Politics Archive

Friday, July 18, 2014

The 2014 Texas Republican Platform - Follow-Up

Republican ElephantI'd originally posted my entry on the latest Texas GOP platform based on a draft version of the platform. Now that the official platform has been released, I went and updated a few of the quotes to match the final version, and tweaked a bit of my own commentary. If you want to read this updated version, you can find it at the same place as before, The 2014 Texas Republican Platform.

To add a bit more to this post to make it somewhat worthwhile, I did some word counts on the platform to see how often religious themes came up, since it seemed like quite a bit when I was reading it. The count was nothing fancy - just typing a word into the search box in Adobe Reader and counting how many times Adobe found it. And for comparison, I did the same thing with the Democratic Party platform. Below is the table of how often each term appeared. For reference, there are 37-38 pages of content in the Republican platform (depending on if you consolidate the pages that were only half full), and 61 pages of content in the Democratic platform.

# Appearances of Terms in Party Platforms
Term Republican Democratic
judeo-christian 4 0
christian 5 0
faith 7 2*
faith based 5 1
god 12 1
bible 3 0
church 4 2
religious 19 9
religion 2 8
*Technically, faith was in the Democratic platform 3 times, and faithfully once, but only two of those instances were in a religious sense.

For the Republicans, that's an awful lot of religion squeezed into a political party's platform for what's supposed to be a secular government with separation of church and state. The Democratic Party platform has much less overtly religious language, which is an even starker contrast considering their platform is 1.7 times longer. And the context was different, as well. The Democrats mostly wanted to protect religious freedom, while keeping government and religion separate. The vast majority of the references in the Democratic platform were in the section, 'Religious Freedom', where you'd expect them to be, not interspersed throughout the platform in unrelated sections like foreign policy.

I've come across a few good articles from other sources addressing this platform. They're much shorter that what I wrote, which is probably a good thing since they're the right length to keep people interested. Having reviewed the platform myself, I can say that the selection of planks in those articles isn't cherry picking, but representative of the overall craziness and extremism. So, if you think my post is overwhelmingly long, or you want to see what other people have to say, here are the links. The first one from the New Yorker is my favorite.

Updated 2014-07-18: Added the Democratic Party column to the table and the related commentary.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Foreshadowing of More Shenanigans from the Texas SBOE (Social Studies Textbook Review Panels)

TEA LogoWell, the Texas State Board of Education looks like it might be preparing for another foray into the culture wars rather than just focusing on sound education. According to a recent release from the Texas Freedom Network, SBOE Politics as Usual: Textbook Review Once Again Plagued by Lack of Expertise, a few of the board members have appointed idealogues to the Social Studies and economics textbook review panels, rather than qualified academics or historians. To quote from the release:

TFN analyzed panels assigned to review textbooks for courses such as U.S. and world history, geography and economics. Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.

But the TFN analysis found that political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got places on the panels. One reviewer, Mark Keough, a Republican nominee for the Texas House District 15 seat, got an appointment to a U.S. History panel after being nominated by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill. Keough, a pastor with degrees in theology, has no teaching experience listed on his application form. Keough recently told the Montgomery County Tea Party that he does not "believe that there is a separation of church and state in the Constitution."

Ugh. I hope that in the end it's no worse than the science textbook review process, where the idealogues only had minor influence in the process, and in the end, the textbook manufacturers didn't capitulate to unfounded objections. And the current SBOE isn't quite as crazy as it was a few years ago, so maybe that'll be the case, but their past performance still has me worried.

If you want to do something about this, you can go visit the TFN page to sign their petition, or of course, write your representative on the SBOE.

For background, and why I'm so worried about this news, here are my previous blog entries dealing with Texas education issues (in chronological order, with the newest at the top). Like I've probably said before, there are a lot of good things about Texas, but the politics can be infuriating sometimes.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The 2014 Texas Republican Platform

Republican ElephantThe 2014 Texas Republican Party Platform has been approved. I've made a habit out of reviewing several of their previous platforms (2008, 2010, and 2012), so I figured I'd take a look at this one, as well.

For anyone interested in reading it, the platform can be found at the following link:
Republican Party of Texas Platform 2014

It's amazing just how bad the platform is. It seems like the type of ranting you'd hear from your crazy uncle at family reunions, not the official platform of what's supposed to be a respected political party. It's not just a few isolated statements here and there taken out of context, but statements throughout the entire platform. When I was skimming through a draft copy of the platform, I'd jump a few pages at a time at random and see what that section had to say, and every time but one, there was at least one outrageous plank. The lone exception in my random jumping was when I landed at the end of page 39:

The only part of the 2014 Texas Republican Platform I didn't disagree with

Yes - it's blank. About the only way for the Texas Republican Party to not say something outrageous is to just not say anything at all. Okay, that's not completely true. When they're extolling the virtues of mom, baseball, and apple pie, they mostly say things I agree with. It's when they get past the platitudes that the lunacy really comes forth.

To give a humorous introduction before I get into my own review, I'll recommend the Wait But Why entry, The Battle to Lose the Independent Vote, as a fairly accurate representation of how I feel about the current state of politics - Democrats win the sane vote by default, not because of any particular merit on their part, but simply because the Republican Party has become so crazy.

Since this year's platform is very similar to those from years past, I'm going to quote/paraphrase my impression from previous entries: This platform has simply reinforced what I already knew about the Republican Party - their mangling of history, the injection of religion into politics, their opposition to science, the suppression of free speech, their bigotry towards homosexuals, their isolationist views on international issues, their desire to impose their morality on everybody, their disregard for the checks and balances in the federal government with their desire to limit the judiciary's power, and, surprisingly, how much of the platform was based on utter nonsense (well - surprising the first time I read their platform, not so much anymore).

I've also tried to stick mostly with quoting planks I haven't addressed before, since you can read my old entries for my takes on them, but there are several planks so bad that they have to be called out every time they appear. But even with that limit, this entry got pretty long, because there are so many bad planks.

Continue reading "The 2014 Texas Republican Platform" »

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Response to E-mail: Six Questions on History (or Is Hillary Clinton a Communist)

Hillary ClintonA friend sent me an e-mail and asked for my comments. So, like normal, I've decided to turn it into a blog entry. This one took the form of a 'quiz', listing six quotes, and asking you who you think stated them. At the end of the e-mail, it was revealed that they were all made by Hillary Clinton. These quotes are apparently supposed to make Clinton look like a socialist or a communist, but like so many right wing e-mails, it takes a little bit of creative presentation (i.e. quote mining) to achieve that goal. But even then, some of the quotes don't seem objectionable even in quote mined form.

First, for the easy fact checking, here's a link to the Snopes article, Hillary or Karl. That article lists of all those quotes in context, with Clinton's full meaning.

Since this is my blog, I'm required to add my own commentary, which I've interspersed with the quotes below. For anyone interested in reading the full e-mail, I've included that below the fold.

1) "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Although it's not what Clinton was getting at originally, I agree with that on its own. That's what government does. They take some of my money in taxes, and put it towards roads, bridges, the military, the FDA, NASA, etc., all for the common good. I can't have all the infrastructure and institutions that make America so great without chipping in my part. You can't get something for nothing.

2) "It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few, and for the few...... And to replace it with shared responsibility, for shared prosperity."

That's what representative democracy is all about, echoing Lincoln's statement about "government of the people, by the people, for the people". I don't see how anybody who supported a democracy or a republic could see anything wrong with that statement.

3) "(We).....can't just let business as usual go on, and that means something has to be taken away from some people."

As an out of context quote, it's hard to say whether or not this is a good or bad statement. Business as usual in what sense? Take what away? When she said this, Clinton was talking about dependence on foreign oil and climate change, so it doesn't actually seem so bad in context.

4) "We have to build a political consensus and that requires people to give up a little bit of their own ... in order to create this common ground."

That's a very dishonest place to put an ellipsis - it only cut out one word. The full quote is "We have to build a political consensus. And that requires people giving up a little bit of their own turf, in order to create this common ground." That's simply how compromise works. You give a little on your position, and your opponent gives a little on theirs, and you reach a common ground. This is another one where I don't even see where anybody could find fault with this statement (unless they misunderstood it to be about giving up material possessions instead of compromising on political positions).

5) "I certainly think the free-market has failed."

Clinton was talking about one specific issue (providing positive guidance to youth), not the free-market in general. And I agree that in some instances, the free-market does fail to give us what we want for society. That's why have a mix of publicly funded institutions and private enterprise - each does what it's best at. One example I bring up is a lot is antibiotics (see the entry, Free Markets, Government Intervention in Health Care, or Why I'm Not a Libertarian). As bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, new antibiotics need to be developed to treat those resistant bacteria. Unfortunately, the return on investment for antibiotics is much lower than other drugs that pharmaceutical companies can develop (things like treatments for high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, impotence, etc.). So, with a limited pot of money to spend, they sink it into the drugs with the potential to earn them the most money. To quote an article I read a few years ago, "FDA approvals of new antibiotics declined 56 percent during the past 20 years (1998-2002 versus 1983-1987). Looking to the future, the researchers found only six new antibiotics in the R&D pipeline out of 506 drugs being developed." (source). The free market does a great job of making the pharmaceutical companies money, but it's not providing society with the antibiotics needed to treat drug resistant bacteria.

6) "I think it's time to send a clear message to what has become the most profitable sector in (the) entire economy that they are being watched."

Nothing outrageously wrong with this (although you may not agree with it). Clinton suspected the oil companies of manipulating markets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and wanted the Federal Trade Commission to look into it. That's a legitimate role of government, making sure that the free market truly is free, and not being manipulated.


I'm not trying to defend Clinton. I'm not a particularly big fan of her myself. Had my friend not asked for my comments, I probably wouldn't have done more than just send him the Snopes link. But he did, so there you have it.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Continue reading "Response to E-mail: Six Questions on History (or Is Hillary Clinton a Communist)" »

Monday, April 28, 2014

Discrepancy Between Popular Vote and Congressional Representation

How did I not realize this before? Here are the results of the 2012 elections - total popular vote, and how it ended up in representation.

Popular Vote
House seats
Chart copied from Wikipedia

How is it possible that the party with more popular support in the country ends up with significantly less than half of the representatives? And by popular support, I don't just mean asking people on the street who they like, I mean as actually measured by voting (i.e. not just lack of voter turnout). It would be tempting to blame it on gerrymandering, but it looks like there's probably more to it. Still, it's rather troubling that the party that the plurality voters wanted ends up getting minority representation.


Selling Out