodying a spirit of scientific adventure and confident problem-solving - traits that are completely opposite to narrowminded dogmatism - and that we seem to be fast-forgetting in this benighted and fearful 21st Century.

I pick “modernism” exactly because of the low esteem that the word is given by kneejerk cynics of every extreme. But that quirky linguistic choice doesn’t mean that I’m alone in generally yearning for a restoration of courageous (and possibly militantly-moderate) pragmatism. A return to passionately eager problem-solving and a dedication to human self-improvement.

Others are calling for us all to remember The Enlightenment - an umbrella term that encompasses everything from science and democracy to free markets and individual empowerment. All key elements of The Revolution. The only revolution in history that was ever worth more than a bucket of spit.

Alas, it’s going to be a hard struggle to keep all those good things alive, what with the Iranian president calling the American president his “brother” in a worldwide campaign to replace all of those newfangled “liberal” gimmicks with older standbys, like authority, hierarchy, order, tradition and fanatical religiosity. Especially when mass media empower demagogues to co-opt words like “freedom” and turn them into little more than patriotic/tribal grunts.

But let’s focus for a moment upon what the “new politics” folks are asking for. Certainly, we should be generally sympathetic with their goals. But do any of the Enlightenment’s friends have a clue how to fight this battle, well enough to win? In a year when GOP popularity has plummeted - deservedly, because of an unprecedented run of utter incompetence, dogmatic drivel and outright thievery - shouldn’t the coming Congressional elections be set for a no-brainer sweep? A reflexive shrug by the American citizenry, throwing the bums out?

Of course not! As I point out elsewhere things are very different today, than they were in 1994, the last time the People expressed their sovereign will and changed the balance of power in Congress.

Since then, there has been a quiet putsch by the professional political caste -- an event completely at right angles to normal politics -- in which both parties have colluded in common cause, arranging for the REAL enemy - (capricious voters) - to be denied any meaningful choice in their legislative representation. Almost nowhere in America can any citizen hope for his or her House member to face real challenge, even if they are caught breaking the law. Even if their party’s image has plunged to the level of a cheap pimp in a two dollar hotel.

Few recall the basic assumption of our Constitutional founders. That the US House of Representatives was supposed to be the legislative body that would be responsive to public mood, infused with fresh blood every two years. Not a sinecure for professional pols. At one level, the Gerrymander Raid is a crime against democracy in general, independent of party affiliation. The political caste that has performed this market rigging - in collusive defiance of every anti-trust law - absolutely counts on voters - whether Republicans or Democrats - being too busy screaming at each other to ever notice.

Imagine if Pepsi and Coke had arranged to divide up the cola market into tidy little local geographic monopolies, where each could charge whatever they liked for colored sugar water... while claiming that their nearly 50:50 overall split means “healthy competition”! Hell, they could even do this while hating each others’ guts, the same way that democrats and republicans now do. The same way that English and French feudal lords despised each other... and yet acted in mutual support against the common foe. Uppity commoners.

What we are witnessing in U.S. politics today amounts to exactly the same thing. A collusive imperative that has always been attempted by elites for their own class benefit, though hampered by tools of Enlightenment citizenship. (Want to ponder something both pathetic and enraging? Most of the men and women who have done this to us are sincere! The reflex is overwhelming, inherited in the same genes that make us nature’s ultimate rationalizers.)

That’s at the deeper level; the layer running far deeper than simple partisanship. Hence, alas, I have no hope of being heard. So far, only a few venues, like Playboy Magazine, have taken the issue on, directly. As for the Supreme Court - consisting of nine palladin-tribunes who were supposed to defend us against this kind of Constitution-eviscerating travesty - they have shown their true colors. Dominated by petty partisans who murmur polysyllabic rationalizations in order to sleep while utterly betraying their oaths, their honor and their sacred duty to the one Great Experiment to have a chance since Pericles.

==Can we rise above?==

All right, let us rise out of that depressing level, lest I be tempted to slit my wrists.

At another level, all of this gerrymandering is partisan, after all.

Because the GOP has been so much better at it, gerrymandering is devastating to any chance that the Democrats may have, of leading the same kind of “revolution” that Newt Gingrich did, in 1994. A cleverly-managed turnover of power that Democrats would be wise to study, with some sincere respect, instead of reflex revulsion.

Because of gerrymandering-induced radicalism, democrats appear to be inherently incapable of recognizing what they must do, in order to win in gerrymandered districts. Enough GOP-assigned districts to make the change decisive as it needs to be.

They must recognize that a district that’s been tweaked to overwhelmingly represent conservative voters ought to have a conservative representative! I mean, isn't that atleast fair? Trying to hector those voters to become Santa Monica liberals will not work!

But helping them to pick BETTER conservative representatives... possible only-mildly conservative Democratic ones, who are decent and moderate and can be negotiated-with... could turn this thing into a rout. You don't have to ask a conservative district to abandon everything they believe overnight. Just give them a chance to eject neocon monsters and replace them with DECENT PEOPLE! Even if those are conservative decent people. They may just surprise us all.

But there’s no chance of that - or any other sensible suggestion - happening soon. Most Democrats have accepted the beckoning lure of Karl Rove’s “culture war.” Even knowing that it is his chosen battlefield and that they are doing his bidding will not entice them to change tactics. They will go tilting at windmills, abandoning the tools and weapons that lie scattered about, ready to be used, and sharp enough to slay real dragons. The ones who are burning a great nation, searing away its hope and turning it into something little, petty, whiney and sad.

====

(Ah, but what about a side bet? Let's suppose that the POPULAR VOTE comes out overwhelmingly in the democrats' favor... but the House of Representatives remains -- because of gerrymandering -- in GOP control. Certainly this will provoke sighs of deep relief among those who would otherwise face a flood of revealing subpoenas, if a branch of our government were somehow to suddenly resume functioning again. But might their sense of victory be short-lived?

(No other result could more devastatingly point out for all to see just what gerrymandering has done. Nothing could better show how far - in their betrayal - the political caste has gone. Possibly provoking us all, as citizens to finally act. To take our government back.)


====

Addendum. Shall I revise the look/feel of this blog? Frankly, I like looking different. Still, how much better to run it off an address at http://www.davidbrin.com If that were easy to do. I’d need something turn key.....

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

David, you can run blogger on your own site - it's just a configuration setting in the software - tell it you want to host on your own server and provide FTP authorization parameters...

But then you'd be left with the problem of how to migrate the old stuff over to the new stuff, though I'm sure it could be easily scripted if you employed the talents of a programmer...

Nate said...

I'm of the opinion the Democrats should be running candidates in every district, even the "safe" Republican ones. Not because I expect them to win, no matter how conservative a candidate they run. People who've voted Republican forever are still going to vote Republican, unless their representative is indicted or something, in general. Part of it's habit, and name recognition, and part of it's "Well, why should I vote for this guy who's says almost the same things as the Republican, when I can just vote for a real Republican?"

The real reason the Democrats should be running people everywhere is because a lot of those districts probably aren't as safe as they're believed to be. They might win some they'd never expect. And even if they didn't, they'd be there, putting their own ideas out, and fighting for the voters. They couldn't be stereotyped a "out of touch rich city latte drinking whatever folk" nearly as easily. The way it stands now, the people in those districts can easily feel ignored. And if the Republicans are the only ones who even bother to talk to them and ask about their concerns, well... And the Republicans get to say whatever they want about the Democrats, because the Democrats aren't there saying things about themselves. They're somebody far off, not neighbors, co-workers, people you see on the streets, who funny enough aren't really gay satanic atheist Frenchmen or whatever the slur du jour is.

So I guess we're sort of making the same argument, but for different reasons. Which doesn't really matter, if it works.

monkyboy said...

Well,

They can't gerrymander the Senate...

Here's the official tally for the last off-year election in 2002:

http://tinyurl.com/gn83b

Alabama

Republicans took 71% of the House seats with 54% of the votes...

Too lazy to calculate the rest :)

Erik Wennstrom said...

Yet another reason to run democrats in gerrymandered districts, especially those districts in which no democrat has a chance of winning:

It gives a visible platform for direct, intense criticism of those currently in power. If a candidate isn't as concerned with getting elected, then that candidate can be free to make more radical suggestions (which just might get co-opted by someone in power) and to call out the incumbents on their faults.

But for those of us who don't actually get to make the decisions about who runs where, there are still things we can do. If you're stuck voting in an election with an uncontested candidate, find some nutjob third-party or independent candidate (preferrably one who is less of a nutjob than the main-party candidate, but take what you can find) and vote for him, even if you have to write him in. Think of it as a chance to show your distaste for the current status of the system without worrying about whether or not you are "throwing your vote away".

And even more importantly, bring the subject up in conversation with others. There are many problems with the current set-up that everyone is aware of, and we need to work on those too, but I get the impression that nobody even realizes how screwed up the district borders have become. Of course, I'm not saying that you should go around talking politics to everyone. That's a good way to get no one to listen to you. But if politics is already the topic of conversation, bring it up.

Anonymous said...

I am truley SHOCKED that there are districts where no Democrat runs.

I would however challenge the advice above.

If you find yourself in a district where no democrat is running - and you care - join the party and put yourself on the ballot.

You are probably not going to win. You may not even need to campaign - although you should, but at the very least it offers people the opportunity to vote for a Democrat not a nut job.

(if you really can't campaign you realy should try and follow Leo's advice from the West Wing " Pick a guy and have a conversation").

It is an inditement of the democratic Party that they do not contest every seat.

Anonymous said...

I like the current blog format dont see the need to change

Tony Fisk said...

The gerrymandering thing is a part of what prompted my recent paranoid comment about party collusion. (It *was* paranoid, wasn't it?)

I don't think David's advocating that Democrats (or GOP, for that matter) stop running candidates in gerrymandered districts. If that ever happens, the one party state becomes official, and you'd better start learning to tug the forelock again!
What he is saying is that parties should start identifying the most acceptable nominees in the opposite camp.

(Seats vacated by incumbents who quit over accusations of corruption, like Bob Ney, are a prime target, especially in Ohio!)

David, your addendum is a bit garbled.

You'd need something turn key... what?

(What you really need is a convenient place to bookmark your standard refutations/rants etc.)

Nate said...

I suspect the Republican party may do something similar with their own no-hope districts, but I've lived in heavily Republican districts quite a bit, not in any heavily Democratic ones. Do the Republicans run candidates in all the districts in SF or NYC? I don't know.

Stefan Jones said...

Very interesting:

Proving that they are actually capable of useful work, the Cato Institute has produced an exhaustive study of the real risks of terrorism, and concluded that the danger has been vastly inflated.

Cory Doctorow's Review with a link to the actual paper.

matzebrei said...

Tony Fisk said:
> David, your addendum
> is a bit garbled.
>
> You'd need something
> turn key... what?

David is looking for a turnkey solution, meaning
one he can set up and manage with (truly) minimal effort.

I'm afraid I don't have any suggestions...

David Brin said...

Youse guys have obviously not read my big gerrymandering article (linked above)! Else you'd see that I think Dems SHOULD run in GOP districts... but they should run people who at least heed the sensibilities of the local constituency...

...unlike the Sanata Monica liberal types who are running in both of the local districts against neocon monsters, who belly laugh in their faces and take their seats for granted as lifetime sinecures. This year, especially, a solid ex-Marine who believes in the flag and strength and capitalism... but also accountability and diplomacy and maturity and the environment... could have kicked ass in either district.

But that won't happen. Because what happened to the GOP (takeover by the radicals) may soon happen to the Dems. A side effect of gerrymandering that may yet eat the very politicians who committed this crime.

But my gerrymandering article goes much farther than that. It discusses your strategy in a gerried district. How we might fight this crime. And what might be the ultimate solution.

I could write on a single page a reform that'd end this travesty without hifalutin election commissions or redistricting panels or amendments. Try this on for size:

"Any state legislature is free to draw districts however they like, in any shape, with the following proviso -- that the state Assembly, Senate and US Congressional districts should have MINIMAL OVERLAP."

One sentence. That should do it.

How? Ponder for a few minutes.

Gerrymandering is a refined act of market rigging optimization. The members of the state assembly may vote to rig their OWN districts to maximize the majority party's performance... and (more importantly) to guarantee safe seats to all members or EITHER party...

...but if there is minimal overlap, then the STATE SENATE seats will have entirely different character. The very traits that made assembly districts sinecures would make Senate seats competitive... or at least mix neighborhoods differently, so that you must deal with one set of areas in one house and another in the other.

And so on for the Congressional districts, as well! If all three must be jiggered to minimize overlap, then your three legislators will necessarily have different political needs. Different agendas. Different issues. They will ask the voters to contemplate different thoughts.

And if we go back to having a mix of representatives from different parties, this would harm us... how?

One sentence. And mark this. One of the reasons given by the Court for not intervening in Texas was that it saw no flaws in the most widely mentioned alternative, "independent redistricting commissions." (I see flaws, too!) But this one sentence might... it might give them a way...

But who am I kidding. The fix is in. Rich in rationalization of partisanship, the high justices will not come to our rescue.
Not now.
Not when the people vote 60:40 to throw out the bums and yet see neither house returned to them.
(And the 60% will be called "sore losers and whiners.")

Shortsighted to the last, these neo-lords will sit, like King George's Privy Council, finding relentless excuses to favor cronyism and unearned-secret privilege until, at last, unknowing and proudly indifferent to all of the clear signs around them, they will go too far, provoking some new group of Ben Franklins to clench fists, to furrow brows...

...to vow - at first low and under the breath, but later from the rooftops - that our Revolution is not yet over. That King George will not end it nor will his henchmen.

Our children - all children - will be free. Moreover to that end we dedicate our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

michael vassar said...

Good try at a legal solution David, but the real problem with Legal solutions is that the parties will simply Break the Law, just as they routinely break many other laws, and no-one will be able to oppose them doing so.

Interesting that Playboy is on top of the gerrymandering issue. They were on top of Al Qaida and the Taliban years before anyone else in the mainstream media was too. I wonder if it would be desirable for them to publish an edition *without* the girly photos in order to reach demographics who would never purchase a Playboy. Anyone care to pitch that to them?

bryan @ shotgunfreude said...

As a gay satanic atheist Frenchman, I take umbrage at the comment above suggesting I not be a prime candidate for office.

Seriously... David, the comparison with antitrust law is very incisive. We go to tremendous lengths to crack down on companies that exhibit behavior that limits consumers' choices of products and services to choose from. Comparing that to the cavalier imposition of gerrymandered districts really emphasizes how ridiculous an affront to democracy the gerrymandering is.

The proposed solution for minimizing overlap for districts among state and federal legislators, which I read a few weeks ago, is an intriguing one. To play devil's advocate though, I have to wonder if, even under such a system, the entrenched interests would not prioritize the federal seats and keep those as gerrymandered as ever.

A solution I like is to raise the number of seats in the House of Representatives, with fewer constituents per seat. This accomplishes several terrific goals at once:

* the more seats per state, the tougher it is to gerrymander effectively;

* the more seats per state, the easier to level the disparity between the number of constituents in different districts;

* the more seats there are, the less money will be forthcoming to spend on each race, reducing the emphasis on fluffy TV ads and the pressures for constant fund-raising and patronage;

* and perhaps most importantly, the fewer constituents per seat, the easier it would be for individual constituents to gain the attention of the representative, and hold him accountable.

Beyond gerrymandering, it would also be very interesting to define "subverting democracy" as a new crime in itself, on top of any other applicable crimes, applicable to such acts as knowingly and materially interfering with the right to vote - whether by unjustly purging legitimate voters from the rolls, imposing capricious requirements on ballot cardstock or other formalities, maliciously prosecuting a journalist for publicizing government actions, or negligently failing to ensure that a voting machine properly records the votes cast on it.

bryan @ shotgunfreude said...

P.S. Of course, they used to raise the number of House seats regularly as the population grew, a habit we never should have allowed to atrophy. The vast horde of people sharing a single representative is ridiculously larger than in the old days, and by itself spoils the Founders' vision of House members who were close to, and closely accountable to, the people.

Woozle said...

On the "revising the look-and-feel" issue: I'd love to see the interactivity (limited at present to linear posting of replies to Brin's posts) become higher-level.

Primary goals I see:

- keeping it easy for Brin to make posts (including the automatic "front-paging" of the most recent one, and indexing of past entries)
- better cross-referencing
- "What you really need is a convenient place to bookmark your standard refutations/rants etc." (Tony Fisk)

I have a lot of ideas but no firm recommendations (as in "I propose Solution X, which would adequately address all of these").

Imperfect ideas:
- a wiki with editing limited to Brin (and maybe trusted editors). Problems: no automatic indexing, no automatic front-paging; some of this could be done by a Trusted Editor, but then you're adding a bottleneck...
- a CMS system like Drupal. Problems: I haven't yet found one that I really like, but there are a lot of them to try.
- a Blogger-like blog (there are also lots of these, mostly free/open-source). Problems: no significant improvements... but Brin wasn't asking for improvements...

Any other ideas? Not sure if "improvements" are anywhere at all on Brin's interest list, so I may be barking up the wrong tree.

(Woozle waves at Brin and apologizes for addressing him repeatedly in the 3rd person... is there any kind of "blog netiquette" about whether comments should be addressed to the blog owner or to the audience? Where's Miss Manners when you need her?? (-; )

-cman- said...

David:

As anon' said in the first post, configuring blogger to run on your own site is pretty simple. I did it for my own blog a few months back. Essentially these are the steps:

Select and apply new template (optional step, see below).

1)In the Dashboard under Publishing, change from blogger.com to FTP or better yet, SFTP if you have it set up on your server.

2) You'll need a directory and path on the server setup, e.g. at the root of davidbrin.com a directory called "blog." On *nix boxes this will be something along the lines of, /home/htdocs/blog

3) This will then give a URL that looks like: http://www.davidbrin.com/blog/index.html , which can be abbreviated in browsers as just: http://www.davidbrin.com/blog

4) FTP client path to file in #2.

5) Filename e.g. index.html

6) Password.

7) In the Archiving tab of Dashboard, select a path for the blog archives to go e.g. /home/htdocs/blog/archive and set the fields correspondingly.

8) Switch to the Posting tab and select the Status menu item. When you are ready, Republish Entire Blog. (This will take a long time.)

As for look and feel, there are interesting community-made templates available at:
http://blogger-templates.blogspot.com/
http://blogtemplates.noipo.org/

If none of those float your boat, I am pretty sure someone can be found to design a template for you in excahnge for some Brin swag.

I'm enough of a Brin fan that, if I only had the time, I'd be all over it.

That's quick and dirty migration to your server and a custom blogger template. Other stuff mentioned, wiki etc., imply a whole different level of coding commitment either from yourself or the community.

Mark said...

This year, especially, a solid ex-Marine who believes in the flag and strength and capitalism... but also accountability and diplomacy and maturity and the environment... could have kicked ass in either district.

But that won't happen.


Bull pucky. It IS happening. Check out the Fighting Dems:

Currently more than five dozen vets are running.
61 FDs on the front lines for 60 districts in 26 states.
44 FDs advancing to GE including 30 nominees and 14 unopposed in upcoming primaries.
17 FDs facing primaries in 16 districts


The Democrats are running more vets now than any time in recent history. I keep hearing you say you are the only one pushing certain ideas, but in many cases, such as this, those ideas have actually become reality without you noticing. I know I tend to be overly optimistic, but things aren't nearly as bad as you say.

Perhaps the radicalization of the Democrats will happen eventually, but it certainly isn't happening right now. Sure, that is the CW talking point about Lieberman, but it is wrong. The problem with Lieberman isn't that he is moderate, but that he actually said we should never question the president in a time of war.

I am worried that the Democratic reaction to the current Republican hyper-partisanship will last longer than required, but for now it is required. We can't keep falling for the same tricks over and over again; right now we need to be more partisan.

David Brin said...

Well said, Mark. Everybody send $ to the Fighting Democrats. Or the one nearest you.

We need to separate two issues. (1) "cut and run" vs (2) supporting an administration of jibbering insanity and blithering incompetence who got us into this mess. I am willing to keep troops there a while, because now we are morally committed to protect people. But the people who:

lied about WMD and terror links,
who betrayed the 3rd Division and the 101st during the invasion violating all recent military doctrine and trampling professional advice,
who called up the Guard and destroyed it during "elective surgery",
who oversaw the steepest decline in US military readiness in all our lives,
who used to whine about "political interference" losing the Vietnam War, but then made Robert MacNamara look like George Patton,
a bunch of draft-dodging preppies who are waging war against the US Officer Corps,
who have deliberately torched every alliance, even driving the BRITS to the edge of flipping us off,
who have deliberately divided the country into culture war hate camps,
who have instituted a regime of paranoid secrecy vastly darker and less accountable than during the Cold War,
who have ended all contract accountability, granting crony, no-bid contracts to friends at a rate that would put some 1980s Latin dictatorship to shame,
who have arranged things so that the chief winners of the war so far are Iran and Saudi Arabia, while the rest of the Middle East burns and budgets and trade balances spin out of control and gas skyrockets and the inherited wealthy for the first time outnumber whose who earned it by providing goods and services....

...these guys do not deserve to be the ones who fight the rest of the war in Iraq. They are incompetent fools, at best.

Here is my Iraq platform. Get rid of the fools. Invite professionals back to the table. Let Iraqis patrol the cities while we safeguard and rapidly rebuild the infrastructure outside the towns.

Make friends.

Bring the Guard home NOW! (A distinction that will give the anti-war protestors something strong to yell.) Now. Tomorrow. Now. Bring the Guard home to their familes and their jobs and their lives and to work on readiness RIGHT NOW!

-----

Sayeth Brian: “The proposed solution for minimizing overlap for districts among state and federal legislators, which I read a few weeks ago, is an intriguing one. To play devil's advocate though, I have to wonder if, even under such a system, the entrenched interests would not prioritize the federal seats and keep those as gerrymandered as ever.”

Well, here’s the cool part. You see, it is state ASSEMBLY members who DO the actual gerrymandering! Hence (1) it will be in their own best interests to take care of that as their highest priority... leaving their Congressional party-pals drifting in the wind, and (2) if priority is given instead of the Congress districts, then the Assembly will be subject to the whim of the voters, and fair elections will determine WHO gets the prize of congressional rigging. Either way, justice is served.

Alas, increasing the number of congressmen, while not requiring an amendment, will still be harder than getting a simple one sentence reform past the Court. Both are different degrees of impossible, of course.

Please folks, if you haven’t read my full article on this, go to it and tell your friends.

Re discussion format on this blog, I despair over the state of topic threading, ten years after I tried a prototype hyperforum run by Caltech that actually let you follow a tree structure. Even that pales compared to what you’ll see, when Holocene gets funded.

Woozle, could you describe/summarize Drupal?

Youse guys can call me David... of His Brinness... ;-)

Thanks cman. I will fly this past my host and my site managing person. Alas, neither is paid, so getting changes made.... But you the man.

Tangent said...

So, David, what would it take to get that one sentence added? Would it be a law? Or a constitutional amendment?

I know this: once that ball starts rolling, neither side will be able to stop it. All you have to do is state: This will stop the gerrymandering of the political offices, allowing these politicians to rewrite the districts so that fair elections are not possible... and anyone who opposes it becomes a gerrymandering insider who is looking out for their own interests.

It also increases true representational government, by making State and Federal governments significantly different (which is a good thing). And while gerrymandering would no doubt still be possible by convoluted districting, it would be so visible that even supporters of the local government would hopefully step in and say "enough!"

So. What do we need to do to get this ball rolling>

It might not seem like much... but journeys are started and completed in small steps. Think of it as akin to picking up litter. Sure, picking up one thing isn't much... unless everyone picked up one thing and threw it out. All at once, it's a big deal.

Rob H., Tangents

David Brin said...

Tangent, I haven't a clue what it would take. I pounded this in my big (too big?) gerrymandering essay, hoping some of the plaintiff attorneys would mention it to the Court.

(One of the excuses given by the Court was that redistricting by "independent commissions" seemed arbitrary, complicated and impractical. Of course, my one-sentence solution evades all of those problems.)

All I can hope is that some of you will grab lapels... and that by sheer chance one of the people you yell at will be in a position to spread word about this more effectively.

Gilmoure said...

I'll admit I like the nested comment format, seen on Live Journal and Slashdot. There are some limitations there. Would be cool if you could arrange the nesting by replies, subject words or keywords and user names.

Brother Doug said...

The bloger format works well. When I use it at the libary the filter has to be turned off to access it. So running it on your page might fix that anoyance, and let more people read your blog.

Tony Fisk said...

wrt the proposed counter-gerrymander sentence.

One place to try waving it in the breeze a bit is the More Perfect site, wherein participants are invited to 'tweak your state's constitution'... and worse! (AFAIK, no-one's tried to tweak things so that elephants are overrunning the nation, yet. We'd better get in first!)

I think you have an elegant solution, but I can see one problem: it can be subverted by first defining gerrymandered 'pseudo-districts' whose populations are the sum of a seat in each level of legislature. The pseudo-districts can then be divvied up between the levels (so as to maintain the voting mix) and presto: non-overlapped gerrymanders.

Of course, I could be wrong...

---

A quick and dirty setup for the best of both worlds: post articles on a wiki (with restricted access), and provide a link to a brief blog posting for storing comments.

The good:
- wiki links (links being an ongoing gripe)
- articles can be indexed and kept to the fore: they don't automatically 'fade'
- standard rants and refutations can be stored separately and referred to in passing.
- change log
- We can still give feedback (via the blog)

The bad:
- overhead in setting up links (not huge but probably the 'gripping hand' in this case. An auto script or two might get around this)

David Brin said...

Oh, there are other problems with my idea. For one thing, most Assembly districts are SMALLER than state senate and Congressional districts.. Hence some would fit entirely inside, making overlap impossible to avoid. Still, a few followup sentences could minimize the effect of that.

If anyone wants to write it up in ways appropriate for MORE PERFECT... or any other site, please let us know.

Oh, let me further emphasize (as I do in my big gerrymandering article) that THIS KIND OF THING CAN ONLY BE DONE NATIONWIDE, not one state at a time. I will be goll danged if we in California will stop before Texas does.

(Tradeoffs of equal numbers of districts could work. CA for TX+FLA+OH? I could live with that. So could America!)

History turns on one fact. If we had a high court made up of genuine statesmen-scholars who believed in us and in the Great Experiment, then they could use tools like this one and end a travesty, with a stroke.

They could. But they won't. Telling us - and history - what kind of people they really are.

monkyboy said...

Perhaps logic is actually just a disease?

Reasoning with people doesn't seem to work.

The trick might be to infect them somehow....

Doug S. said...

You know what I think is a pretty good model for online discussion?

This site's articles and forums.

You have the main articles, and they have a link to a basic web forum with flat topics. Each article has its own forum topic, and individuals can start their own discussions by creating new forum topics. You don't have the latest blog posting cutting off most new comments made about the topic in the previous one, and you don't have threaded discussions that hide responses and only show you one thing at a time.

I hate threaded forums. They're absolutely horrible. USENET used to work before the spammers killed it, but it's a horrible model for web-based discussion. Flat topic threads, like phbBB uses, are so much better. Even Slashdot annoys me, because they hide replies by default. SHOW EVERYTHING ON ONE PAGE, DARN IT!

Tony Fisk said...

Quoth David:
THIS KIND OF THING CAN ONLY BE DONE NATIONWIDE

I can see why you'd want this, but it will be an interesting trick. Has anyone ever attempted a state resolution that is dependent on the resolution being passed in other states?

Monkyboy said:
Perhaps logic is actually just a disease?...the trick might be to infect them somehow....

Heh! You might appreciate a bit of doggerel I wrote a while back (eesh! a year already!?)

Anonymous said...

i was reading an SF website where they were speaking of future history (http://www.projectrho.com), and i met an interesting citation from Probapossible Prolegomena to Ideareal History by James Blish (1978):

Civilizations may last for centuries and be extremely eventful; Imperial Rome is a prime example.

...

But autumn ends, and a civilization becomes a culture gone frozen in its brains and heart, and its finale is anything but grand. We are now far into what the Chinese called the period of contending states, and the collapse of Caesarism.

In such a period, politics becomes an arena of competing generals and plutocrats, under a dummy ruler chosen for low intelligence and complete moral plasticity, who amuses himself and keeps the masses distracted from their troubles with bread, circuses, and brushfire-wars. (This is the time of all times when a culture should unite -- and the time when such a thing has become impossible.) Technology flourishes (the late Romans were first-class engineers) but science disintegrates into a welter of competing, grandiosely trivial hypotheses which supersede each other almost weekly and veer more and more markedly toward the occult.


Among the masses there arises a "second religiousness" in which nobody actually believes; an attempt is made to buttress this by syncretism, the wrenching out of context of religious forms from other cultures, such as the Indian, without the faintest hope of knowing what they mean. This process, too, leads inevitably towards a revival of the occult, and here science and religion overlap, to the benefit of neither. Economic inequity, instability and wretchedness become endemic on a hitherto unprecedented scale; the highest buildings ever erected by the Classical culture were the tenements of the Imperial Roman slums, crammed to bursting point with freed and runaway slaves, bankrupts, and deposed petty kings and other political refugees.


This has an eerie sound, in light of current situation....

Tangent said...

Thomas Jefferson once said something to the effect that America needed a revolution once every generation to remind the government that it should not take itself for granted and abandon its responsibilities.

And this is from one of our Founding Fathers. Interesting, no?

-----------

Speaking of Revolution... Lamont has won the Democratic Primary against Lieberman, and the Democratic Powers That Be are trying to talk Lieberman out of running as an Independant.

More interestingly is seeing how Lamont succeeded against a long-term incumbant. This article here goes into some detail as to what Lamont did, and how it helped him succeed. If this were taken as a template of political activism, then more challengers would have a chance of succeeding against incumbants.

The key thing was a lot of hard work and not resting on one's laurels. Lamont's victory is due to a lot of effort on his and other people's behalf. It is also due to having people working in every one of the state's municipalities. Lamont won by a 4% spread. If he'd ignored a couple municipalities... he might have lost.

What will be particularly telling on if America can be saved is if laws get enacted to keep future efforts like Lamont's from succeeding. If they do... if the incumbants shore up the walls of the levy and try to protect their jobs through manipulation instead of actually doing their jobs, then America is screwed... and it will take a revolution to oust these new-age aristocrats.

Hopefully it's not too late.

Rob H.

Nate said...

I thought these were interesting, and maybe reflective of some of the arguments here about how dangerous liberal extremists are. Basically, part of it probably applies to when you got drawn into politics, and why.

Here's the summary quote from Noam Scheiber:
" I'd put it this way: The first group basically thinks George W. Bush and the GOP are the biggest threat to the country these days. From that it follows that anyone who enables the Bush-era GOP is complicit in hurting the country. The second group — at least the portion that was supportive of Bill Clinton — came of age at a time when you could argue that the threats to the party (and the country) from the left were as big as the threats from the right. Back then, this group regarded the left wing of the Democratic Party as substantively wrong and politically self-defeating.

Most of the second group no longer thinks the far left represents as big a threat as Bush and the GOP; some, like Lieberman, still do. But, either way, it's tough to get over your formative political experiences, which is why there's still a lot of sympathy in this group for the Liebermans of the world.
- Article

And here's, Matt Yglesias's post

And, Ed Kilgore's response

And also, Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly, which led me to this whole discussion.

David Brin said...

quoth Tony: “Has anyone ever attempted a state resolution that is dependent on the resolution being passed in other states?

Indeed, states used to do a LOT of national work by consensus. The Uniform Business Code was negotiated among the states and then adopted by nearly all of them. It is, in fact, a good model for governance in an era when the federal govt is owned and operated by a narrow klepto cabal.

The THIRD WAY to defeat gerrymandering would be for a courageous California govern(ator) and Demo legislature to put this proposition boldly before Texas, Florida and Ohio, offering a swap. “We’ll end ours if you end yours.”

Of course “they” would refuse. But that will make them look bad nationally. And our GopGuv might not mind that, since he is the hope of the older style goppers.

Cool Blish quote... except that he published it during the anomie that prevailed during the 60s-70s, AFTER which we vigorously shrugged and created the Internet in a bust of micro-renaissance creativity...

...exactly of the kind that (according to Toynbee) typifies a YOUNG AND VIGOROUS CULTURE!

Yes, we are dipping again into cynicism, faux-and-too-real religiosity, fanatcism and aristocratism. So? I’ve seen it all and I know that it would not take much to turn it around. Give me an hour with Bill Clinton and a dozen other master communicators...

Tangent... we HAVE HAD REVOLUTIONS EVERY GENERATION! Some were violent, like the Civil War. Or ructious like the Civil Rights movement. Others were tech-driven like the Internet. But every one had the effect of revitalizing the four accountability arenas and preventing them from being repressed by new lords... the kind that will always arise and plague us so long as we are human.

The trick of “revolution” is not to replicate 1789 France or 1917 Russia. Blatant failures. But to replicate Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King. Who said “let’s roll up our sleeves and make a better world. End some travesties. Make others harmless. And make most of them simply quaint and obsolete, by dynamically moving on to new things.”

As for blog profiles, here’s what I think might be a nice step. A web site where six or seven of the host’s favorite bloggers are featured, with bios and fave “best-of” links...

...along with automatic posting of the title and 1st paragraph or two of their latest blog entry.

I think such a site might be very popular... and force some of us to put good, cogent summary paras up top!

Tangent said...

Excellent point, Mr. Brin.

Or as Teddy Roosevelt would have said, "Bully." Which used to mean something good. ;)

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks, David. Not being too sure of the details of how things are done over there, it's good to hear there are established precedents.

Maybe somebody should point Arnie at:
a) the third option,
b)the pledgebank and
c)speaking of precedents, and seeing as how he's been getting chummy with Tony Blair recently, Blair's contribution.

Even if all avenues of due legal process have been exhausted or subverted, There are still better tools for obtaining policy change than revolutions and civil warfare. Remember that this fall.

Mark said...

I assume everyone noticed the amazing results from last night's primaries! It is so rare for an active representative to loose any election, let alone a primary. I haven't read the paper yet, but I assume it is all about how the parties have shifted as a result. Amazing.

In Georgia, Democratic incumbant, radical leftist and conspiracy monger Cynthia McKinney (you might remember her from the scuffle she got into with House security earlier in the year) lost to the moderate former DeKalb County commissioner Henry C. Johnson Jr.

In Battle Creek, Michigan Republican representative Joe Schwarz, an ex-Navy officer and CIA operative with the endorsement of Bush, Cheney and Newt Gingrich lost to a fundamentalist preacher with the endorsement of Michigan Right to Life and the Club for Growth for being too liberal.

Again, I haven't followed all the talking heads, but I assume the liberal media is talking about how this proves the Democrats are the party of mainstream moderates and Republicans are all a bunch a wackos.... what? They aren't? Was there some other primary they are using to try to drive a different, perhaps opposite message? Huh.

:-)

In all seriousness, if you really want to understand what happened to Lieberman, the best explanation comes from his friend Simon Rosenberg, who tried to tell Lieberman what went wrong and how he could fix it, but the Senator just wouldn't, or couldn't, hear.

Anonymous said...

I've recently set up a blog/wiki hybrid using pmwiki and a couple of the plug-ins (aka recipes in pmwiki world). You can see it at http://www.davidaspitzley.org/habitrail . The only requirement is PHP; the pages are stored as flat files. The default installation includes a basic permissions management system. I've used pmwiki for a number of things, including my dissertation website, and there are plug-ins for comments, polls, Google Maps, MathML, and tons of other stuff. If you want to talk wiki, I can be contacted at dspitzle AT davidaspitzley DOT org.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that politics REALLY matter in the US?

Quoting from Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century

People in the United States have a broadly similar attitude toward politics with people of the Soviet Union. In the U.S., this is often referred to as "voter apathy", but it might be more accurately described as non-voter indifference. The Soviet Union had a single, entrenched, systemically corrupt political party, which held a monopoly on power. The U.S. has two entrenched, systemically corrupt political parties, whose positions are often indistinguishable, and which together hold a monopoly on power. In either case, there is, or was, a single governing elite, but in the United States it organized itself into opposing teams to make its stranglehold on power seem more sportsmanlike.

In the U.S., there is an industry of political commentators and pundits which is devoted to inflaming political passions as much as possible, especially before elections. This is similar to what sports writers and commentators do to draw attention to their game. It seems that the main force behind political discourse in the U.S. is boredom: one can chat about the weather, one's job, one's mortgage and how it relates to current and projected property values, cars and the traffic situation, sports, and, far behind sports, politics. In an effort to make people pay attention, most of the issues trotted out before the electorate pertain to reproduction: abortion, birth control, stem cell research, and similar small bits of social policy are bandied about rather than settled, simply because they get good ratings. "Boring" but vitally important strategic issues such as sustainable development, environmental protection, and energy policy are studiously avoided.