Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Meanwhile in the Surreal
May 13, 2003 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Texas Rangers are facing a unique task. They have been sent to arrest over 50 Democrats and drag them back to Austin, TX. The problem: They've fled Texas to 'hide' in Oklahoma. The reason why they left the state? To stop a quorum on Congressional Redistricting.
posted by RobbieFal (26 comments total)

 
Already being discussed here
posted by adnanbwp at 2:09 PM on May 13, 2003


Well.. ok then..
posted by RobbieFal at 2:13 PM on May 13, 2003


Matt, I request that you do not delete this double post.

First: The Texas Ranger angle was brought to that post as a great theory in the comments. Now, we're watching it real-time-like.

Second: This post was remarkably well crafted, with complete information and no obvious bias.

Thank you for considering this plea, or not. ;-)
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:47 PM on May 13, 2003


I will move to Texas and vote for any lawmaker that initiates a high-speed chase.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:20 PM on May 13, 2003


Sometimes it's fun to be in Texas. Here's hoping the Dem's little stunt works. It's already scary enough with Rick Perry and Tom Delay getting their hands all over this obvious gerrymandering.
Unfortunatly, the bigger loss might be going to the Dem's, as the PR battle is seemingly being won by the GOP.
posted by nadawi at 4:11 PM on May 13, 2003


I'm surprised that this is still up. My second post was sort of a concession to 'you can kill this off'

but thanks for respecting the Texas Rangers and all the others. ;)
posted by RobbieFal at 5:30 PM on May 13, 2003


This is like politics out of old Daniel Webster's day...

Go Dems!!!
posted by kaibutsu at 7:41 PM on May 13, 2003


From the most recent update:
Republicans had constructed signs and gimmicks ridiculing their colleagues. They plastered the Democrats' faces on milk cartons, and Susan Weddington, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Texas, borrowing from the "most wanted Iraqi" cards, announced she had playing cards featuring the missing legislators.

Nice. Try putting Bush's face on a pack of playing cards and you'll be strung up in the streets, but vague threats against fellow congressmen are just fine.
posted by jpoulos at 7:54 PM on May 13, 2003


Nice. Try putting Bush's face on a pack of playing cards and you'll be strung up in the streets, but vague threats against fellow congressmen are just fine.

Oh please. They are "wanted." This isn't advocating their death or even harm. It's a joke, a gimmick. Just like the dems fleeing the state.
posted by Plunge at 8:07 PM on May 13, 2003



posted by troutfishing at 8:45 PM on May 13, 2003



posted by homunculus at 8:54 PM on May 13, 2003


Hmm... I thought they canceled Walker Texas Ranger. I will have to tivo this episode.

Glad to see Chuck Norris is still working...

but seriously...

If they roles were vice versa would anyone of you have the same stance?

::cricket::

I did not think so ;)
posted by Dreamghost at 12:46 AM on May 14, 2003


< OOJP &gt;
Wait, the Texas Rangers? Are we sure that they can be safe for the job? I mean, not only is there the Bush connection, we know that at least one has a conflict of interest stemming from his position as a paid shill for the big pharmaceutical companies. Just to be safe, I think it should probably be someone free from US based national interests, maybe the Mounties. Oh, wait...
&lt; /OOJP &gt;
posted by Dreama at 3:21 AM on May 14, 2003


If they roles were vice versa would anyone of you have the same stance?

Yup. It was really hardball politics to try to re-redistrict, verging on stupidly so. Especially to violate one of the fairly consistent norms of redistricting: people with seats get more-or-less their same district back, and the majority gets its way with new seats (or seats lost). Declaring open season on sitting incumbents -- especially where you can see the axe being ground -- is just establishing the precedent, and what's good for the goose now will likely be good for the gander whenever the Democrats take back the legislature.

Escalating up to denial of a quorum probably isn't the smartest thing for the medium or long run either. Whenever the Democrats do get control of the legislature back, they can expect to see this from the other side.

That said, it's worth pointing out that trying to get a non-gerrymandered set of districts is basically impossible. There's no neutral set of districts; every possible set will give someone an advantage and someone a disadvantage. Though I suppose you could randomize them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:42 AM on May 14, 2003


ROU_xenophobe: That's an answer. I have very little in common with my neighbors. You could just take every X number of people and send them a card: you're in District ###. Please vote at any polling place.

Whoops. We'd lose districts of "like-minded" people. And that's a bad thing....

Nevertheless, how can a set of congresspersons really think running away is the answer. I'm sure there are other ways they can screw up this legislation.
posted by ?! at 4:56 AM on May 14, 2003


My favorite quote from this entire incident:


"Some are speculating this request from the Texas Governor's office concerns an effort to locate missing Texas House Democrats," Madrid wrote. "If so, Texas should understand that since ski season is over, the Santa Fe Opera has not begun and President Bush was just in town, I don't think they are in Santa Fe now. Nevertheless, I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the look out for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy." - Patricia Madrid (New Mexico's Attorney General)

I think I'm falling for this lady. Be still my beating heart!
posted by nofundy at 5:02 AM on May 14, 2003


This whole issue has me toying with algorithms in an attempt to mathematically draw districts encompassing equal populations, relying on US census data, with each district having a minimum perimeter without splitting contiguous municipalities wherever possible.

If I come up with anything working, I'll let y'all know after I patent it. 8)
posted by Cerebus at 6:17 AM on May 14, 2003


This is great. All forty are now holed up in a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, OK, holding press conferences and enjoying the free HBO.
posted by luser at 6:34 AM on May 14, 2003


I hope they liked the pizza I sent them.
posted by nickmark at 7:42 AM on May 14, 2003


That said, it's worth pointing out that trying to get a non-gerrymandered set of districts is basically impossible. There's no neutral set of districts; every possible set will give someone an advantage and someone a disadvantage.

Here's an idea: when it comes time for redistricting, anyone who wants to can submit a division of the state into districts. Have some standard computer-readable format for the specification of the proposed districts. Feed them all into a computer. First, eliminate those that do not meet the criteria that each district have an equal number of voters (within whatever tolerance is deemed acceptable). Of the plans that pass that test, add up the total length of all district boundaries, and the one with the shortest total boundaries wins.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:28 AM on May 14, 2003


First, eliminate those that do not meet the criteria that each district have an equal number of voters (within whatever tolerance is deemed acceptable).

For congressional districts, there is essentially no tolerance.

Of the plans that pass that test, add up the total length of all district boundaries, and the one with the shortest total boundaries wins.

That's no guarantee of delegations that are "balanced" in some meaningful, commonsensical way. Take this state with 25 people:

RRRRR
RDDDR
RDDDR
RDDDR
RDDDR

Make districts that are just horizontal lines. Congratulations! You've successfully gerrymandered against the R's, who will take only one seat or five though they're a majority of voters.

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:51 AM on May 14, 2003


No, it's no guarantee that delegations are balanced. It just makes it much more likely. If you know of a system that guarantees balanced delegations, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear it.

You've deliberately set up an example in which my system gives poor results. If I know the system by which districts are decided first, and then I'm allowed to provide a hypothetical map of voters, I'm sure I can come up with a map that "breaks" any given system.

With the electoral college, it's possible that 12 voters voting for candidate A (if only one voter votes in each of the 12 largest states) could elect their candidate over tens of millions of votes for candidate B (all the voters in the other 38 states). But this is so very unlikely that not even staunch opponents of the EC system use it as an argument against the EC. My point is that highly unrealistic, but theoretically possible situations (such as your state with 25 people, or only one voter voting in each of the 12 largest states) that "break" a given system do not prove anything about the suitability of that system for real-world use. Real states have hundreds of thousands, or millions, of voters, and real states do not have voters neatly arranged at the intersections of a square grid.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2003


Homeland Security Department Used to Track Texas Democrats
posted by homunculus at 3:40 PM on May 14, 2003


No, it's no guarantee that delegations are balanced. It just makes it much more likely.

Why should I think that?

You've deliberately set up an example in which my system gives poor results. If I know the system by which districts are decided first, and then I'm allowed to provide a hypothetical map of voters, I'm sure I can come up with a map that "breaks" any given system.

Exactly. The system you proposed will output districts that most people might find perverse for some distributions of voters. And a not terribly weird distribution, either -- that's just a stylized center-city and suburbs.

So will any other system, for other distributions of voters. So why should I care about the total length of boundaries? What good things will come from having short boundaries, aside from maybe an aesthetically pleasing map?

Real states have hundreds of thousands, or millions, of voters, and real states do not have voters neatly arranged at the intersections of a square grid.

Sure, but surely then a real state, being more complex, is going to be more prone to weird fuckups than a simplified, stylized representation of a state, not less prone. There are lots more ways that a real state could go blooey than a grid.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:29 PM on May 14, 2003


Dreamghost--
If roles were reversed? You mean if the Democrats held the majority in Texas and they were trying to redraw the districts in an obvious gerrymandering bid and the Republicans went to Oklahoma because there was little else they could do to stop the process? If that's what we're talking about, then hell yeah I'd be in support of the Republicans, especially if the Democrats in power were as evil as Rick Perry, Tom Delay, and Tom Craddick.
posted by nadawi at 7:53 PM on May 14, 2003


You know, ROU, I missed something I should have realized before: your "straight lines across" is not the best solution, even for your simplified, uniformly dense, 5x5 grid. If you divide the districts as follows:

11122
13332
13322
44555
44455

The total district boundaries (not counting the edges of the state) are only 17, as compared to 20 in your "lines straight across" proposal. I'll let you work out the results of the voting for yourself, given these districts.

What good things will come from having short boundaries, aside from maybe an aesthetically pleasing map?

It's an objective system, not inherently biased towards either party, thus avoiding the sort of shenanigans we're seeing in Texas. Of course, if your vision of government is for it to be amusing, then the Texas situation is a good thing. I, for one, prefer not to be entertained by political infighting.

a real state, being more complex, is going to be more prone to weird fuckups than a simplified, stylized representation of a state, not less prone. There are lots more ways that a real state could go blooey than a grid.

Why should I think that?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:08 AM on May 15, 2003


« Older The National Priorities Project Database...  |  Deep impact.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments