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Can Someone Explain Something To Me?

Thursday, November 30, 2006
I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. If there is strong argument in support of a position, I will seriously consider embracing it, even if that means reversing a previously held belief.

I have taken economics courses. I have read books on political economy. I understand the basis of the discipline. And despite all this, I have had a very difficult time accepting the dominant view of the economics profession, that free trade is always a good thing. This view is based on the law of comparative advantage, the pareto efficient outcomes can be achieved when all parties specialize in those tasks for which they are best suited. I get the arguments. I'm just not persuaded.

Historically, no nation has industrialized without some form of government support - usually in the form of outright mercantilism. In addition, just because there are net efficiencies does not mean that both parties will benefit equally from the exchange. If I'm good at making corn and you're good at making cars, I'm just not going to make as much as you. And why precisely is the "race to the bottom" argument wrong? Why won't the huge numbers of well-educated, low-paid workers in the 3rd world virtually eliminate the American middle class? Isn't a convergence in living standards almost inevitable?

I'm completely supportive of the freest possible trade with similarly constituted economies, like those in Japan and Western Europe. But with nations that have no environmental or labor protections, with grossly lower wages? Are you kidding me?

I like Max Sewicky and Paul Krugman. I respect what they have to say. But I just can't seem to figure out why I'm wrong and they're right. But I'm willing to listen.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:49 PM

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A Primer on Wealth

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Let's not delude ourselves. Wealth is not the product of hard work. It is not the product of ability. It is certainly not the product of virtue. High incomes are the result of economic forces which have precious little do with the actions (or lack thereof) of those that acquire them. It's mostly due to luck.

From a strict supply & demand perspective, the amount of money you receive in the form of wages and benefits is a result of the match between your skill set and the need for those skills in marketplace. If there is a high demand for cooks and you happen to be a cook, you'll earn more. But you don't always know what professions are going to be bidding high. If you get into a "hot" area, it is likely to be glutted by the time you get there.

Unfortunately for economists and those deranged by Horatio Alger stories, the strict supply/demand model, and the notion that the "most competitive" will win, is simply untrue. Betamax made a better videotape than VHS but they went out of business. And there is the additional little problem that institutions can shape the pattern of competition. We have decided that manufacturing workers in the U.S. have to compete with workers in China and Mexico, but that lawyers don't. We have also decided that you need an expensive degree to practice law (reducing the number of people who can practice), while being a sanitation worker doesn't.

If you have a good job, great for you. But remember this: employers receive a stack of resumes for every desirable job, and frequently make decisions that can only be interpreted as arbitrary You can't really tell what someone is like from a resume. There were a ton of other people who were qualified for your super high paying job that didn't get the job, and no one will ever know why.

There are also a number of factors that control why some people in a given profession make more than others in the same profession. Let's say that you and I are both working in the same kitchen as chefs. You might be better looking than me, or funnier than me - things that have nothing to do with the job - and might get a raise whereas I don't. Or you might be willing to work longer hours unasked (who knows what price you will pay for this at home). There is also the possibility that you are a better cook than I (or even just seem to be). Given our "winner take all" culture, you might be a 10% better chef, but make twice as much. It is also possible that you happen to be related to the boss. Or you're sleeping with him.

I won't even bother discussing the proportion of people who are wealthy through no actions of their own, but because they happen to be clever enough to choose the right parents. If you want to be rich, it doesn't hurt to have Bill Gates as your father.

I am not saying that those who are economically successful don't deserve any of their wealth, that they haven't worked hard, or that they aren't capable people. What I am saying is that there were hundred of other people who work just as hard and are just as talented as you are, but who make a fraction of what you do. I also want those who have benefitted from our country's wealth to recognize that while everyone in America is contributing to the growth of the economy, only a very tiny number of the people are seeing any of the returns. There is something very wrong when a company makes a billion dollar quarterly profit, doubles its CEO's already fat salary, and the people who actually do the work don't see another dime. They're just told that they're lucky to still have a job.

So sure, it's great that wealthy people are willing to give some of it away, Marriah. But wouldn't it be better if there were fewer people who needed philanthropy? How about instead of you demanding a million dollar benefit package, you give your secretary a bit of raise and not outsource her job to India?

C'mon. Whaddya say?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:24 AM

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Do Republicans Realize They Lost?

Incoming Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell minimizes the importance of a raise in the minimum wage, the implementation of paygo rules, and ethics reform, while pledging his support for immigration and social security reform.

Uh, Mitch. If those bills were so easy, how come you guys didn't pass them when you were in power? And why don't I believe that you'll be supportive of efforts to deal with immigration and social security?

To put it bluntly, I don't think we should do anything about social security. The Republicans are trying to destroy America's oldest and most important social insurance system in the name of some "crisis" that may or may not happen 40 years from now. How is something a crisis when it doesn't become a problem until today's college graduates are facing retirement?

Mitch is bringing up immigration because he wants to solve a political problem for his party. The nativist wing of the Republican party is rebelling over Bush's failure to stem illegal immigration. Mitch is hoping that if the Democrats propose a bipartisan piece of legislation, the Republicans in Congress will be able to win political cover and permit a few members of their caucus to rail against any proposed reforms. I think immigration is an important issue, but it's certainly not the first thing we should deal with.

You're in the minority, Mitch. That means you don't get to set the agenda. Get used to it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:11 AM

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Wow. I Never Would Have Guessed That.

Monday, November 27, 2006
via Luckybuzz

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Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader

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Book Snob


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Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:43 PM

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Welcome to the Oligarchy

Has anyone been reading this NYT series on the super-rich? My god. It's enough to make one re-consider Marxism.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:28 PM

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Dear George

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
You don't want to listen to me? How about Ronald Reagan:

"Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root."

"If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly."

"Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force."

"Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated."

From Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech in 1982.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:51 PM

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I Hate To Say I Told You So

Actually, I love saying I told you so.

Do you remember how I said that the Massachusetts health care plan was going to be a fiasco? Well it turns out I was right. It's so bad in fact the Governor who proposed it didn't dare run for re-election. He's running for President instead.

What is it with these people?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:16 AM

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Who Said Ideas Don't Have Consequences?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Not me!

According to the Washington Post, there is a movement underway to legalize polygamy. They are doing so on the same grounds as those advocating the recognition of gay marriage: personal choice. While autonomy is useful means of discussing individual decision-making (like abortion, for example), it is a very bad way of looking at social relationships. This is because such relationships have a tendency to hierarchy and exploitation. When we say that people's choices are always sacrosanct, we disarm ourselves against those who claim that those they are taking advantage of are choosing to be oppressed. This is a road down which we surely do not want to travel.

I wrote about the problem that polygamy presents to those defending gay marriage rights back in March. At the time Charles Krauthammer was attempting to extend the arguments used by gay rights advocates to polygamy. I think he was right to draw this comparison.

This is NOT to say that I think gay marriage should remain illegal. I think it should be legalized, and that polygamy should remain illegal. Polygamy is unacceptable because it is inherently exploitative. Gay marriage isn't. It's as simple as that.

The lesson of this situation is that we need to be very careful when presenting arguments. If we do so in a sloppy way, we may empower our opponents on other issues as they throw our words back in our faces.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:25 AM

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Where Conservatism Stops and Liberalism Begins

Monday, November 20, 2006
By contemporary political standards, I am in every sense a liberal. Yet for some reason when I look back in American history for political role models, I find myself attracted by Hamilton rather than Jefferson, Clay rather than Jackson, Lincoln rather than Douglas (okay, that one's easy).

Perhaps it is because I am a nationalist, or that I am a believer in the importance of stability. But in the end I think it is that liberalism and conservatism at their best tend to converge. If we would preserve that which we cherish, then we must be willing to change. If we would achieve our loftiest ambitions, we must do so with an eye to the lessons of history or risk disaster.

What saddens me is that the Burkean tradition of conservatism, has (with a few exceptions) all but lapsed in this country. America has become an eagle flying on one wing.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:30 PM

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Words To Live By

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #1

I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable--the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:07 PM

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There's a reason people hate the press.

First, I hope that my response to Rebecca's comments weren't what drove her away. Maybe she'll read this and tell me, because if they are I'll never forgive myself :(.

In any event, I spent the entire weekend wiping my hard drive and re-installing windows. My computer had been in pretty sad shape. I don't know what was wrong with it, but now it's working like a charm. Yeah for me!

I stopped watching the morning news shows on Sunday quite some time ago, largely because I got tired of the mainstream media's imbalanced coverage, irritating prejudices, and tiresome habit of inviting the same guests over and over and over. After the election, I decided to watch them again in order to have some good gloat time. I hadn't planned to watch this weekend but changed my mind when I saw that Russert was bringing on Jim Webb and John Tester. Those are two of the more interesting new Democratic Senators, so I was intrigued.

Tester strikes me as a very decent man - a "regular joe" if you will. He was being broadcast on a satellite feed from his kitchen, and reeked of 19th-century western populism. Unfortunately for Tester he was on the same time as Jim Webb. Webb was incredibly impressive. He was sober and analytical but was capable of speaking with real passion. His recent comments about the central importance of globalization and its effect on the American middle class and American security spoke directly to some of my deepest concerns. And I was really hooked when Webb said that he was going to model his career after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, my own personal political role model. Yeah, Webb looks pretty awesome.

I flipped around to watch Face the Nation, where Charlie Rangel made some interesting comments about national service. What really caught my attention was Lindsey Graham, who came out in favor of the McCain position of sending more troops to Iraq. I must say, I don't see how this position is politically tenable. It seems to me that the voters spoke very clearly about their desire to reduce our military commitments in the Middle East. When are conservatives going to realize that democracies cannot sustain foreign policies without the support of public opinion? How many wars to they have to lose?

Still, I was happy enough at the morning's progress - until I watched the end of Stephanopolous's show. I skipped the McCain interview (I'm tired of him already) but watched the roundtable portion with George, Fareed Zakaria, Robert Reich, and that pompous granny with a bow tie George Will. This gaggle of pundits were clucking about the rise of populism in the Democratic Party, particularly the emphasis on fair trade. Will sniffed that this was another term for protectionism, and that the liberal demand to include labor and environmental standards in trade agreements meant "no trade agreements at all."

The knee-jerk free-trade position enunciated by the beltway pundits was annoying enough. But for Will to blithely assert that the essence of free trade was the elimination of environmental and labor protections was incredibly revealing. His ilk seems exclusively interested in fattening their stock portfolios, with nothing but hostility for those who have a quaint desire to breathe the air or get health care. Will also trotted out the long-debunked notion that most people on the minimum wage are students or part-time workers. I really hate that man.

My one consolation is that the Washington media types appear to be losing their ability to shape the public debate. On November 7 the voters forcefully demonstrated their ability to think for themselves, shrugging off the manipulations of the D.C. press corps or the fear-mongering of the Republican Party. For which I can only say "thank God."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:06 AM

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What The Democrats Should Do

Friday, November 17, 2006
Rebecca asked me what I think the D's should do now that they're in the majority. This is really a rather simple request: they should just do what they said they were going to. Before the election, the Democrats published an agenda of 6 items, the badly-named "6 in '06." They included:

1) Ethics, Election, and Campaign Finance Reform
2) Implementing the 9/11 commission reforms
3) Supporting alternative energy and conservation
4) Raising the minimum wage, making tuition tax deductible, and reducing college loan interest rates
5) Allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and funding stem cell research
6) Defending Social Security & restoring PAYGO rules in the budget process.

All of these reforms are broadly popular and none are particularly expensive. They are supported by both Democratic and Independent voters, while Republicans are divided on them. This agenda is not earth-shaking, but every item on the agenda is both good policy & good politics.

You'll notice that Iraq and Immigration aren't on the agenda. Neither is trade. That's because the Democrats are divided on these issues - as a consequence it doesn't make much sense to tackle them unless Bush decides to cooperate or when we have a Democratic President. Otherwise it will just hand the Republicans a political weapon while accomplishing nothing.

The Media loves to say that the Democrats "don't have any ideas." That's funny - I just named a bunch of them. And the Republican ideas for solving the country's problems? Why, blaming gays, Muslims, minorities, immigrants, and liberals for them of course. How refreshing!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:31 AM

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A New Pseudonym?

Thursday, November 16, 2006
Clare has inspired me.

I've been discontented with the "Publius" sobriquet for quite some time now. Originally this blog was going to be a partnership, hence the use of Hamilton & Madison's joint pen name in the Federalist Papers. SOMEBODY bailed out on me, however, making the nickname moot. Then I discovered there were like 20 "Publius" bloggers out there, making the nickname boring. Finally I learned last week that people pronounce it like it has something to do with genitalia, making the nickname embarassing.

So, my question is.. do you think I should change my blogger nickname? And if so, do you have any suggestions?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:32 PM

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The Republicans Have A Problem

Inspired by Kevin Drum, I've been taking a close look at the exit poll results for the 2006 midterm elections. Once you dig into the numbers, there's a lot of very encouraging signs for Democrats, and a lot of bad news for the GOP.

Over at Washington Monthly's blog, Drum argues that the exit polls indicate a broad-based wave against the Republicans, with virtually every constituency moving towards the Democrats by about 5% since 2004. It wasn't religious voters, or the young, or by winning over conservatives that Democrats won. The ideological scores of the defeated incumbents don't indicate that right-wing congressman were particularly vulnerable, undercutting the case for a general rejection of conservatism. (My problem with this last point is that those conservatives might have been in swing districts, and hence out of step with their constituency and thereby ripe for defeat. It would take a more careful analysis to find out).

I think Drum is right to argue that there was a general anti-Republican wave in 2006. But if you look at those constituencies that shifted more than the wave, and you take into account the turn out figures for different parts of the electorate, you can discern a very interesting story. A story that makes me very optimistic for the Democratic Party.

First a look at the turn out numbers. The Republicans believe that they lost because of Iraq, and because their abandonment of conservative principles cost them the support of their base. The numbers don't support this proposition. The 2006 electorate was if anything more conservative than 2004, at least in demographic terms - it was whiter, more male, older, wealthier, more religious, and more married. That's right, folks. All those claims by Karl Rove that they were turning out the Republican base was completely accurate. Rove's error was in thinking that the base was enough, which it wasn't (It's also possible that the Democratic electorate was smaller because of the lack of competition in heavily Democratic seats).

In fact, the conservative base appears to be shrinking. There was a broad-based rejection not just of the Republican party, but of conservatism itself. The percentage of self-indentified conservatives was down from 34 to 32% since 2004. But given the turn out of Republican-leaning constituencies, the proportion of conservatives should have increased by around 3 points or so. This means that there 5 percent of the population has abandoned conservatism, at least for the moment. Democrats did win over some conservatives in 2006, but only an additional 3 points. Well under the national tide. And Democratic candidates only improved by a single point over 2004 in their ability to win over Republican voters.

The Republicans also argue that Bush's unpopularity did them in. Bush clearly hurt, but the Republican incumbents actually did a fairly good job at separating themselves from the President. Bush's disapproval ratings were 11 points higher than in 2004, and 8% more of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. But the Democrats actually did worse among people believing that than they did 2 years ago: 5 points less among Bush-disapprovers, and 3 points less among wrong-trackers. In other words, the Republicans lost even though they had a pro-GOP electorate and had separated themselves (to a degree) from Bush. Wow.

But what about the Democrats? How did they win with a pro-Republican electorate? As discussed, the anti-Republican wave gave the Dems an average of around 4 percent more of each subsection of the vote than they had in 2004. But they particularly well among some groups. Support was flat among blacks and gays, but then Democratic margins are so high among those groups that it's difficult to grow them. Other groups stand out more. Democratic perfomance improved by 14 points among Latinos, 11 points among Jews, and 9 points among the nonreligious. They also improved by 15 points among those without a high school education and did 8 points better among independents. More interesting, the Democrats improved by 11 points among those who thought the economy was doing well, and by 9 points among the wealthy.

It is the last group - the very wealthy- that was probably turned off by the war, scandals, and deficits, and it is they that the Republican congressman are probably thinking off when they talk about "returning to their principles." Unfortunately for Republicans, the these very wealthy people only make up 5% of the electorate - scarcely enough to tip the balance back in their direction.

So what does this barrage of numbers tell us? Namely that the conservative ascendancy is deeply shaken, while the Democrats are consolidating their political base. If the Democrats can hold on to the Latinos and Independents, and consolidate their grip on the working class and seculars, then the long-term prospects for the party are very, very bright. The Republicans, on the other hand, have to figure out how to rehabilitate not just their party, but their ideology as well - something that won't be easy as long Bush is in the White House.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:36 PM

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A Personal Announcement

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I just want to say that the people I work with at my new job are all really really nice. As such I am running out of targets towards which to vent my ingrained hostility, particularly since my wife is extremely tired of hearing about politics. This is a problem more difficult to solve than it would appear. But it certainly is a nice dilemma to have.

You may now return to your lives.

Thank you.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:46 AM

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Guiliani For President?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
What a laugher. Sure he polls well at the moment. But no matter what Chris Bowers thinks, there is NO WAY that Rudy is going to get the Republican nomination. I'd be surprised if he was even considered for 2nd spot. Rudy is pro-gay, anti-gun, and pro-choice. His personal life is a mess. He has health problems. Yes he polls very well right now, but that's because all anyone outside of New York knows about him is that he performed well on 9/11. If Guiliani does run for President in 2008, his GOP rivals will be happy to show pictures of Rudy in drag and arm in arm with gay rights activists. Won't that will go over great in the ultra-conservative Republican primary electorate.

When I wrote about this last in August, I thought that Guiliani's presence could complicate McCain's life, because they would both be after the moderate GOP/independent vote. But McCain's recent embrace of cultural conservatives (and their current lack of a standard bearer) could mean that Guiliani would be a useful foil for McCain. The Arizona Senator could trumpet his opposition to gay rights, abortion, and gun control , thereby burnishing his conservative image and rallying the right to his cause. This would hurt McCain's chances in the general election, but that's another matter.

So Guiliani could certainly make an impact in the race, given his high profile and ability to alter the issue profile. But getting the nomination? No way.

Update: Carpetbagger Report writes along the same lines.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:22 AM

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Monday, November 13, 2006
You scored as IV - The Emperor. The Emperor represents power. There is nothing subtle about this Tarot card. The Empress has power through love.The Emperor has power through power. He is in control, he is forceful and ambitious. Nothing will stop him. He is a natural leader, having either been born to the role or having disposed of all those who stood in his way. If well aspected in a Tarot spread this card can indicate success. It represents obstacles overcome, goals reached and ambition fulfilled. If badly aspected it can indicate either weakness or an abuse of power.

IV - The Emperor


XI: Justice


XV: The Devil


II - The High Priestess


VI: The Lovers


XVI: The Tower


I - Magician


VIII - Strength


XIII: Death


XIX: The Sun


0 - The Fool


III - The Empress


X - Wheel of Fortune


Which Major Arcana Tarot Card Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:07 PM

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I've Been In A Good Mood For Days. Weird.

First off, I just want to say that blogger meet-ups are fun. I had a fantastic time with repressed librarian and comebacknikki. Can't wait to do it again! Even if they are ass-grabbers who can't pronounce Latin names. By the way, I finally figured out which Prince song comebacknikki refers to. Took me long enough...

But back to politics.

I've been watching the incoming Democratic majority with cautious optimism. There seems to be a genuine desire to work in a bipartisan way to end our involvement in Iraq. After all, neither party has much incentive to have Iraq ongoing in 2008. I am pretty confused that Nancy Pelosi would intervene in the race of House Majority Leader. I would have figured that Hoyer has it locked up, and why create problems? I'm honestly conflicted over the idea that the D's should focus on fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax. For those who don't know, this tax removes all income tax deductions for those above a certain income. It was designed to stop the abuse of tax shelters. Unfortunately, it wasn't indexed for inflation, which means that a lot of upper-middle-class people are beginning to get pushed into it. We certainly need to do something about this problem, but should it really be priority #1? Upper middle class people aren't exactly our most important constituency, are they? Y'know, they're kind of Republicans?

We'll see what happens. My only advice would be for the Democrats to focus on those issues that have broad public support. The chief principle of legislative politics is to concentrate on those matters which unite your supporters and divide your opponents. We should avoid conflicts that will highlight our own divisions. When Democrats fight Democrats, Democrats lose.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:04 AM

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We Win!

Thursday, November 09, 2006
George Allen and Conrad Burns have conceded today, cementing the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress. It's amazing really. Who could have predicted that the Democrats would win 6 Senate seats?

Oh yeah. I did.

Okay, I'm done congratulating myself. For now. I admit I was a little off in the House.

Anyway, I'm going to spend the rest of the week basking in the glow of victory and enjoying the gnashing of teeth and internecine squabbling among Republicans. The GOP can't stand being losers - it strikes at the core of their self-conception. I think they're going to look around for some excuse, some external reason why they failed. There are already claims that they weren't conservative enough. Weren't conservative enough? Imagine! What do they want to do, re-institute public flogging? Revive primogeniture and entail? Re-establish property qualifications for voting? How in the world does one get any more right-wing than they have been?

No, I think that Republicans are going to blame George Bush for their troubles. Together with his low approval ratings and jockeying for the presidential nomination, George has become the lamest of lame ducks.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:45 PM

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That Was Fun

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I had a (very) long day yesterday, but it was worth it. I doubled my targets. with 145 Democratic votes in my precinct (to 37 for the Republicans)- there was obviously a real tide running. I was at party headquarters when they announced the House for the Dems, and because Brazen Hussy called me from home so quickly I was able to announce the news to wild cheering. It was one of the best moments in my life! (Thanks, honey!) All of this is even more satisfying because my predictions look to be pretty much holding up - it looks like we'll probably win in Virginia and Montana, and end up with a 32-seat gain in the House and 6 in the Senate. That'll teach me never to ignore my training!

Oh, and don't pay attention to the already-developing anti-Democratic media spin. There are only a handful of newly elected Dems who can be labelled "conservative." Actually, Shuler and Ellsworth are not really that conservative - they're somewhat right wing on social issues, but they're middle of the road on economics and foreign policy. And the Democrats would have a majority without them. We have a whole slew of new liberals in the Congress, and the Senate as well (yeah Sherrod Brown!).

So everybody celebrate, and if you have time take a nap for me - because today is the first day at my new job. Good planning, Publius!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:50 AM

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My Election Prediction

Monday, November 06, 2006
Hey I was wrong last year because I wasn't listening to my academic training. This year I will listen to it, which means I'll be correct, right? Right?

House: Dems pick up 35 seats
Senate: Dems pick up 6 seats (in Montana, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, Ohio)

I really really wish Harold Ford would win that race in Tennessee, because it would signal the end of race-baiting politics in America. But alas, I fear it is not to be.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:32 PM

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Where Did Publius Go?

You may or may not have noticed that my posting and comments have been very sporadic lately. The reason is that I have been completely consumed by the Midterm elections. I was designated a precinct captain a couple of weeks ago and handed a list of names. Usually this list will have all the Democrats in the precinct on it, so all I'm supposed to do is contact them and make sure they show up on election day in order to meet my target number of voters (which is 70).

Unfortunately, my precinct is full of apartment complexes oriented to the university. It's a very transient population, with lots of people moving out every year. In other words, the list I was given was complete crap (The Republicans like to brag about their turnout operation, but since they cater to middle aged rich religious people, finding them and turning them out just isn't that hard. It's much more difficult when your consituency young, old, and poor people).

I've spent the last 2 weeks knocking on every door in the district trying to find registered voters who are Democrats. For a time I was sure it would never happen, but this morning my updated list showed - 71 voters! And I still have one day to go! It shows how crazy campaigns can make you that I am almost as happy about hitting my voter target as I was about getting a job. Wacky.

Anyway, all should return to normal by Thursday, when I should have recovered from Wednesday's hangover. No matter what happens on election day, I'm going to have a drink.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:48 AM

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Thursday, November 02, 2006
After five months of futility, I finally got an offer for an interesting job at a good salary. Yippee!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:36 PM

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Colbert Gets It Wrong

Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I was watching a repeat of the Colbert Report last night, and Stephen mentioned that Congress was a great insitution because it was only in session three days a week. The implication was that being in the House or Senate is a 24-hour a week job that pays $140,000 a year. A report on CNN said something similiar.

I have to say, this is a completely bogus argument. Yes the Congress is in session three days a week on average, with lots of breaks. But to say that members of Congress only work when they're in session is like saying that Professors only work when they're in the classroom (and I have heard people say that college faculty only work 10 hours a week). What, do people think that members of Congress are in the Bahamas when not on the House or Senate floor? When in Washington, they are committee meetings, endless fundraisers, visiting constituents, press appearances, and even (gasp) meeting with staff. When Congress is out of session, congressmen go back to their districts to hold town hall meetings, appear at public events, and work in their offices. Being in Congress is actually a pretty exhausting job. They start working at around 6 or 7 AM and don't stop till around 9 or 10, whether in Washington or back home, 7 days a week. And let's not even talk about their schedules during the election season.

The ignorant press wants people to think that being in Congress is easy. Well it's not - it's so much work that a lot of people don't think it's worth it. It's not 24 hours a week. It's more like 80.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:19 AM

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