The coming week will begin the final month of the season. Hard to believe.
Some thoughts from looking back on the past week.
The Red Sox could not manage one home win in five games against the Yankees, but they came out west and beat the Angels two out of three while the lowly Mariners broke a long losing streak and beat the Yankees two out of three. Baseball is strange that way.
Things went bad in Seattle a while ago, but how much fun must it be for the fans to see Suzuki playing center?
Could the Cardinals actually fail to make the playoffs? Could the Dodgers and Padres both make it? Or the Phillies, even after throwing in the towel at the non-waiver deadline?
Why do the Padres, who play in one of the toughest parks for home runs, feel that the key to their stretch run is a guy for whom hitting homers is precisely his only skill? Were they just envious of the Dodgers for having cornered the market on Devil Ray rejects?
How can it be that three of the top four teams in the AL–with the worst of these being at .587–are in the Central? And how could it be that the NL has only one team over .525 and only six over .500?
When was the last time a scoring play went 5-7-3 on the batter-runner?
So, the Latin American Studies Association recently moved its 2007 Congress from Boston to Montreal, and today I just noticed that the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association will be in Toronto. (Too bad it’s not 2007 in Toronto, given that the ’07 meetings are a few days apart; that would make too much sense!)
Will this be the first APSA meeting outside the USA? (more…)
By “our” man, I mean an electoral systems analyst-engineer. Andy is away from Chapel Hill and has been in the Kabul and Panjshir Treehouses this month, and has treated us to some interesting photos and commentary.
He’s there to work with the Afghan parliament (which, he notes, inspires simply because it exists) on their electoral system. As I have discussed at some length here, it needs some work, so thanks to Andy for his efforts.
This time, the partisan tables are turned. Unlike the narrow, disputed presidential contest, the PRD is the incumbent party in the state of Chiapas. The PRD’s candidate, Juan Sabines Guerrero, is holding a razor-thin lead over Jose Antonio Aguilar Bodegas, the candidate of the PRI, with PAN tactical support, in Sunday’s gubernatorial election.
According to the Instituto Electoral Estatal (you must go to their website and see the silly graphics!), as of the time of this planting, the PREP shows the PRD candidate ahead by 0.22 percentage points, or 2,405 votes.
The bar on the left (albeit not ideologically) represents the PAN candidate, registered before the party opted to back the PRI candidate in attempt to oust the PRD from the governorship. The PRD candidate, Sabines, defected from the PRI only in recent months and is the son of a former governor. As George Grayson notes in the just-linked El Universal English story from 18 August, Chiapas has been the scene of some interesting shifting party alliances:
In the spring, he was eager to support a PRI nominee, and he and party envoy TomÃ¡s Yarrington agreed that Sabines would be the ideal choice. [National PRI leader and presidential candidate Roberto] Madrazo initially gave the thumbs up to Sabines on ly to infuriate local leaders by shifting to Aguilar.
Thatâ€™s ancient history. Sundayâ€™s gubernatorial election represents a continuation of the July 2 presidential conflict. Last weekend, LÃ³pez Obrador left the encampments of Mexico City to barnstorm on behalf of Sabines.
The need for the PAN’s Felipe CalderÃ³n–the apparent narrow victor in the national presidential election–to develop a good relationship with the PRI for “governability” reasons is behind the PAN’s throwing its support to Aguilar in Chiapas. Grayson again:
To propitiate PRI legislators, CalderÃ³nâ€™s PAN â€” in a move spearheaded by teachers union boss and Chiapanecan Elba Esther Gordillo â€” has extended a helping hand to the PRI. Specifically, they have convinced the gubernatorial aspirants of the PAN (Francisco Rojas) and the Gordillo-controlled Panal (Emilio ZebadÃºa â€” Gov. Salazarâ€™s former government secretary and a strong PRD pre-candidate) to step aside in favor of Aguilar Bodegas, who already enjoyed the endorsement of the PVEM [Green Party].
The Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT)â€™s support for its leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, remains unwavering as members want him to lead them to election victory once again.
TRT deputy spokesman Jatuporn Prompan said all former party MPs agreed Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin must be placed first on the list of candidates who will contest the general election under the party list system [within Thailand's parallel/MMM electoral system].
Mr. Jatuporn said Pol. Lt.Col. Thaksin also must accept the post of prime minister if TRT won the October poll. Without the caretaker prime minister leading the election campaigning, TRT could be in trouble, he said.
In 1993, the newborn Republic of Yemen held its first multiparty parliamentary elections. A year earlier, in August 1992, a commission called the Yemeni Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) was formed to observe and run the elections. It is considered the Arab worldâ€™s first permanent, independent election commission.
Until now, as an elections mechanism â€“ whether local council, parliament or presidential â€“ Yemen has used whatâ€™s known as plurality voting or the plurality system, whereby the candidate with the most votes wins. As it is, each electoral system has its advantages and disadvantages, and some would argue that continuing to use the plurality system and the same voter registration mechanism might not be the best option for democracy in Yemen.
The bulk of the piece is a basic (and pretty good) primer on the ways in which the electoral system of plurality rule often violates the democratic principle of majority rule, and covers open and closed lists, STV, and other systems. It even covers SNTV and notes that the system could be called “pseudo-proportional.” I have never heard that before, but it is much more accurate as a description of SNTV (and its close relatives, limited vote and cumulative vote) than the oft-heard semi-proportional.
Unfortunately, the author of the piece completely punts on the question of “mixed” systems. Not only does he not go into the critical distinction between MMM and MMP, but he suggests:
For example, a state with a bicameral parliament may choose a winner-take-all system for elections to the lower body and a variant of proportional representation for elections to the upper body.
Well, sure, one could (and some do), but that’s not what we usually mean by the term, mixed (-member).
With the cooperation of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and various Yemeni NGOs, there has been an ongoing review of Yemen’s electoral system.
The teams faced several challenges, including a number of citizens who didnâ€™t understand the importance of voter registration and participating in the political process.
One woman asked, â€œIf we canâ€™t select our husband, how can we select the president of the country?â€
Unfortunately, the article comes to no real conclusions about electoral reform in Yemen. At one point, it seems to point towards open-list PR. At another point, it seems content with the current FPTP system, despite acknowledging that it has contributed to big distortions in representation, such as in 1997, when:
all MPs got 55 percent of all votes cast and 33.7 percent of all registered eligible voters.
Moreover, the study the article summarizes notes that current practice “strengthens the executive branch at the expense of the legislature.”
In any event, at least some folks are thinking about the electoral system in Yemen.
Nikolai Petrov, scholar in residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes in the Moscow Times about the upcoming Russian regional elections, which will precede the first State Duma elections to be held under an excusively closed-list electoral system.
What we are witnessing is a serious reformatting of the country’s political party structure. What is referred to elsewhere as the political landscape looks more like a political seed-bed in Russia.
Ah, an analogy after my own heart (even if he expands upon it with reference to vegetables).
There are also various young gardeners competing to see whose plants grow best. The two main groups vying for the green-thumb prize are those surrounding Vladislav Surkov and Igor Sechin, both presidential deputy chiefs of staff, and Sechin’s folks are rapidly gaining ground on Surkov’s.
The nominal leaders of the two columns that appear likely to form the backbone of the party system following the 2007 Duma elections are the Duma’s current speaker, Boris Gryzlov, and Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov…
After the latest moves, all you have to do is throw Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party, also cozy with the party of power, into the mix and the Kremlin should be guaranteed complete control of the lower house.
Going back to the immediate post-USSR elections, the State Duma has been elected under a MMM system (parallel, half single-seat districts with plurality, half nationwide closed-list PR). Putin and his allies have changed the system to all closed-list PR in, incredibly, a single nationwide district. This new system, in conjunction with various other limits on free expression and assocation, will allow the Kremlin leaders to manage the main parties from the top. Rules also prevent the formation of multi-party lists:
This fall’s [regional assembly] elections will be the first held under new rules stipulating that a member of one party cannot be present on another party’s list. This is the Kremlin’s way of preventing the formation of loose alliances — like that between SPS and Yabloko in Moscow elections — that parties set up after the formation of official blocs was banned.
And I think the following is an innovation in list construction:
There is even a reality-show element in a new United Russia project, in which young people compete to fill one-fifth of the spaces on the United Russia party list.
Interestingly, Russia follows Ukraine in abandoning MMM for pure national-district closed-list PR, although the motivations of the move and the degree of inter-party competition in the two countries are quite different.
Normally, I am skeptical about the value of rules requiring a runoff when the leading candidate is so far ahead of the closest challenger. In such situations there is usually little chance that a runoff could stop the plurality candidate. While Kabila will almost certainly win, the tense nature of the ceasefire between Congo’s various militias probably makes the jockeying for alliances between now and the runoff a valuable exercise (even though the possibility of a blow-up also remains present).
Additionally, such a large gap between the top two candidates often means that the second candidate has barely surpassed the third. In such a case, there is always the chance that the third candidate would be a more viable opponent to the leader than is the second candidate. This is an inherent flaw in two-round systems, especially in the context of political fragmentation. However, in this case, the political situation is so fragmented that the second candidate actually has quite a substantial lead over the third.
The votes shares of the top four candidates are: 44.8, 20.0, 13.0, 4.8. (The remaining 17.4% of votes is divided among twenty-nine other candidates, no one of whom has more than 3.5%! If even a few of those candidates also had legisaltive slates that won seats in their respective main districts, this will be one fragmented legislature!)
See Yebo Gogo for futher discussion, and a map that shows how regionally divided the parties are. The runoff campaign will be an opportunity for Kabila to try to build political support in the west, where he is much weaker.
UPDATE: At the propagation bench, Jonathan suggests that a victory by Kabila is a good deal less likely than I imply above. As I note in response to him, if Kabila loses, it just may be a record in the history of majority-runoff presidential elections!
While the game last night–late last night–was one of those epic thrillers worthy of baseball’s greatest rivalry, the rest of the series was just pathetic.
And as much as I was on the side of the Red Sox in the series just mercifully concluded, looking ahead, I say to their next opponent, treat ‘em like just another sinking ship, and kick’em when they’re down.
But, Buck(y) up, Red Sox Nation. Twenty eight years ago, the last Boston Massacre eliminated what had once been a 14-game lead. Much worse than this year, when you went into this series already (close) behind. And, still, 28 years ago, you fought all the way back to a tie on the season’s final day.
And to think that I thought 2004 had put an end to all that Bambino/Bucky (F.)/Boone stuff.
Premier Bernard Lord of New Brunswick has called an early election for the provincial legislative assembly. The election will be 18 September. Lord, a Tory, had little choice but to call the election approximately a year early:
The election became inevitable when a backbencher told Lord he was resigning his seat to return to private life, a move that would have plunged Lord’s fragile Conservative government into minority status.
(“Plunged.” How dramatic!)
Lord’s party currently holds 28 seats to the Liberals’ 26. The two parties split the provincial vote in 2003, 45%-44%. There was one NDP member elected in 2003, but she resigned last year, and was replaced by an independent.
Lord’s government had made comprehensive political reform, including fixed election dates, a priority. How will the proposed reforms, which include the adoption of proportional representation (specifically MMP) and internal party primaries, be affected by an early election? Just two months ago, the government had given its formal (and favorable) response to the recommendations of the independent Commission on Legislative Democracy (see Wilf’s summary). The response included setting a referendum on the proposed reforms for 12 May, 2008, which was supposed to be within the life of this government. Now it will not be, and so I assume the referendum is in limbo.
From an essay by Gershon Baskin in the Jerusalem Times, republished at the Meretz USA blog:
The problemâ€™s roots can be found in the policies that were developed and implemented in the days of Chief of Staff Ehud Barak (1991-1995). Barakâ€™s concept, mirroring what he saw in the United States following the first Gulf war was that Israel needed a small, intelligent and sophisticated fighting force. Translating that concept into policy and planning meant investing huge sums first and foremost in the air force, in modern technologies, and in scaling down the reserve forces, depending on elite units of the regular army. Since 1991, Israel invested the major parts of its military budgets into these areas and scaled down the dependence on ground infantry units. The overall dependence of Israel on the air force during the beginning of this war was not because the Chief of Staff came from the air force, but because that was the entire military concept of the IDF since Barakâ€™s time. This concept is good perhaps for the United States when it attacked Kosovo, or even when they launched the attack against the Saddam Hussein regime, but is it the right concept for Israel? Perhaps, if Israel had to go to war against another army it would be right, but it appeared to the quite wrong regarding a war against a guerilla fighting force.
This gives the US too much credit for its own reliance on air power. In Kosova, the US military had a guerrilla army on the ground on its side (and was indeed fighting an adversary that was a state). And in Iraq, the strategy was woefully unprepared for dealing with the inevitable emergence of the post-Hussein resistance. We could probably tell a similar story of strategy unprepared for the situation encountered in Afghanistan.
The post is one of a series at Meretz USA on the aftermath of the recent fighting.
This morning, when I went to check the status of ripening fruit on the two late apricots, I found this mess in between the ‘Autumn Glo’ (the tree whose trunk is visible) and the ‘Earli Autumn.’ (Hey, I didn’t give them their names!)
Some fruit had been knocked down, and while there are a couple of fruits that have been more or less cut in two, the rest is chopped up, almost as though someone was preparing a fruit salad.
What sort of animal does this? I had not seen anything like ths till recently. I found a few chopped up fruit beneath the ‘Earli Autumn’ before I tightened the netting over that tree. The ‘Autumn Glo’ had no neeting at the time this happened. It does now. We’ll see if that helps. But this is quite a mystery.
When [Defense Minister Amir] Peretz took office four months ago, Hezbollah and the missile threat were at the bottom of the priority list senior IDF officers presented him, Peretz says.
In private conversations over the past few days, Peretz said officers did not tell him there was a strategic threat to Israel, and did not present him with all relevant information about the missile threat.
From a Haaretz story, mostly about opposition calls for a full commission of inquiry (and it would be no insiders-investigating-themselves commisson like the 9/11 Commission) into the political as well as military dimensions of this war.
Youâ€™ll know what my riddle means
When youâ€™ve eaten mangosteens
–Rudyard Kipling, 1902
No, mangosteens are not bearing at Ladera Frutal. The mangosteen, often called the world’s best tasting fruit, would not grow here. It is ultra-tropical. But a producer in Puerto Rico is about to begin exporting them to the USA.
Because fresh mangosteens can harbor insect pests, the Department of Agriculture prohibits their being brought from the main countries that grow them in Southeast Asia, or from Hawaii. (Mangosteens smuggled from Canada, where they are permitted because tropical pests cannot survive there, are occasionally sold in Chinatown.)
But contrary to its reputation as a forbidden fruit, the mangosteen can be imported legally from 18 Caribbean and Central America countries, as well as from Puerto Rico. Until recently, however, no one cultivated them commercially in those areas.
It is not exactly a fruit that’s easy to grow.
Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is difficult to propagate by convenient methods like grafting, and when raised from seed takes 8 to 10 years or longer to bear fruit, a major disincentive for aspiring growers.
The NYT article tells a long tale of Ian Crown’s determination against the odds to grow and export these rare fruits.
Canned mangosteens have been available for some time (at least in Asian specialty markets) and some health-food products and supplements are made from them. But, of course, there is no substitute for fresh ones. And eat them as much as you can:
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