May 16, 2003 · 2 minute read
51 Texas Democrats today returned triumphantly to Austin, having managed to prevent the passage of a redistricting bill by hiding out in Oklahoma until there was no time left in the current legislative session for it to be passed.
It's an interesting story; when I first heard about the exodus, it seemed as if the Democrats were just throwing a tantrum by running away, but it's not quite that simple. Every ten years, the Legislature redraws the district maps for Texas, changing the boundaries for senate, house, and educational areas. The last redrafting was supposed to take place in 2001, but the Legislature failed to come to an agreement, and after a series of lawsuits, the task was given to a panel comprised of three Federal judges. This new map would likely have given Democrats 17 out of the 32 Congressional seats available in Texas.
At this point, Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Majority Leader of the House of Representatives came up with a new set of districting plans which would have seen Republicans ending up with 19 of the 32 seats, and the flight of the Democrats at the weekend was a last-ditch attempt to stop this new map from replacing the one approved by the three-judge panel, as the GOP currently has a sizable majority in the Texas House of Representatives. The only way to stop the bill from passing was to invoke the quorum rule.
Not only did the Texas Republicans call the fleeing Democrats "legislative terrorists", they used the Office of Homeland Security to track them to the Holiday Inn in Oklahoma. An excellent idea, and not at all a waste of time for an agency that's supposed to be hunting down terrorists.
Okay, I've finished boring you now. I'm just cursed with finding these things interesting.
May 15, 2003 · 1 minute read
Okay, it's not really one week since I've come back, as I arrived last Saturday, but last Thursday was my last proper day in Chapel Hill. What have I done so far? Not a lot, really. Aside from resisting an irrational urge to visit Reykjavik, that is.
Bicester seems smaller. More so than when I came back from Manchester, which is rather strange. I imagine I'll get used to it again eventually.
But enough of that. Yesterday, I was reintroduced to the joys of Jeremy Paxman (for any Americans reading — Paxman is one of the BBC's most feared interviewers, as he doesn't accept dissembling answers from politicians). Today, I discovered that The Daily Show archives the main story of the day, so you too can enjoy this wonderful slice of American politics (although I have no idea as to how long the link will be valid for, so be quick). Why can't our local politics stories be this bizarre?
Tomorrow, I will do something productive. I promise.
May 14, 2003 · 1 minute read
I've missed Jeremy Paxman.
May 13, 2003 · 1 minute read
It's so cold. So cold…
Today's (possibly) interesting observation: walking around Tesco's, I noticed several American brand names which weren't here a year ago: Welch's, V8, and a few others which I can't remember now. The Americanisation of Britain continues apace (I know that'll make some of you unhappy).
I've installed a wireless network in the house, so I now have the ability to use my iBook outside. That's assuming that it stops raining sometime, of course.
Hopefully, these blog entries should become more coherent as the week goes on, but in the meantime, here's a random link explaining what happened to Saturday morning TV in America during the 1990s.
Really should be getting to bed now, but I saw this link and thought it should be included. It's certainly one way of making your point, I suppose…
May 12, 2003 · 2 minute read
That's a very good question. Having deftly sabotaged my life, it would be nice to have some idea about what to do next. Answers on a postcard, please…
Anyway, back in Britain. Yes, it has been raining. At the moment, there's a big black cloud hanging in the sky, just waiting to relieve itself upon Bicester. It's surprising just how little a town can change in a year, you know.
Everybody likes to joke about the lax security in US airports, but we were out of Gatwick in less than half an hour, having sailed through Customs with a considerable amount of consumer electronics. I am thankful for the Jamaican cigarette smugglers who occupied the official's attention while we trundled through with our packed trolleys ($220 in excess baggage costs. Yay!).
One last thing, before I go back to fretting about what to do next; it's really strange how a simple thing such as fonts on road signs can make a country feel different. In America, the signs are set with a stern typeface, and are very concise (you're lucky if you get more information than a sign saying 15-501 East, for example). Back home, the signs have a slightly quaint and friendly looking font, with copious amounts of detail. This is actually fairly deceptive, as American roads tend to be more amendable to making mistakes — you just come off at the next exit (not very far) and turn around, whereas here you can find yourself joining the wrong motorway really easily if you don't pay attention to where you're going…
May 11, 2003 · 1 minute read
Still not quite over the jetlag yet. Hopefully, normal service should resume tomorrow.
May 10, 2003 · 1 minute read
Why does everybody sound so English?
May 9, 2003 · 1 minute read
Goodbye, Chapel Hill. See you all again in October…
May 8, 2003 · 3 minute read
It's almost time to leave. I think it's only fair to say a few words about the people I've been living with this past year. The popular perception of Americans back in Europe is not particularly positive; they're all supposed to be arrogant, fat, slow-witted flag-wavers who hardly ever leave their borders. For college kids, well, they're all frat boys and sorority girls who spend all their nights binge drinking.
There's nothing like that here; it has been an honour and a privilege to be around the members of UNITAS for the last eight months. They've been kind and friendly, even after I spent the first semester locked in my room. There's Sona, a graduate student who has been to most of the countries in the Far East; he never gave up on me, was always been wiling to help at a moment's notice, and has been the best neighbour I could possibly ask for. Kavita is going to be such a wonderful teacher; she's full of life, boundless enthusiasm, and she has been practicing reading stories aloud to anybody on the hall who can't move fast enough to escape. Paul will have deep and probing conversations about the meaning of existence at five in the morning, asking the questions that we never dare to say out loud. Parthe has often got up as early as I did, so I applaud the gentlemanly conduct we indulged in, leading to only one occasion when we left our rooms at the exact moment for a shower. I could go on for a long time, but I'll finish with Laura. I don't think I've met anybody quite so dedicated to the causes that she believes in. This doesn't mean that she's a mindless zealot, though; like all good journalists, she's interested in the truth than being caught up in partisan spin. On top of that, she's funny, keenly intelligent, and a supporter of Liverpool. I suppose I can overlook that last one. As I said, it has been an honour to be with them; my regret is that I didn't do it sooner.
(For anybody who's wondering, Rishi is French. Otherwise he'd be up there as well. One of the greatest friends I've had the pleasure of making)
The city itself is full of friendly people, always ready to stop and pass the time of day, with a public transport system that easily outstrips anything in a comparatively sized British town. No, it's not perfect. But what is? If you look hard enough, you probably will find racists, narrow-minded people, and so on, but is that really any different from home? Where 142 voters in my home town honestly thought that a National Front member should represent their views in the local council? No, it's not perfect, but neither are we.
My biggest fear is that I will lose contact with these people. I hope that I will know them for the rest of my life — that we shall always remain close, even if the physical distance between us is vast.
On that note, I turn sideways to the sun, and in a moment I am gone.
May 7, 2003 · 1 minute read
This is probably old news to a bunch of you, but it looks as if Raed survived
Operation Iraqi Freedom…