The Third Estate
What Is The Third Estate?
What Has It Been Until Now In The Political Order?
What Does It Want To Be?

I Sort Of Told You So

Tuesday, July 31, 2007
So you know how I said the North Carolina Electoral College reform proposal was a can of worms? Well lookee here- the Republicans are trying to put an initiative on the ballot in California that would allocate electoral college votes by congressional district. This would give the Republican nominee about 20 votes he wouldn't have had otherwise. It's not Florida, but are you getting the picture now?

P.S. The initiative process is a bloody mess.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:50 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Reviewing Harry Potter

Monday, July 30, 2007
If you haven't read Book 7, then ignore this message.
If you have read Book 7 (or haven't and don't care), then go through this portkey..er..link.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:04 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Half-Wit Democrats Help Elect Republicans

No this isn't an attack on the DLC, or a criticism of Democrats waging negative primary campaigns against each other. No this is in response to North Carolina's effort to alter the way it allocates Electoral College votes for the 2008 Presidential election (via Jerome Armstrong).

So here's the story. The Democratic Governor and Democratic State Legislature in North Carolina are planning to move to the Maine-Nebraska system of allocating electors. Usually electoral college votes are apportioned on a winner-take-all basis, which has a lot of bad consequences I won't get into here. In the Maine-Nebraska system, also called the Congressional District system, the winner of each congressional district receives 1 electoral college vote, while the overall state winner receives a bonus of two. The idea is that states that are lopsidedly for one party or the other would not be ignored in presidential elections anymore. The specifically partisan calculation of North Carolina Democrats, while it is unlikely a Democrat will win North Carolina, under this scheme the Democratic nominee in 2008 would be able to win an extra couple of electoral college votes in the blue-tinged tarheel districts. If this plan had been in effect in 2000, Al Gore would have won.

So it sounds like a great idea, right? Right? Well, wrong. Why? Gerrymandered congressional districts. In part because of contemptible Republican districting plans, in part because of the requirement for majority-minority districts, and in part because of the concentration of Democratic voters in urban areas, the Democrats have a built-in disadvantage in the House. In other words, there are a bunch of 65% Democratic seats and a bunch more 55% Republican ones.

But why does this matter? We're only talking about North Carolina! If you think the Republicans won't respond in kind I suppose. But what if there were a large swing state with a Republican Governor and Republican with heavily pro-Republican gerrymanders? What would happen if they adopted the same plan, with the result that Democrat could win a plurality in the state but still lose the electoral college vote 2-1. Hmm. Is there such a state. Let me think. Oh yeah.


The only problem with the Maine-Nebraska plan is that it's EVEN WORSE THAN THE CURRENT SYSTEM. The electoral college is problematic because it over-represents small states and can result in the candidate with the most popular votes losing the election (like in 2000). The Congressional District plan wouldn't just do nothing to solve either of these problems, it would be the latter one worse. If it had been in place in 1976, Ford would have won even though he lost to Carter in the national popular vote by 2 percentage points.

You want to reform the Electoral College? Fine. Just don't be an idiot about it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:51 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Friday. Thank Goodness.

Friday, July 27, 2007
This hellweek is over. We finally got the proposals out yesterday, and I've been in recovery ever since. Last night I got to watch Brazen finish Harry Potter, and now I'm trying to keep her from telling me the ending. I'm only on Book 5, so I'm not hopeful. My good news is that my boss said that "we should upgrade your position," which I can only interpret as a promotion. I'm not sure how serious he was, so I'm not going to break out the champagne quite yet.

The politics of the day? I'm not paying much attention to the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton kerfuffle, although I must say that the ultimate beneficiary is going to be Edwards. When are people going to realize that you don't go negative in a multi-candidate race??

The beltway establishment demonstrates how silly there are here. Apparently the conventional wisdom is that a censure resolution of Bush for violating the Constitution is bad politics for the Democrats because it will "rally Republicans" and that it will distract from "passing real legislation." Look, there isn't going to BE any "real legislation" because the Republicans are filibustering all of it - they're on course set double the all-time record for filibusters in a session. And who cares if it rallies Republicans? They're in lock-step right now, so you aren't going to lose any bargaining power; and why is it bad politics to force Republicans to tie themselves more closely to Bush? Last time I checked presidential approval was still under 30%.

Oh, and by the way, if we can leave tactical partisan advantage aside for 2 seconds (crazy, I know), why not defend the Constitution of the United States from people who treat it like toilet paper?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:59 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Bad Blogging This Week

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I am insanely busy at work this week, hence my lack of posts. I'll just summarize my feelings about this week:

Republicans: Boo!
George Bush & Albert Gonzalez: Double boo!
Democratic Presidential Race: Tired already!
Republican Presidential Race: Funny!
Harry Potter: Working on Book 4!
Week Half Over: Yay!
Brazen Coming Home Today: Double Yay!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:55 AM

0 comments :: permalink

A Question For The Internets

Monday, July 23, 2007
Brazen Hussy is out of town until Wednesday night (Boo!), and she gets to read the Harry Potter conclusion first. Now I'm not the fan she is, but I don't want anyone to ruin the ending for me. At the moment I'm re-reading the first six - I figure by the time I'm finished Brazen will have read the new one.

The problem is, how in the world do I exist for the next week without hearing critical information? How do I go to work? How do I read the news and write blogs? Do I just declare a media embargo and walk around the office with my Ipod on all the time? Or do I just give in and hear about it if I hear about it?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:39 AM

6 comments :: permalink

More changes

Friday, July 20, 2007
5) Sharply restrict the scope of executive privilege.

6) Greatly enhance the independence of federal prosecutors.

Hey, can anybody tell that I'm obsessed?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:54 PM

0 comments :: permalink

I'm Not The Only One With This Idea

Mark Kleiman wants to de-fund parts of the White House too.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:41 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Breaking the Presidency

I wrote a quick post this morning suggesting in half-seriousness that we de-fund the White House. I expected that my level of fury would decline once I hit "publish," which is after why I have a blog - it reduces my chance of rage-induced conniptions.

But despite the fact that it's Friday, and that I am looking forward to eating sushi this evening, I have not calmed down. In fact, I am more outraged than ever. I've spoken in the past about Bush's reckless disregard for the Constitution, and the broader problem of overweening executives in American politics (most dangerously at the national level, but also in states & localities). But the present tactics of the Bush Administration are so egregious, and the response to his actions so tepid, that it calls into question that viability of our Constitutional design. If a President can brazenly break the law, and then use absurd interpretations of executive power to protect himself and his cronies, and yet nothing happens - how good a system is this really? Worse yet, the likelihood that he will "get away with it" means that all future Presidents will be sorely tempted to follow in his footsteps. Perhaps they won't be as malevolent as he (although that is quite a gamble), and maybe they won't be as incompetent (although incompetence has prevented Bush from consolidating his gains), but the fact the temptation to imitate him will remain. Our democracy will reside solely on the sufferance on the executive's good will.

The ability of such a willful fool as Bush to act with impunity, and the catastrophic damage done to the country and the world during his tenure in office, points to a fundamental truth: no man can be entrusted with too much power. Whether we like them, or approve of their policies, the principle is the same: Presidential power has been allowed to expand to undemocratic proportions. Something must be done to reverse this trend.

I think that a concerted, determined effort has to be made to, quite simply, break the Presidency. First off, the White House size should be dramatically shrunk is size. It is an instrument for centralizing power in the executive, and would be the best single step in weakening our bloated presidency.

Second and relatedly, the President should be denied any role - and I mean any role - in formulating domestic policy other than in his exercise of the veto. For far too long we have allowed Presidents to "set the agenda." Why, pray tell, do we give him this power? Out of convenience? It is up to Congress to write the laws, not the President. The Presidents should no longer be able to propose a budget. Why should he? His job is only to execute the laws.

Third, the Senate must restore its "advise" role in the "advice and consent" process of nominating judges. It must demand a role in the selection of names, not just wait tamely for the President to select them. We must end the presumption that an executive deserves deference in appointments.

Fourth, and most difficult, we must reduce the President's scope for action in foreign affairs. At present the executive has de facto power to start a war whenever he likes. I am not entirely sure as to how practical it is do end this capacity, but we must think creatively on how to make the War Powers Act mean something. At a minimum, the Congress should never again "authorize" the use of force in a way that gives the executive a blank check. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate U.S. foreign policy in light of how our imperial adventures are dangerously strengthening the Presidency.

None of this will be easy, but no one said that democracy is easy. Americans have become far too accustomed to looking to the Presidency to lead us. It is long past time we led ourselves instead.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:30 AM

0 comments :: permalink

No, F&(% You

George Bush is now claiming that he can freeze the bank accounts of American citizens without due process (via Orcinus), and that he will refuse to execute a contempt of Congress charge against White House staff through a ridiculously broad interpretation of executive privilege.

Enough is enough. I recognize that there aren't the votes in Congress to remove this criminal from office, and censure isn't enough for these blatant attacks on the Constitution. So how about this: defund the White House. Not the cabinet departments. Just the White House. There wouldn't be any White House staff. At all. He doesn't want his staff to testify before Congress? Okay then - he doesn't get any. Let's see how well Bush can get along over the next 18 months running the executive branch all by his lonesome.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:28 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Sympathy from the Devil

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Trent Lott has some friendly advice for Democrats: stop trying to paint the Republicans as obstructionists and pass legislation.

Sure, Trent. How about you stop filibustering everything? No? I didn't think so. Until you do, stop giving us "help" and go participate in a Klan parade or something.

I really hate that guy.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:06 PM

1 comments :: permalink

Don't Give Up Your Day Job, Brad DeLong

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
So let's see if I can say this in a way that makes sense:

1) SPEECHWRITER Michael Gerson writes a silly post about ethics

2) PHILOSPHER Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings calls Gerson silly, and evinces irritation that non-professionals hold forth on complicated philosophical questions

3) The ECONOMIST Brad DeLong echoes this criticism

4) The ECONOMIST DeLong then explains why an op-ed by ECONOMIST Greg Mankiw (which thankfully I missed) messed up PHILOSOPHER John Rawls

5) In doing so, the ECONOMIST Brad DeLong proceeds to screw up Rawls.

Can anybody figure out why I am both amused and annoyed?

On to the substance...

Mankiw stated that:

Professor Rawls concluded that the primary goal of public policy should be to redistribute resources to help those at the very bottom of the economic ladder. If Professor Rawls were alive today, he would most likely want to raise the top income tax rate of 35 percent in order to finance a more generous safety net. And for much the same reason, he would probably raise taxes on the middle class as well...

In explaining why this was an incorrect interpretation of Rawls, DeLong states that the best description of Rawls' Difference Principle would go as follows:

A group of people are sitting around the campfire, after a hard day's worth of work and pay in which what jobs people did and how hard they worked and how they were rewarded was determined by some complicated and not very transparent process.

Looking around, the person who is worst off says: "Hey! Wait a minute! This isn't fair. Everybody else is better off than I am."

And one of the others replies: "I'm sorry. You do get less than everybody else. But we set things up in the best way we could. Given the constraints imposed by human psychology and the natural world, we couldn't have set things up in any way so that you would have been better off."

"Oh. That's OK then."

Okay, so Mankiw is wrong to stated that redistribution is the centerpiece of Rawls. But DeLong is ALSO wrong to say that Rawls doesn't care about distribution that much. I could get into how DeLong is applying the Original Position incorrectly, but that would be unnecessarily complicated. But what Rawls does say is that any distribution has to be to the advantage of the worst off. In other words, our friend who worked really hard and got screwed at the end of the day could say "Hey, I worked just as hard as the rest of you, and you've got more stuff now even though it wouldn't hurt you to share!" If this were the case, Rawls would rule that DeLong's hypothetical society is unjust.

So there. Stick to Economics, Brad!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:58 PM

2 comments :: permalink

Carol Delaney for Congress

A letter in response to the New York Times' piece portraying the self-congratulation of the super-rich:

It is not merely disingenuous but deceptive for the new tycoons to say, as did Sanford I. Weill, “We didn’t rely on somebody else to build what we built.” None of them could have built their fortunes without the labor of many workers both in and outside of their businesses. They relied on their employees to do much of the boring, repetitive work, they relied on their wives or other domestic workers to care for their houses and children, do the shopping, prepare their meals, and do their laundry, without which they would not have been free to devote their “unique talents” to developing their businesses.

Their self-congratulatory tone is, frankly, disgusting, as are their bloated salaries and other benefits. Not only should the invisible workers, their enormous support system, be recognized, but they should also receive equitable compensation.

Carol Delaney
Providence, R.I., July 15, 2007
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:59 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Good Times

(via Crooked Timber)

A 17th century English lit doctoral candidate has completed her dissertation on Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist. Early on in her studies (yes, the gender makes this seem sexist, but I’m just reporting the anecdote as I heard it) she moved away from the university because of something—oh, let’s say she had to live with her parents. So she completed her work by mail. This was not that uncommon 25 years ago, and probably even less so today with the internet.

At any rate, it’s the day of her defense, she returns to the department and faces a jury of professors—who quickly realize that in all this time, no one has explained that Pepys’ name is pronounced “Peeps.” But the professors are embarrassed as well, to have one of their Ph.D. candidates get this far and never to have spoken to one of them directly. So our plucky candidate has the unnerving experience of hearing her mentors nervously coo at her for several hours.

Everytime she says “Peppis,” one of them would softly go … “Peeps.”

Ah, Peeps.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:00 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Not That I'm An East-Coaster Or Anything

Monday, July 16, 2007
(via Luckybuzz)

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

My rule on this was places I'd spent the night. Drive-thrus don't count.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:01 PM

2 comments :: permalink

What Ethicists Can Answer

Friday, July 13, 2007
Michael Gerson demonstrates in today's op-ed that he was perfectly suited to writing speeches for George Bush. In an embarrassing display of philosophical ineptitude, Gerson argues that atheism can't provide a justification for choosing to do good. By implication he thinks believing in God does do that. In other words, Gerson is parlaying the old tripe that you need theism to have morality. According to Gerson, without God, there would be no reason to choose to follow our better instincts over our selfish ones.

Exposure to Mr. Gerson's speech-writing efforts makes this pseudo-theological puffery unsurprising. Perhaps like Bush, Gerson doesn't believe in reading books (other than books of useful quotes, of course). There are a few works that might enlighten Mr. Gerson on this question- such as the entire corpus of ethical thought of the last several millenia. The question of why we should do rightly has animated moral philosophy since Socrates. One would be on safe ground in stating that the question of moral duty is the abiding obsession of philosophy. So while Gerson fears to prove the existence of God in 750 words, he does have the gall to dispose of Kant & Aristotle in the same length.

Neither atheists nor philosophers can say with certainty that they any of their arguments are definitive, that they have demonstrated without qualification the grounds of moral duty. But it can we said with certainty that theism by itself provides no grounding for morality. None of the desperate and entertaining efforts to derive moral duty from God stand up to scrutiny: divine fiat (the 10 commandments), bullying (threats of hell), bribery (offers of heaven), or Gerson's odd theory of adulation (that God created us and boy should we be grateful) and emulation (let's be like a deity we only assume to be good, shall we?).

Theists may be right that Reason can't get you to Heaven, but it is unquestionably the case that God can't get you to Good. Doing good because God says so is to make morality something instrumental, to degrade in some sort of bankrupt algebra of the soul. A moral action is only moral when it is done for its own sake. If the person is doing good to get goodies, then they're acting out of self-interest; if to avoid harm, out of fear; if out of emulation, out of pride; and if out of adulation, out of submission. Worst of all are those who acting rightly out of obedience, because in the end they are just following the orders of another person. What if they follow the wrong person? My goodness, they might end up torturing someone.

To be moral, an action has to be the product of free rational choice. If we're acting irrationally, then we aren't acting freely - we are acting as a slave to our passions. If we're acting under duress, then we're not really choosing at all - somebody else is. Morality has to be chosen independently, and thus the existence (or non-existence) of a deity gets us nowhere at all with respect to moral duty.

It is no surprise then that Mr. Gerson, given his past affiliations, doesn't understand morality. One has to understand liberty and rationality first.

(Mr. Gerson, that last comment would be an example of "Guilt by Association." Perhaps you encountered it when your former boss was labeling people like me unpatriotic.)

P.S. Hilzoy attacks Gerson from a different angle.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:19 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Thursday Afternoon Blues

Thursday, July 12, 2007
It's Thursday and I am thoroughly frustrated with the universe. The data I've been using for the last month turns out to be totally screwed up because the government agency I got it from miscoded a bunch of stuff. They actually placed a large amount of data in the wrong column of the spreadsheet! It's going to take me a week to straighten it all out. Oh, and we're all doomed.

One piece of slightly better news. Do you remember how alarmed I was at the polls over the Libby commutation? Well there are new ones out that are a little more reasonable, with only 19% in favor of a commutation or pardon. So we're down to a 20% lunacy rate. Whoopee.

P.S. If you have a bird feeder, don't forget to fill it up or some silly sparrow will shove his head and one wing under the plastic window and get stuck. This happened last night. The cats were staring outside fixedly for around half and hour and we kept hearing these fluttering noises. Later we were sitting outside enjoying the cool breeze when I noticed what the idiot bird had done. Brazen rescued him, though, and he seemed to be fine. But damn that was dumb! I was so upset that I made us go to the grocery store immediately to buy more bird seed. Scary stuff.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:38 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Modern LIfe

Wednesday, July 11, 2007
(from Chris Hayes)

Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:19 AM

2 comments :: permalink

Just Imagine

If there were real public financing for all federal elections, we'd never have to see another story about candidate fundraising. Of course, what would the press talk about then? Substance maybe?

Nah. Who am I kidding?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:12 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Statistical Help

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
So Brazen Hussy could've gotten some help with Unix. How about somebody helping me with factor analysis? Anyone? Anyone?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:31 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Kos vs. Gore

As promised, I finished Al Gore's Assault on Reason and will now proceed to hold forth about it. Rather than a full-scale review, I want to talk about what I think is the basic argument of the book: that our politics has become elitist and irrational because our media has become elitist and irrational. Americans are no longer citizens, but consumers, and thus objects of manipulation by Madison Avenue marketers and political consultants. The reason that the phrase "public discourse" sounds so strange is that we haven't had one in a very long time. Instead, America has experienced a developing trend towards talking to people in an effort, employing symbols and demagogic rhetoric in an effort to by-pass our rational faculty. When you can force some to react, to act without thinking, then they are very easy to control - whether it's to get them to buy a new stereo or vote for somebody.

None of this is precisely new (Demosthenes of Athens used to complain about the same thing), but in our present age there is far more propaganda tools available and far fewer independent social institutions that can counter these messages. Gore thinks that the reason we invaded Iraq and aren't doing anything about global warming is not simply because of George Bush, or even the conservative movement. Those actors were only able to act because the prevailing culture gave them an opportunity to do so - the media culture had become vulnerable to such manipulations.

So Gore's book isn't strictly about bashing Bush, or even the media per se. It's about the destruction of the so-called "public forum," in which free and equal citizens can debate ideas on even terms using rational argument. Gore's hope is that new media technologies like the internet will lower the barriers of access, making it possible for a broader and more representative pool of citizens to make their voices heard. The fact that (a few) people can read this blog is an excellent example - I'm not just an angry guy at a party anymore.

There are threats to this newly emerging democratic forum. Attacks on net neutrality are one, certainly. But another is the evolution of the internet itself. We are witnessing the emergence of internet "establishments" like Daily Kos and TPMCafe (which I of course read regularly) that are guided by "leaders." These organizations are certainly more egalitarian than a television - they aren't nearly as passive, but I have experienced the degree of orthodoxy enforced at these sites. I don't think it's going to swallow the internet - it's too easy to start a new blog, which means new voices will always emerge. But I'm concerned that some of the very influential people at the center of the new democratic forum aren't taking their responsibilities very seriously.

Which brings me to Kos. Kos is primarily a partisan focused on smashing the conservative movement, something I can certainly support (and to some degree even resemble). But what concerns me is that his (and others') tactics demand unreasonable discipline among their allies and a lack of appreciation for democracy. All the talk about "narratives" and establishing "memes" sounds less like fostering free rational discussion and a lot more about creating a new liberal media machine in all respects identical to the conservatives'. Creating simplistic stories and using emotional appeals while stifling internal dissent is just re-creating all the bad old problems with the mainstream media. It doesn't take democracy itself very seriously.

I'm not saying that Kos or Stoller are necessarily "bad guys." I don't think they are. I'm just concerned that we don't adopt a scorched-earth policy to fellow travelers (being a free trader doesn't make you a corporate shill), and that we don't approach the citizenry as objects to manipulated, rather than equals to be engaged. We have a wonderful opportunity to use technologies like the internet to revive egalitarian democracy. Let's not blow it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:02 AM

0 comments :: permalink

The Politics of Obstruction II

Thursday, July 05, 2007
Have you noticed something funny? When the Republicans were in the majority in the Senate, even when it was a modest 51-49 majority, there were still able to pass stuff. The Democrats would filibuster some ridiculous right-wing proposal, but the Republicans would peel off enough Democrats to invoke cloture and pass the thing anyway. But now that Democrats are in the majority, everything we propose gets filibustered and we can't seem to break any of them.

One could argue that there were lots of Democrats from Red States that had to protect themselves politically, but aren't there a lot of vulnerable Republican Blue-Staters too? One could also argue that the national political climate made it very hard to challenge President Bush in 2001-2005. But have you looked at the recent opinion polling? Bush is under 30% in the polls! The man's a walking political black hole: anything that gets near him will get sucked up and crushed into sub-particles. Senators should be avoiding a high presidential support rating like the plague. Or perhaps one could argue that the Republicans were proposing popular policies like tax cuts. But there were proposing a lot of unpopular things too, like subsidies for oil companies, weren't they? And since when are tax cuts more popular than the minimum wage? Never, that's when!

Perhaps if the filibuster worked evenly on both sides, things would be okay. There would be sufficient political stalemate that eventually both sides would de-escalate and try to pass something. But what we have been experiencing is that when Republicans are in the majority, they pass whatever they like even with tiny minorities, and when the Democrats are in the majority they get nothing. Doesn't sound exactly fair, does it?

I would propose that the Republican Party is now an old-style urban political machine writ large. The communications, activist, and fundraising structure is now sufficiently centralized that Republican officeholders are pretty much forced to tow the party line: even when it hurts them politically. Democrats remain a pretty defuse group dominated by their own elected officials, however, and thus suffer a severe collective action problem: there's a big incentive for individual defections. Add to that the conservative media tilt (Democratic filibusters are "obstructionist", Republican filibusters are "conviction"), and you have a recipe for a profoundly skewed legislative process.

Perhaps if we get a Democratic President in 2008, he/she will be able to apply enough public pressure on Republicans to pass legislation. Or maybe we'll knock off another 5 incumbents and terrify them into going along. But what happens if we experienced another 1993-94, when a Republican minority blocks every piece of legislation and we get the blame for ineffectiveness? You can see something similar at work already!

The kernel of our problem, I'm coming to believe, is the nature of public discussion in this country. The beltway press is so corrupt that it's almost impossible to get a fair shake. Of course we should build a rival infrastructure, although I'm leery of imitating the Republicans too closely (they are the bad guys, after all). And I think we should spend more time than we have figuring out a way to break up the hostile agglomeration of power that's developed (public financing of campaigns? breaking up media monopolies?). But I'm not entirely certain how to overcome an enemy whose persistent defiance of public opinion has thus far come with no penalty. I'm also not clear as to how to force some substance into this mockery of a discussion.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:41 PM

0 comments :: permalink

The Politics of Obstruction I

Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Let me start by saying that I like the filibuster. The ability to extend debate means that the minority cannot simply be silenced, and while it has in many instances served the forces of illiberalism, on balance I believe that it has done more good than harm. The filibuster is, after all, the chief distinguishing characteristic between the House and the Senate.

Having said that, I think that it has quite clearly been abused as of late. Republicans in the Senate have embarked on a strategy in which no bill, no resolution, nothing can come to a vote without 60 votes. Because of the malapportion of the Senate, this means that a tiny percentage of people can block the will over the bulk of the country.

The justification for the filibuster is that the minority can demand a supermajority on issues that are extremely important to them, that are of vital interest. A majority should take due note of such intense passions.

But the filibuster doesn't work that way any more. Now it has become simply routine. Republicans do not filibuster important issues, but every issue. The result is that after an election in which their policies have been utterly repudiated, the conservatives still have a veto (even in the legislature) over what the American people do.

What is to be done? I think the challenge is to make sure that the Republicans play a price for blocking popular legislation. At present they vote how they like, even on Iraq, expecting that they will never suffer for it. By the time the next election comes, the issue will either be forgotten or subsumed.

I think we should have a real filibuster. No "tracked" filibusters in which other legislation can move. Bring up the bill day after day, demand vote after vote, wage a war of attrition on issues like Iraq. Doing so would highlight the seriousness of the issue, exhaust the minority, and just maybe divert the media from Paris Hilton.

Next: Why the filibuster doesn't seem to work for Democrats.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:45 PM

0 comments :: permalink

Very Discouraging

Lots of folks are taking comfort in a SUSA poll stating that 60% disapprove of Bush's decision to commute Libby's sentence, while only 21% support it. Am I the only who's noticed that 17% thought he should have gotten a full pardon? That means that 38% of Americans think that there should be no rule of law. Danger, Will Robinson!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:12 AM

3 comments :: permalink

Long-delayed meme

Monday, July 02, 2007

* I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
* Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
* People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
* At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
* Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Random Facts

1) I didn't get a driver's license until I was in my mid-twenties
2) I can wiggle my ears (a little)
3) I am not fully related to any of my siblings (none of us have both mother and father in common) - 2 younger brothers and a younger sister
4) I have taken classes in French, Latin, Spanish, and spent 6 months immersed in Indonesia, and can't speak any of those languages. At all.
5) I can name every Senator from every state, including their party and when they were elected. I have been able to do this since I was 18.
6) I used to have long hair - like metalhead long. Nearly all pictures have been destroyed, so sorry!
7) I can almost always figure out where I've seen an actor before, but I CAN NEVER REMEMBER THEIR NAMES. This drives Brazen Hussy crazy.
8) I can diagram & explain most of the major battles in western military history up until World War I. I believe this is my most impressive and least useful skill.

I would be happy to tag someone, but everyone has already been tagged.

P.S. Gatsby is too afraid of fireworks to go outside. I am expecting to have to clean up a big big mess in the morning.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:53 PM

4 comments :: permalink

I'm not commenting on Scooter Libby

If I did I'd have to put my fist through a wall, and Brazen Hussy wouldn't like that.

In the meantime, comfort yourself with these other, less noted forms of annoyance:

1) Stu Rothenberg trivializes John Edwards' populist message here. I can only suppose this is because Rothenberg is less interested in the substantive and symbolic resonance of populism (which has been powerful for like, forever), than in winning his very own funny hat from High Priest of CW David Broder. That and I bet everyone he knows makes plenty of money. The hatred the beltway types have for Edwards really make me want to vote for him.

2) Demonstrating yet more ignorance at the nature of presidential primary politics, Walter Shapiro states that Florida's move to January is a big help to Hillary Clinton's candidacy, since it's her "firewall." The reality is that Florida is a "momentum" state, an effect that will only be magnified by its proximity to New Hampshire. Whoever wins NH will win Florida. Write it down.

I am now going to keep the kitten from wrecking the place by playing with her. Have a nice night.

&*(^(#$! Bush....
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:42 PM

0 comments :: permalink