Cool Congressional Districts website

Today, this is New York’s 22nd district. Eleven other districts have served this area since 1953.

NY22
“For better or worse, the way Congressional districts are drawn can determine who wins elections, which communities are represented, and what laws are passed. Explore how your own district has changed (sometimes dramatically) over time.”

That’s the introduction to What the District, the ACLU’s nifty website showing changes in Congressional maps since I was born. I opted to select Binghamton, NY, on the Southern Tier of the state as my point of reference because it was my hometown, so I’m more aware of the changes over time.

The chart above does NOT show the size of the district, although you get a sense of it as you directly type in a city, or for larger places, the ZIP Code. In the earlier years, the Binghamton district was pretty compact.

Then in the 1970s, it sprawled eastward for most redistricting periods. When I was in New Paltz, near the Hudson River, in that decade, I was surprised to discover I was now in the same district as Binghamton.

Interestingly, after the 2010 Census, the district stretched northward to include Utica instead of eastward.

The specific description of my home district: “Today, this is New York’s 22nd district. Eleven other districts have served this area since 1953. As in most states, the New York state legislature has the power to draw new congressional district boundaries.”

One of the realities in New York State is that it has lost Congressional representation from 43 in 1953 to 27 in 2013. It could go down further in 2023, not because of an absolute loss in population from decade to decade, but because other states are growing at a faster clip.

“New York state has the 9 smallest Congressional districts in the country by land area, all of them less than 30 square miles in size.” Of course all of those are in New York City, not upstate.

Constitutional allies

2013 marks the 100th anniversaries of 16th and 17th Amendments.

It’s Constitution Day!

Earlier in the year, I was inclined to agree with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show that most of the Constitution seems to be under attack, except that the Second Amendment right to bear arms seemed to be sacrosanct. For instance, the Supreme Court has chipped away at the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Worse, it felt that only a relative handful of people were concerned. That has visibly changed, and the opposition to governmental overreach is bipartisan.

Item from Newsmax:

“The American Civil Liberties Union is joining tea party activists in opposing the use of armed drones and other counterterrorism operations to kill suspected terrorists, even American citizens.

“A recently surfaced Justice Department memo revealed that drones can strike against a wider range of threats, with less evidence, than previously believed.

“Both the ACLU and tea party groups cite the Fifth Amendment, which says that Americans are guaranteed due process of law under the Constitution and that the classified program circumvents that right.

Item from Newsmax:

“Stopwatching.us has gathered more than a quarter of a million signatures, including the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute and the conservative FreedomWorks and Restore America’s Voice.
Most of the selected signatories on the page are from more liberal groups, such as the Daily Kos, MoveOn.org, Green Peace, and Occupy Wall Street NYC.”

Now President Obama has decided to get Congress’s input in our Syria policy, consistent with the legislative body’s Constitutional war making authority. The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno recently quipped: “And if that works there’s talk of bringing back the REST of the Constitution!”

The Constitution is not “left” or “right”, people have started to have figured out.

In a book review, Jaquandor pondered: “Do I believe in the Constitution? I suppose so, in that I believe that we have a government that is structured according to the provisions contained within the Constitution’s pages. And that’s about all that I believe about it. I don’t believe that there is anything especially sacred about the Constitution, and I don’t believe that the Constitution represents some kind of moment when we rose to greatness. In truth, the Constitution is a muddled mess of a document, and the government it creates isn’t so much a brilliantly constructed Machine of Democracy as a hodge-podge, ramshackle mess of compromises with difficulties exacerbated by some really poor writing.”

2013 marks the 100th anniversaries of the 16th and 17th Amendments. The 16th, which allowed for a federal income tax, is almost universally despised, not just because it levies taxes, but because the tax code has become so cumbersome that one needs accountants and lawyers to fully exploit the loopholes that other accountants and lawyers have inserted into it.

The 17th Amendment calls for the direct election of US Senators, which previously had been selected by state legislatures. Seems like a no-brainer, but there is a cadre that continues to call for its repeal. Here’s why.

“It Gets Better”

“More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence.”

by Joe Newton

From the ACLU website:

In his September 23, 2010, Savage Love column, Dan Savage wrote about 15-year-old Billy Lucas, an Indiana teen who committed suicide after persistent bullying and harassment by his classmates for being gay. Savage wrote: “I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.”

So Savage started the “It Gets Better Project” on YouTube, in which LGBT adults are encouraged to submit videos of themselves talking to LGBT teenagers who suffer abuse similar to Billy Lucas’s. And several other teens who ended up committing suicide recently, as it turns out, including Cody Barker, age 17, of Shiocton, Wisconsin; Asher Brown, age 13, of Houston, Texas; Seth Walsh, age 13, of Tehachapi, California; Tyler Clementi, age 18, the Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge; Raymond Chase, age 19, a student in Providence, Rhode Island; and Justin Aaberg, age 15, of Anoka, Minnesota.

As a heterosexual Christian, I was particularly interested in hearing the theological response, specifically Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue And the moral imperative of anti-bullying preaching, teaching, and activism, by Cody J. Sanders:

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.

These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery, and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).

I don’t think it’s religion bashing to suggest that Rev. Sanders, an ordained Baptist minister, BTW, is making a valid point here. Indeed, I always fight off the urge of some to paint religion, and especially Christianity, with the broad brush of intolerance, just because there are intolerant (and generally LOUD) Christians who are better at attracting media attention.
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Make It Better Project on Facebook, and the website.

Coming out for equality- National Coming Out Day, October 11 on Facebook, whether you identify as LGBT or a straight ally.
Kathy Griffin on the recent gay teen suicides (via SamuraiFrog)

NOM Exposed: truths, lies, and connections about the so-called National Organization for Marriage