Over at The Head Heeb, I suggested that “stable” was hardly the word to use to describe the Israeli cabinet after the inconclusive war against Hezbollah. While I would expect muddling through because the various parties would be uncertain about the outcome of a no-confidence vote, I also wondered whether the bare majority that formed this government around Ariel Sharon’s “convergence” was still present now, and whether some of the ex-Likudniks who followed Sharon into Kadima would prefer to be back with Likud (either by defecting to that party or bringing Likud into a revamped coalition).
Jonathan took the time for a very thoughtful and detailed reply in his comment thread. I recommend it highly. It is in his post from 10 August, “A Plan for a Non-Defeat.” There are no direct comment permalinks at THH, but his response was posted on 15 August at 07:34 PM (and my comment was at 06:45).
In the response, Jonathan suggests that there are thee ways the current government might be replaced:
1. New election;
2. Right-religious bloc invokes “the rule of 61″;
3. A “palace coup” within the coalition.
I think Jonathan is absolutely right that a new election is unlikely. For one thing, Kadima would expect devastating electoral retribution if a vote happened soon. Labor would also see its seat total reduced by a new election, and even “Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu would have to measure their strength against each other.” (Remember, YB nearly passed Likud as the dominant party on the right in the last election.)
The “rule of 61″ is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. In order for this to happen, either (1) 11 Kadima MKs would have to defect and Shas would have to put aside its dislike of Bibi [Netanyahu], or (2) the right would have to pull a wild card by reaching out to Avoda [Labor]. I can imagine some Kadima MKs defecting, but I think the odds are against 11 doing so (especially since Bibi and/or Lieberman [of YB] won’t have enough portfolios to buy them all), and I doubt that the right would approach Avoda or that the latter would accept.
So, what about the palace coup, replacing Ehud Olmert in the PM’s chair with Tzipi Livni or another leader of Kadima? It could happen, perhaps as a means for Kadima to reach out to Likud and UTJ for a center-right government, or even leaving the present coalition otherwise intact.
My own (though always subject to revision) take on the situation is that, while there may have been some short-term military gains against the heavier weaponry of Hezbollah, overall this was just short of a debacle for Israel. Little gained at much cost (including internal cost, which is more politically relevant than the havoc rained down on the state, economy, and population of Lebanon, which was not even really a party to the conflict.) However, I learned long ago not to try to engage in predictions of Israeli interparty politics, so I’ll leave it at that for now. As Jonthan concludes, the sitiation is very fluid, and much depends on how well the withdrawal from Lebanon goes over the next few weeks or more.
UPDATE: Jonathan has revised and extended his remarks in a front-page post at THH. In response to one of his commentators, he asks a very pertinent question:
has anyone figured out how to handle a Kadima leadership challenge if one develops? Are the necessary party structures and procedural rules even in place?
Good question, in that the succession from Sharon to Olmert was pretty much a closely held move by Sharon’s circle (and Olmert was already his deputy). The party is anything but institutionalized, unless something has changed recently. Given how, er, eventful, the party’s short period in power had been, it seems unlikely they have clear rules in place for how a leadership challenge would go forward (pun intended).
A few days after the “blogiversary,” but here is the one-year graph of monthly visits and page views at F&V.
Visits–recorded down on the lower right sidebar–came in just short of 37,000 at the one-year mark. OK, so it’s not DailyKos or Juan Cole, but not too bad for a blog that is (mostly) what its title says it is. But “visits” are defined rather absurdly by Sitemeter–any “hit” upon a post by any search engine, even if the searcher’s “visit” time totalled 0 minutes! So, page views are probably a marginally better indicator, in that any visitor who actually viewed more than one page was actually a genuine visitor. It took till October, 2005, for page views to reach 4,000 a month, and they have never been that low again (it’s at about 3,500 for half the current month).
Thanks visitors, and I hope you keep coming back for whatever is ripening here!
Back left is ‘Red Baron’; back right is ‘Tri-Lite’ peach-plum hybrid; front left is ‘Arctic Supreme’; front right is ‘Double Jewel’.
All of these have been harvested in the last several days. The ‘Tri-Lite’ is certainly the most unusual. It looks like a peach–though the dappling would be somewhat more typical of a plum (or the ‘Dapple Dandy’ pluot)–and it has fuzzy skin. Its texture is more like that of a plum. The flesh is almost pure white, and its flavor is clearly a mix of the parents albeit leaning somewhat in the peach direction. Nonetheless, the finish is unmistakably plumlike. It is also a clingstone, like plums and unlike any peaches/nectarines I have ever grown. (There are, of course, clingstone peaches and nectarines, but I assume they are all high in chilling requirement, or otherwise unsuited to this climate.)
‘Red Baron’ is a very mild flavored and juicy yellow-fleshed peach. Its name comes from its spectacular spring display of double red blossoms–the only peach I know of with such vivid red blooms.
The ‘Double Jewel’ is also a flowering-fruiting peach, in this case with pink flowers. It is a very richly flavored peach, with an orange-yellow colored flesh. It is one of the best peaches you could ever eat!
I have not yet had a fully ripe ‘Arctic Supreme.’ All of last year’s crop was chomped prematurely by squirrels. The fruit depicted here dropped early and may not ripen properly (just as all fruit that is picked too early–such as the grocery-store imitations–do not ripen properly). There are many others on the tree. With luck I will get to taste at least some of them fully ripe!
As for chilling requirements, the two double-flowering varieties should be quite low. We have them planted up in one of the lower-chill portions of the finca and they bloom well every year. The other two are planted down in the corralito, where chilling would typically be 500-600 hours. The peach-plum is moderate chill (and so far, a shy bearer); the ‘Arctic Supreme’ was listed as needing 800 hours, but clearly does not need that much.
As Charles notes, Democrats tend to perform much better in this polling than in the actual voting, where real candidates–including known incumbents–are running, rather than just the “vote for party” option that the polling simulates. Even so:
In no cycle since 1994 has the Democratic lead approached 10%, let alone exceeded it. So by the standard of “relative lead” in the generic ballot, 2006 reflects extremely strong pro-Democratic forces.
The current trend of several poll shows an average lead for the Democrats of almost fifteen percentage points! And it has been trending mostly upward for some time.
Of course, as Charles also notes, it is not only fraught with peril to go from generic polling to estimating the actual aggregate congressional votes, but even more peril lies in estimating seat swings based on (expected or even real) aggregate votes. But such peril never stops F&V!
I posted some graphs of votes and seats trends over time here three months ago.* If Democrats really had a 15-point lead in national votes, that would mean around 54% of the vote (allowing for the recently typical 5% or so for third parties). Extrapolating from the graph (see link below), that would put the Democrats anywhere from about 240 seats (at the lower responsiveness of recent elections) to about 265 (using the trend over the entire post-1945 period. which is probably less likely to be relevant). (Those are ‘eyeballed’ point estimates off the graph; I think it is pointless to talk about margins of error, as long as we all understand that these are just rough estimates of what would happen if the votes translated into seats in 2006 more or less as they have in the past–whether the very recent past, or the past six decades.)
Of course, we should not assume the polling will accurately translate into votes. As Charles shows, it does not, or else Democrats would have won each of the last six House elections. (Even 1994, Charles shows, the Democratic party had recovered from its earlier generic-polling deficit by election day!). (They did win 1996, in votes, though not in seats.)
The following list shows, for each year since 1994, the final polling difference (always D-R), the actual difference in percentages of the total vote, and the actual difference in the two-party vote. Data on the polling are from Political Arithmetik. Actual votes data are from my files (based on Clerk of the House reports).
The last number, in parentheses, is simply the difference between the final two-party vote and the final generic polling result. (I much prefer to use the shares of the total vote, but pollsters, in their infinite wisdom–and for that matter, most of the country-specialist political scientists–ply their craft as though there were literally only two parties.)
So, on average, the final poll has overstated the Democratic party vote advantage by 6.38 percentage points! (Note that the one year when the polls showed Republicans ahead was also the year with the smallest error of estimate, while the year the Republicans took control of the House from the Democrats was the year with, by far, the greatest error from poll to actual votes.)
If we take Charles’s current average of generic polls (+14.65 Dem) and subtract the average difference between final polling and actual votes (6.38), we would have an estimated Democratic advantage of “only” +8.27. That would be roughly 51.6% votes for the Democrat (again allowing around 5% “other”). Now, doing our perilous extrapolations, we get a range of anything from around 225 seats (a bare majority, assuming the votes-to-seats conversion will be as nonresponsive as it has been in the last decade) to around 245.
Of course, if the generic trend continues upward for Democrats, it would become quite unlikely that they would not be the majority party in the next House. On the other hand, the relative nonresponsiveness of the current House electoral system to votes swings would suggest that even a small recovery for the Republicans in the generic polling by early November could keep the current majority intact.
No, we can’t make any predictions, unfortunately. It looks bad for the Republicans. You already knew that. But Democrats could fail to capitalize on their current good polling. You probably aleady knew that, too. What I hope this discussion shows is that a failure to “capitalize” would not necessarily be from bad tactics (as the media will tell us), but from underlying structural features of the US House electoral system. To review, those are (not necessarily in order of importance):
1. Voters vote for candidates, not parties.
2. The party polling tends to overstate voter preferences for living, breathing Democrats, and has done so for many years (even in 1994).
3. The process of allocating House seats is not as responsive to vote shifts as it once was.
At Holden Republic, Lewis, citing the book, Our Republican Constitution by Adam Tomkins, writes about the provocative argument that the constitution of what we quaintly call the UK is, in fact, “profoundly formed and shaped by values and practices of republicanism.” The reason for this profound British republicanism lies in political accountability, which is indeed the core republican principle as articulated by our own founders in the Federalist Papers. On the U.K.R., Tomkins reminds us:
The Queen reigns but Cabinet rules – so long as it has the support of Parliament.
Lewis further reviews the argument:
Tomkins puts a counter-argument to the claim that the courts are the central players in holding government to account. Tomkins further contends that while the British constitution should be understood as having republican foundations, current constitutional practice is, in a number of respects, insufficiently republican in character.
I do not know much about the arguments on British constitutionalism, but it strikes me as odd that there might be a widely accepted claim that courts are the key to political accountability–especially in the British Westminster system.
Among the suggestions Tomkins makes for strengthening the republican character of British institutions is:
Abolishing party whips
This is especially odd–and indeed, at odds with the core principle of republican constitutionalism of the parliamentary variant: that the “cabinet rules–so long as it has the support of parliament.”
The problem with the idea of abolishing party whips is that it is party discipline–the product of “whipping” MPs of a given party to support the collectively agreed goals of the party–that is the key to tgenerating political accountability to the electorate. The basic premise of a parliamentary democratic republic is that voters delegate to a party, which (alone or in coalition with other parties) delegates to the executive cabinet.
Tomkin’s preference for a whip-less parliamentary republic is premised on the notion that, in the absence of whipped party discipline, each MP will vote for what he “considers to be in the civic interests of the country.” That is even more quaint an idea than the monarchy itself. For one thing, it is shockingly naive to think that one can guarantee such civic-mindedness in legislators. For another, it robs the voters of any role in directing the product of govenment other than wielding the very blunt instrument of retrospective accountability on their own indivdidual MP as to whether that MP was sufficiently civic on his or her many votes in the previous four or five years.
Parties–yes, disciplined and therefore whipped parties–are essential for coordinating the actions of blocs of MPs, and therefore, for allowing voters to pass collective judgement on their collective agents.
And then there is the practical matter: One can formally “abolish” the whips, but parties will find a way to reinstate them in any event. MPs, however much they may bristle at being forced to “toe the line” need and want parties, and voters need them (whether or not they want them) in order for democracy–and republicanism–to work.
Turning to the potential abolition of party whips in his own New Zealand, Holden observes:
In the New Zealand context this wouldn’t be neccessary; we have a strong multi-party democracy thanks to MMP; it is difficult enough for any one party to gain an outright majority and capture the Parliamentary executive.
Indeed, as I say here often, arbitrary power and the risk of governance unrepresentative of the electorate are far more effectively checked by multiparty politics and proportional representation than by separate executive and legislative branches (or by courts or monarchs, for that matter).
(Note: Tomkins suggests that the U.K. name be changed to the Commonwealth of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Presumably, if Tomkins had his way, there would be no monarch at all left to serve as the formal monarch also over Canada, New Zealand, all the other Dominions; thus the Commonwealth that we know now would cease to exist.)
Hardly a surprise that Bush would seek to link the plot against planes flying between the USA and UK to his various wars and the Israel-Hezbollah war (which, in the specific way it was fought until the very end–if it has reached an end–was effectively another Bush war of bombardment against “terrorists,” broadly defined). Bush said:
The terrorists attempt to bring down airplanes full of innocent men, women, and children… They kill civilians and American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they deliberately hide behind civilians in Lebanon. They are seeking to spread their totalitarian ideology.
It may be good excite-the-base politics, and it may retain some wavering scared swing voters.* But the attempt to weave these events together just doesn’t work. The UK plane plot was thwarted by police and intelligence work, not by the wards in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Lebanon.
As for they–i.e. terrorists– “kill[ing] … servicemen,” by definition that is not true. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister (and a former Likudnik who followed Ariel Sharon into Kadima) had it right:
“Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this is not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier,” Livni said in an interview [on ABC's Nightline in March...]
Government officials said that Livni was trying to make a distinction, and believed that the international community should make a similar distinction, between terrorism and fighting enemy combatants.
But it so much simpler and more satisfying to call it all a WAR ON TERROR, isn’t it?
* On this, see Political Arithmetik’s analysis of a recent CBS poll, in which we learn the following about “independents”:
29% approve of [Bush's] overall job performance, but 50% approve of his handling of terrorism. Disapprovals are 62% overall but only 43% for terrorism.
I don’t think I have. But the Angels (Kendrick, Cabrera, and Figgins, to be precise) just turned one on the Yankees. The not-so-alert runner on second who was out at third was Alex Rodriguez (another reason for Yankee fans to booooo!).
Here’s how it happened: Runners on first and second, ball hit to second. Kendrick scooped it up, threw to shortstop covering second for the force there, and A-Rod was hanging around just past second base too long before heading to third. Not even a close play.
Just a heads up for those interested in this topic: There is a discussion of thresholds in PR (including MMP) systems ongoing at the propagation bench of my earlier planting on “Tail and Dog in PR.” Start with seed #2, and start scrolling.
Thanks, as always, to those who actually take the trouble to make this blog interesting!
The graph below was prepared by frequent F&V propagator Rici Lake. It shows the dispersion of votes among the three main presidential candidates in Mexico’s 2006 election, at the level of the polling place.
From Rici’s correspondence with me, here is a quick quide to interpretation:
I only used the votes for the three main parties, so all points are normalized to add up to 1; they can then be placed on an equilateral triangle where each component is the distance from the point to one side of the triangle. I plotted every acta (taking the data from the official IFE results, which still have a few errors in them, but not enough to alter the results significantly), weighting the acta by the size of the corresponding casilla. Each plotted point represents the sum of the weights of the corresponding actas, normalised so that the 99 percentile point is solid black.
As you can see, the main plot essentially has four modal points (or clouds), one at about <55, 27, 27> (PAN, APM, PBT); one at about <30,17, 50>; one at around <20, 7, 73> and a faint one (at the bottom) at around <5, 37, 58>. Arguably, the first and second clouds show three-party contention, although it is clearer in the first cloud. The third cloud is PRD vs. PAN with PRD in the strong majority (possibly showing PRI->PAN strategic voting?) and the fourth cloud is mostly Tabasco.
This is clearer if you look at the dispersion maps per state. For example, you can see very clear two-party races (everything clusters to one side of the triangle) in Chihuahua, DF, Mexico state, Nuevo LeÃ³n and Tabasco.
For the images mentioned in the last paragraph, go to the PDF, linked above.
I just came across a really interesting analysis by Jeronimo Cortina and Andrew Gelman of income and voting choice in Mexico. In a paper (which I skimmed, but will read later), the key graph of which is posted at the blog, Statistical Modelling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, Cortina and Gelman analyze the relationship between income and the vote in each state and the DF.
The key finding, from the 2000 presidential election, is that:
The slopes are higher–that is, income is a stronger predictor of the vote–in poor states.
This is similar to a relationship found in the USA by Gelman, et al.:
One difference between the two countries is that in the U.S., the conservative party does better in the poor states, but in Mexico, the conservative party does better in the rich states. But at the level of individual voting, the patterns in the two countries seems similar.
In carrying out their analysis, the authors use a left-right scale that places the PRD at the left, PRI in what they call the “blurry center,” and PAN at the right. Nothing at all wrong with that ideological description, but is this the expected relationship of income level to the vote? I would think not: the poorest Mexicans probably have the strongest tendency to vote PRI, with the PRD strongest in the lower-middle classes (at least in 2006). In fact, the paper contains a set of graphs of the percent vote per state, arrayed by state income. The PRD shows hardly any relationship, while there is a negative relationship for the PRI (and the unsurprising rise for the PAN). I should emphasize that the paper (and the graph at the blog) analyzes individual data in each state (in a multilevel model); whether the ordering of the parties under the assumption of poor–>PRD/ middle–>PRI/ wealthy–>PAN matters to their results is not clear to me (at least until such time as I have actually read the entire paper).
Cortina and Gelman note that they hope to replicate their study when (if!) 2006 exit-poll data are made public. Believe me, they are not the only ones waiting to get their hands on those data!
(As is usually the case at F&V, you may click on these photos to see larger versions, and also to get to the Ladera Frutal photostream.)
The puny stem in the center (above) is a different grafted variety than the rest of the tree. It had been allowed to be outgrown by the more vigorous main variety and numerous root suckers, but it has survived. The material that I pruned off lies beaneath the tree, as a mulch.
Pruning off the low branches and twigs allows the interesting bark and branching habit of the Jaboticaba to be exposed. Being able to see the trunks is a real plus with a Jaboticaba, given its unusual fruiting pattern.
Both of these trees are among the several that we dug up from old pre-finca in Carlsbad and moved here just over four years ago. The pitanga had fruited a bit in its former home, but the Jaboticaba had done next to nothing. Both are much happier with the greater sun and warmth here, and the Jaboticaba had a something that could be called a crop for the first time in June/July–though nothing like the one in the offsite photo linked above. The blog of that link–Leaves of Grass, from Brazil–also has photos of beautiful large pitanga trees. Both of the Ladera Frutal trees depicted here are only around five feet tall, and I have never seen specimens of either species get much more than fifteen feet in this region. Both species are native to South America.
(It’s not fruit, but don’t miss the photos of the Tabebuia, also at Leaves of Grass.)
If you like pitanga photos, see the full set (which periodically will be expanded).
A meeting of the Lebanese government on the disarming of Hezbollah south of the Litani River was canceled on Sunday following an announcement by the Shi’ite organization that it was not willing to discuss the subject.
Amazingly, there still exists a blog of hyper-optimism called Iraq the Model. But in a recent Salon article, Charles Freeman, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia under Bush I, sums up what the phrase really means:
The irony now is that the most likely candidate to back Hezbollah in the long term is no longer Iran but the Arab Shiite tyranny of the majority we have installed in Baghdad.
Indeed. As I noted repeatedly back in the early days of this now-year-old blog,* the Iraqi political system created under the botched US occupation of that deeply divided country is, at best, a majoritarian system. And, in the context of such societal divisions, that is just a polite word for tyranny of the majority. When the main political parties of that majority also happen to have militias, the emphasis goes on tyranny.
And that pretty well describes the situation Hezbollah has created in Lebanon. The Shiite community in Lebanon is not yet the majority, but it is the plurality. And demographic trends will make it a majority before long.
The current Lebanese political system–such as it is–remains conscociational. The declining Christian community is no longer guaranteed an effective majority of the important political positions, as it was before the civil war, but it is still guaranteed 50% of the cabinet and legislature. This is not sustainable in the longer run. The emerging political-system model for Lebanon looks a lot like Iraq: Majority rule for the dominant Shiite parties, with some subordinate power-sharing with the various other groups–in both cases a Sunni Arab minority and a major “other” in the form of the Christians in Lebanon and the Kurds in Iraq–and armed militias all around. In Lebanon, the other organizations aside from Hezbollah disarmed, but is that sustainable as the Shiite population grows and inevitably agitates for Lebanese institutions that reflect that reality?
And that’s what the “democratic” scenario for each country looks like. Some model indeed.
* If you missed the discussion, click on Iraq above and scroll. You won’t have to scroll far: There are few posts after the elections of January that empowered SCIRI, DAWA, and the Sadrists under the constitution ratified the previous fall.
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