The nomination of Harriet Miers now having failed, and the right having gotten a nominee it likes better, will Democrats be able to invoke the “extraodinary circumstances” clause of the current truce in the filubuster wars? Will the Republican base be rewarded for having gambled against Hamilton’s logic that opposition to one nominee can’t guarantee that a subsequent one will be more acceptable? (more…)
These trees don’t grow very fast, so it is pretty exciting when it puts on a growth flush. This is actually its third flush of the year. Each one puts on a few inches, at best. Man, how long till it fruits?
In this photo, the tree’s new growth is backlit by the late-afternoon sun on a somewhat foggy day last week.
Not only was he the oldest living baseball Hall of Famer, he was the last manager to lead the White Sox to a World Series. Till last week. He was 97. He lived just long enough to see the White Sox finally win the Series. (more…)
Does it make sense that Wyoming, rated as “low risk” for terrorist attack, should get almost twice the funding for preparadness programs, on a per capita basis, as New York? The independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks recommended more than a year ago that all homeland-security money be allocated based on objective criteria–the risk of attack.
This issue is being debated in Congress now–in a House-Senate conference committee, and it is an excellent example of the different interests of the two chambers of the US Congress.
This is a fascinating case, because both chambers are controlled by the same party. Yet the legislative preferences on this matter break down in a completely predictable way, based on the constituencies of the chambers.
The Senate passed a bill that would share about 75% of all homeland security funds equally between the 50 states, with the other 25% allocated according to a state’s actual assessed risk of terrorism.
The House, on the other hand, passed in July an amendment to the Patriot Act that would do almost the exact opposite. Under the House plan, 25% would be allocated equally between the states, and even to get that share, a state would have to prove why the money was needed. Most of the funds would be based on assessment of risk.
(The assessment of risk would be based on calculating potential insured losses.)
Representative Nita Lowrey (Democrat, New York), the author of the amendment to the bill that the House passed, says:
The current formula is distributed as pork barrel, the same amount to everybody, no matter what, and it doesn’t make sense. New Yorkers are not very pleased about being No. 1, but if we are No. 1 in the risk/threat/vulnerability category, we clearly should get the resources so that we can be prepared.
Senator Craig Thomas (Republican, Wyoming) counters that his state has a lot of energy production “that involves a substantial Homeland Security risk.”
Lowrey notes that is a valid argument, and points out that the amended House bill would allow Wyoming to make that case and receive the funds if they are indeed merited.
Well, this is rich. An attorney in Houston “claims some fans got sick because they weren’t given adequate notice that the roof would be open and therefore, weren’t prepared for temperatures in the 50′s.”
The government has also agreed that central government funding which is available for the specific Wellington regional roading programme will be able to be used to fund a highway through Transmission Gully if that is deemed to be the preferred option at the end of the current evaluation programe.
When you see a reference to a specific project that just happens to be in an area represented by the leader of one of the junior parties in a coalition, it is easy to say “pork.” However, on closer inspection, all the above-quoted passage commits the government to doing is to continue its “current evaluation programme.” That evaluation is being undertaken by the Transit New Zealand (click for a map of the project). If that bureaucratic agency’s evaluation process deems the Transmission Gully project worthy, funds may be released. And so far, Transmission Gully is not the favored route.
Not very porcine, in that Dunne (United Future leader) has secured no specific commitment to pull the project evaluation from the agency and have his favored project built, independent of whether the experts hired to assess projects’ worthiness agree the project is, indeed, worthy. That would be pork.
As I say in my PMP class, pork vs. programmatic policy is largely about where and what the burden of proof is. If the burden of proof that must be met to provide a benefit to some region or group is that the specific beneficiaries are important political constituents, it’s probably pork . If the burden of proof that must be met is based on technical criteria, it is probably programmatic.
“Programmatic policy” does not mean the policy has to benefit “everyone” (few policies do!). It may even permit politically favored groups to extract rents at the expense of other groups; the difference is that the beneficaries must prove their specific case: that their request for the policy benefit satisfies objective criteria, rather than expect the benefit based on merely political criteria.
It looks like David Farrar (Kiwi blog) agrees that the government deal provides no commitment to paying off Dunne’s support with central government funds for Transmission Gully.
I may look more closely at the deal to reclassify a bridge in Winston Peter’s (now former) district of Tauranga at a later time.
When Helen Clark said her aim was to construct a “stable and durable” government, she meant it. [...] And if serious problems arise, she has something that wasn’t there in the 1996 coalition with which this one is sometimes compared – a back-up party she can count on in a crisis. Comparisons with the National/New Zealand First coalition, which fell apart in spectacular fashion, are flawed in several respects. (more…)
[This post is written from the perspective of the left, but a similar case could be made with respect to the Republicans and libertarianism, for exampleâ€”although there are no current independent congress members of that programmatic bent.]
Get the Waters and Robertson acolytes out of the internal coalition of the Democratic and Republican parties and I, for one, will like both parties a whole lot better than I do now. And I suspect most voters would, too.
I have been trying to reconcile my own political positions with that statement. (I loathe the idea that there could be anything inconsistent about my world view–and, yes, the words before those dashes are meant to be ironic, because being an intellectual means being able to hold contradictory positions and think them through.) Bernie Sanders, a “socialist” member of the House and likely future Senator, helps point the way towards reconciling my positions and my statement.
The ideological political test that Steven Taylor posted a link to some time ago said I was a “socialist.” If we take that to be “social democrat” then it is probably close, though I would note that the “test” left no space for green, which would probably be more accurate. (Like Steven, ideological labels make me “itchy.”)
In any event, why would I prefer a Democratic party that no longer had Maxine Waters (the example used by Chris Lawrence in the post I was responding to), Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank, and other leftists, if I am a social democrat (i.e. on the “left”) myself? This is where Sanders–a socialist, and not a Democrat–comes in.
We can see a snapshot of the ideological spectrum in the US party system by looking at the rank ordering of members of the US House from left to right. My colleague Keith Poole’s Voteview Web site (a spectacular resource) presents the data.
Bernie Sanders of Vermont actually calls himself an independent and caucuses with the Democrats, but he is labeled a socialist, and not only by his enemies on the right who consider the term a convenient shortcut for nutty, dangerous, subversive, etc. For instance, in a recent Nation magazine profile and in some sympathetic biographies referenced on Sanders’s own Web site, the label “socialist” is used.
So, where is Sanders on the spectrum of US politics, according to Keith’s analysis of House voting? In the 109th Congress, he ranks no. 41 (counting from left to right). In the 108th, he ranked 30, and in the 107th, 47.
In the last three Congreses, there have been on average 38 members more to the “left” than “socialist” Sanders. In fact, as the Nation article points out, quoting a Vermont Progressive Party activist, “Sometimes, Bernie’s biggest critics are on the left,” the reason being that “some social liberals quietly grumble that Sanders maintains too rigid a focus on economic issues.” [My emphasis]
That is, if we had a proportional representation system that fostered multiparty competition, there is no guarantee that the “social liberals” and the “socialists” would be in the same party. Nor, presumably, would social and economic conservatives coexist inside the same partyâ€”this is the very faultline within the Republican party that was exposed by the Miers nomination.
There is nothing inconsistent* about wanting a more centrist Democratic Party shorn of its “social liberals” while also wanting the opportunity to vote for a social democratic (or green or socialist) party that would actually gain representation and thus have a bargaining weight in Congress vis-a-vis the Democrats (and other parties) that my vote could make a small contribution to enhancing.
In the meantime, the best I can do is root from the sidelines of American politics (I live in an utterly safe House district in the grip of the Viper) for Sanders to become one out of 100 instead of just one out of 435: He is likely to win the open US Senate seat from Vermont, exchanging one independent (Republican defector James Jeffords) for another.
*Not that there is anything wrong with inconsistency…
Proportional representation, very much like the US Congress, where more populated states have more representatives [...] so Baghdad will get many more seats than, say, Anbar province.
Well, no. Proportional representation is nothing like the US.
First of all, as Sutherland noted in a sentence or two before the one I quoted, Iraqis will have many, many more choices on their ballots than we get on ours. With multiple parties presenting lists, the parties will be represented within each province in accordance to the votes cast in that province. That’s proportional representation.
The change from the last Iraqi assembly election is not proportional representation, but the replacement of the single nationwide district with 18 districts coinciding with the provinces. But that is not proportional representation. That is apportionment (as the US constitution defines it in Article I, section 3, without saying anything about how they will be allocated within the states). How those seats are allocated (to parties and/or candidates) once apportioned is a separate dimension of an electoral system.
As I have noted before, this is a common confusion in the US. But is it too much to ask someone whose job it is to report on elections to understand the difference between apportionment and allocation? To understand that a voting process resembling what most of the world’s democracies use is not “like the US Congress”?
And, that, among other things, is what is wrong with the criminalization of political accountability.
Of course, the entire issue is the war, and the concentration of executive authority that both brought it about and was reinforced by it. But absent a process of political accountability (such as confidence votes, as I argued in the previous post), we get a focus on narrow issues like who said what to a federal grand jury.
Update (Oct. 30): Arms and Influence (and, in particular, this Salon link provided there) offers some hope that the indictment(s)–or, rather, the process that they will set in motion–could yet shed the light that Congress has thus far refused to shed into the cabal that Cheney headed (or heads).
Various talking heads (David Gergen on the Newshour, for one) have suggested that Bush needs to clean house of his advisors for a fresh start and bring in a new team (perhaps Gergen was using the Newshour to submit his application). Aside from Libby’s departure, that is unlikely, I think, unless Karl Rove is ultimately indicted, too.
But if our form of government were semi-presidential, (more…)
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4