"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


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.


Blogger Michael said...

All I would like to add is that I hate Tom Delay.

Sunday, September 21, 2008 2:14:00 PM

Blogger CharlieMac said...

The article tells us that this sort of reaction to political protestors in the USA began about 200 years ago. It is not a new problem nor confined to the present administration.

One of our most precious rights is the right of free speech, but even that freedom has limits. This example is rightly held up as an example where power to enforce those limits has been abused.

I saw a young man and a beautiful young lady in a mall in Tallahassee Florida who were both wearing T-shirts that I thought violated the limits of the freedom of speech. It spelled out FUCK BUSH in large red letters.

The international symbol (circle and slash) for NO would have proclaimed the same message. I might not have agreed with it. That symbol would not make me want to bend a chair over his un-couth head either. Neither would it have spurred the desire to tell him how their shirts reflected badly upon the intelligence and morals of their race.

My wisdom that comes late with age kicked in and I quietly walked away. Partly because I knew in a city where the local paper is "The Tallahassee Democrat", I would be arrested if I did anything my heart was telling me to do.

So who violated the right of freedom of speech? Me by keeping silent or them for wearing T-shirts which expressed their opinion in a vulgar way?
Charlie Mac

Monday, September 22, 2008 6:37:00 AM

Blogger euphrony said...

I'm no expert here, but the judges definition of "funds" equals "cash" seems like it would/should have broad ramifications. For example, every time new funding is set aside for schools or roads (or whatever) the ruling would imply that the transaction must be in cash or else violate the mandate or "funding" the project. If checks are not "funds" then it seems likely that a bank transfer would not be, either. Seems a bit ridiculous.

Monday, September 22, 2008 8:40:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Euphrony, it is ridiculous.

Mac, I think the issue with the free speech case is that 1) it was a taxpayer-funded event, not a campaign stop and 2) these people had to call the ACLU and sue to get any kind of justice. She almost lost her job over having expressed a political opinion. While I agree with you that it isn't a new problem, the current administration has arguably taken repression of dissent to heights not seen in two centuries.

Monday, September 22, 2008 12:02:00 PM


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