I was elated by the results of Virginia's 2017 election for the House of Delegates. The level of support for Democratic candidates was amazing. Surely, we'd be able to march into Richmond and make things right. Alas, my hopes were dashed when I realized that despite the overwhelming number of votes against them, the Republican Party still controls the House of Delegates. I set out to figure out why. I pulled data from a variety of sources (please be sure to check my source notes for details) and ran some analysis. It appears to me that gerrymandering will likely keep the House of Delegates in Republican hands for the foreseeable future due to an efficiency gap of nearly 16%. The way that the districts are apportioned means that a very large number of Democratic votes are wasted. The next re-apportionment happens after the 2020 census, but to be able to positively impact that, the Democrats need to control the House of Delegates or the U.S. Supreme Court needs to rule that this type of gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
Originally published February 28, 2003
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The Bush Adminstration has been presenting the Iraq issue as a choice between war or voluntary disarmament by Saddam. Since everyone knows — even the French — that Saddam will never voluntarily disarm, then that means war is the only alternative. Or is it? I happen to think that inspections are going well. They've turned up those missiles and some chemical artillery shells. At the very least, Saddam can't develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) while foreigners are cavorting all across Iraq. Sure, it will take time, but if the real goal is to prevent the use of WMD, then war is the last option you'll want to take.
And that, I believe, is the crux of the issue: George W Bush doesn't really care whether WMD will be used. He wants war because it will further his goals. What those are, I can only guess: increase his poll numbers, distract the public so his tax cuts and other domestic initiatives can sail through un-opposed, or perhaps he is just a trigger-happy cowboy. I don't know, but it scares the crap out of me.
This movie is on a short list of ones that I'll watch repeatedly, like a little kid with a Disney video. Set in pre-revolution, 18th Century France, the movie is based on a contemporaneous novel. The story of social intrigue and deceit could just as easily take place at any point in time since the beginning of history to today (Mean Girls, anyone?). I find it endlessly fascinating even though I am not the type to engage in such behavior. (I probably have more in common with Le Chevalier Danceny than I care to admit.)
What truly grabs my attention, though, is the period portrayed. This movie deserves the Oscars it won for Art Direction and Costume Design (in addition to the Screenplay, another well deserved award). The depiction of everyday life of the French nobility is captivating. From the opening scene with the main characters getting ready for their day to the faux good act of the Vicomte de Valmont in saving the peasant from the tax collector, you truly get a sense of the gap between rich and poor of that era. We seem to be heading in that direction today, hopefully we'll arrest it before we have our own 1789.
I have a secret that's been tearing me apart: I own every album Enya has put out. Ahhhh, now that I've admitted it, I feel so much better. I hope that others, too, can come out and live true to themselves. You shouldn't have to justify your taste in music. And yet, most of society looks down on New Age as a freak of musical nature, that it's but the first step that leads eventually to crystals and weird health care choices, and will put them to sleep. I knew, though, since I was little that something was different about me.
I Blame My Parents
Simon & Garfunkel performed the soundtrack to my earliest memory, which is still a vivid one. I'm in the back of our blue Buick station wagon, cruising through west Texas. Scarborough Fair is playing on the radio. I see it clearly: desolate countryside, the road bending off to the left in a wide arc.
Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
The key here, I believe, is memory. This song was burned in early, it fires off pleasurable neurons whenever I hear it, kept me listening so that later in life, I grew to appreciate the story the lyrics tell. I have found that this song is frequently covered by both new age and folk artists, but it is just one of many great songs on the original album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which includes Homeward Bound, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) and a mix of other good folk and sixties pop tunes.
- John Kennedy Toole
- Grove Press, Inc.
- First Black Cat Edition, Second Printing - 1981 - paperback - 415
I fear, in an alternate universe, I may be Ignatius J. Reilly. Perhaps it is my Irish Catholic upbringing that leads me to believe, in my dark moments, that despite my good intentions, I am worth less than a small pile of flea turds. When it gets bad, I break out this book and give it another read. The laughter it induces is enough to bring me out of my funk, but I also realize -- Damn! -- things could be worse.
It's a simple act, turning on a light.
"What are you doing? Turn that off!"
"Why? It's dark in here, I can't see."
"See how high up that light is?"
I've lived in this house for years, walked through this foyer countless times.
"We don't have a ladder high enough to reach it. If that bulb burns out, we'll never get it changed."
"If that's the case, why don't we use it until it does burn out?"
She looks at me like I'm a stupid child, one that may not make it past the 6th grade.
I turn off the light.
The laser ranging back and forth across the landscape betrays its approach. The machine makes no noise as it picks its way through the former suburb on six insect legs, looking for evidence of intrusion. It scans, measuring everything it can, and submits the data to central control. Scan, send. Scan, send.
"ALERT: 30 meters in a heading of 23.3°, investigate car. Current height 3.5 inches lower than last baseline. Threat Assessment: 21% likely; Pre-emptive Action Threshold: 35% certainty."
For having only 6 letters, my last name has been pronounced an infinite number of ways. I can still hear Coach Silly Bean (what was his real name, Sylvester? No, wait, I was never on the Cheerios) shouting at me in 7th grade PE:
la-NEER, get over here!
I'll answer to any, but the following two are the most correct:
These are the core principles that guide my beliefs.
We are all in this together
We cannot exclude anyone from the benefits our nation confers. All of us, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual preference or citizenship. True, being a citizen confers certain rights and responsibilities, but not being one doesn't put you beyond the pale.
Let's be careful about using the label "them".
We are the government
There is no other institution that allows all of us to act together. Businesses are beholden to their owners, religions to their god(s).
If we abdicate our responsibilities as citizens, since politics abhors a power vacuum, someone will step in and they will not likely care about everyone.
Consider, too, that since we are the government, the government acts in our name.
Good guys don't shoot first
It's tempting, I know. Holding back means good people will get hurt or killed. I agree, it's sucks in the short term. However, long term, it shows the world who the bad guys are and it makes sure that our wrath, when it is stirred, is properly directed.
This applies domestically as much as on the international scene.
Don't be a dick
We should work to make sure that all of those who need help, get it, even at the cost of some undeserving reaping benefit. I do not want to hurt those who need help in an effort to stick it to the bad actors.
Don't be stupid
Don't let our principles lead us off a cliff. We should constantly evaluate our actions and their impact. If something doesn't seem right, revisit the core principles. Maybe it's an unavoidable situation. Or maybe we need to readjust how we act.
Has this happened to you? Your first meal at a restaurant is enjoyable, maybe even in 5-star territory. You rave about the place to friends and family. You can't wait to go back. And when you do, it, well, kind of sucks. This happens to me more often than not. WTF?
First of all, I dread eating somewhere new to me. It's a risk. You have to accept the possibility of failure, something I'm not always willing to do. Sure, I'll do it when I'm on vacation, but it's not like I have much of a choice. In more familiar haunts, though, the good dishes I know call out to me. It's when I get bored that I take the risk.
So, I walk in to a new place. I'm in borderline panic mode. What do I do? Do I seat myself? Who do I talk to? There's too much noise, I can't concentrate? Oh, yes, table for two. I sit down, grab the menu. What the hell does this mean? Why can't they call things by normal names? A burger for $12?!? Ga! What? Yes, I'll have the special. No, just a glass of water, wait, what's on tap?
Then the food comes, it looks wonderful and smells even better. And, damn, it's tasty. Before I know it, my plate is empty. If I'm not eating with my wife, I may even lick the plate.
Maybe that's it. I start with such low expectations that the meal can't help but seem good. When I return, though, I'm more familiar, better able to judge. I notice the lapses in service. This time I'm expecting good food and disappointed when it's not the best I've had.
I still take the risk, though. How else will I find the gems?