The Third Estate
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Six Year Blogiversary

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
That's right. I starting blogging on May 26th, 2004. It was the run-up to the presidential election and my wife had heard enough from me on the subject, but I wasn't done. It's harder to blog about politics now that it used to be. I started out with the typical aspirations of the time, thinking I might develop an audience, but that was never the important part. I just had things to say and needed a place to say them. I still have quite a bit to say, but politics these days is just a bit too depressing. Writing about it just bums me out. That and I'm directing my literary impulses elsewhere.

On the brighter side, I'm well into chapter 10 of my novel - something like 370 manuscript pages (that's what BH calls them. I call them double-spaced 12pt font pages, but what do I know?). One thing I didn't expect in the process of writing was how often I'd have to go back and change what I'd already written before proceeding. By this I don't mean basic editing - I definitely knew there was a lot of that ahead. I'm terrible at self-editing and am very fortunate that Brazen Hussy is willing to read the first draft. No, what's been something of a shock is that flow of the story takes you someplace that you don't like or doesn't make sense and you have to go back and change that flow (kind of like time travel). Or you come up with a very good idea but need some background elsewhere. I suppose I could just make a note and make changes like that at the end, but I'd be afraid of forgetting what it was I meant to do. At least now I know where all those silly continuity errors I read in books come from.

So for example, I wrote half of the current chapter but then decided that it was pretty limp and lifeless. So I went back to the previous chapter, made a few changes, and then started over. I'm going to hold onto my first version (I might have a use for those scenes later), but the second one is bubbling along happily. At times I've encountered that strange feeling that the characters are writing themselves - that rather than inventing something I'm just narrating what I see. A couple of days ago I was writing about a confrontation and I had no idea what was going to happen next. It's not that I hadn't decided what was going to happen - it's that I had to keep writing to find out! Very weird stuff.

Kind of like this blog, I suppose. I never know what I'm going to write about next here either.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:34 PM

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Rand Paul's Amateur Hour Extravaganza

Thursday, May 20, 2010
I've never seen a candidate run such an effective negative campaign against himself.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:23 PM

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Not Getting Too Excited

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Last night was the first good electoral night the Democrats have had for a long time. The victories of Sestak, Conway, and Critz, and the forcing of a runoff in the Arkansas Senate race, gives some hope that 2010 won't be the reprise of 1994 that has been keeping so many Democratic strategists up at nights. The Democrats are now better positioned to win three Senate races (although I could KILL Richard Blumenthal) and have demonstrated that they can win open seats in swing districts in the current political environment.

BUT...one could still interpret things as dangerous for the D's. The fact is that it's far easier to concentrate resources in special elections and primaries than in the hundreds of contests that will take place simultaneously in November. Fundamentals tend to determine the results of national elections, and the reality is that the most important fundamental is change in real disposable income. It's not unemployment (since unemployed people generally vote at lower rates and, as they're generally lower income to start with, tend to vote for Democrats anyway). It's not deficits (nobody has ever lost a race because on that issue). There isn't any inflation to speak of. And GDP growth doesn't tell you very much because it doesn't control for economic distribution. The first three percent of GDP growth is generally skimmed off by the top 10% of the population - you need to get above that for real income gains. And the fact is that RDI isn't growing much at the moment. Another good metric is the "right track/wrong track" number, which is also still in negative territory.

To totally geek out for a second, the electoral forecasting model I find to be the most reliable, Alan Abramowitz's, uses presidential approval, the generic ballot test, number of seats held, and a control for midterms. Assuming that Obama has a +5 approval rating and the ballot test is tied, Alan's model predicts that the Democrats will lose 37 seats in the House - just about the number that the Republicans would need to flip the chamber.

So no, I'm not going to get too excited yet. If Obama's approval rating and the Democratic ballot advantage increases, then maybe I will. But not yet.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:59 AM

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Some Brief Notes

Monday, May 17, 2010
I've had quite a few topics I've wanted to write about lately, but I think my literary writer's block has spilled over into other areas. All right, it's not writer's block so much as writer's frustration, or writer's exhaustion. Basically my paying gig has been so taxing over the last several weeks, as have the strains of BH's job search, that putting written words together in something resembling a logical order has just been too much for my teensy little brain. There! That at least touches on the two or three most important personal issues I've been coping with lately.

One small thing I stumbled across today is a blog in Britain with the same title as my blog, and (not surprisingly) the same quotes from Sieyes in the top bar. Very weird feeling. I felt bad that they had so many more posts than I did but then I realized that it was a community blog. Whew.

I am not going to talk about the BP oil spill except to say that I find the continuing support for offshore drilling among the American public deeply depressing. There's nothing more to comment on other than repetitive exclamations of horribleness.

As for the Kagan nomination, I'm going to have be consistent and say that no blank slates on the Supreme Court means no blank slates on the Supreme Court. I don't care if Obama thinks Kagan is neat - I need to think she's neat before I'm willing to give her the power to re-write the constitution for the rest of her life. The fact that she's purported to agree with Obama on executive power - one of the areas where I am the most disgusted with Obama's presidency - only gives me added reasons to reject her. Supreme Court nominees shouldn't be given a pass on their judicial philosophy - they should be positively grilled on it. The problem with the Bork nomination wasn't that Bork was savaged by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but that Bork was a reactionary whose judicial beliefs were far outside the mainstream of American political thought. The process worked precisely as it was supposed to and should be repeated for each and every person who is nominated to the bench. If I was on the Judiciary Committee and Kagan - or any other nominee - dared to stonewall me the way that nominees have been doing for going on two decades now, I would vote against them. By the way, I think Matt Yglesias is on to something and we should end lifetime appointments to the bench. 18 years would be enough. Heck, let's institute age limits for Senators and House members, while we're at it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:38 PM

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Amazon Meme

Friday, May 07, 2010
Or, how I haven't changed a bit. After following up on this meme (last seen at ScienceGeeka), I looked up my first purchase on Amazon, and I was both amused and chagrined. In March of 2000 I bought Political Liberalism, by John Rawls. Yes, I'm still interested in Rawls - so much so that I'm STILL tinkering with the same paper I was writing then - ten years ago. How embarrassing.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:50 AM

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