Strong Victory For Center-Left Congress Party In India—World’s Two Largest Democracies Now Firmly Reject Conservatives
The center-left Congress Party of India appears headed to a second term as the main ruling party of India.
Congress has gained seats in the Indian parliament. While they have not won a majority of seats, no party has won a majority in recent elections, Congress has done better than expected and should easily be able to form a government.
Losing out the main party of the right–the BJP–and a coalition of leftist parties called the Third Front. Some regional caste- based parties also fared poorly.
While I’m often sympathetic to parties firmly on the left in contrast to a more center-left outlook, India seems well-served by a strong center-left ruling party instead of a more fragmented and regionally based coalition in national power.
The BJP is a nasty bunch. The BJP sees Indian nationhood as defined by being Hindu and by conflict with India’s Muslim minority. Congress has it’s own problems of corruption–as do all Indian parties— and of inaction when in power. But Congress has a broader outlook of Indian nationhood based on a person simply living in India as an Indian citizen.
The hope is that a Congress Party with a stronger presence in parliament will be able to act in a more decisive manner. Voters in India clearly wanted a more national approach to India-wide public policy.
It is excellent that conservatives have been so firmly rejected in the world’s two largest democracies. In both India and the United States, a clear direction has been set away from narrow prejudices and towards an open and inclusive view of who counts as a person. This open view includes a belief that the state has a clear role in guiding the economy and in helping to make sure that as many people as possible have a shot at a decent life.
Here is the election as reported by the World Sikh News. The Prime Minister of India is a Sikh.
When voting in India began—it takes a few weeks to vote in such a large country–I wrote a post offering an overview of the Indian election. Below is that post—
Voting in India has begun for national elections. Voting will take place until May 13. Different parts of the country vote at different times. With over 700 million eligible voters, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it work. 380 million people voted in the last election in 2004.
( Above–A scene from the Indian State of Tripura.)
More than 1.1 billion people live in India. The capital is New Delhi. India is divided into 28 states and 7 territories. India has been an independent nation since 1947. There are over 800 million Hindus in India and almost 140 million Muslims. Here are more facts about India.
Below is the most recent Texas Progressive Alliance blog round-up—
The photo above is of the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat. This bat is the state flying mammal of Texas. Here is information about this creature.
The city of DISH, TX is one of several municipalities that have already adopted a resolution calling for the repeal of Big Oil’s exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act. TXsharon gives DISH a high-five and hopes your group, organization, club, city or county will do the same, at Bluedaze.
BossKitty at TruthHugger sees danger in the watered down, dumbed down attempt to educate students by committee. Sanitized History, Truth or Consequences is an example of why education needs serious attention.
Iceland has elected the world’s first openly gay leader.
Prime Minister Johnanna Sigurdardottir is gay.
She also has a last name with 14 letters.
Above you see a picture of Prime Minister Sigurdardottir.
….a historic milestone for the gay and lesbian community worldwide. She lives with a journalist, Jonina Leosdottir, with whom she was joined in a 2002 civil partnership, and has two sons from a previous marriage. It is also a significant personal triumph for a politician who managed to retain, and even increase, her popularity while much of Iceland’s political class were pilloried over the financial crisis engulfing the country. …The new leader is known for allocating generous amounts of public funding to help the disabled, the elderly and organisations tackling domestic violence, and she is seen by many as a unifying character capable of solving tensions in Iceland….After acting as a union organiser when she worked as a flight attendant for Loftleidir Airlines, now Icelandair, in the 1960s and 1970s, Ms Sigurdardottir was elected to Iceland’s parliament in 1978. She served as social affairs minister from 1987-1994 and again from 2007.
It is true that Seattle, with a population of 582,000, has more people than does Iceland. Iceland has 304,000 people.
No matter—Iceland is a nation and Seattle is only a city.
(Below–Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. Here is information on visiting Reykjavik. )
Prime Minster Sigurdardottir was appointed to her post last February after the collapse of Iceland’s economy led to the demise of Iceland’s right -of-center government. The main issue in Iceland is the impact of the global financial collapse. Iceland took a big hit last year and there were large street protests. Please click here to read about economic and political troubles in Iceland.
Prime Minister Sigudardottir’s Social Democrats won 20 seats in the 63 member parliament in the April 25 election. The Greens won 14 seats. A coalition government was formed.
The Icelandic parliament is called the Althing. It literally means the “all-thing” of Iceland. It can trace it roots back to the year 930. Here is the web home of the Althing.
It seems that for many years the Althing met on the big rock you see drawn below. The Speaker would sit on a high point of the rock.
Should they meet, will Prime Minster Sigudardottir ask President Barack Obama why he opposes gay marriage?
It is excellent that we are making progress and that we are seeing world leaders that are more like the people they represent.
Yet progress is still far away in many nations. ( Including the United States in a number of respects.) Here is a link to Global Voices where you can read about issues of gay rights around the world.
( Below–An Icelandic Horse. This breed was developed in Iceland.)
Of 93,000 eligible voters, around 4,200 people showed up.
This despite the fact that at stake was the chance to add a second Hispanic to council. There is only one Hispanic on council despite the fact that something like 40% of our people in Houston are Hispanic.
Local bloggers Charles Kuffner and Marc Campos suggested an issue in the outcome of the race was the location of early voting centers.
Now in a narrow sense the location of the voting machines may have impacted the outcome of the race. But that is missing the larger story.
When you get 7% turnout the issue is not early voting locations, it is the fact that nobody cared about the election.
It’s a culture within the city as a whole that says who serves on City Council does not matter. It’s years of infighting within the Hispanic political class that have helped hold back the advancement of Hispanic political power.
It is campaigns that fail to motivate voters. It’s minority elected officials okay with low voter turnout because they can be elected every two years without real opposition.
It’s a Democratic Party as a whole that is content with how things are even as they count on strong minority support. It’s a Republican Party that has demonized people because they are different from most Republican voters.
After 11 years here, I’ve still yet to grasp the acceptance of the terrible turnout in our city elections. Mr. Kuffner does more than his bit to increase civic involvement and improve the quality of life in Houston. But as a general matter—and in many regards— it is remarkable what we accept in Houston as normal.
If you live in District H please consider these two candidates and vote in the runoff.
I’m glad to announce I have joined the online group Democratic Women of Denton County.
This is a Facebook group run by the Denton County political activist and leader Judith Ford.
Above is my photo for when the annual handbook and yearbook of this group is published.
I’m radiant today.
Ms. Ford is my blogger friend and comrade. Some day she will visit Houston or I will visit Denton County and we will finally meet in-person.
Ms. Ford runs a blog serving her precinct —Precinct 224—and her county called Castle Hills Democrats.
Denton County is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and has more than 600,000 people.
This will surprise you, but I am also a member of the Executive Women’s Golf Association of Seattle.
I’m a member of Chicago Women In Publishing.
I’m a member of Rural Women in New Zealand.
From the New Zealand group—
“Rural Women New Zealand serves women of all ages who share an interest in rural life. We offer support and friendship for women with an interest in the land and rural issues. Rural Women New Zealand is a leading voice for rural women and we make submissions on a wide range of topics affecting the rural sector. Rural Women New Zealand is an organisation with an impressive history of making a difference in rural communities. We are constantly moving forward with new initiatives to suit women of all ages.”
I’m a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
And, of course, I’m an Alpha Kappa Alpha.
(Below–Wilberforce chapter of AKA from 1922.)
In Houston’s City Council District H special election yesterday , two candidates beat some other candidates and have qualified for a runoff that will be held some day sooner or later. Here is the Houston Chronicle story on the issue.
Of 93,000 registered voters, only 4,200 folks showed up.
Some folks blog about this stuff quite often. Here is what Houston political blogger Charles Kuffner said about the District H election.
A frog telephones the Psychic Hotline and is told, “You are going to meet a beautiful young girl who will want to know everything about you.”The frog says, “This is great! Will I meet her at a party, or what?”“No,” says the psychic. “Next semester in her biology class.”
( Yes–The District H race was not a very good joke which is why I ran a not so good joke.)
Also, I’m going to run a picture of rubber chickens–
Maybe Mr. Kuffner has some insight I’ve missed, but one has to wonder how much time this stuff is worth when the people who live in the district don’t care.
Above is the city flag of Corpus Christi. I like it because it has a sea bird on the flag. Corpus Christi is a great place to spend a weekend. Here is a link to all the many things you can do in Corpus Christi.
Below is the most recent weekly round-up of Texas Progressive Alliance blogs.
After a record 3 weeks without a post in his six years of blogging, Easter Lemming has a very brief round-up of the Pasadena elections.
Vince at Capitol Annex tells the sad story of how a fundamentalist “historian” and evangelist who believes that hurricanes are God’s punishment on society for tolerating gay citizens will guide the writing of Texas’ new social studies standards. If you thought Darwin versus Don McLeroy was a train wreck, wait until it is the treatment of American Indians, what labor unions have done for America, Islam, women’s suffrage, 9/11, the free enterprise system, and the civil rights movement versus David Barton. First one who catches one of the new “experts” complaining about too much information about minorities in textbooks wins a prize!
Here is what the great economist John Maynard Keynes (above) said in favor of government intervention in the economy—
“….There was no expenditure…it was thought proper for the State to incur except for war. In the past, therefore, we have not infrequently had to wait for a war to terminate a major depression. I hope that in the future we will not adhere to this purist financial attitude, and that we shall be ready to spend on the enterprises of peace what the financial maxims of the past would only allow us to spend on the devastation of war.. At any rate, I predict with an assured confidence that the only way is for us to discover some object which is admitted even by the deadheads to be a legitimate excuse for largely increasing the expenditure of someone on something.”
I like this for two reasons. One is that it allows me to help make the case for government involvement in our economy. It is good that we live in a time when government is taking an active role in our economy, and is seeking to regulate and guide the economy rather than just letting this current deep recession take its course on people’s prospects in life.
If we’re all just left the private sector, we will not have the opportunities in life that collectivist initiatives can offer the struggling but hardworking person.
Here is a profile of Keynes from the Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Read about him and see what you think. Keynes lived from 1883 until 1946.
The excerpt above comes from the book Global Capitalism–Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century by Jeffry Frieden. This is a solid book that fills you in on capitalism as practiced—for both good and ill—in all parts of the world for a span of more than 100 years.
The other reason I like what Keynes said is that it allows me to run a picture of some deadheads from a Grateful Dead concert. Below you see a picture of many deadheads at a Grateful Dead show.
I once went to a Grateful Dead concert. I was curious to see what it was like. I went at some point in the early 90′s. The show was just outside Columbus, Ohio and I think the temperature was about 102. The opening act was Bruce Hornsby and the Range. I have to admit it was one of the most boring concerts I’ve ever seen in my life. That said, I had some sympathy for the deadheads traveling around and following the Grateful Dead.
They were just bumming around and getting stoned and whatever else they were doing. They were not bothering anybody and they seemed good-natured enough. I remember some of them were selling food and other things in the parking lot at the show. I bought some spaghetti with sauce a one guy. Maybe my purchase bought him a gallon of gas to help him get to the next concert.
The following article about politicians using Twitter was in the May 4 Miami Herald— ( Above–Miami.)
“Last week, Alec Rosen declared his candidacy for city commissioner in South Miami — via Twitter. It’s a first for Miami politics, he says. ”It allows us to communicate directly with people who find something in value in what it is you have to say — in 140 characters or less,” Rosen says. He’ll compete for the seat against Rene Guim, who also plans to tweet during his campaign. Miami Beach public information officer Nannette Rodriguez tweets, too. So does Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, under the name IRL. Following their every tweet are a host of community activists in Palmetto Bay, Coconut Grove, Doral and elsewhere with fast fingers on Blackberrys, iPhones and laptops. They’ve all mastered the art of the 140-character missive — the limitation of Twitter messages. … that it’s better to reach 500 people who want to receive your message than sending to 50,000 people who don’t care,” Rodriguez says. That quote, by the way, would be too long by 10 characters or so in tweetspeak.” ( Please click here for the full article.)
My theory about Twitter is that it takes people who would have been part of an educated and aware elite at any point regardless of the technology of the day, and makes them even more remote from day-to-day life.
This article did not change my view. It seems that Twitter has people “in the know” sending an endless loop of messages to each other. This very notion of insiders talking to insiders is a selling point of Twitter. At least to the extent you can say that something that’s free has a selling point.
Many people don’t have iphones, Blackberrys or laptops. Many don’t have the time to send Twitter messages or may feel they would not be able to express themselves very well on Twitter.
The Miami Beach Public Information officer mentioned in the story says it is better to reach the few people who care rather than a larger number of people who don’t care. But how can she know who cares and who does not? I’m certain that many people in Miami Beach care about their community and at the same time have not signed up with Twitter.
Life is fragmented enough as it is and political power is concentrated enough already. We should be looking for ways to reach out and explain what we are doing. Instead, with Twitter we are limit ourselves to a relatively small community of people under the absurd constraint of only 140 characters per message.
Democratic Senator Richard Durbin said the following recently on a Chicago radio station about the power of banks in the U.S. Senate—
“And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”
Senator Durbin is the number two Democrat in the Senate after Majority Leader Harry Reid.
A Glenn Greenwald post in Salon deals with this issue in much greater detail. It’s well worth reading.
It’s no surprise that these things are true even in our current majority-Democrat Senate.
For all the cynicism about politicians, many want to believe the people they vote for put average folks first. While what we have today in Washington is much better than what we had before the 2008 election, one wonders if our political system will ever be free of big money influence no matter who we elect.
Of course, some blame must rest with the public. Public financing of campaigns is an idea that has long been out there. But it’s an issue that does not excite people. Also, people often oppose government action reflexively even when it might be helpful.
In my own case , I supported Barack Obama when he turned down public money for his Presidential race in 2008 because my main focus was on Mr. Obama winning. One can easily say I took a short cut against my own beliefs in order to win.
Here is the web home of Public Campaign. These folks advocate for the public financing of campaigns.
Houston District A Councilwoman Toni Lawrence said that the small child from Mexico who died in a Houston hospital last week from Swine Flu should not have been treated here because the child was not an American citizen.
Here’s what she said—
“The last thing I want to do and I may be overreacting, I will be the first to say. But we had a situation in their pediatrics department now, Children’s Hospital. This child was not a United States citizen and to me we have jeopardized the Hospital District and possibly conventions. I know tour boats are not leaving Galveston now because they are not going to Mexico.”
Now I realize that Ms. Lawrence is not a fully coherent person based on this statement, but the part about the kid not being an American citizen is clear enough.
Ms. Lawrence also said this—I’m very concerned that someone died here in Houston with (swine flu). I’m very concerned that council wasn’t told of this in a prompt way. Again we could have got an e-mail this morning. We did not. So that is a very big concern for me. I think it’s a real reality and we need to be aware of this and continue to do things for Houston and not for anybody else but what’s best for Houston.”
Houston District I Councilmember James Rodriguez offered a fair and useful retort to Ms. Lawrence’s views. Here is what Mr. Rodriguez said—
“During our City Council meeting this week, my colleague, Council Member Toni Lawrence made reference to the 23 month old child who died of Swine Flu in a local hospital. She emphasized that “The child was not a United States citizen” and added that “we need to do things for Houston and not for anybody else.” Consequently, those comments have negatively alarmed many residents throughout the city. Now is not the time for rhetoric that could potentially have a negative impact on public health. Now is not the time to inject a person’s immigration status in this very critical issue. If an individual is showing symptoms, we want them to seek immediate medical treatment without fear of being questioned of their immigration status….”
However, Councilman Rodriguez has not been so welcoming of a new home for the homeless in Houston that has been planned for construction in his district. He asserted the following position after the murder of a homeless person near where the home has been proposed.
“I am not against homeless initiatives. I do support them. I just think this area and this part of my district has enough on its plate right now,” said Rodriguez.”
I’m sure Mr. Rodriguez is fair to say that his district has many of these homes. Yet a frequent argument about our undocumented population and about further immigration to the United States is that we have enough of those folks here already.
I don’t think compassion stops at our borders and I don’t think compassion stops at the lines of Mr. Rodriguez ‘s district.
Below—Councilman Rodriguez and the singer Rihanna. Each have umbrellas.
Sleazy John Edwards has admitted he is the subject of a federal probe of his 2008 Presidential campaign. It’s possible that he misused campaign funds to pay off the woman he was having an adulterous affair with while his wife suffers from cancer.
Above is a couple in Japan in 1860 being shown in public for adultery.
I’m 41 and have been married nine years. If I ever feel I’m having some type of midlife crisis, I’m going to read a long book. That will be how I let go and feel young again.
The longest book I’ve read is the one you see below The Power Broker by Robert Caro. It is 1344 pages. I read it when I was in my 20′s. If you ever see me reading an even longer book, maybe I am having a midlife crisis and i’m doing something to make me feel young again.
Below is an e-mail I got from the Obama folks about two weeks ago—
My name is Luke Hayes, and I’m the new Texas State Director for Organizing for America. Since Tour Town Halls across the state. Will you make your voice heard and join us on the Listening Tour? At Listening Tour meetings, you’ll get a chance to meet new state staff members, hear about some lessons learned during the general election, and offer your thoughts on how we can organize Texas going forward. Your ideas will be used to write a Texas-specific plan for Organizing for America in 2009 and beyond. The campaign brought an unprecedented number of new voices into the process — we need to make sure those voices remain at the center of the debate as the President and Congress work on providing solutions for our economy. But these meetings are not just for folks who were involved in the campaign — we’re hopeful that every Texan will get involved. We can’t stop growing our movement now. We’ve never had a better opportunity to shape our future — and just like during the election, we’ll do it from the bottom up., Organizing for America has been dedicated to making real the change we fought for during the election. But to be successful, we need to hear from you — your effort and commitment are the backbone of this movement and this organization. That’s why I’m so excited to announce that we’re back on the ground in and, starting this week, we’ll be hosting Listening
Sign up now to attend a Listening Tour event:
Texas State Director
Organizing for America
Luke Hayes worked on the Obama campaign in Nevada and Virginia.
On one hand, I’m glad the Obama folks think Texas may merit effort and resources. Texas is a big state and it would be great if Mr. Obama could win Texas in 2012.
On the other hand, it’s all part of a permanent campaign which just means more obscene amounts of fundraising and more all-around bullshit from all sides.
I looked up when the first events on the listening tour in Houston would be held They were booked up. This was just hours after I got the e-mail. I wish they had found a bigger hall. The listing at the Obama web page said that 60 people was all one event could hold while the other could only accommodate 50. Don’t you wager that people who got tickets were people who were well-connected in some way?
I’m (mostly) all for President Obama and I understand the Obama folks want to get a sense if Texas will be viable in 2012. But it’s not really a listening tour. A listening tour would involve a big room and plenty of advance notice in many media outlets.
I’m sure Mr. Hayes is an energetic and loyal soul with an endless capacity to stay at La Quintas. He’ll report up to the mothership if Planet Texas warrants more of a landing party as 2012 approaches.
I find this stuff exhausting in many ways. The 2008 campaign went on forever. It seems the 2012 campaign is now under way in 2009.
The switch of Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat leaves Republicans with just 40 Senators in the 100 seat Senate. After Al Franken is seated in Minnesota there will be 58 Democrats and 2 independents who mostly vote with the Democrats in the Senate.
( Above–Arlen Specter with Martin Luther King. Please click here for the best Martin Luther King reading list on the web.)
This weak Republican presence in the Senate is not out of line with Republican membership in the Senate since the 1929 stock crash. Beginning with the 1930 election, the first after the crash, Democrats have reached 60 or more seats in the Senate 11 times. Mr. Franken’s seating will make that 12 times.
The peak of Democratic control was the 76 seats won in the 1936 election.
(Below–Charles McNary of Oregon was leader of the very small Republican Senate minority after the 1936 election.)
The Republican high since 1930 is just 55 seats. This mark was reached in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 2004. The last time Republicans were as strong in the Senate as are Democrats today was after the election of 1920 when they had 59 seats. The Senate at that time had only 96 seats as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet part of the union.
Democrats have won more than 55 seats in the Senate 20 times since 1929 in contrast to the inability of Republicans to win as many of 56 seats since that year.
( Here is the link to the web home of the U.S. Senate. There is a lot of information to be found at the Senate site. Here is a link to the divisions by party going back to the beginning of the Senate in 1789.)
The last time Republicans reached 60 seats was the election of 1908. Republicans won 60 seats that year in what was a 92 seat Senate.
Democrats have had two main periods of dominance in the Senate since was 1929. In the years between and including the first election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and his final election in 1944, Democrats never fell below 57 seats.
( Below—Republican Robert Taft of Ohio was Senate Majority Leader at the time of his death in 1953. )
In 1958 Democrats won 65 seats and in 1978 they took 58. In between those years, they never went lower than 54 and seven times eclipsed 60.
(Below–Mike Mansfield of Montana was Majority Leader of the Senate 1961-1977. That is the longest tenure in that position.)
Republicans have only had two stretches since 1929 where they’ve won control of the Senate in consecutive elections.
In the Reagan years, Republicans ran the Senate after the 1980, 1982 and 1984 elections. After the Republican Congressional landslide of 1994, Republicans won at least 50 seats each election up to and including 2004. Though after the 2000 election Republican control was ended when Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched to the Democrats giving Democrats a 51-49 edge.
( Below–Howard Baker of Tennessee served as both Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the Senate.)
A qualification to all this could be that many Democrats in the years of Democratic control since 1929 were Southern Democrats who often voted with Republicans. True control of the Senate often eluded the more progressive elements of the Democratic Party.
There is truth to that qualification. But it must be said that the New Deal and Great Society programs that conservatives would like to undo were passed in these years. Civil Rights legislation also passed in these years though it took a long time and required the principled support of some Republicans in the Senate.
Today’s strong Democratic majority has moderate members, but nothing like the segregationists of the past.
For 40 years, since the Sunbelt driven election of Richard Nixon in 1968, we’ve been hearing about the supposed realignment of American politics towards Republicans. Well–Where is it?
Today’s Democratic majorities and the states that Barack Obama won come from all around the nation. In the South, Mr. Obama won North Carolina, Virgina and Florida. Senator Specter’s switch only adds to the 80 years and counting slump of the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate.
( Coming soon -A look at membership of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1929. The story is much the same as it has been in the Senate.)
(Below—Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia has seen a lot of Senate history since he entered the Senate in 1959. He is the longest serving Senator ever.)
Houston At-Large position 4 council candidate Noel Freeman will be holding his campaign kick off event on Thursday April 30. This event will be held at the Cafe Adobe restaurant at 6:30 PM. Cafe Adobe is at 2111 Westheimer. You can call 713-828-7821 for details.
Above is Arlen Specter. Like Mr. Freeman, Mr. Specter was once a Republican who has now become a Democrat.