Thank you SCOTUS

What happens when politicians are allowed to draw their own voting district maps.

 

What is, in my opinion, the most important ruling to come from this year’s Supreme Court session has barely registered a blip on the media radar.  Since it involves a rather mundane topic, it doesn’t garner the headlines like the PPACA or same-sex marriage does.  However, the ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314 can and should have a far-reaching and long-term impact on the political process in America.

This case ruled affirmatively that commissions voted on by the people are constitutional when it comes to drawing up redistricting maps.  Given how politicians are laser-like focused on protecting their own asses and their party’s rule, this is a step towards returning this country to a representative democracy.  What we have now is an absurd joke.  I remember reading a post from Nate Silver’s 538 Blog years ago how we’ve gone from more than 100 competitive House districts in the 1992 election to around 30 twenty years later.  That’s the long-term effect of gerrymandering.

This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see

I’m both surprised and appalled that nobody’s really been celebrating this ruling.  I’m surprised because this topic isn’t as glamorous as health care or same-sex marriage.  There hasn’t been the constant drumbeat in the media over the redistricting process, unlike the two aforementioned issues.  Redistricting is something that’s usually done behind closed doors and out of the public eye, and that has to change if we’re going to return to a government that works for the people instead of against the people.

I’m appalled for the very same reasons.  People should give a damn about how their voting districts are carved up.  They should be concerned when politicians move the maps around to concentrate a particular voting bloc to one district.  It may very well help “your team” this time, but it may be your ox being gored on the next go around.  I personally don’t think any politician should have a “comfortable seat” because that removes the incentive for them to represent ALL voters in their districts.  When a politician sits in a district filled with more of his own voters, he will tend to ignore or neglect those who wouldn’t vote for him anyway.  That’s wrong because whether a person votes for you or not, you are still their elected representative in Washington D.C.

I tip my hat to the SCOTUS on this decision.  I think this will decision will go a long way towards giving people a true voice in D.C. now.  At the same time, I expect this to be swept under the rug as quickly as possible.  If the voters in all states jumped on this bandwagon, it would be an effective countermeasure to the financial arms race going on to elect people beholden to monied partisan interest groups and individuals.  These types of commissions should be the law of the land to give American voters confidence that their elected representatives will better represent the people who elected them as opposed to those who lined their campaign coffers.  The party apparatus will undoubtedly loathe this decision because it takes power from them and gives it to the voters instead.

America’s Biggest Companies React To SCOTUS’ Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Brosephus:

These are tributes from companies from all walks of life paying tribute to the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage today.

As someone with friends and family who are in committed same sex relationships, I tip my hat to these companies today. Even as some people see it as sin, that is their right as we all have the freedom to exercise our religious beliefs. It’s all a part of the give and take of living in America.

Click “view original” to see the list of companies and their tributes.

Originally posted on Consumerist:

(Jeff Kubina) (Jeff Kubina)

While it might not seem like there’s a direct link to same sex marriage and our country’s biggest businesses, even before the Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that marriage is a constitutional right for any American, many major companies came out in support of same-sex marriage, saying those rights help them do business better. Today, some of those companies — and more — spoke out in celebration of the landmark ruling.

American Airlines: “We’re on board. Diversity strengthens us all & today we celebrate #MarriageEquality & the landmark #SCOTUS decision.”

Google/YouTube: “The United States took a step in the right direction today. https://goo.gl/yxnoHz #ProudToLove”

View original 983 more words

Heritage, hate, or both

Statue honoring Emma Sansom (Johnson) for her contributions towards helping Confederate troops that were chasing down Union troops through my hometown, Gadsden, Alabama. That statue sits right above the Coosa River on an island in Broad Street right in front of the municipal building. Click on the photo to read up on her.

 

I’ve thought long and hard over the whole Confederate Battle Flag issue.  Growing up as a Black man in the South, I can honestly say that I understand both arguments when it comes to heritage vs hate.  I’ve seen the monuments, watched the flag flap in the breeze, and I’ve walked the battlefields myself just to understand this part of our history and how it affected me personally.

Heritage

From the heritage viewpoint, hundreds of thousands of Southern men gave their lives trying to protect their way of life.  If you study the history of the United States and its formation, the Civil War was set into motion as soon as the ink was dry on the Constitution.  There is nothing wrong with honoring the sacrifice by those who fought and died for the Confederacy as they did what they felt they had to at that time.  Monday morning quarterbacking things now cannot accurately reflect the mindset of that time, so it is an exercise in futility trying to do so.

We have to acknowledge that the Confederate States of America is as much of a part of our history as Betsy Ross and Paul Revere.  Not all history is going to be glorious and happy.  Not all of those who choose to honor the Confederacy are bigots and/or racists.  That should not take away from us remembering our past.  We have to learn to accept ourselves for who we are, warts and all.  Our history is not perfect by any stretch of the means, and to know our past is important if we’re going to continue to work towards that more perfect union that our forefathers wrote of.

Hate

Those who see the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of hatred are more likely to be groups who cowered in fear over the acts committed by those who waved that flag while terrorizing fellow Americans.  This goes beyond slavery and the Civil War, and it behooves those who claim the heritage aspect to understand the viewpoint of this group and vice versa.

When the KKK rode out to intimidate Blacks after the Civil War, they did so and carried the battle flag with them. When the South protested integration, one of the acts of defiance was to raise the battle flag over the state capitols and other buildings.  Throughout all those acts, the symbol of heritage was hijacked and used as a symbol of hate.  Even today, some still use that symbol while spewing hatred, whether it’s hatred of the federal government or different classes and groups of people.  No matter how much heritage there is behind that banner, it has been stained by the hatred of a few.

My view on the flag

The flag is symbolic, but the symbolism depends on the person viewing it.  Two people can see the same identical thing and come away with two entirely different opinions.  This flag is proof of that.  It is both, a symbol of heritage, and a symbol of hate.  It does not belong on or around state buildings where governance takes place.  While it would acknowledge the past for those who fought bravely, it also acknowledges a past where people resisted acknowledging the civil rights of ALL Americans.

The flag should be preserved for all posterity.  The organizations that pay homage to the South should create a park where the flag can fly in memorial to those who fought for the Confederacy.  These organizations could also create museums where the history can be told of the story behind the flag.  I would suggest that the FULL history be told and not just the glorified, good stuff.  By no means should the states themselves be involved in this as that could be construed as the states sponsoring or advocating sedition or the rejection of civil rights for citizens who rightly deserve their rights respected.

By the same token, memorials should not be on the grounds of state capitols or other buildings of governance.  The state itself should separate itself from the issue and allow the private citizens to honor the CSA as they see fit.  No one should be trying to destroy or remove memorials on private property, and I would argue strongly against anyone advocating to do such.  Cemetaries should be left alone and any tributes there as well.  Many cities and towns, my current location included, have memorials to civil war soldiers on the town square.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and they should not be bothered either as long as the cities and towns don’t try to infringe on the rights of others who would want to place memorials for others in the same manner.

I could go on and on about this, but why should I?  I seriously doubt anyone’s mind will be changed by what I’ve written as most minds are set in stone over this issue.  My only hope is that people will open their minds to at least try to understand the opposing views and why they are as strong as the views they hold themselves.  Purposefully, I did not include a single, solitary image of any flag of the CSA.  That was by design.  I could show countless photos of memorials and battlefields where I have personally walked to show there’s no way of ever erasing this time period out of existence, but I’m sure we all know that’s not going to happen.  Instead of inflaming tensions, my goal is to educate anyone who stops by to read this.

Don’t mess with the meter maids

I came across this prank video, and I got a good laugh from it.  I’m still in a good place after my trip, and I refuse to deal with any hard, thought-provoking issues right now.

So, I’ll post this one here.  Sometime this week, I’ll see if there’s any photos from the trip that I can post here without revealing family or friends.  I may address the Confederate Battle flag issue as well.  Who knows?

Enjoy the video and have a good laugh.

Happy 40th Anniversary!!

Forty years ago today, the foundation was laid for the summer blockbuster movie.  Universal Studios released Jaws in a little more than 400 theaters on June 20, 1975 and quickly became the highest grossing movie ever at that time.

Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, the movie was scary, not because of what was seen, but what was only heard.  The now famous John Williams musical arraignment that signaled the shark probably left many a kid afraid to sleep at night.  Even today, people who were not even born when the movie came out knows that sound when they hear it.

I read the book when I was in the 5th grade, and it really helped me understand the movie that much better.  I was not one to venture off the shore at the beach anyway, and that movie and novel cemented that bit of protectionism in me.

If you read or know the history behind the shoot, you know about “Bruce”.  Bruce was the name given to the mechanical shark that didn’t work most of the time.  That’s why you don’t actually see the shark until more than halfway through the movie.  This movie and novel also helped to bring the story of the USS Indianapolis back into the minds of those who had long forgotten about her and her crew.

It has been said, though, that the delays caused by the sharks actually helped the movie. Certain scenes, according to early scripts being worked with at the time (it was constantly refined and improved upon), called for more overt use of the models but, because they often weren’t ready or weren’t in a condition to appear on film, Spielberg would have to improvise, using barrels to represent the shark’s location or shooting just the dorsal fin. This contributed to the suspense that one feels when watching the final film and forced the director to rely more on other parts of his production team. Perhaps that’s how John Williams came up with the two notes — an E and an F — that would go on to become a classic piece of suspense music. Played by Tommy Johnson on the tuba, those two notes — dun-dunh, dun-dunh — have the “effect of grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable,” Williams would later say, according to Lester Friedman’s Citizen Spielberg.–from The Atlantic, Shark Week: Remembering Bruce, the Mechanical Shark in Jaws

After typing this, I’m going to go pop the DVD in and watch Bruce do his thing in Martha’s Vineyard.  Thank you Peter Benchley, Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, and everyone else that scared the beejeezus out of this little kid back in the day.  As many have said this is one of the greatest movies ever made, it is undoubtedly one of the top three in my personal all-time favorites.