Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Where the Ways Don't Have Names (U2)

Language: Italian

Let's talk about gerrymandering.

What with the recent election, and the national attention being given to individual House races (at least by people blogging about the races in their own districts), I've become curious about where all these other districts are and what they're like. The districts in the Upper Midwest -- Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin -- are pretty sensibly drawn (Iowa, in fact, has a redistricting process which is often pointed to as the way all states should do theirs; see here.), and the states in the Rockies are generally not populous enough to need many districts, so they wind up having sensible plans whether they like it or not.

But I found this web site, which contains maps for each of the 538 House districts currently operational, and spent a while looking at the individual districts. And there are some doozies in there.

The best five examples I could find are here in this post, but if you find this sort of thing interesting, click on a few random examples from California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Texas. They're not all insane, but often enough. My hall-of-famers here are, from top to bottom, GA-13, which I think looks like an ant1; IL-04, which is known for it's "earmuff" design; IL-17, which has a certain pornographic-Smurf quality to it; PA-18, which makes me think of pictures of turbulence, from wind tunnels; and NC-12, which evokes snakes and genies leaving bottles and women-crawling-through-deserts.

These sample districts are presently occupied by Rep. David Scott, Democrat (GA-13); Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat (IL-04); Rep. Philip G. Hare, Democrat (IL-17); Rep. Tim Murphy, Republican (PA-18); and Rep. Melvin L. Watt, Democrat (NC-12).

There's not necessarily anything wrong with having oddly-drawn districts, to my mind: in some cases (IL-04 being an example), the district links up scattered members of a group which might otherwise go unrepresented (in IL-04's case, the ears of the earmuff are two mainly Hispanic neighborhoods). But it's certainly not in the spirit of things -- ideally one would have relatively compact districts, if for no other reason than to make it clear to people moving in what races they were voting in. In the aforementioned NC-12, Guilford County, North Carolina is part of three different Congressional Districts, NC-06, NC-12, and NC-13. This seems excessive.2 There's also the matter of people, by and large, having similar interests as their neighbors. It's not clear to me, for example, what interests Sterling, IL, in the north central part of Illinois, has in common with Quincy, IL, on the Mississippi River, or Macoupin County in Southern Illinois, which suggests to me that perhaps the intent of the district lines was to work against the interests of some of the people included in the district, at the expense of others.

But anyway. Enough of that. This song was as close as I could get to map/place/lines issues, of the songs I had started already. So it's not hugely appropriate to the discussion, but these things happen. Sometimes the song's more important, sometimes the discussion is.


1Maybe a scorpion, or a spider, or something. Definitely an arthropod of some kind, though.

2On the other hand, Guilford County, NC, is one of very few in the country with dual courthouses, effectively having two county seats, so maybe a little confusion is customary there. I don't know; I've never been.
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I desire to make it work,
wish to hide,
wish them to tear down the inner walls
that hold it.
I wish to catch up that part outside,
and touch the flame, to
name the ways they don't have.

I want the solar light to think on my face.
To cloud the powder, I disappear. (See that?)
Without a trace,
I wish to take the poison. Shelter the rain from the
ways in which they do not have names.

Where the ways don't have names,
where the ways don't have names.
The constructions are calm,
then love burnt them down.
The love burns that down,
and I go here (when
I go here with you).
That's all he can make.

The city aflood,
and our love turns towards rust:
we are struck, and jump to you from the wind.
On powder, tracked in,
I will show you that a
high place on a desert plain
doesn't have a name in that way.


Our love turns, in order to rust.
We are battered, and we
jumped from the wind,
jumped from the wind.
Oh, and I see that the love
turned in order to rust. I'd love to see ours
jump from the wind. We're battered, and
jumped from the wind.
(Oh, and the love turns towards rust.)
We are struck, and jump to you from the wind,
treading on powder that is
here. When I go (and
I go here with you),
I'm all I can make of myself.

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