weekend this & that
- Did the troop surge work in Iraq, or was it actually ethnic cleansing? Here's an interesting, if inconclusive study that looks at patterns of light emission. Given that Iraq is a war zone, there are many other potential explanations - namely that the electrical grid probably doesn't work everywhere all the time. The study (full text available here) tries to account for this, but I'm not sure they adequately controlled for it, and am not enough of an expert on GIS mapping to make a fair criticism. Also, they only used a few nights' worth of light signatures to draw their conclusions, which could mean they're just measuring anomalies. This is why scholars like me do fieldwork; we're just not convinced that you can get the whole story by making observations from afar.
- We finally got a ruling from a state appeals court on the TRMPAC scandal. TRMPAC, you will recall, was a political action committee set up by former Congressman Tom DeLay to funnel contributions to candidates for the Texas legislature who would back his ultimately successful redistricting plan. As you may also recall, TRMPAC's employees managed to violate Texas' one and only campaign finance law - no corporate contributions to political activities of political campaigns - by laundering $190,000 through the Republican National Committee. In a feat of incredible rhetorical and partisan gymnastics, three Republican judges decided that TRMPAC did not violate the election law. Why? Because they used checks instead of cash, and the word "funds" in the law apparently must mean "cash." This is so appalling I don't even know what to say. Andrew Wheat, who uncovered this whole travesty to begin with, has great analysis of the problem with electing partisan judges here.
- A travel writer spends a weekend in Austin and barely manages to break free of the SoCo/South 1st jungle. Typical.
- Here's a chronicle of some of the ways the Bush administration has violated 1st Amendment free speech protections - on the taxpayers' dime. Of all the things the Bush administration has done with which I disagree, their assualt on basic Constitutional protections and provisions is the most unacceptable. You just aren't supposed to get to rule in an authoritarian manner in this country. And cleaning up the mess is going to take years and years.