The Third Estate
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What Has It Been Until Now In The Political Order?
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Friday, October 31, 2008
Lieberman should be a four letter word. Here we have a formerly center-left Democrat from an extremely blue state, the Vice Presidential nominee in 2000, who decided to support a war opposed by most of the party. He gets primaried as a result, loses, but decides to run as an independent and wins - in part through his amateurish opponent's mistakes, in part through his own misrepresentations. All of this is annoying to a Democratic partisan, but whatever - if he'd continued to be (basically) a Democrat I wouldn't have a problem with him. His vote was necessary for the Democrats to control the Senate in 2007, so of course they suck up to him.

Now the intelligent thing to do now if you're Lieberman is to rejoin the Democratic Party and shore up his political base. What does he end up doing? Whoring out to John McCain and bashing the Democratic nominee.

So let me ask you. If you're a Democratic Senator, what do you do? You freeze Lieberman out, right? Well, apparently not. The Democratic Caucus is going to keep him around, while stripping him of the Chairmanship. Now I suppose taking the gavel of the committee away from him is a punishment, but please. I'm as practical as the next politician, but when somebody actively campaigns for the other party's nominees (not just McCain either, but other Republican Senators as well) - well, you have to let everybody know that there is a price to that sort of behavior. Pour decourager les autres.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:58 PM

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I know that it's inevitable. I know that it's expected. I know that it's no big deal. But I really don't like seeing the polls get closer.......
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:28 AM

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Does McCain Think Lincoln Was A Socialist?

Monday, October 27, 2008
So the latest pathetic little talking point by the McCain campaign is that Obama is....a socialist. Yes, that's right. Apparently Barack Obama's support for a progressive tax code that requires the most affluent parts of the society - you know, the ones who have benefited the most from the social order and have the greatest ability to pay - be asked to bear most of the financial burden. According to Republicans, this makes Barack Obama a socialist.

Unfortunately for Republicans, they've forgotten that there's this funny thing called a dictionary where one can look up the actual meaning of words:

Socialism. 1. ... a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
In other words, state ownership of companies and land. Socialism would be something crazy like the government buying stocks in banks or something - something Republicans would never ever do. Nuh-uh.

I'm sorry, but all Barack Obama is talking about is progressive taxation. Do you know who the first American president to successfully push for a progressive income tax was? Not FDR. Not Woodrow Wilson. It's was Abraham Lincoln. The founder of the Republican Party. Or don't they claim him anymore?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:47 PM

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Friday Funnies

Friday, October 24, 2008
The Rude Pundit on the attempt to repeal gay marriage rights in California:

... considering that California's income is based on the entertainment industry, the high-tech industry, and, to some extent, wineries, alienating gay people seems a bit like punching yourself in the crotch repeatedly.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:49 PM

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New York City Council To New Yorkers: Drop Dead!

This is just repulsive.

Yesterday the New York City Council voted to extend term limits for city offices in New York from 2 to 3 terms. In the 1990's a term limit referendum was passed by the voters, causing tremendous turnover in the city council earlier this decade. The officeholders who were elected because of the new law are now unilaterally permitting a third term for themselves. Gee, I wonder what happens in 4 years when their terms are limited again?

As a matter of principle, I am opposed to term limits for legislators. We need competitive elections and political accountability, but there are I believe better ways to accomplish this than term limits. I am in favor of term limits for executives out of a long-standing concern at the concentration of power in the executive branch of government at all levels. Heck, I'd consider limiting executives to one term. Finally, while I agree that government by referendum is a bad idea, we have to be extremely careful in choosing to overrule the voters once they've made their will clear. After all, it's their government.

The arguments that have been deployed to justify this decision are transparently feeble. Bloomberg claims that in a times of financial crisis the government needs continuity. Um, hello Mr. Arrogant - in a democracy, no person is indispensable. This really isn't a road we can afford go travel down. In addition, a member of the city council asserted that longer terms for the Council were required to strengthen the legislator. This might make sense if they weren't extending the limits of the Mayor too!

But let's leave all that aside. Even if the City Council members really believed that term limits are a bad idea, and even if they're right that the voters shouldn't have a chance to repeal their previous decision in a referendum, this decision is still outrageous, because the change in the law benefits the very people voting for it. They're acting as a judge in their own case, which is in almost all cases a terrible thing to do. If this was a matter of principle, they'd have the change take effect for their successors. The fact that they haven't reveals this episode as an example of naked self-interest.

What creeps.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:24 AM

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Writer's Block

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Not about blogging. I can always find something to blog about if I need to (my erratic pattern is mainly a function of time). No, my writer's block is about...well...writing. I have to write an op-ed for my education policy paper, but seriously, how many times can I say exactly the same thing in new and interesting ways?? I also have to write a letter about how good a teacher my advisor is (he's up for a teaching award). I'm happy to do it, but I stare at the computer screen and the words just aren't coming out.

So, any advice? I'm considering trying to write out this stuff longhand - I've had some success with that approach in the past. Any other ideas?

P.S. Why am I not blogging about the election? Because John McCain is a political zombie. He's been dead for quite some time, but hasn't had the good sense to lie in his grave quite yet. Winning Pennsylvania? Ha! Double-ha! So strange as it sounds, it's just not that interesting to me at the moment. Perhaps I'll do some policy-oriented stuff to try and persuade people who haven't made up their mind yet. Any requests?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:36 PM

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I'm Sure Brazen Hussy Will Roll Her Eyes At This Post

Monday, October 20, 2008
Suddenly I'm 14 again.

I used to love comic books. I was never a "serious" collector - I didn't buy one copy to read and one copy to put in a vacuum seal for investment purposes. I just enjoyed the stories. While I liked moody anti-hero stories well enough, my favorites were always the good old-fashioned fantasy-fulfillment laser blasts and damsel in distress variety. Yes it helped if the writing was good, but come on- comics are supposed to be fun!

Through some combination of my own (delayed) maturity and changes in the comic book industry, I pretty much quit reading. I'd put a toe back in now and again, but it was never the same. When I moved to New York, I left my comics with my brother, knowing that he was as big a geekboy as I was and would take good care of them. I'd visit Georgia every so often, but it never seemed convenient to bring the comics with me.

Then came last weekend. It was my brother's wedding, and we all gathered at his apartment beforehand. I said "hey, aren't my comics here?" and my brother was like "sure, do you want them?" Little did I know that there were 4 of those long boxes worth waiting for me (maybe I was a more serious collector than I thought)! I loaded them into the back of the car, and started looking through them when I got home. And, as pathetic as it sounds, it was like finding an old toy that you really loved. We were both a little worse for wear, but other than that nothing had changed.

Yes, I'm prone to nostalgia. And yes, I was never willing to completely abandon the adolescent loser in me. But I'm very happy to have those comics back. There are just some things you should never get rid of - no matter how silly them seem.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:25 PM

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Going Back To My Home State

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'll be returning to Georgia tomorrow for my brother's wedding, so there probably won't be any posts on this blog until Monday - unless I feel compelled to live blog the last presidential debate or something. I'm also planning on meeting up with a politically minded friend while I'm there. Maybe he can explain how it is that Saxby "May His Soul Roast On A Spit In the Afterlife" Chambliss could be in danger of losing.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:52 PM

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David Broder Has A Bridge To Sell You

Monday, October 13, 2008
Obama hasn't even been elected yet and there and some people are already trying to make sure he becomes a failure. A few of whom are even his purported allies. Yesterday I went to a town hall meeting for an incumbent Democratic congressman. Said member of the House argued that because of the economic crisis, Obama should put his domestic agenda - health care reform specifically - on the back burner until the budget is balanced. I returned home to read almost precisely the same thing from David Broder (via Digby).

I'm sorry, haven't I already seen this movie? In 1992, Clinton was elected on a platform of health care reform and a middle class tax cut (as well as welfare reform). He gets into office and the D.C. establishment tells him he needs to set that stuff aside until he balances the budget deficit his predecessor (named Bush, if I recall) left him. He's told that once he does so, he'll have hte credibility on financial issues to push through the rest of his agenda. Clinton obeys, but when he returns to his domestic program, he's already lost his political window and can't get a thing. Clinton is deemed a legislative failure, and the Republicans capture Congress.

Now it's 2008, and a center-left Democrat is looking at a comfortable victory with substantial majorities in the House and Senate. He's running on a middle class tax cut and health care reform (as well as energy legislation). And the political elites in the beltway - the geniuses who abetted the fiasco we're looking at now - seem to think that Obama should repeat every one of Clinton's 1st term mistakes.

No thank you.

I'm a deficit hawk. I think big debts are dangerous. But I do know 2 things: 1) you don't cut spending in a recession (see: Herbert Hoover); and 2) the biggest reason we have a long-term budget problem is because of health care. The structural deficit is being caused by increases in medicare and medicaid costs, which are in turn a product of a broken health care system. Fix health care and you fix the budget problem (not to mention improving U.S. competitiveness, helping small business, and getting 50 million people some decent medical care).

You know, it's funny. When Republicans control the government, the deficit is seen as much less important than tax cuts for the top 1% of the economy (which by the way has seen its share of national wealth increase from 10% to 20% over the last 30 years). Not a peep from "fiscal conservatives" or Mssr. Broder. But when Democrats are in the White House all we hear about are the scary budget deficits. One would almost think that the political establishment was in the tank for conservatives or something.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:38 PM

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Just Say No To Rovian Politics

Thursday, October 09, 2008
Until the voters punish people for running garbage like this, campaigns will keep doing so. Our democracy should not tolerate such ridiculous, destructive smear campaigns. If you can think of no other reason to vote for Obama, do it to send a signal that such campaign tactics are not to be borne.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:01 AM

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I Don't Get It

Honestly, can someone please explain to me what the rationale would be for voting for McCain? His anarchic behavior over the last 6 weeks raises serious questions about his judgment. He's demonstrated a total lack of interest in sound public policy or public responsibility, as demonstrated with his outrageous vice-presidential selection and his bizarre behavior during the bailout debate. His policies are reckless to the point of madness - whether with respect to his trigger-happy approach to foreign policy, his worst-of-all possible worlds health care plan, or his proposal to grant another massive tax cut to the top 1% of the population with pennies for everybody else. His proposals to balance the budget are silly (earmarks make up a trivial sum of the federal budget, and "entitlement reform" is best achieved via health care reform). He's a champion of deregulation at time when regulation is what's called for. And his campaign is entirely staffed by the very corporate lobbyists he claims to support. This is all besides his contemptible smear campaign or the fact that his election would guarantee a right-wing majority on the court that would end abortion rights, gut environmental laws, and greatly restrict civil liberties.

So please, someone, anyone, tell me why a sane person would even consider voting for this man? I'd really like to know.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:37 AM

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How To Stop Worrying And Love The Election

Monday, October 06, 2008
Do you hear that flushing sound? That's John McCain's campaign.

A President of his party with 70% disapproval ratings. 80% of Americans thinking the country is on the wrong track. Down by double digits in Virginia and New Hampshire. Trailing by a steady 8 points nationwide. Getting out-spent and out-organized. Losing the first presidential and vice-presidential debates. Repeated campaign gaffes and strategic blunders (Cutting Medicare? Really? Is that your plan to win Florida?) The guy just can't seem to catch a break lately. Nobody has ever been this far down this late in the election and come back to win the popular vote. By any usual indicator, McCain is toast. If the election were today, McCain and the Republicans would probably be Carterized.

So Democrats ought to be feeling pretty good right now, right? Well, not necessarily. This weekend and I heard a lot of fear. I hear it a lot at work too. It's not trepidation that comes with being close to the end of a very long campaign. It's not even the learned pessimism that comes with being a Democrat in the Bush era. It's something far more specific than that.

There are a number of ways that McCain could pull out this election. He could effectively change the campaign narrative by re-focusing it on Obama. A terrorist attack or other international event could highlight McCain's perceived (and I think, unjustified) reputation for foreign policy expertise. Stranger things have happened. But what is really bothering people is the simple fact that Barack Obama is a black man, and people question whether white Americans are willing to pull the lever for him because of the color of his skin.

This is the so-called Bradley Effect, named after the black mayor of LA who was leading in the polls for Governor of California but lost narrowly on election day. The idea is simple - that white voters will tell pollsters that they're undecided because they don't want to be perceived as racist, when in fact they plan on voting against the black candidate. It's a seductive concept, and during the 1980's and 1990's there was some evidence for it. But let me be perfectly clear - there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that the Bradley Effect is still operative. Since 1996, it just hasn't happened (see this article for more details).

One could suggest that races for governor and congress are different - that Americans won't be willing to vote for a black man for president, because the presidency is a very different office. Perhaps. But even if there were still a pool of voters willing to vote for a Democrat but unwilling to vote for a black man, it still highly unlikely to be enough. The Bradley Effect is about undecided voters, and the fact is that as the polls stand now, Obama would easily win the election even if the overwhelming majority of undecideds voted against him. If the race were a 45-40, there might be reason to worry. But it's more like 50-42. In addition, any Bradley Effect would likely be neutralized by greater than expected turnout by black voters, as well as greater support (there's a weird reverse Bradley effect where a strange percentage of blacks say they're voting for the Republican in election polls and don't). There's the whole issue of undercounting cellphone-only users. Finally, undecided voters in elections are far more likely than others to be swayed by economic issues. Which candidate do you think that helps, hmmm?

Might the polls close in the next month? Sure, it could happen. Is it still possible McCain could win? Hey, anything is possible. I could find a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk or be struck on the head by a flying spaghetti monster. But it's pointless to get excessively upset at what is a remote prospect.

So everybody chill out. He's got this.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:24 PM

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Thursday, October 02, 2008
Not checkmate, not yet, but definitely check. McCain is pulling out of Michigan. This is a major blow to his campaign, given the amount of resources they've been pouring into the state. Now there are other Kerry states that McCain has been targeting - Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, but if they're abandoning Michigan, I think it's very likely they'll be able to flip any of those states. He'll probably go all in in Pennsylvania, but no Republican has won there since George H.W. Bush in 1988 - and he won in a squeaker while he was romping nationwide. Color me skeptical.

So what does McCain's electoral college map look like now? Well, if Obama can count on the Gore states - in each of which he has never lost his lead, even during McCain's post-convention bounce, then that puts him at 260 electoral college votes. So McCain will try to flip New Hampshire and Colorado. Colorado has been inclining to Obama for a long time, but New Hampshire has been close. This of course assumes that McCain holds Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida - which he has a good chance of doing if the national poll numbers close up some.

The election is still a month away, but the McCain campaign is running out of time, out of money, and out of options. My prediction? He goes hard negative (yes, even nastier) while concentrating his resources in those states. I also predict that, if Obama still has a 5-point national league at week from now, McCain also abandons Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

And remember, the only reason McCain is financially competitive right now is because the Republican National Committee is starving its congressional candidates. If the deterioration in Republican-held Senate seats continues, wait for a nasty meeting at RNC HQ over whether they try to prevent a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority or whether they try to hold the White House.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:55 PM

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Bad Pollster!

In the midst of all my joy in seeing McCain's poll numbers collapse, I noted the following question from CBS:

When the candidates make decisions, do they....? Act too quickly, Not quickly enough, Don't know.

The results were Obama "act too quickly" 23%, "not quickly enough" 41%. For McCain "act too quickly" 45%, "not quickly enough" 29%.

CBS did report those respondents who said that the candidates made decisions at the "right speed", but only if the respondent volunteered that answer.

I've been doing a lot of reading about polling lately, and I can say this is a very bad question. There's is no prompt for a middle of the road answer, so you're forcing respondents to choose between dichotomous decisions that they may not really have. Perhaps the polling firm was concerned that people would over-load onto the middle position (which respondents do have a tendency to do), but still - I think this is a very poorly constructed question.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:32 AM

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All Your Newspapers Are Belong To Me

Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Sorry, I couldn't resist.

When asked by Katie Couric what newspapers she read, Palin responded "All of them."

That's a lot of newspapers!! So when does she have time to, y'know, be governor?

All right, all right, it might be a cheap shot - but a funny one!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:36 AM

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