Friday, July 29, 2005

Grover Norquist?

Why is it that the Democrats don't have a brilliant ideologue and organizer like Grover Norquist? In the August 1, 2005 New Yorker, author John Cassidy elaborates in The Ringleader on Norquist's power, despite never holding an elected office:

Grover G. Norquist, a former young Reaganite whom Newt Gingrich, the House Speaker from 1995 to 1998, described to me as "the single most effective conservative activist in the country," has helped bring about this transformation. For all its success, the right is an often fractious alliance of evangelical Christians, laissez-faire liberals, neoconservatives, corporate conservatives, and many other sects and sub-sects. Norquist plays a key role in keeping the coalition together, acting, by turns, as ringleader, visionary, and enforcer. "It's very unusual to have a leader in the conservative movement who can unite everybody," Charles Black, a veteran Republican strategist, says. "Grover's got a way of convincing people that they are important and that what they are doing is significant." Norquist has some critics on the right - the pundit Tucker Carlson once called him "a mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep" - but his ability to marshal disparate groups has earned him access to the highest levels of power. "There's nobody like Grover," Ralph Z. Hallow, a political reporter for the Washington Times, says. "He's close to the White House. That means Karl" - the Presidential advisor Karl Rove. "He's well liked on the Hill. And he's also trusted by the movement."

One might think at first glancing at the title of Cassidy's piece that the subject is going to be Karl Rove, but it is not. Now that Karl's tarnished image is sinking into the background, will Grover's winning good looks make him the front runner for not-elected-yet-surprisingly-powerful-old-white-man prize.

I wish the Democrats would get a clue and start professing their unabiding love for men as studly as Grover Norquist, maybe then we'd have some visionaries to pull our floundering party together.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Hoover Watch: Time for some accountability

Not sure if anyone has been following Mathbookgate over at Washington Monthly, but its worth noting how dispicable, or extremely irresponsible some of our buddies at Hoover have been:
Our story so far: Diane Ravitch wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week in which she bemoaned the "dumbing down" of math textbooks. As an example, she noted that the index for the letter "F" in a classic 1973 algebra textbook included topics such as factoring and functions, while the index for a newer text listed subjects like football and ferris wheels.

An emailer wrote to tell me this was wrong: the text in question has two indexes, and the topic index includes entries for functions, formulas, fractional exponents, and all the other usual topics of introductory algebra. Quoting the context index was just a bit of agit-prop designed to mislead readers about the content of the book.
Read the whole thing and the first few comments. I'd like to believe it's laziness...but that's still academically iresponsible.

Friday, July 01, 2005

On redistricting in California

Dan Waters makes an interesting point on the Schwarzenegger redistricting plan: the rhetoric is to take out the precinct-level gerrymandering by looking at turnout, allowing politicians to choose their voters rather than the other way around. But instead of looking at turnout and performance numbers -- how many Republican and Democrat votes each precinct produced -- the Schwarzenegger plan looks at voter registration numbers and tries to balance there. I don't see any reason why this is particularly more democratic than looking at turnout -- there doesn't really seem to be any reason to look at either factor. So what was Schwarzenegger thinking?

Fun fact: Republicans turn out in higher numbers than Democrats. So if you create districts that are 50% Democrat and 50% Republican, the Republicans win all of them.


From a friend of a friend, FYI -- it's scary seeing your own country doing things like this. We read about all these things in the news, but geez...

Hey all:

My uncle and aunt got taken away by Homeland Security last week, and have since been locked away in a detention prison in Virginia, and I need your help. I myself have little faith in this "contact your senators" approach -- but we're stuck here with very very few options, and we're using what little options we have to try to make some noise and get some attention paid to this. Go here to send a quick and easy fax... and for more information...

This is a disaster. Detention is a black hole - it's like talking to a crazy person. Ask the same question 5 times (like, uh, why did you take my aunt and uncle?) and you get 5 different answers (an airport investigation. they are out of status. we're deporting them. we're bringing them back in 2 hours. we have information that they're a high security risk to the US.) In reality, they're elderly folks in their 70s who are so law-abiding they don't even freaking jaywalk. They are struggling with an asylum case that recently got denied (again), and worked at Dulles airport. Those two things together apparently spell baaad news.

Here's the site with more information and a way to fax the senators in Virginia: We have a lawyer and are working on media stuff, but if you have any other brilliant ideas, shoot 'em on.

Here we go

She did it. Sandra Day O'Connor has retired. Bush could appoint a radically conservative justice with a regressive agenda on everything from the death penalty to women's rights to privacy within the next 24 hours. People For the American Way has responded quickly, setting up Keep in touch on this forum about other ways to stay active, and remember--it is never too early to call your Senators!

The stakes couldn't be higher.