Friday, September 30, 2005

The not-so-elusive Gerry-Mander

No longer and endangered species, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

Was reading quite a bit recently on Tom DeLay, his idictment, and all of the other alleged corruption that may or may not be taking place within the upper level of the GOP ranks. I will let the courts decide all of this but it wouldn't surprise me either way whethe rall of it is true or not true. When it comes to corruption within the political ranks nothing suprieses me, and there are often many disappointments. I don't willingly place a lot of faith in politicians, and this is unfortunate.

The sidebar discussion of course is impact this will all have on the Republican control of the House of Represenatives. Tom DeLay is claiming to be the victim of a partisan attack, one in which the Democrats hope to sway the outcome of the next House elections. Certainly there is at least a bit of truth to this as after reading the rather flimsy indictment itself most would agree that this a charge that could and probably should be applied against many if not most of our elected officials.

But is a possible party change in the House of Representatives likely given the circumstances? Will people be swayed to change party majority?

The best answer is yes and no. Yes, no matter what the outcome of many of these high profile cases are, the negative press will likely sway the opinions of enough voters but no it will not likely result in a change of House seats at least until 2010 and this is all due to a little creature affectionately known as the Gerry-mander (pictured above).

So what is a Gerry-mander and how would it effect the upcoming House electtions?

Gerrymandering is the process in which voting districts are deliberately rearranged to influence the outcome of an election. Gerrymandering has been with us since the arly days of the repbublic. Back in 1812, Massachusets Governor Elbridge Gerry drew a legislative district that looked like a salamander to get his allies elected. The press dubbed it the Gerry-mander. The incident or the term had little negative bearing on this political career though, as he was eventually elected as Vice President of the United States (serving under Madison) in the same year.

In 2000, the lines drawn by Texas legislature after the Census did not favor Tom Delays. So he worked to elect Republicans to the state Legislature so that they could override the map drawin in 2001 with a new one more to his favor. It worked and five democrats were defeated. Through his efforts, and other efforts like his, what the real result is though is the ability to elect a House of Representatives. By all reasonable measures only 20 of the 435 districts are in any sense competitive.

So the Democrats must be outraged, right?

Well, as some have said,
politics do make interesting bedfellows. You see, politicians have become most concerned with and effective at one thing, and that is to get reelected. With only 16 members of the House defeated in 2000(half of which by other incumbents), it is clear that there is at least some cooperation betweeen the political aisles.

You see throughout the political history of the U.S., Democrats and Republicans have nicely carved up the U.S. map as if it were a Thanksgiving Turkey. At times Republicans have cut deals with Democrats to create majority black districts. This process essentially ensures the election of a Black, Democratic Congressman and/or the election of a black state legislature while keeping the surrounding districts safely Republican.

A more robust of U.S. gerrymandering can be found here.

So have America's political parties subverted American democacy? That may be up for date. What is not up for debate though is that one should not expect any swift 'sway' in the House of Representatives. Let's not even get started on the House of Congress!

Posted by mightymerk, 7:46 AM | link | (0) comments |

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I Blame Chirac

Terrorist Plotters Foiled In Paris

Of course some are not happy with France's agressiveness in this matter, and no I do not actually blame Jacque Chirac.
Just serves as a healthy reminder that the worlds problmes are not just about George W., the invasion of Iraq or the Kyoto Protocol or any one thing. Should be obvious, but to some it is clearly not.

As a hypothetical world leader, pick your strategy: Sit and Wait (hope they go away), or Watch and Listen(and react when you know something is up).

Other recent related tidbits of interest:

Al-Zarqawu #2 killed in Iraq

al_Jazeera journalist jailed
for collaborating with a terrorist group.

Pakistan calls Osama Bin Laden Isolated
Posted by mightymerk, 8:41 AM | link | (0) comments |

Monday, September 19, 2005


MIGHTY MERK-el, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

Angela Merkel records a narrow win in the German elections.

Things are far from certain though as one of the things being disussed is a possible coalition between the SPD and CDU (and you thought American politics was the work of great fodder). Is it a sign of the times?

Though a catchy title to this post, Mrs. Markels victory was far from mighty and German politics remain far from certain, at least for now.

Posted by mightymerk, 1:01 PM | link | (0) comments |

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Election Germany

Mighty Merkel?, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

There is an election in Germany today.

Kanzler Gerhard Schroeder is known as the comback kid of German politics considering he has several times faced certain defeat only to change the tide of German public opinion right before an election.

Angela Merkel stands to be not only the first female kanzler of Germany, but also the first Kanzler from the former communist East Germany.

Though Frau Merkel had early double digit poll leads, it is now being reported that with close to 25% of German voters still undecided, the election should be a lot closer. This follows what happened in the 2002 German election which had Herr Schroeder topped Edmund Stoiber by extremely slim margins. Many attribute Schroeders win largely the result of his handling of the Danube flodding as well as his staunch opposition to the then anticipated war in Iraq.

This election has many implications.:

Many believe that if Angela Merkel is elected there will be a new fresh relations with the United States and could serve as a catalyst to the EU (as a whole body). Some also believe that with a Merkel victory there will be a greater divide between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in Germany. Angela Merkel has a 'Forbes-like' flat tax proposal. Even something as Turkey's entry in the EU cold be a matter of dispute with a Merkel victory.

A Schroeder victory would virtually assure more of the same in Germany if you believe his detractors. Higher unemployment, a strong backbone against 'American-agendas', a continued Franco-German domain over the EU. His focus on renewable energy sources with less dependence on oil is also ringing home a strong message and should be continued.

In the end, I certainly do not claim to know what is best for Germany. Along with the experts, I anticipate that it will be a close election. Personally I view the Shcroeder government as deeply lacking in substance and I have always been a personal fan of the CDU since Helmut Kohl. I know a great many Germans who are desperately looking for work, but yet lack any real drive to find it because the social welfare programs of Germany are too great. The average age of a Germany graduate is something like 28 years old. That's half a life (almost) spent taking in welfare programs without contributing towards them.

Last but not least, would it be so bad to have a Mighty Merkel in Germany office? ;)

Posted by mightymerk, 5:55 AM | link | (0) comments |

Friday, September 09, 2005

Kindergarten Time - at merk's house (and a brief history)

We All Start As A Blank Slate, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

Well for many parents it is back to school time. In the town I live, September 6th was the official first day of school for the new year (or the day my mother would endearingly call "The Real Mothers Day".

For me, this September 6th gets earmarked in my Rolodex of memories because my 5 year old daughter started kindergarten.

A personal recollection: Standing at the bustop, watching our daughter get on the school bus (all by herself)

This little girl, with the bright blue eyes, a smile that could melt a thousand hearts and the natural curiousity that has yet to be satsified. This little girl, who I held in my arms just minutes after delivery without so much as a grunt or cry...this little girl that is my heart. She give both my wife and I a hug and without so much as a flinch, steps into the bus and takes her seat. With a few waves to us (and her Aunt and grandma) she leaves. For me such an event might as well have my child departing on a space shuttle launch or lunar landing.

Little daughter, you make mommy and and daddy so proud. Continue to love life the way you do little angel.

The history of Kindergarten:

From the German words kinder: meaning children(s) and garten: meaning garden = literally translates to Children's Garden

The first Kindergarten was founded German Friedrich Froebel in 1837. His idea was that young children needed to learn and grow from their social interaction with other children. Through systematic the children are able to learn discrimnate, analyze, share and solve problems. Many of his original theories and practices are still used in todays kindergarten programs.

Many of the earlier kindergartens were established to help the children of impovershed families and/or had special needs. Often times nurseries would coincide with kindergartens.

Kindergaretn remains a foundation of the educational platform across the United States and the world today. It is from this 'garden' that our little seeds first get nurtured and hopefully develop into healthy sprouts! ;)

Posted by mightymerk, 7:11 AM | link | (3) comments |

Monday, September 05, 2005

What if? - The New Orleans Blame Game

As usual, and expected, George Bush is now taking a beating for his response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Actually in some circles Bush is to blame (German language) for the cause of Hurricane Katrina. Everything including the kitchen sink is being thrown at the administration.

Now it too early for my liking to start playing the blame game. In fact, as with September 11th I probably won't play it at all. That said, when the last soul has been saved and the last drop of water has been removed from the streets some analysis of what could have been done; quicker, faster and better will need to be done.

Again much has been made the failings of George Bush and the Federal Government, examples here, here and here.

What is being said to the contrary? Not much really, but if one wants to be at least a little bit more critical about this perhaps the following should be answered?

What if...

George Bush had not personally called the Governor of New Orleans and personally request a mandatory evacuation? (an act called "unprecedented")

The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines had already cancelled all flights.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

What if...

The State of Louisiana's Emergency Operations Plans had been followed and the 205 school buses and 364 public transit buses had been used. Could an additional 30,000 people (per trip) been rescued? Would Mayor Ray Nagin still have been ragin?

Why didn't you deploy the buses during the mandatory evacuation, Mayor?

What if...

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D), had not resisted a proposed legal memorandum from George W. Bush asker her to request a Federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans?
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law.

What if...more people put their political activism aside at least for a short while longer and helped with the relief?

I continue to encourage those who can, to help.

American Red Cross

Catholic Charities

Hat Tip: Doug Ross

Posted by mightymerk, 3:13 PM | link | (3) comments |