Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Zimbabwe Zenate Zucks

Zimbabwe is seen as the epitome of democracy gone amuck. A charismatic revolution leader sweeps into office, consolidates power, and uses every trick in the book (goon squads, outlawing political opponents, destroying the economy of opponents, biased judges) to stay in power while still having an electoral process. While in power he has denied private property, human rights, and free speech.

The latest debacle is a bunch of sweeping Constitutional changes passed by his parliament, designed to further entrench his power.

Rolling back institutional roadblocks that can prevent his growing power? No. In fact, he’s adding one of our own favorite roadblocks, the Senate. Not because of a love of checks and balances of course. But simply because that’s 66 more supporters and their staff who he can add to the patronage rolls. And he knows his popular power is absolute enough, especially in the rural-biased Senate, that it adds no risk to his pogroms, errr... programs.

Institutions like these simply do not do enough to stop popularly supported despots, and the political elite loves them because it offers a bunch of cosmopolitan jobs for them to have.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Serious Pwnage

If you don’t know who Christopher Hitchens is, he’s supposed to be a very eloquent, intellectual, left-wing defender of the War in Iraq. In fact most left pundits have been upset at how trashy he’s gotten as he defends the war and mocks people who think it’s a mistake – enough that he’s a source of controversy (he now has a column at , for instance). Much like

He’s definitely the type of “liberal” I refer to in previous posts that thinks America is a wonderful land of tolerance, open-mindedness, and intellectual advancement – which is why we need to single-mindedly destroy those who would oppose it and use any simplistic propaganda to do so. (Curse you Locke. Liberalism will make a deontic out of me yet!)

Which makes last night’s daily show so much fun. I was just watching it while hanging out online, barely paying attention, and then bam!

Stewart: The people who say we shouldn't fight in Iraq aren't saying it's our fault. . . That is the conflation that is the most disturbing. . .
Hitch: Don't you hear people saying. . .
Stewart: You hear people saying a lot of stupid [bleep]. . . But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves. . .
Hitch: [Sputter]
Stewart: They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence...
Hitch: I'm sorry, sunshine... I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn't give. . .
Stewart: No, you misunderstood why. . . . That's not why I ridiculed the president. He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince.
[Audience erupts in applause]
Hitch: You want me to believe you're really secretly on the side of the Bush administration. . .
Stewart: I secretly need to believe he's on my side. He's too important and powerful a man not to be.
Hitch: [Sputter, return to talking about his latest book.]

The video is here. It’s even better unexpected though.

JC, I’m not one to fall into line with Stewart flattery, but he keeps delivering some remarkable performances. I’m also surprised to see Hitchens really be that bad. He simply did not respond to the idea that there are loyal opponents of the war who think it is being managed badly. I know it’s a stereotype that all hawks think all doves are appeasers who hate America, but it’s weird to see that this leftist really embodies that stereotype.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

They Come and They Go

Can anyone tell me what happened to Left to Right a blog of academics, a favorite pointed out to me by Neil? It used to post all the time with really provocative thoughts on various issues. Now it rarely has anything, and besides things like comments turned off and a rotating cast of characters, it posts things like this:

Marital rights generally go hand-in-hand with parental rights. Any legal acknowledgement that the children of same-sex marriages have a third, biological parent would stigmatize those marriages, as leading to less than full-fledged parenthood. Equality between homosexual and heterosexual marriages may therefore require us to deny that donor-conceived children have both a mother and a father, thereby expunging the children's connection to half of their biological past.
Such an arrangement violates a right enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states: “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents”.

My worry is that a purely affectional conception of marriage will tend to favor a purely affectional conception of parenthood. And I think that denying the importance of biological parenthood leads us to violate fundamental rights of children.

[If same sex-parental couples acknowledged the biological parents] homosexual marriage would be, by its very nature, marriage that can lead only to qualified parenthood -- qualified, that is, by the legally recognized parenthood of donors or birth parents. Maytbe same-sex couples would be willing to accept a form of marriage that is second-class in this respect -- but I doubt it.

That’s all he has to say on the issue? That it comes down to treating same-sex parents like we already treat adoptive parents, which he thinks could lead to the wrong image of parental relationships? And he believes there’s no other factors to consider really. Is this some sort of Swiftian parody that I am missing?


Monday, August 15, 2005

Roberts' True Form!

Slow news weekend (not counting atrocities and political despair in Iraq, which our media doesn’t). So the pendulum of attention has shifted back to the federal judiciary.

Justice Rally II (The Quickening!) was yesterday, although it didn’t get much hoopla. Nor did it throw much hoopla around, such as towards SCOTUS Nominee Roberts. I think this is in part because the conservative establishment knows they don’t have to worry about this failing, since heck, if the guy were somehow filibustered or committee-d to death, then Bush would appoint someone just as or more conservative. It’s easy for them to be unhappy about any moderation in Roberts’ record, when they know the alternatives would be quite pleasant regardless.

A couple things. I believe the current meme is that Roberts is a “true intellectual” who just likes playing games of ideas? The President said he nominated Roberts because they had such great chemistry. Yeah, the law school valedictorian who will take any intellectual position just to play Socratic jujitsu, has a ton in common with our down home President (especially compared to the chemistry I imagine Bush has with Albert Gonzales or Edith Clement).

I mean most of the media only gave this explanation lip service (something that happens all too often with Bush’s patently-absurd descriptions of policy motives), but still, we have to ask why Bush nominated him. He passed up some good “identity politics” photo ops, and the potential to reward close friends. He did it because either A) Roberts was the most solid guardian of social conservatism, or B) he got along with Roberts the best. The only explanation for where A is untrue, probably falsifies B as well. If Roberts really is more a rules-lawyer curmudgeon than a social conservative, I can’t see our Bar-Buddy-in-Chief liking this guy much.

Let’s look at what makes Roberts’ so suspicious. Yes his opinions are written in intellectual, and even contrarian, style rather than movement-righteousness like Federal Judges Owens and Brown. But they’re still Scalia’s type of “strict originalism… that happens to always coincide with Republican policy”.

Most recently, there has come out his pro-bono work for a gay rights SCOTUS case and for Playboy against federal regulations. Pro-bono means he didn’t get paid and didn’t even have to take the case, so the whole “only a lawyer representing his client” is kind of out the window.

But look closer at what he did to help the cases. For the gay rights case, he acted in for Justice Scalia, posing as a devil’s advocate against the HRC group to help them sharpen their arguments. And in the Playboy case, he did it again, this time asking the skeptical questions one would expect from all the conservative members of the court. He didn’t do anything that was liberal in itself, he was just helping liberal groups.

Now think back to most of the people who enjoy intellectual exercises and being devil’s advocate that you know. College dorm late night discussions. How often do they really represent positions that they don’t have some sympathy with? Isn’t it that much more often they enjoyed arguing their side of the political spectrum, defending some indefensible extreme that they don’t necessarily agree with, but just to see all their shallow liberal/conservative friends squirm? I know that applies to me, and many of my more educated friends. And there’s nothing wrong with this of course, but the key thing is that they are still acting out their political lines. They have not separated themselves from their partisanship to do this.

All lawyers have to do a certain amount of pro-bono work each year. Now you could spend it helping poor clients file briefs they don’t understand. You could spend it helping one of your favorite charities win a long battle. Or you could spend ten hours having fun arguments where you get to defend your worldview against a bunch of befuddled ideologues. I know which one I’d pick.

Roberts is a conservative. He’s a conservative intellectual who doesn’t mind helping the other side policy wise, as long as he still gets to be the conservative curmudgeon. That’s sweet (and a little aloof) of him. But on the court, this doesn’t mean he’s going to be cold and indifferent when it comes to law. He’s still going to be asking the same type of questions you see from Scalia and Rehnquist that he did before.


Yes, Gay Marriage Is a Civil Right Issue

“Black people are bad neighbors. They all live in the ghetto downtown, and look how crappy it is. I can’t let them live in my neighborhood, because then it would become just as bad as those areas.”

Ha, what a bad argument that was. It perpetuated racial divisions, and consigned a large part of American society to poor and socially-immobile areas. And it was based on horrible logic that 30 seconds with a Venn diagram will break.

“Gay people are bad family members. They all have relationships outside marriage. I can’t let them become part of my definition of marriage, because then marriage would just become like the relationships they have.”

Letting gays marry will bring a currently socially-outcast group move from a ghetto of assumed-promiscuity to normal society. And marriage matters a lot more than some financial rights; being in an unsanctioned relationship prevents people from jobs such as: teacher, minister, politician, family doctor or other community leaders.

The consequentialist argument for gay-marriage is so easy to make that I encourage my friends to use it more than the deontic argument (that we shouldn’t be judging other people’s relationships, or religious people who feel government needs to get out of the business of marriage altogether).

If you think the average American voter is going to be convinced by an ethic of moral-libertarianism, remember that bigamy itself (not just when it’s fraudulent or child-abuse) is illegal.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Not Exactly Turtledove

>Interesting review of “What if We Don’t Act Now?”, a series of essays by historians about alternative-history theories, and what events would have happened if key event X had not taken place. I enjoy alternative fiction, and I also have little respect for “great man” theories of history, so it’s interesting to me.

The reviewer writes about how this field enraptures conservative historians and writers far more than liberal ones. Which is ironic (according to both him and I) because leftist causes are not really as inseparable from unique events as it is common to think. Yes, Marxism is a deterministic philosophy. But the actual play of Communist revolutions is generally inspired by random individuals.

Which makes sense; I’ve long considered Lenin the most influential person of the 20th century because he definitely seems pretty key to events and yet isn’t a natural and predictable result of social forces. He organized the conspiratorial revolutions, he brought Marxism to Russia, he took Russia in a more centralized direction, etc. In contrast, the Western leaders of the Great Wars were generally reacting to attacks on themselves or pre-existing cultural alliances.

(Which is not to say I like Lenin. In fact, if I had one bullet to use on anyone in their infancy during the 20th century, I would use it on him. One for Stalin or Hitler would be wasted, as both countries were ripe for autocracy and terror by the time they came to power.)

Courtesy of Cliopatriarch.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

To the Sullivans (part 2):

I’m going to continue yesterday’s post about “nested open-minded-ness.” Being tolerant and all Enlightenment-y isn’t just important on the broader world stage or in choosing a political wing in America; it’s also important when defining our own political party.

[Addendum: Even more relevant in response to NARAL's rather out-there ad accusing Roberts of defending violent extremeists. But hey, when you're accused of murdering hundreds of babies every day, I can understand some over-reaction.}

Look, if you’re the type of person that believes a side is right because they take a “strong stance” and don’t “nuance their words”, then you probably were going to be behind the Iraq War. The reason Democrats so often sound less certain than their opponents is because certainty-above-reason is not a liberal value.

This doesn’t mean we’d be unable to use it to win elections. It just means it would be wrong.

People often lament that Democrats are bad at the tactics of elections. Especially Democrats. Well, be more like Republicans then. Use NARAL like the NRA, as a cultural identifier that creates polarization for your base, instead of a group that tries to make productive legislation. Nominate a guy who has some very easily telegenic features, and ignore everything bad about him ever. Rally around a plain-spoken idiot and don’t let anyone point out that he’s an idiot, or say that being an idiot makes you a worse President/Congressman/Dog-catcher.

Democrats obsessively nit-pick about their candidates flaws and the flaws of their specific policies. It’s very annoying when it comes to elections. Just like respect for civilian life is really inconvenient for Western nations when waging war. (Or the fact that I have to annotate every paragraph with the fact that these statements are only vague generalities and intolerance does not define everyone in the countries or parties dominated by religious fanatics.)

But you know what? Open-minded-ness is still an asset. Our tolerance is an asset. Go read this at Brad Delong’s:

Since I took Bruce's seat at the Treasury when the Bush administration turned into the Clinton administration, let me recount one 10:30 PM conversation I had at the Treasury in the spring of 1993 with one of the career economists. "Yeah. It was kind of boring around here for the past couple of years. We used to wish that we would be asked by the White House to do more." Pause. "I suppose the lesson is: 'Be careful what you wish for'."

The right-wing approach to economics is simplistic demagoguery and easy fixes. Sure there are technocrats and luddites on both sides, but in general: the Democrats are led by people who want to think through to the best policy for every situation and enjoy doing that, and the Republicans have a set goal and know how they want to accomplish it. Their financial policy is run by Rove, Card, and Cheney. Our financial policy was run by a bunch of geeks staying late every night, obsessively trying to make sure they use the best methods.

Wouldn’t you rather be in the technocratic party? In RPG terms, it’s like a -3 to electability, but a +5 to governance. The worldly success of well thought out moderate Democratic policy is not a coincidence, it’s a liberal value.

When Bush first heard about CIA efforts to deal with Bin Laden, he famously said he didn’t want to “keep swatting at flies”, he wanted to deal with the problems in a big way. That type of macho certainty starts wars and gets you votes. But swatting at flies saves American lives and captures real terrorists.

In world affairs, be open-minded to other religions and identities.
In America, be open-minded to the perspective of the other side.
In party dialogue be open-minded to the flaws of yourself and the benefits others can bring.



Kos, Neil, and Ezra are discussing NARAL’s renewed plea for principled support of the right to choose.

I entirely understand why NARAL endorsed Chaffee (R-RI) so early in the cycle. As I posted here, a lot of liberal single-issue groups have done better than their counterparts because they are willing to cross party lines. Their issue matters more to them partisan success. This has resulted in a Republican government with liberal single issues surviving.

There is also the important PR step of showing you are not a partisan organization. By loudly endorsing a famous pro-choice Republican so early on, NARAL has sent the signal that they are about the right to choose. I know that’s important to them. And if the election is pro-choice Chaffee vs. pro-life Langevin (D), then I understand the endorsement doubly so. But we don’t know the Democratic nominee yet, and it may well be a pro-choice one.

But guys, you got screwed by circumstance. A SCOTUS nomination came up, and you know Chaffee is going to vote for Roberts, a guy who you’re putting at least some effort into publicizing as an anti-abortion partisan. How can you endorse someone who votes for Roberts and is a member of the opposing party?

NARAL should just admit they made a decision absent the SCOTUS vote, and are now reconsidering. That if Chaffee votes for Roberts, they will have to endorse someone else. It’s a move that will save a lot of face with their base, and still seem flexible and open-minded with regards to Chaffee and (more importantly) the voters of Rhode Island.

Attacking NARAL is not attacking choice. There are many reasons to believe that while even the most principled extreme pro-choice position is to be held, NARAL doesn't have their act together.

PS: There is a well-founded theory that if push came to shove and a Senate majority or big nomination depended on Chaffee’s vote, he would switch sides. He’s an opportunist who is currently staying with the majority because they provide more power. The Republicans can’t possibly kick him out because he’s the only way a Republican could win Rhode Island, but they know he’s a potential traitor. So on one hand I have less animousity towards supporting the boy than others do. On the other hand, I continue to have a great deal of angst over Congressmen who by merit of charisma and local connections, represent their district from the wrong party.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

To the Sullivans of the world

Dan at >

When gays and lesbians express disgust or contempt for, say, the Pat Robertsons of this world, we’re accused of being intolerant—and isn’t that hypocritical of us? After all, isn’t tolerance what we’ve been asking for? How can we refuse to tolerate Pat Robertson?

But as Manji points out, being intolerant of intolerance is not the moral equivalent of being intolerant.

Yes it is.

Open-minded-ness is a value of the Enlightenment that we must hold dear.

Look, I rather live in the West because it is more intellectually open-minded than other regions, and that is both a cause and result of greater economic development (another reason to live in the West). But it is the open-mindedness that is good; it hasn’t magically imbued something on the West that makes it a better place forever and ever. If you remove that tolerance, then you are removing what is good and thoughtful.

There is a cleavage in the world, in very crude rough terms, between the first-world and the third-world, which we are fortunate enough to fall on the more open-minded and tolerant side of. Within the first-world, in America, there is another cleavage between open-minded Westerners and intolerant Westerners. And in the Democratic party, there are crazy liberals who hate all Christians, and there are open-minded liberals who try to see the Republican perspective and the Islamic perspective and all other perspectives when the situation calls for it.

The neo-conservatives are not some unique defenders of liberal democracy, willing to use the dark arts of intolerance so that the rest of us don’t have to live under it. They are simply the reflection of the “evil intolerant Moslems” they see on the other side.

Acknowledging the grievances of the Palestinian people, or removing military bases from the Mideast will not “show weakness” and cause further invasion. It will respect them as human beings and make peaceful commerce and negotiation possible. Why do I believe this? Because I am open-minded and tolerant. And I think that attitude is the right one, when you look at the development of successful and liberal societies (a point that Euro-centric neo-cons are always so quick to make).

This post is not to say that Democrats are always right, or that the West has a monopoly on tolerance. It is to say that open-minded-ness is always the right choice, and the factors that make us proud of it in one area, mean it should be followed in all areas.

(As for then “how do we respond to those defenders of Pat Robertson”, well it’s pretty easy: gays and lesbians aren’t being intolerant. They are against his opinions and are happy to let him live the lifestyle he likes. They do not have the desire nor the power to make laws or punishments against him. And those that do seriously advocate harm or danger to him, are intolerant, wrong, and in the very very small minority.)


Odds and Ends of Democratic Deficiences

Matt has cute citations of Constitutional problems today. First, angst over the lack of DC representation now that Congress is considering renaming 16th Ave to Ronald Reagan Ave.

Next, there’s pondering why do we have an election day on a weekday that most people don’t get off. I personally believe universal voting is the ultimate solution, as the government should represent the preferences of all of its citizens, not any specific subset of its citizens. Australia and other democracies has shown that it leads neither to totalitarianism, or even more welfare. Which reminds me that any conventional wisdom about ‘making turnout “easier” for casual voters benefits Democrats’ has no scientific backing, and is not even accepted among most political workers. Making turnout easier in a Democratic district or union benefits Democrats yes, but overall there are just as many casual Republicans (such as rural farmers who live 10 miles from the nearest polling place) who are more likely to vote when things get easier.

Before I (and our capricious media) forget, there’s the huge Transportation Bill. Go look at some of the details. It’s easy to get the impression that this is a ton of pork spread around by a greedy Congress. But it’s a ton of pork in a few very specific states, paid to specific Congressmen needed to get the bill through. Alaska, Tennessee, North Carolina, etc. If the Democrats were in power, I’m sure they’d do the same pork-filled things (although considering that it’s the Senate, at the very least I’d rather $250 million go to build a random bridge in New York or California, than Alaska). The point being, our insecure system has lots of choke points for malicious actors to get a lot of funding and employment programs to their constituents (that, and any time a Republican pundit claims they hate state welfare, to remember how much actual Republican politicians are fine using money for make-work jobs to get elected).

EconLog has a defense of Constitutions that says they have their greatest effect on policy by shaping the norms of a culture. I agree that this is a strong effect. Our country generally agrees very strongly with every individual having “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Oh wait, that’s the Declaration of Independence, which has no legal binding. It’s really rather easy to make up norms the populace wants to follow, without imposing huge legal inefficiencies on the government. Not to mention, if “encouraging certain beliefs” is the goal of our Constitution, then I’m sure we can do better than the current set up.

I do like how EconLog casually starts with “Many economists hold the view that constitutions don't affect policy.” I’ve seen this economics and political science before, where academic accept it as a given these general beliefs that the public and politicians cannot wrap their mind around. To a rigorous, skeptical mind it’s clear that our Constitution won’t stop politicians from allocating money or power however they wish. But to people who don’t think about these issues except around the dinner table, no matter how well educated they are, the beliefs they are inculcated with in K-12, are far stronger.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Monster Democratic Direction Post

Inspired from Dev @

People are seeming to get it finally, be it Hillary, Yglesias, or guest blogger Michael Lind on TPMCafe. Many elites believe that moving to the center requires giving up the authoritarian/populist leanings of your party, and being a libertarian moderate. The media loves the socially liberal Republicans (Giuliani, Spectre) and the economically libertarian Democrats (Clinton). And among educated well-to-due professionals, it may be easy to believe that libertarian-moderate means moderate means the key to winning elections.

Except as our good friends at The Economist should know, the masses can be crude and more interested in specific policy-goals, than the ideal of limited government. “I wish this could be done, but it’s wrong for the government to make that law” just doesn’t play well. Those politicians may be successful in some areas they weren’t previously, but their appeal only slows overtime. Whereas, the more successful politicians lately have run strongly on the authoritarian aspects of their party (Bush, Edwards, Dean), and been rather friendly to the populist instincts of the other side (Bush and NCLB, H. Clinton and GTA, Harry Reid).

And I’d recommend to Matt or my friends at Freedom Democrats, that sometimes they have to accept that what is the best policy, isn’t the best way to win elections. Few people are naturally libertarian, especially compared to how many are populist, especially on their specific issue, and the proper way to appeal to swing-voters is not necessarily good policy. (Although if you’re dishonest, you’ll try to convince politicians that your policies will win elections even if though won’t, because you need to get your policies implemented).

But Michael Lind goes too far in his hypothesis as well. He certainly doesn’t look at how this can specifically play out. It’s one thing to switch on an issue, it’s another to give off the “attitude” of populism. In fact, I believe the evidence has shown quite well that the more populist special interest groups have little interest in working with politicians who have joined their side for one issue. Pro-Life Democrats do not get endorsed by Pro-Life organizations. Anti gun-control* Democrats do not get a pass form the NRA. No liberals have cheered Santorum on, despite his rising concern for minimum wage, healthcare, and lower-class income. This is pretty partisan, compared to libertarian issue-organizations, which are generally happy to cross the aisle to support a politician that backs them on abortion rights or tax cuts.

Why is this? It may be because the communitarians are more emotional, and so find themselves more convinced by partisan fidelity. The Democrats will always be pro-choice, the Republicans will always be anti-healthcare, and the populists of each party who are involved enough to run organizations will always believe that. Whereas the libertarian organizations seem to rapidly pursue just their one interest, and are always looking for cross-party alliances. This is all speculation however, and the activity on these specific issues could just be result of coincidence and a small data-set. Certainly Bob Casey in PA could prove me wrong. Just simply, while libertarian-moderates don’t seem as great idea as the media makes out, populist-moderates also face uphill battles.

Which brings us to my larger feelings about all this advice being lobbed towards Democrats: use numbers! Lind doesn’t use any numbers (except some imaginary ones about what adds up to 51%), but look at the election results (exit polls, balanced for what the real election were):

Population PortionBushKerry

Every political advisor should have this grid written on the inside of their eye-lids. Kerry won the self-described moderates. He won them big (especially when considering that no failing candidate has ever won the moderates). All discussion about whether Kerry tacked to the center, or whether it was worth it needs to consider that he won the center (and probably, not based on his personal appeal or message). The problem was that 38% of the country that showed up was self-described Conservative. This was relatively unprecedented (due to growing suburbia, gay marriage ballots, Iraq War, war on terror, etc.) and while to some degree it is a growing paradigm in the country, other factors for it should lessen over time (specifically: 9/11). Now, political advice for national elections takes 5 forms:

1. Increase share among the liberals.
2. Increase share among the moderates.
3. Increase share among the conservatives.
4. Increase the number of liberals.
5. Decrease the number of conservatives.

Most pundity has focused on #2, like there are great grounds to gain, and if Kerry had won only 30% of the moderates I’d say that’s plausible. But with his win there, it seems we’re not going to get a lot of growth (although it’s important to keep the moderate policies that got those voters in the first place). And, partisan-ness being what it is, I think it’s hard to accomplish #1, without getting the opposite from #3 (which has been Rove’s goal actually). I simply don’t think goal #3 is viable either. 20% is a pretty good level for opposite ideology to vote for you, and there’s no reason to believe switching on a few issues is going to convince that side to dislike their guy enough and like you enough to vote for you in large numbers.

In which case, real cultural shift that results in #4 and #5 seems the best idea. Some of this is simply to wait for current passions to die down. Some of this is coming up with more attractive policies. And some of this is convincing the culture to believe that which we hold true (gays deserve equal rights, universal healthcare is a fiscal priority). Which is why I tend to side more with Dean than I naturally would, I feel the demographics are actually at his side (even if he wouldn’t change positions if the numbers weren’t). But this is just off-the-cuff thoughts, more serious analysts should turn to more numbers.

On a positive, numbers related note, I’m sure many readers are sorry about the loss of Paul Hackett in my congressional district. He was a huge underdog, and his 48%-52% loss was amazingly close (compared to the 76% Bush got in the district in 2004), but it’s easy to feel that “a loss is a loss” and such percentage gains aren’t even superficial. Many Democratic-optimists argue that if the whole country is swinging in the anti-Republican direction that this special election just went, it’s a huge gain for Democrats, that if in the next election that’s the sort of support the GOP gets then Democrats can finally win. I’ll do you one better:

If OH-2 had voted for Kerry in the percentage that it voted for Hackett, Kerry would now be in the White House, even if everything else stayed the same. It’s true, Kerry lost Ohio by 15k votes, and so went the electoral college. His margin of loss in OH-2, the strongest Republican district, was near 100k. It’s easy to forget how close the Republican victory was, and what small things could change it.


*I consider the NRA socially authoritarian, even though they are fighting new laws, because they seem much more about an attitude towards crime than specifically interested in guns. Liberals believe crime should be lessened by removing violent weapons. Conservatives believe crime should be lessened by tougher policing and better social mores.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Eleanor Holmes Norton May Soon Have a Real Job

The National League of Cities just endorsed a measure to give Washington DC a seat in the House of Representatives, balanced by an extra seat in Utah, until the next census revamping. So that’s a nice step.

Let’s be clear about what I mean when I say compromise. As a moderate and someone afraid of myopic extremism, I very much like practical compromises. But for our system to work, there must be some basic ground rules that we cannot compromise on. Everyone gets an equal vote, so they have an equal say in our government.

The idea of giving Utah (the next state on the list if votes were re-apportioned) an extra vote is fine, because we still have the same system distributing Congressman, equally decided (albeit very weirdly) for everyone. I understand that it would be an important part in maintaining political balance.

But this proposal does not create any Senatorial representation or state government for DC (it would still be run by the congressional DC joint-committee, which increasingly ignore the wishes of DC citizens or city council). DC citizens would still be less than any other American citizen in how their tax dollars are spent. This should not be compromised, they are full Americans, and they deserve full representation.


In related news, apparently one of the efforts the Governator is trying to push through is a panel that objectively sets California’s Congressional districts, while the current system heavily favors incumbents (not maximizing Democratic seats, just keeping incumbents safe). It’s probably just a wish, but if he did so, I would certainly have to swing my opinion of the Governor into decidedly positive.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ezra's YIMBY

Dangerous chemicals on trains may or may not be the target of terrorist attacks.

In most states and cities, they could be banned from coming too near central population centers.

Not in DC!.

Since the DC City Council lacks the authority to ban it (it's interstate commerce) and lacks any clout in Congress to get anything done about it.


TAPPED has a sad rant about our current infrastructure spending (ie, the massive Energy and Transportation bills that just passed Congress). It's not that we spend too much, we spend less than most Western nations, just how the money is distributed is the result of congressional partisanship, committee placement, and seniority.

Ie, cities (on a per capita basis) get screwed.

I really think I should change this blog's motto to the Baker quote "represent people now cows".