Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards Takes on Coulter

I don't even want to mention Ann Coulter here because I hate providing her with even the slightest bit of free publicity, but I do want to point out this "Hardball" exchange between her and Elizabeth Edwards. Mrs. Edwards called into the show to ask Coulter to stop the vicious personal attacks on John Edwards and other political figures, saying "The things she has said over the years, not just about John but about other candidates, lowers the political dialogue at precisely the time we need to raise it."

She added "It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can't have a debate about issues if you're using this kind of language."

Naturally, Coulter sneered off the request and accused Mrs. Edwards of asking her to stop speaking entirely (which was hardly the point ... not that it wouldn't be a good thing).

Mrs. Edwards is entirely correct, of course - but until t.v. bookers stop putting Coulter on their shows and people stop buying her hate-filled books, she's not going anywhere.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Big News from Bloomberg

He appears on the cover of Time with Arnold Schwarzenegger with the headline "Who Needs Washington?"

He's the subject of a BusinessWeek special report, "The CEO Mayor: How New York's Mike Bloomberg is creating a new model for public service that places pragmatism before politics."

He's rumored to have recently had a "long, private discussion" with former Dem senator David Boren about the possibilities of an independent run in '08.

On Monday, he spoke at Google HQ, where he declared "The country is in trouble" and went after the current crop of presidential candidates, the campaigns, and the debates. Of the latter, he said "They have absolutely nothing to do with the job and the qualifications. And they don't tell you anything about whether or not any of those candidates would be good or bad presidents. What they really say is, did they memorize their notes of ‘What to say if …' and whether their staff was able to anticipate. If you look at both debates, they pandered, what I would argue, the same ways."

At an LA conference last night titled Ceasefire! Bridging the Partisan Divide, Bloomberg said "Washington is sinking into a swamp of dysfunction….We're talking about a serious and harmful addiction here. Unfortunately, there's no ‘Promises' clinic for partisanship." He added "When you go to Washington these days, you can feel a sense of fear in the air, the fear to do anything or say anything that might affect the polls or give the other side the advantage or offend a special interest group. The federal government isn’t out front - it’s cowering in the back of the room."

And just this evening, Mayor Bloomberg has announced that he is leaving the Republican Party and declaring himself unaffiliated. His statement reads in part:

"Although my plans for the future haven’t changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our City.

A nonpartisan approach has worked wonders in New York: we’ve balanced budgets, grown our economy, improved public health, reformed the school system and made the nation’s safest city even safer.

We have achieved real progress by overcoming the partisanship that too often puts narrow interests above the common good. As a political independent, I will continue to work with those in all political parties to find common ground, to put partisanship aside and to achieve real solutions to the challenges we face.

Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology. Working together, there’s no limit to what we can do."

Tim Russert said tonight on NBC News that Bloomberg is preparing for a potential '08 run, depending on where things are in early 2008 and whether he concludes it's possible to go all the way.

I still say we could do much worse. Go for it, Mike.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Redistricting Watch: Play the Game

Researchers from the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, and School of Cinematic Arts have unveiled The ReDistricting Game, a free online tool which "exposes how redistricting works, how it is abused, and how it adversely affects our democracy. It provides hands-on understanding of the real redistricting process, including drawing district maps and interacting with party bosses, congresspeople, citizen groups and courts. Players directly experience how crafty manipulation of lines can yield skewed victories for either party - effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians."

A formal debut of the game will occur on 13 June in Washington, where developers will meet with Rep. John Tanner (lead sponsor of H.R. 543, the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act) and other key players in the reform movement. The event will take place at 10 a.m. in Rayburn B-318.

Beyond the game (which is very well done and quite interesting), there is some really excellent information about various reform efforts, a resource guide, and some other goodies at the site.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Redistricting Watch: Restarting the Clock

It's been a while, but now that the new Congress is in place it's time once again to start thinking about reforming the way congressional districts are created.

Reps. John Tanner and Zach Wamp have reintroduced the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act for the 110th Congress; this time around it's H.R. 543. It has already gained 23 cosponsors, with hopefully many more to come. Like last session's version, H.R. 543 would create independent redistricting commissions for each state, to take the redistricting process out of partisan hands, and would ban mid-decade redistricting efforts.

Earlier this week, Reps. Tanner and Wamp, as well as Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California (the sponsor of a different redistricting plan) sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and ranking member Lamar Smith urging them to hold hearings on the redistricting reform proposals. They write, in part:

"Since the time of Elbridge Gerry, state legislatures have used their power to draw Congressional maps for partisan gain. Improvements in technology and an increasing willingness to participate in "mid-decade redistricting" have taken the gerrymandering process to new extremes. As a result, large numbers of voters are being marginalized while the climate in Washington, D.C., has grown more polarized.

Redistricting reform is not and should not be a partisan cause. Both Democrats and Republicans have engaged in gerrymandering and the recent increase in mid-decade redistricting may spark retaliatory measures in other states. That is why good government advocates, public interest groups, major newspaper editorial boards and dozens of Members of Congress have demanded that some type of reform be instituted to guarantee a voice for every voter. It is time for the House of Representatives to examine the process used for drawing its Members' districts.

Under Article I of the Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate how districts for the House are drawn. Again, we ask that you schedule a hearing in the Committee on the Judiciary to review the fundamental problems with the flawed redistricting process and consider some of the solutions that have been proposed."

I strongly support their efforts, and would urge everyone to contact the Judiciary Committee and/or Reps. Conyers and Smith to express their support for hearings about this important issue. Also, if you haven't yet done so, please contact your own representative and ask them to support H.R. 543 by signing on as a cosponsor.

Previous Redistricting Watch posts here (full list at end of post).