With the voters having soundly rejected the “please, sirs, if it would not trouble you too much, might we consider just maybe talking about some day using just a little bit of the land around the Miramar base for a modern airport?” advisory measure, the San Diego County airports commission is looking for ways to make the best of antiquated Linbergh Field.
One idea that has been hit upon is to build a centralized parking and transit hub with direct access from the freeways and rail lines that pass so near, yet so far, to the airport. From there, one member suggested, “We could whiz everybody around on a Walt Disney monorail.”
Cool. We might as well use the latest whiz technology.
The Disneyland Monorail was built in 1959, partly as a showcase of the future of mass transit. (I read once that Disney proposed building the line not only for the theme park and adjacent hotel, but with a larger loop around the city of Anaheim, but city officials thought the idea a bit, well, loopy.) That future has been rather slow to catch on, though there does seem to have been something of a boom in monorail construction around US airports in recent years.
The current Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen is the head of the Centre Party, which will have 51 of 200 seats. The conservative National Coalition is not part of the current governing coalition, but is now one seat behind the Centre.
Compared to 2003, the Centre Party lost support, even though it remains the largest party. The Social Democrats fall from the 53 seats they had won in 2003 to only 45 now. Thus it looks like there could be a realignment of the Finland’s coalition government towards the right.
Analysis: Government possibilities
Given that a Centre-National coalition would have exactly one more than half the seats, a narrow center-right government could form. However, that does not mean it will form, and there is a fairly strong tendency of Finnish governments to be greater than minimal winning (and you can’t get more minimal than 101 seats out of 200). Therefore, it is not a given that a rightward shift of the coalition will result. See Michael’s more-detailed analysis, in which he notes that two other leftish parties combined for 32 seats and two others of the right for just 12.
Analysis: Impact of (not-quite fully) proportional representation
It’s worth noting that the proportionality in Finland is not calculated nationally, but rather in a series of regional multi-seat districts of varying district magnitude. Thus a party with an optimal geographic distribution does slightly better than one that may have a similar nationwide votes share but less optimal geographic distribution.* (See Alex’s comment for more.)
Look at the advantage ratios (% seats/% votes) for the top three parties:
Social Dem, 1.047
These are not huge differences, and would be almost trivial compared to what we see in less proportional systems. However, in such a close election, they matter. In fact, the Centre-National minimal winning coalition is possible only because those two parties were somewhat over-represented, compared to the Social Democrats.
If all three of the leading parties had had the same advantage ratio as the Social Democrats, the seats would have been a bit different: Centre (48), National Coalition (46), Social Democrat (45), instead of 51-50-45. The Centre-National coalition would not be feasible.
I do not know Finnish politics well enough to predict the result of the bargaining that will now follow. However, the advantage that the National Coalition (and, to a lesser extent, Centre) obtained from the electoral system gives likely Prime Minister-designate Vanhanen and his Centre party leverage over the Social Democrats that it otherwise would not, even if Vanhanen ultimately reconstitutes his center-left coalition.
In very close elections, even very small deviations from proportionality matter. If the Social Democrats had won the most votes by the same narrow margin as they trailed in the actual results, but with the parties’ having their same respective advantage ratios, we would have had a plurality reversal in the seats relative to the votes. ** That did not happen here, but it was close, and the actual differential treatment of the parties by Finland’s PR system may yet affect the coalition result.
* The differential treatment of the Finnish parties appears to be another case of the bias introduced against predominantly urban parties by magnitude variance. The bias results when one set of parties (usually conservative) are especially strong in rural areas that have lower district magnitude, and thereby benefit from the lesser proportionalityof votes-to-seats translation in those districts. On the other hand, the (usually leftist) parties that are strongest in urban areas with very large district magnitudes do not get the same sort of bonus out of their own strongholds. Meanwhile, the “rural” party has a (minority) constituency within the large urban districts, it gets proportionally repersented there, thanks to the large magnitude. (The “urban” parties get under-represented in the smaller districts even if they have a comparable minority share of the vote in such districts, which they may not.)
Of course, this bias, while real, is nothing like we see in plurality systems.
(Added 21 March: See Alex’s comment on the geographic distribution. Unlike me, he actually bothered to look at the district-level data and saw that the National and Centre did quite well in several large districts. However, the higher advantage ratios for these parties can’t result only from large districts, given the inherently greater proportionality of such districts. So, there is clearly more to the story. As Alex also reminds us, the provisions in the Finnish electoral law for inter-party alliances (vote pooling across lists) are undoubtedly also part of the picture.)
** Excuse me for almost wishing something that interesting had happened.
I received today the kind of e-mail every professor dreams of receiving. It began:
In September 2003 you promised us a PMP toolkit that would enable us to succeed in any circumstance. You didn’t tell us it could help us change the world.
The former student, Tanya,* is referring to my Policy-Making Processes course, which I teach every year to our candidates for the professional Master of Pacific International Affairs degree. I am not sure I promised that PMP would get them through any circumstance, but I do tell them I will give them a set of tools to allow them to determine who makes a given policy, how the policy-maker is held accountable, and who holds the policy-maker accountable. With the basic set of skills grounded in the logics of collective action, delegation, and political institutions, I tell them they are ready to go off and understand policy and how to influence it.
Last summer, I was hired by British Columbia’s Office of the Premier to write a strategy paper on how the Province of BC could strengthen its relationship with the State of California.
She developed a paper for the Premier based on her analysis of the electoral incentives of the actors and produced a California Strategy Paper which envisioned collaboration on climate change and even connecting BC and CA’s “hydrogen highways” and cooperation on transportation.
As of yesterday, this cooperation is now official policy. From the Vancouver Sun, 16 March,** I will quote the first and last two paragraphs of a news account:
It’s a political plot nobody saw coming: the West Coast’s inveterate policy wonk Gordon Campbell [the BC premier] and Hollywood’s Terminator-turned-”governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger teaming up as the West Coast’s climate-action heroes. [...]
That “climate action plan” will include such things as more precise details of how B.C. can introduce California’s emission standards for automobiles, take part in a regional market for trading greenhouse gas emissions and build a “hydrogen highway” for fuel-cell automobiles to travel from Whistler to California.
Campbell said he found Schwarzenegger supportive of B.C.’s plans, as well as of a strategy to create “green ports” up and down the West Coast that set environmental standards to protect the oceans and air quality.
Tanya indicates that she helped bring this process about by beginning with
the premise that any high-level dialogue between the Premier and the Governor would need to provide significant short-term political benefits to the Governor to even be considered given the upcoming election, hence opportunities to showcase the Governorâ€™s platform initiatives must be highlighted.
(In the midst of the campaign for reelection, Schwarzenegger pushed for and signed major legislation to implement greenhouse-gas emissions reductions in the state, and since his reelection, he has issued regulations to implement the law that have not always been well received by his own nominal party.)
Tanya’s initial research–just as PMP teaches–was to determine which agencies in California were directly accountable to the Governor. Then from press releases, she found out what the Governor was personally invested in. Regarding the prospects for cooperation between California and British Columbia:
Both are traditionally liberal constituencies that place a high value on quality of life. Both had relatively conservative leaders that had found a win with environmental issues. The Governor and the Premier both demonstrated an interest in taking a leadership role in the context of sub-national cooperation.
Tanya “recommended creating opportunities for the respective leaders to showcase their roles in leading North America in advancing regional climate change initiatives, pioneering the adoption of clean energy and transportation technologies and championing health and wellness initiatives.” She also identified several global issues affecting the West Coast that could be included in the dialog.
And, before we knew it, the Governor and the Premier were announcing big steps to move beyond what their respective federal governments have been willing to do in fighting climate change.
Congratulations, Tanya! And thanks for putting PMP to work! And for making my day with your e-mail.
* Of course, I am quoting her with her permission.
We regularly see a road runner around the rocky parts of the finca (and sometimes even running along the road). One morning it was sitting on a rock just below the house, making a call that can best be described as resembling a whimpering dog. (The other sound I hear a road runner make might sound sort of like “beep beep” if you have a good enough imagination.)
We also have egrets. (I am not bird expert, but I think this is an egret.) I have seen them in the area frequently, as we do have wetlands below us. However, recently for the first time I saw one up high at the edge of the Hass grove and just a few steps from the back door of LF HQ.
The new rules that will be used in the Republican primary to apportion delegates to the party’s 2008 presidential nominating convention will be heavily malapportioned.
The winner of each congressional district would get three delegates, meaning that Republican John Campbell’s district in Orange County that has 200,000 Republicans would be worth the same as Democrat Xavier Becerra’s district in East Los Angeles that has only 27,000.
In 2004, the rule was the equally (but for different reasons) absurd statewide winner-take-all rule. (Democrats use some form of high-threshold “proportional” representation, but I do not know the specifics.*)
The main thrust of the linked story is about another aspect of the rules that the state GOOP has not resolved: whether to allow voters registered “decline-to-state” (now about 20% of the total roll) to vote in the party’s primary, as Democrats do.
* The Los Angels Times article on 16 March regarding the date change indicates that Democrats will allocate delegates based on the statewide share of the vote. However, it does not indicate what the threshold is for winning any delegates.
A while back, as an aside to a planting on Senegal’s presidential election, I noted that I was too unfamiliar with Guinea’s executive-legislative structure to understand the significance of the president replacing the prime minister. The change, days after the National Assembly refused to extend a state of emergency, met a key demand of leaders of a general strike, which was then called off.
Jonathan Edelstein provides some interesting background:
There is no constitutional requirement that Guinea have a prime minister at all. The president has occasionally appointed one, and the constitutional court has held that itâ€™s permissible for him to delegate part of his power (see art. 39), but heâ€™s mostly done without. The fact that the unions forced the president to appoint an independent prime minister, and to cede the power to appoint the rest of the cabinet, is a pretty major development.
Whatâ€™s almost as remarkable is the event that finally tipped the balance against the president – that the National Assembly, for what might be the first time in history, defied him by refusing to extend martial law. The ruling party deputies are taking a lot of heat from the party leadership for that vote, but unlike the president and the party leaders, theyâ€™re facing an election this summer, and realized that they might even lose a rigged vote if the public got angry enough. That may end up happening anyway; at this point, the people are pretty fed up with Conte and his party, and Iâ€™m not sure the deputiesâ€™ eleventh-hour show of independence will save them.
Updated (most recently on 13 March, with election results)
Mauritanians voted in the first round of presidential elections Sunday. If all goes well, these could be truly landmark elections. There was a military coup against a 21-year-long dictatorship in August, 2005, after which the colonels who took power promised a transition to democracy. Such promises are made by newly installed juntas rather more frequently than they are adhered to. However, promised local and legislative elections were held in 2006, and in this presidential election the interim leaders are not themselves standing as candidates. There are nineteen candidates, and it is unclear who is favored.
Mauritania is a member of the Arab League and one of three Arab countries to have diplomatic relations with Israel. It is one of the cradles of the early spread of Islam in the North African/Western Mediterranean region, and its current government is an ally of the US government against Islamist terrorism. (See the BBC country profile.) A successful democratic transition in Mauritania would be rare good political news from the set of Arab, Islamic, and pro-US governments.
Whether a runoff can produce anything like a “mandate” when the eventual winner had no more than a quarter or a fifth of the first-round votes is dubious. But, in any case, Mauritania will have its first-ever electorally driven change of government.
Could the Czech government, which rests on a thin reed after taking more than seven months to form in the evenly divided parliament, be threatened by the prospect of being one of the hosts to a controversial proposed US missile defense system?
Whatever the deputy leader might say, it is hard for me to see how the government could survive one of its partners voting against such a major foreign policy issue. The Czech Green party is more liberal (in the strictly economic sense, and as that term is understood outside the USA) than most of its counterparts in other counties (as discussed at F&V previously). Indeed it is in coalition with center-right parties. Nonetheless, they are greens, and I have wondered how they would finesse an issue like this one.
The largest governing party (Civic Democratic Party of PM Mirek Topolanek) is in favor of the radar, while the main opposition party (the Social Democratic) is calling for a referendum. According to a recent STEM poll, 70 percent of Czechs reject the radar.
This looks to be a big political test for this government. And for the Czech Greens.
Just days short of two months since the freeze, when the mercury dipped to 27, today it was 94. Quite a heat wave for March.
The heat is bad for the water bill and boosts the fire hazard, but will help sweeten up the citrus and sure is a lot better for all those stone fruits now in bloom than the wet March we had a year ago.
For those unfamiliar with our archaic system of measurements, those would be â€“2.7 and 34.4 on the far more sensible Celsius scale.
Ladera Frutal’s south-facing slope is blessed with abundant sunshine (at least outside of May Gray/June Gloom season), so why not take advantage?
No, this does not let us go off-grid. It does not generate any electricity. But it does make the water really hot, without using electricity or gas to do so. These panels are connected to a water-circulation system and hot-water tank, so that any time the sun is shining we have hot water without using any electricity or gas. (The rest of the time it is on electric back-up.) Electric water-heating is expensive, and this area has no gas utility. We preferred not to have any gasoline bombs (a.k.a propane tanks) on the finca, so this was the perfect solution for saving on the bills, avoiding a fire hazard–and conserving resources.
Look closely near the bottom of the photo and you can see the patch in the driveway where our contractor put in the pipes between the house and the panels. (It was done in 2002; by now the new concrete has faded and is much less visible than it was at the time.)
Well beyond the white wooden fence is a neighbor’s Hass grove that had almost no freeze damage. At this elevation on the north-facing slope, groves were badly damaged. Here on the south-facing slope, we fared much better. And we get lots of sun for solar panels.
This avocado grove is on the north-facing slope of Moosa Canyon in Bonsall.*
The mature trees on the ridge are really badly damaged. This hillside is right where two canyons converge, so it certainly would have been hit by a lot of cold air during the freeze in mid-January.
Below the mature trees some saplings had just been planted last summer. In the larger versions of this photo, the white stakes that supported these little trees remain visible. The saplings were probably killed.
This grower took quite a gamble in planting Hass avocados so close to the canyon floor. That’s Moosa Canyon Road visible at the bottom left of the photo (I am standing across the main road from where this grower’s access road heads up the hill.) Here the road is barely above the creek, so this is about as low as the canyon gets. I’d guess the temperature dipped close to 20 at creek level, and was probably below freezing even up where the mature trees are for close to eight hours one night and five or more the next. A gamble lost.
* We are on the south-facing slope, and this grove is visible from here, a bit to the east.
If you care about the impact of your food choices on not only yourself, but also on the environment–and please do–should you aim to buy local or organic? John Cloud, writing in Time, has a piece on precisely this question that is well worth a read.
advocates of local eating are now making another leap, saying what happens after harvest–how food is shipped and handled–is perhaps even more important than how it was grown.
I am not completely ready to endorse that statement, but I come close. If forced to make the choice, on most produce I would prioritize local over organic. Fortunately, I am in California, and I rarely have to make that tradeoff–especially if I do not insist on “fresh” fruit like grapes and plums in the winter (which will have been picked way too early and shipped thousands of miles from the southern hemisphere).
the packages in which most Whole Foods groceries are sold say nothing about the food’s origin. For instance, in the freezer section you can find Whole Foods’ Whole Kitchen brand Breaded Eggplant Slices with Italian Herbs. The box tells you a wealth of information about the eggplant slices–that they contain wheat, dextrose and annatto (a dye); that they can be fried, baked or microwaved; that they have no trans fat; that they are “flavorful” and “versatile.” But you don’t learn where the eggplant comes from.
Yes, this is a major annoyance to me. I just want to know. Tell me where the produce came from.
UPDATE: Mike Biltonen weighs in on this issue. His blog is called Organic Schmorganic, and subtitled “Debunking the myth of organic in favor of local, ecological agriculture.” To clarify a misconcption some readers apparently (and understandably) have gotten, he says, “What weâ€™re really battling is GLOBAL organic and not LOCAL organic.” I certainly am sympathetic with that.
It’s election day in Northern Ireland, a member of that small set of STV jurisdictions. The elections are an important step in consolidating the territory’s peace process. As The Independent notes, a “phenomenon which is viewed as a sign of normalisation is the fact that bread-and-butter issues, such as unpopular plans for new water taxes, have played a prominent part in the campaign.”
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