Friday, October 25, 2013

“It's Not Our Job to Do Our Job”: Two Faces of the Decline of Journalism

Chuckles the Clown
Chuck Todd, NBC News’s chief White House correspondent and political director, is an idiot. Curmie tried desperately to ignore this fact for a while, especially when Rachel Maddow showed him considerable respect, but ultimately the evidence won out: he didn’t want to wait in line when they were passing out brains, so he went back for a second helping of pomposity, instead. (Anyone remember Big Head Todd and the Monsters? Wonder why that ‘90s group came to mind just now…)

Most Curmiphiles will by now be familiar with Todd’s faux pas a month or so ago, when he self-righteously declared that it isn’t journalists’ jobs to… uh… do journalists’ jobs and actually separate facts from lies. “No, that’s Obama’s job because people expecting us to actually earn even a fraction of our 6-figure salaries are making unreasonable demands and generally being poo-poo-heads.” OK, maybe that’s not a direct quote.

What he did say was in response to a comment by former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who opined that most opponents of the Affordable Care Act don’t know what it does: “If you took ten people from different parts of the country who say that they are against the bill and sat them down, I’d love to have ten minutes with them and say ‘tell me why you’re against the bill.’ And if they told you anything, it would be stuff that’s incorrect.” Todd’s response: “But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it. They don't repeat the other stuff because they haven't even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

OK, I’m saying this once: Horseshit.

It is indeed the President’s job to make the case for why the ACA is a good idea. It is not his job to counter factual untruths. Doing so is decidedly unpresidential, for one thing; more importantly, if Obama corrects a misstatement, it’s a battle of opposing political forces. Even his supporters grant that Obama is a politician, and he might spin a statement to make it more persuasive than it should be. But—and here’s the important part—he might be telling the absolute truth. So might Ted Cruz on the other side, although that hasn’t happened in this century. It here’s where a free and open—and conscientious—press comes in: it’s not their function to advocate for or against a policy, a law, a candidate. But it is very much their responsibility to separate fact from prevarication, common sense from insanity, projections from concrete evidence. It is, in fact, their primary responsibility.

Called out on his slothful abrogations, Chuckles proceeded to surpass even his own lofty standards for imperious twatwaffledom, and took to the Twitter, claiming “Somebody decided to troll w/mislding headline: point I actually made was folks shouldn't expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA.” No, you point you actually made, you waste of potentially useful protoplasm, is precisely the one you were accused of making. That might not be the point you were trying to make, but that’s a different story altogether. Maybe you should take a remedial English class before you try running with the big dogs again.

In a sane society, dumbfucks like Chuck Todd would be employed, if at all, to ask us if we’d like fries with that. In today’s America, he makes more than the POTUS (who actually does his job, whether you think he does it well or not), and stretches the limits of the term “euphemism” to its very limit in self-describing as a “journalist.” He is the walking, talking (and talking and talking…) definition of incompetent. Still, the country is strong, and can endure a solitary dim bulb like Todd.

Ginger Gibson: sloth is under-appreciated
Trouble is, he’s contagious. Witness one Ginger Gibson, a Politico reporter who freely admits that even when there’s an allegation that a particular statement is a lie, even if it has been deemed so by a fact-checker, she first of all waits for the “other guys’ press secretaries” to “blast out a press release” (she doesn’t admit to this explicitly, but it’s certainly implicit), then “most of the time, ignore them.”

She made this bizarre proclamation on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Guest host Frank Sesno followed up:
FS: You ignore it! Wait, wait, wait. So if someone is called a liar or is exposed in a fact check and you’re the reporter of it, you ignore that?
GG: Well, we ignore it when it becomes political fighting, right?
FS: But if someone is objectively wrong…
GG: As a reporter who covered the [Romney] campaign and covers the Hill now, these fact checks are great for us because sometimes when the claim keeps getting repeated, we can point to them in a story and say, look, they’ve been deemed untrue by multiple fact checkers. And I think that line is important, the multiple fact checkers. When it’s multiple fact checkers agreeing, we can go to that.
Translation: “It’s not my job to do my job. I’m supposed to know this story better than anyone else on the planet; I’m not supposed to need a fact-checker. But I’ll first let the press secretaries fight it out, even if one of them is objectively correct and the other one a bald-faced liar. Then I’ll sit around for another couple of weeks while the lies are being spread wider and deeper until “multiple fact checkers” have all gone on record that X is full of crap, and then maybe… maybe… I’ll do my job and show a little concern for the truth. Basically, you see, I’m not only lazy, I’m also a coward unwilling to stand up against a prating prevaricator.”

The real culprit here—apart from the total unsuitability of either Todd or Gibson for any job vaguely connected to reporting—is a disturbing and well-entrenched trend in what passes for journalism these days: a belief, or rather a feigned belief, that the real story is the controversy, not the actual substantive policy arguments. The very first piece I wrote in this iteration of my blogging life was entitled “One does not disagree about the empirical”. I’m still trying to make that case, Gentle Reader. There are opinions with which I disagree, and there are lies. If you can’t win an argument without the latter, maybe you ought to lose.

But the pseudo-journalists—Todd, Gibson, and a veritable phalanx of similarly diffident and apathetic mediocrities—don’t see it that way. Covering the dogfight is easier, and therefore preferable. It doesn’t involve analysis, or logic, or, frankly, much work. “Candidate X increases lead over Candidate Y” is to journalism what Mantovani is to classical music. If you want Bach, you’ve got to write stories like “Candidate X has proposed a new policy mandating A, B, and C, and forbidding D and E. Candidate Y argues that A will increase taxes, B will threatens national security, and C is unconstitutional. Experts agree that taxes might rise, but by less than 1%; we could find no national security experts not in Y’s employ who foresee any significant issues should this proposal become law. Respected authorities F and G disagree about constitutional issues: here’s their analysis…”

Stories like that used to be the norm—in the nation’s leading newspapers, newsmagazines, and even television. Curmie would rejoice now if he saw a single corporate news reporter more interested in getting to the truth than in making a big salary and keeping his/her particular Goliath news syndicate out of trouble with moneyed interests.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Three Volleyball Stories That Aren't About Volleyball

[EDIT: It turns out that Erin Cox may well be a fraud, and that school authorities behaved appropriately. I leave the story up simply as a reminder to us all that a little skepticism is seldom misplaced. Curmie apologizes to Principal Scuzzarella and the other school officials.]

So what is it with high school volleyball these days? Not one, not two, but three stories have come across Curmie’s virtual desk in recent weeks. One, I’ve already written about: the case of North Andover (MA) High School’s Erin Cox (left), who was stripped of her captaincy of the volleyball team and suspended for several games for collecting a drunken friend at a party so the other girl wouldn’t be driving home drunk, endangering herself, others, property… well, you know all the reasons not to drive while impaired.

There’s an update, and it will surprise no one. The school district has doubled down on its idiocy in a petulant display worthy of a six-year-old… or a Tea Party Congressman, which is pretty much the same thing. Naturally, there’s the denial of the zero tolerance policy (chances that Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson is lying: slightly greater that 99%, but—to be fair—less than ontological certitude). There’s the claim that the reason the school isn’t commenting further is a concern for the student’s privacy rights—no, really, it isn’t that they don’t have a f*cking case; it’s all about laws and privacy and whatever else they can think of so they can throw their temper tantrums and no one will be able to prove anything. Let’s face it: if it’s Ms. Cox’s rights they’re concerned about, well, it’s not like there are a lot of people in the area who don’t know what she’s been charged with or what the punishment was, ya know? She has the right to privacy. She also has the right to waive those rights. Challenge her to do so, if you’re really concerned about her instead of maintaining dictatorial control over your petty fiefdom.

(Side note: the owner of the property—the mother of the boy hosting the party—faced no repercussions because “police said she wasn’t aware of the party.” Good mother, that.)

Most interestingly, there’s a rather relevant section of the school’s official Athletic Handbook:
MIAA [Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association] Rule- 62 From the earliest fall practice date, to the conclusion of the academic year or final athletic event (whichever is latest), a student shall not, regardless of the quantity, use, consume, possess, buy/sell, or give away any beverage containing alcohol; any tobacco product; marijuana; steroids; or any controlled substance. This policy includes products such as “NA or near beer”. It is not a violation for a student to be in possession of a legally defined drug specifically prescribed for the student’s own use by his/her doctor.

This MIAA statewide minimum standard is not intended to render “guilt by association”, e.g. many student athletes might be present at a party where only a few violate this standard….
(Curmie has added the boldface emphasis, but not otherwise altered the mispunctuated original.) Apart from that significant injunction against assuming guilt by association, there’s also the key consideration that there is no apparent evidence that Ms. Cox “used, consumed, possessed, bought/sold, or gave away” anything alcoholic. She is, in short, not in violation of school policy.

The good news: a huge outpouring of support for Ms. Cox: nearly 20,000 virtual signatures on a petition and over $7000 (as of this writing) raised in a GoFundMe campaign. [EDIT: the GoFundMe appeal has now been taken down at the request of Erin’s mom.]

On to the other stories… we start in Dayton, Iowa (no, Alternet, not Ohio), where 12-year-old Dezi Hughes was forced to sit out a volleyball game because she didn’t dress up on game day, wearing instead what you see at right. No story there, right? Many if not most schools require their athletes to demonstrate “school pride” in this manner. (Curmie is not sure how that equation works, but acknowledges its ubiquity.) And if you don’t follow the rules, you don’t play.

Here’s the thing. Ms. Hughes isn’t just any high school kid. She and a friend, Kathlynn Shepherd, were kidnapped in May by a sex offender. Shepherd was killed; Hughes managed to escape.

Volleyball, apparently, has become an important part of her therapy: a chance to be a kid, to forget, at least for a few moments, the horrible ordeal she endured, not to mention the possibility of survivor’s guilt, given the death of her friend. So, not getting to play is a problem.

Fact is, nobody looks good in this one. The fact that volleyball has become an outlet for Dezi doesn’t mean she should be given preferential treatment. She shouldn’t get a starting job she doesn’t deserve, for example. And there’s not—to my mind, at least—a substantive difference between dressing up for school and wearing a uniform at the game. Both are arbitrary requirements, but both are the rules, whether established by the school and the coaching staff on the one hand or by the athletic conference on the other. So why shouldn’t she be expected to follow the same strictures as everyone else?

On the other hand, if there are legitimate reasons why Dezi doesn’t want to dress up—if that would somehow remind her of what she was wearing the day she was kidnapped, for example, then the school’s “rules are rules” attitude would be somewhere between boorish and cruel. Certainly cutting a little slack for an apparent first offense under the circumstances would seem warranted. Conversely, if there’s a legitimate reason why wearing nice clothes—and, let’s face, no one would suggest the outfit Dezi wore on the day in question qualifies—would somehow impede the girl’s recovery, then the time to make that argument is before she gets told she can’t play because she violated team rules. Does the school look good in this? No. But this isn’t even honorable mention Curmie material.

What is? Well, Naples (FL) Middle School’s letter to the parents of 11-year-old Lily Grasso would qualify. To be fair, the school was simply following a stupid rule established by the legislature; this is Florida, after all. And the Grasso clan did over-react, but certainly their response is understandable. Anyway, Lily is listed at 5’3” and 124 pounds (there’s some dispute as to whether they even got her height right), giving her a body mass index (BMI) of 22. That, according to the “fat letter” that was sent after a screening by the Collier County Health Department, makes her “at risk.” A link on the form sends you to the Centers for Disease Control website, which cheerfully informs us that a child with a BMI% of 89.56—Lily’s percentile—is “overweight.” Lost in the fine print are the caveats:
BMI is not a diagnostic tool. For example, a child may have a high BMI for age and sex, but to determine if excess fat is a problem, a health care provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings.
In other words, BMI isn’t worth a hell of a lot as a determinant of health or fitness or anything else. Muscle weighs more than fat; 11-year-old bodies are changing; health can’t be determined by any single measurement… need we go on?

A reasonable approach would be to trust that parents know whether their kid has weight issues. A reasonable approach would be to allow doctors rather than charts to determine health. BTW, Clayton Kershaw, widely regarded as the best baseball player in the world right now, has a BMI of 27.1; NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James is at 27.5; NFL MVP Adrian Peterson checks in at 28.6; former All-Pro defensive tackle Casey Hampton: 42.9. All of those world-class athletes are considered “overweight” for an adult male, except for Hampton, who’s over a dozen points higher than the cutoff for obese. I’d call those guys reasonably fit, nonetheless. But this is state government, school districts, and Florida, all at the same time: a triple whammy if ever there was one. The idea that expertise matters is alien to all of these constituencies, of course. After all, it’s a short step from believing a calculation that puts some of the world’s best athletes into the “overweight” range might be… erm… flawed to thinking that standardized tests aren’t the best measure of academic accomplishment, and we certainly can’t have that.

Childhood obesity is a problem. But so is female self-image. Tell an athletic, healthy, 11-year-old girl that she’s “at risk” because of her height and weight, or “overweight,” and what she hears is “fat.” And if there’s anything our society won’t allow women to be, it’s that. The number of eating disorders these intrusive letters generate will far outweigh any good that come of increased attention to maintaining healthy diets and exercise regimens. You, Gentle Reader, know a perfectly healthy adult woman who agonizes over gaining a pound, much less a dress size. Perhaps you are that woman. And stupid charts and form letters that tell the girl in the picture to the left that she’s overweight are one place this obsession with thin takes hold. (Note: if girls are subject to over-sensitivity to the idea of being too heavy, Curmie, who graduated from college with a BMI of 17.5—“underweight” is anything below 18.5—can personally attest to the self-image problems of skinny boys.)

A Time magazine article last month called attention to an effort in Massachusetts to abolish the “fat letters.” The article notes that:
Parents and pediatricians have been going back-and-forth on the “fat letter” issue recently after an August report by the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents to put their pride aside and welcome the screenings and letters, which they say will help parents and their children adopt healthier lifestyles.

“BMI screening letters are an additional awareness tool to promote conversations about healthy eating habits, exercise, and weight in the safety and confidential environment of the child’s home,” read the report.
Were Curmie of a cynical disposition (perish the thought), he might suggest that the AAP likes the letters primarily because they generate highly remunerative visits to their members, who also, in many cases, get to be the “good guys” and reassure parents that there’s nothing wrong with their kid: “Little Suzie is just fine, Mrs. Smith. That’ll be $200. You can pay at the desk as you leave.” It’s worth noting, too, that the “overweight” and “obese” ratings seem to be based on BMI%, not BMI per se. In other words, the highest 5% of BMIs will always and forever be considered “obese,” whether that is an accurate description, even in BMI terms, of 1% or 20% of the population.

More importantly, the principal advantage to BMI as a tool is that it’s easy: easy enough that parents could do it on their own (as if glancing at their kid weren’t enough to give a rough idea). How hard is it to measure your child’s height? There are short horizontal lines at various heights on walls and door jambs all over the country that suggest the process isn’t terribly taxing. Then you plop the kid on a scale, enter the results into one of the manifold online calculators, and bammo-whammo, you know the BMI. So why, exactly, do we need to spend public funds to do this? Why should government be allowed to intrude into the private medical details of, well, anyone? And, especially since we’re talking about growing, changing bodies, why on earth would anyone pay the slightest attention to any of this? But to ignore the authority of the “fat letter” takes either educated resolve or ignorant bluster, and the majority of the population will adopt neither of those approaches. The point is, parents who care about this stuff have ready means to take appropriate measures. Those who don’t—whether that hesitation comes from skepticism about the usefulness of BMI as a determinant of relevant information or dismissiveness of the legitimate perils of obesity—aren’t going to care what the stupid form says.

Anyway, all these stories are about volleyball, but none of them are really about volleyball, are they? They say (whoever “they” are) that sports are a microcosm of life. These three stories, about incompetent school administrators, bureaucratic intransigence, and nannyish intrusion would certainly seem to suggest as much.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Now That's a Curmie Contender

[EDIT: It turns out that Erin Cox may well be a fraud, and that school authorities behaved appropriately. I leave the story up simply as a reminder to us all that a little skepticism is seldom misplaced. Curmie apologizes to Principal Scuzzarella and the other school officials.]

Even a quick perusal of the nominees for Curmie Awards past (2011 nominees here, 2012 nominees here) will reveal some of my particular bêtes noires when it comes to school administrations: punishing students (or faculty) who didn’t do anything wrong, clinging to inane “zero tolerance” policies, attempting to police legal behavior that takes place off school grounds. A recent case in North Andover, MA, rolls all of these personal pet peeves into one tidy bundle.

Erin Cox (left) is a senior at North Andover High School. She’s an honor student and is, or was, the captain of the volleyball team, and a two-time all-star. A couple of weeks ago, she got a text from an underage friend who thought (no doubt correctly) that she was too intoxicated to drive home from a party. So Cox went to pick her up to give her a ride home. Unfortunately for Ms. Cox, she arrived at about the time the cops did (different reports say she got there just before, just as, or just after the police showed up). The police made several arrests, but recognized the fact that Cox was neither drunk not in possession of alcohol, so she was not among those arrested. Still, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, she appears to have been “summoned to court for drinking.” Given the fact the police obviously found no evidence against her, and apparently agreed that she had not been drinking—not to mention the fact that she could readily prove that she hadn’t been at the party even as a bystander—this constituted more than a little over-reach, but, as Fox News reports, “police later backed Cox's version of events.

In other words, there was no harm done… until the cretinous yahoos at the high school got into the act, that is. Principal Carla Scuzzarella, you see, stripped Cox of her team captaincy and suspended her from five games, because… well, because. There’s a zero tolerance policy, of course, and Scuzzarella, who would apparently have to evolve to have the brains of a rotting rutabaga, dutifully exacted what apparently passes for justice in her little fiefdom. Needless to say, Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson, just as addle-pated as his minion, rushed to her defense, babbling about how participation in athletics is a privilege and claiming that student-athletes receive due process and a fair hearing. The fact that there is no evidence of such a hearing, or any common sense attributable to anyone in that administration, rather undercuts that argument, however, does it not?

Cox sued the district to re-instate her on the team. The court ruled it had no jurisdiction (one wonders who does), but not before the school’s attorney, one Geoffrey Bok, allegedly claimed that Cox had been arrested: that would be, to coin a phrase, a lie. Cox’s lawyer, Wendy Murphy, made the following statement:
That a school would then lie to a judge in a court of law is an outrage and shows the length some school officials will go to to retaliate against a family that dares to challenge an irrational zero tolerance policy.

In fact, as the police officer at the scene reported in a statement that was provided to the principal and the judge, Erin was not arrested and did nothing wrong. He added that she had not been drinking, had no intention of drinking, was there to help a friend and did not have even the ‘slightest’ odor of alcohol on her person.
So let’s review the bidding. There’s a zero tolerance policy about drugs and alcohol. Such policies are always, and I do mean always the result of an administration too morally craven and/or too intellectually comatose to recognize that one size never fits all.

This policy, moreover, applies to off-campus events, where the school has no legitimate jurisdiction. If the police choose to act, that is their decision and their responsibility. The school might, then, reasonably, apply sanctions to students found guilty of a crime… or, perhaps, even those charged with one. But the school district, however much they might wish it to be otherwise, is neither a law enforcement nor a judicial authority. Oh, and of course in this case, the school's lawyer appears to have lied in court in a Hail-Mary attempt to make the principal’s absurd over-reach a little less ridiculous.

Finally, of course, there’s the fact that Erin Cox not only did nothing wrong, she in fact did something right. Were it not for her, her friend might well have driven away from the party before the police arrived, putting a drunken teenager behind the wheel of a car. At the very least, she is to be praised for acting responsibly—and, if I might say so, maturely—in taking care of her friend; the friend, too, while not all her decisions that night were the best, did at least have the sense to ask her friend—Cox—to drive her home. Both these decisions—to ask for help and to give it—are admirable. Both, of course, are being punished by an administration too concerned with rules and too little concerned with moral responsibility, justice, or education. For if nothing else comes of this case, the next time a situation like this comes up, some student somewhere is going to hesitate to do the right thing; some friend is going to be reluctant to ask for a ride; sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt or killed… all because Principal Scuzzarella has neither the moral authority nor the intellect to do her job.

Needless to say, public opinion from observers from the left, right and center on this case is running overwhelmingly in favor of Ms. Cox and against the Silly Squad at the high school. Of course, there’s one exception: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the quintessence of a narcissistic enterprise if ever there was one. Only the Susan G. Komen Foundation offers any real opposition in the competition to be the alleged charity most about itself and least about its stated cause. Drunk driving is still very much a concern, but MADD per se hasn’t been relevant for at least a generation, if indeed it ever was. So color me unsurprised that they’d object to getting a drunk driver off the road and would side with the authoritarian morons. 17-year-old designated drivers weren’t their idea, after all.

So yes, MADD gets to share in the ignominy of being shown to be ridiculous. But they’re not eligible for a Curmie Award. Scuzzarella and her gaggle of brainless dissemblers, on the other hand: that, my friends, is Curmie material.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Overlooked Element in the Government Shutdown

Anyone who pays even a little attention to the news knows that there has been a substantial if incomplete shutdown of the federal government, precipitated by a temper tantrum thrown by John Boehner, who dances subserviently at the behest of everyone’s favorite foreign-born chauvinist, Ted Cruz. The allegedly left-leaning press has contorted itself into knots too complicated for the Boy Scout Handbook in order to appear impartial, suggesting that “there’s plenty of blame to go around,” and similar twaddle. Fact is, this debacle is 100% the result of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ falling well short of the maturity level of a particularly bratty 2nd-grader. Whereas there is little doubt that the Obama administration is playing this situation for political points rather than engaging in anything resembling statesmanship, the GOP—intentionally or otherwise—bear all of the responsibility for the shutdown.

The original excuse for the Republicans’ juvenile display—the alleged horrors of “Obamacare”—was transparently mendacious from the start. Curmie was only reluctantly and tentatively brought around to the point of view that the Affordable Care Act was a net positive, and may change his mind in the future. But the claim, as Fox News asserted and GOP politicos obediently echoed, that the ACA had “failed” before it even took effect would have to take a step up in integrity to qualify as sophistic. More to the point, you never get everything you want in politics: that’s the way of the world. Inconveniencing millions of people and actually endangering lives in order to engage in a histrionic hissy fit to overturn a bill that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court isn’t statesmanlike; it isn’t adult behavior; it isn’t even ethical.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about. I choose instead to discuss something the yammering classes have scrupulously avoided… how we ended up with a divided government. After all, it would be impossible to imagine a Speaker Pelosi furloughing workers and denying access to needed services in a fit of pique against the Obama administration. I doubt, in fact, that had the 2012 election turned out radically differently, she’d have done so to protest the overreach of a Romney administration… she might have, of course, but we’ll never know.

We’ll never know because President Obama cruised to re-election while the GOP maintained their majority in the House, even though they lost seats both there and in the Senate. Given the fact that the Dems actually followed Curmie’s advice (not that they actually paid any attention to Curmie, per se, but you know...) and ran as Democrats this time, embracing rather than running away from the signature achievement of Obama’s first term, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the electorate rejected the ACA. Rather, there is one word that accounts for the Republican majority in the House: gerrymandering.

The Democrats won the popular vote for the House of Representatives in 2012 by over 1.6 million votes, or 1.4 points (not a landslide by any means, but not close, either) and yet Speaker Boehner claimed affirmation because the GOP kept a 33-seat majority (over 7.5 percentage points). In other words, the disparity between the popular vote and actual representation differs by about 9 percentage points. That’s a lot.

There are plenty of analysts who attribute much if not all of the disparity to gerrymandering, and while there are those who disagree, the fact that in, say, Pennsylvania, the Democrats took a clear majority of the votes but got fewer than a third of the Representatives… that certainly suggests an inequitable distribution of voting suasion. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the district lines were drawn intentionally to shift the balance of power from one party to the other, and there were in fact some states in which Democrats received disproportionate representation—Republicans took the popular vote in Arizona by 8.5 points but the Dems got 5 seats to the GOP’s 4, for example. So the above commentary isn’t intended to criticize only the Republicans. But, as Sam Wang wrote in the New York Times in February of this year, “Both sides may do it, but one side does it more often.”

Moreover, there’s this: Texas Attorney General and (God help us) likely successor to Rick Perry as Executive Idiot Governor Greg Abbott actually brags about his gerrymandering chicanery, not in some backroom schmooze with campaign contributors like Mitt Romney’s unfortunate “47%” gaffe, but in public court documents (!). In a defense of Texas’s practice vis-à-vis the Voting Rights Act, Abbott argues as follows:
DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats.
Seriously, he said that. You see, the attempt wasn’t to disenfranchise minority voters; it was to disenfranchise Democrats, and it’s just a concidence that a lot of Dems are minorities and vice versa. Paraphrasing only slightly: “Of course we cheated, but we’re not racists.” (A good many Texas Republicans actually are, of course, but that’s another matter.)

Most Republican legislators and other politicos aren’t as brazen as Abbott in privileging their own power over the actual will of voters, but you can bet that a lot of them had similar motivations. So when you contemplate the puerile antics of the Boehners and Cruzes of the world, remember this: there may be a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, but there isn’t in the population than elected them.