Two elections on Sunday are worth watching as examples of an electoral path to authoritarianism. In Venezuela, voters will vote on a series of constitutional amendments that would greatly enhance the power of both the state in the economy and the president within the state. In Russia, voters will vote in legislative Duma elections that are sure to result in the outgoing President’s party winning a massive majority of the seats.
In both cases, we are witnessing the consolidation of authoritarian systems despite ongoing electoral processes and the retention of formal institutions of separated powers.
The Venezuelan referendum features votes on two packages of amendments. Both packages bundle reforms on both economic and social policy claims on the state and powers of the presidency. Of course, one of the reforms would lift the existing term limit on the presidency itself.
Venezuelans will vote on the reform on December 2nd and will do so in two blocks. Block â€œAâ€ includes President Chavezâ€™s original proposal, as amended by the National Assembly, which would change 33 articles out of the 350 articles in the constitution. Also included in block A are another 13 articles introduced by the National Assembly. Block â€œBâ€ includes another 26 reform articles proposed by the National Assembly. Voters may vote â€œYesâ€ or â€œNoâ€ on each block.
Polls have been somewhat mixed about the chances of the referendum, but it would be surprising if the substantial organizational prowess of the Chavista forces were insufficient to get the proposals over the 50% hurdle. How much over is hard to say. A close vote–either way–would be potentially dangerous, revealing the deep polarization.
Meanwhile, in the event that the referendum loses or is very close, the ChÃ¡vez camp is already prepared with the charges of CIA fomenting of opposition. James Petras, a well known sociologist and Latin Americanist, was on Democracy Now! this morning discussing these allegations and a supposed memo. (The memo may well be real, but its source was the ChÃ¡vez government, so there is reason to be skeptical.) And could the CIA be working with Trotskyites? Petras thinks so! (Many leftists flocked to ChÃ¡vez and then later broke with him, so there are indeed many left-wing organizations among the opposition.)
Petras suggests that there is nothing particularly worrisome about the end of presidential term limits, and notes that the ChÃ¡vez camp likes to cite cases of long tenure in parliamentary systems (Blair, Howard, and Japan’s LDP are specifically mentioned) as evidence that there is nothing out of the ordinary for democracies to have one party, even one leader, in power for multiple terms, even decades.
The government has argued, with some effectiveness, that in the parliamentary systems you have indefinite terms of office… So they donâ€™t see this asâ€”they donâ€™t describe this as an unusual happening, much more like a parliamentary system, rather than a presidential system, though in this caseâ€”
Unfortunately, just as this comparative institutions stuff was getting interesting, the interviewer cut Petras off and changed the subject. But maybe it was just as well, as this is actually very bad comparative politics. There is, of course, nothing that ChÃ¡vez is proposing that is making the system more parliamentary. Quite the contrary. He is proposing to concentrate ever more authority in his own hands, and to make himself eligible for reelection in perpetuity.
Not even a Howard, a Blair, or a Thatcher ever enjoyed the concentration of power that a president potentially can have for the simple reason that parliamentary systems enforce collective responsibility within the cabinet and promote party-building by the government and opposition alike. There are reasons why very few parliamentary systems have term limits, while such limits on executive tenure exist for virtually all elected presidents who serve as unchallenged head of their government (i.e. without a PM accountable to parliament). There are also reasons why almost all authoritarian leaders that arise within formally parliamentary institutions eventually change the formal institutions to presidential (e.g. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, among many others). While democratic presidential institutions actually put more checks on the chief executive than is the case in some majoritarian parliamentary democracies, there is no escaping the fact that presidential institutions are far more amenable to the electoral path to authoritarianism than are parliamentary.
The president fully controls the cabinet (and, in the absence of an institutionalized legislature with countervailing incentives, may also directly command the bureaucracy). The president runs for office directly and often–as in Venezuela–needs only a plurality of the votes. And the president need not have an institutionalized party as his vehicle for political support. It is feasible to have a party that is little more than a vehicle for placing presidential loyalists in the legislature via the president’s own coattails. As ChÃ¡vez has.
There are, on the other hand, no particularly good models of parliamentary authoritarianism. And that makes the Russian case all the more interesting. Here we have a vast federal and multi-ethnic country–empire, really–that has been governed under a presidential democracy or semi-democracy since almost the moment that the USSR began to fall apart in 1990. At that point, the Russian legislature chose Boris Yeltsin to be president as part of its assertion of authority against the crumbling USSR institutions.
Yeltsin’s successor as president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, is now wrapping up his second of his constitutionally prescribed maximum two terms. In the legislative election Sunday, Putin will be heading the list of candidates of his United Russia Party. Just under two months ago, he announced intention to continue playing a â€œmajor roleâ€ in Russian political life.
There has been talk of Putin taking on some, as yet informal, title like “Leader of the Nation.” Yet without a formal institution under his command, he would be unlikely to retain the powerful de-facto role he and his supporters appear to have in mind for him, especially given that the presidency will soon be in the hands of a successor. I remain puzzled as to why Putin did not use his evidently vast political machine and patronage to secure an abolition of the presidential term limit.
One possibility is that Putin will suddenly decide that Russia’s ‘democratization’ requires a move to a parliamentary system, so Putin can be the perpetual prime minister. But then we are up against the fact that, as I noted, there are no really good models of parliamentary authoritarianism. Will Russia embark on one?
Another possibility is suggested in a news item at Canada.com:
It is thought that he will declare a preferred surrogate â€” the current favourites are Kremlin insiders Sergei Ivanov, a former KGB officer and former minister of defence, or Dmitri Medvedev, chairman of Gazprom (Russiaâ€™s largest company) or Viktor Zubkov, whom Putin recently hand-picked as prime minister â€” to replace him as president.
Then, after winning the presidency, Putinâ€™s successor would resign, paving the way for emergency elections by which Putin could become president again.
Whatever the scenario, it is likely that both Russia’a and Venezuela’s elections on Sunday are further steps in the dismantling of electoral democracies and their transformation into authoritarian regimes.
After a thoroughly uninspiring election campaign, characterised by lots of me-too promises and fence-sitting, we have ended up with a political scene that is utterly transformed, with the previously dominant hardline right not merely out of government but a marginalised minority within the opposition.
But, as the astute reader might have guessed, the above was not originally written as a wish for the USA 2008 election. It is John Quiggin writing about what has happened in the aftermath of the recent Australian election.
The full post notes the sudden desire of Liberal and National leaders to spend more time with their families. Funny how defeat turns politicians into family men.
As for the USA 2008, regardless of whether Hillary Clinton wins and regardless of the size of the margin or of Democratic gains in both houses of Congress, this sort of wholesale transformation is much less feasible than in Australia’s parliamentary system. To our great loss.
(And, yes, I consider Clinton the nominee until someone proves otherwise.)
The New York Times has published an interesting book review by Robert Dahl, one of the world’s preeminent political scientists and author of How Democratic is the American Constitution? (to which he correctly replies, not sufficiently). The review is of The Genius of America, by Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes, and A More Perfect Constitution, by Larry Sabato. I am going to focus on Dahl’s review of Sabato’s book (which is on my to-read list).
Sabato’s book offers 23 reforms to improve the US Constitution. Quoting from Dahl now, with the internal quotations being from Sabato:
â€œThe small-state stranglehold on the Senate,â€ he writes, â€œis not merely a bump in the road; it is a massive roadblock to fairness that can and does stop all progressive traffic… It is the height of absurdity for our gargantuan states to have the same representation as the lightly populated ones.â€
His solution: â€œGive the 10 largest states two more Senate seats each, with the next 15 largest states gaining one additional seat.â€ He would also increase the size of the Senate to accommodate greater diversity in representation and to make it possible for former presidents and vice presidents to be awarded Senate seats.1
Definitely a good start. California would still be grossly underrepresented, though somewhat less grossly. I concede we won’t ever get Madison’s original second-chamber proposal (each state represented, according to population, by members nominated by their respective states and confirmed by the House of Representatives), and Sabato’s proposal is better in some respects than mine (concede equal representation, but with 3 or 5 per state, and each state’s delegation elected simultaneously by a non-majoritarian formula).
Sabato wants a 135-seat Senate and a 1,000-seat House. Even I, as an advocate of a much-expanded House, have never dreamed of going that far. In fact, I do not even think it would be a good idea. More is not always better, even if the current 435, fixed since the country was one third its current population, is ridiculously small. One thousand would make the US House by far the world’s largest representative body.
Sabato also says, according to Dahl, that “The Constitution itself must call for universal nonpartisan redistricting.” Constitutionalizing the redistricting process is a great idea–if one must remain within the single-seat district paradigm. Of course, if one is serious about democratizing the US Constitution, one must be prepared to break out of that paradigm. (If one had 1,000 members and nonpartisan redistricting, it would certainly increase the percentage of potential swing districts and maybe even make the odd third-party plurality achievable. But this goes too far on House size and not nearly far enough on electoral reform.)
But Sabato also has some loony ideas that sound like scraps left on the cutting room floor from one of Ross Perot’s campaign ads:
…mandatory limits on House and Senate terms in office [classic Peroism--MSS]… a balanced budget unless at least 55 percent of the members of each chamber voted to override it [just what we need: more obstacles in the way of the democratic majority2]; [and, are you ready for it?] extend the term of the president to six years, to which two more years might be added, for a total of eight, after a national referendum in which a majority of voters favored the extension…
A yes/no on extending a president’s term to eight years? Even Perot probably would find that nutty. ChÃ¡vez, on the other hand…
Sabato also is evidently content with the electoral college:
automatically allocate a stateâ€™s electoral votes in presidential elections to â€œthe winner of the certified popular vote in the state.â€
This is a reform?
Sabato also proposes six-year terms for members of the House. That would be the world’s longest lower-house term, now that bastions of democracy like Sandinista-era Nicaragua have reduced the term to five (the longer end of term lengths around the world). Of course, this idea, combined with a successful referendum on extending a sitting president’s term, would result in nonconcurrent elections. I wonder if Sabato recognizes that as a problem. I guess I will have to read the book to find out.
Dahl concludes the review with words I wholeheartedly endorse:
A reluctance to engage in public discussions that might challenge the prevailing view of the Constitution as a sacred document will doubtless inhibit debate on Mr. Sabatoâ€™s proposals. This is not to say that they should all be adopted. But without a public discussion of proposals like this, too many American citizens will be unable to understand the virtues and problems of our Constitution and how it might be improved.
Indeed, as I have noted several times before (most recently on Constitution Day), it would be immensely useful to ean ourselves as a nation from what Thomas Jefferson called â€œsanctimonious reverenceâ€ for the Constitution and its founders.
Given that the increasing disparities of states’ sizes and the ever-increasing complexity of policy challenges in a globalized economy and warming climate, debate on our foundational political institutions will get more urgent over time. In this sense, Sabato, Dahl, and other prominent political scientists are doing us all a real service by their writings on these matters.
This is not necessarily a bad idea, to keep their expertise in policy, but it has a very serious flaw: A party gets two new seats in the Senate for every past president it has elected, thereby adding yet another lag on democratic responsiveness to a system that already has too many. Add the defeated candidates, too (and not only those of the biggest losing party!), and impose a limit of how long either former presidents or their defeated opponents can serve, and you might be getting somewhere. Drop the running mates from the plan. [↩]
Really, it is hard to overestimate how much this goes against the grain of Sabat's stated interests in reducing the "stranglehold" against "progressive traffic." [↩]
I do not remember when I have awakened to be more thrilled at the sounds of the morning. It is raining. Seriously raining. Already about .40 inch as of 7:50 this morning.
I know there are parts of the County–recently burned areas–that will suffer from heavy rain. But we need it badly, for the fruit trees, for reducing the fire risk (even for a little bit), and, yes, for our souls. What a beautiful, calming sound! I had almost forgotten what it was like. The last significant rain was many months ago.
This is one of those cutoff lows (weatherman’s woes). It has drifted for days off the coast of northern Baja and given us interesting high clouds and gorgeous sunsets (I may post a photo or two later)–and given the forecasters challenges in predicting where it would wind up. Well, now we know. Right here! And we are under a flash-flood watch till Saturday afternoon.
Let it pour (but not too hard).
This morning’s forecast discussion appears to downplay, in advance, what has in fact materialized. And no, I really do not understand all this jargon, but it sure sounds good:
BELIEVE AMOUNTS WILL BE LIGHT DUE TO CONFLICTING JET STREAMS AS THE TWO SYSTEMS COLLIDE. THERE IS NEVER CONSISTENT JET DYNAMICS TO GET MOIST ATMOSPHERE TO LIFT SUBSTANTIALLY. HOWEVER… QPF SHOULD INCREASE THIS EVENING WHEN THE SYSTEMS PHASE…WHICH WILL ALLOW BAROCLINICITY TO PRODUCE RAPID CYCLOGENESIS.
In the past couple of weeks, there have been elections at (almost) opposite ends of the former Yugoslavia: Croatia in the north and the quasi-state of Kosovo in the south.
The Croatian result is yet another photo finish. (We sure have had a lot of those around the world in recent years!)
The party of incumbent PM Ivo Sanader, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has won 61 seats (39.9%), sixteen short of a majority.
The second largest party is the Social Democrats (SPD), with 56.
The HDZ apparently can count on 5 deputies elected by Croatians abroad. The SPD has likely allies in two smaller parties that combine for another 11 seats.
So that makes 66 for HDZ + allies and 67 for SPD + allies. Still not quite there.
The third largest party is the Liberal-Peasants alliance (sounds interesting!), with 8 deputies and a desire to be in government in exchange for porcine-sounding concessions to “regional development.” This alliance’s caucus would bring either bloc’s total close to majority status, but still not quite. There are 12 other deputies from various smaller parties. The Liberal-Peasants have said they will talk to Sanader first.
Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo won 36 percent of the vote, defeating the Democratic League of Kosovo, which had controlled parliament and the province’s governing administration for several years, election official said.
But Thaci’s party was widely expected to seek a power-sharing deal with the Democratic League, which came in second with 21 percent of the vote.
(Hmmm, that would imply that the Democratic League was not exactly “defeated,” as the AP reporter wrote. However, they had over 45% in 2004 and 2001, so this was indeed quite a tumble.)
The Russian government, which opposes the near inevitable independence of Kosovo (or, as it would be, Kosova) from Seribia, is less than thrilled by the Albanian majority’s exercise of its democratic rights.
Both jurisdictions use PR systems, though I am unsure of the details.
Labor, as expected, has won with a projected 88 seats to the incumbent Coalition’s projected 60 in the House of Representatives. On first preference votes, Labor beat Liberal+National (the main components of the ‘Coalition’), 44.0% to 41.8%. The third largest party was Greens, on 7.6%. Of course, the Greens won no seats in the House, but thanks to the use of the alternative vote (i.e. single transferable vote in single-seat districts, or “instant runoff”), their voters’ second preferences may have helped Labor in some marginal seats1 Family First was the next largest party, with 1.9% of the first-preference vote (and no seats).
This is a swing of 22 seats out of 1502, and a very cool interactive map lets you see where these districts are. It is the lower house that determines the government, and thus Kevin Rudd of the Labor party will be Prime Minister, with a large majority in the House of Representatives.
But what is really interesting is the Senate. Australia’s Senate is one of the more powerful upper houses of any federal parliamentary system. It is elected by single transferable vote, with six seats at stake in each state (and 2 per territory). However, most voters tick an “above the line vote” that essentially converts it into a “transferable closed list” PR system. Votes above the line for party tickets that do not elect any candidates, as well as votes remaining for a ticket after it has elected candidates but does not have enough left over to elect another, get transferred in an order determined by the party.3
The use of STV and the posting of detailed results mean that the voters, and their elected representatives and senators, can learn just how the winning electoral coalitions were formed, for any who did not win on first-preference votes alone. The posted results show, in each stage of the count, how the votes were transferred from party to party to produce the final result. These transfers in each state’s senate election can determine the incentives of elected senators to follow their national party leadership or to deviate form the party line, as some senators may owe their election to transfers from voters for parties closer to the other main national bloc. (However, I am not sure how common that is in practice; I did not parse the preference transfers, except for the Greens, as noted below.) It is not clear–at least to me–whether Rudd’s government will be able to have effective control of the Senate. However, it is clear that the method of electing the Australian Senate is a potential model that should be looked at in the USA, as it combines state representation with much greater responsiveness to the federation-wide electorate than is the case with the US Senate.
Of the 36 continuing seats, Labor holds 14 to the Liberal/National Coalition’s 19, Greens 2 and Family First 1. Add them up, and the Coalition still has a plurality, but not a majority: 37-32. The Greens five brings the broad progressive bloc to parity, with the continuing Family First senator and Xenophon having the swing votes. Now, that is an interesting result! I hope a reader can tell us whether this means the opposition will continue effective control of the upper house, or whether the new Labor government will be able to do so. (Of course, these results are preliminary, and even one seat swinging on final results could make a big difference!)
The Australian Senate is a good example of the ability of a federal chamber to combine at once the federalist principle of states’ representation with the democratic principle of responsiveness to the national electorate on whose behalf the federal legislature ultimately makes binding law. Like the US Senate, Australia’s represents the states equally (territories and the capital district have representation, but not at parity). Very much unlike the US Senate, national partisan vote swings are reasonably well reflected in the body. The difference, of course, is that the PR system means even the minority in every state is represented. Additionally, half the body, including seats in every state/territory, is elected at each election, instead of one seat in just around a third of the states at each election in the USA.
In other words, one need not return to the original Madisonian proposal for the US Senate (seats from each state in proportion to its population) in order to represent the national electorate within a federal context. A larger body with elections in all states by a non-plurality formula would preserve the equal representation of each state while making the body relatively more accountable to the federation for whom it makes laws.
We Americans could learn from our friends Down Under.
I will leave it to my Australian readers or others more knowledgeable about that country’s politics to inform us about the extent to which the Australian Senate really does inject state-specific interests into national policy making, as well as what the close result means for the ability of the incoming Labor government to work with the Senate.
Finally, thanks to Tom Round for his several informative comments to Friday’s planting ahead of the election result.
See Braddon, Tasmania, for one example, where the two main party candidates were essentially tied in first-preference votes. Or Hasluck, in metro Perth, where the Liberal candidate had a lead on first-preference votes, but transfers from Greens and others put the Labor candidate over the top. [↩]
So far, with a few still too close to call, only one seat, Cowan in Western Australia, is certain to have swung against the national tide. It did so by less than a percentage point, and in spite of the Labor candidate in this open seat having 42.7% and the Green 5.4%. The Liberal candidate’s 45.8% and the votes for several smaller parties of the right were enough to swing the seat. It looks like a district where a stronger Labor candidate to replace a retiring incumbent could have made a difference. [↩]
Voters who do not want their vote transferred as determined by their first-choice party, or who want to change the order of their party’s ticket, may determine how their own vote will be transferred ‘simply’ by giving a numbered preference rank to each candidate on the ballot. [↩]
These were elected in Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. The Greens elected a Brown–Bob–in Tasmania with enough votes for a quota, the party having won 17% of the vote. In the other two states where a Green was elected, the party won the sixth and final seat, thanks to multiple rounds of preference transferring that one can trace in great detail from the results posted by ABC. In South Australia Sarah Hanson-Young headed the ticket, which won 6.4% of first preference votes. She was eventually elected thanks to transfers from What Women Want (0.4% initially), The Climate Change Coalition (0.3%), the Socialist Alliance (0.07%), as well as some independents and, ultimately, some Labor votes that were insufficient to elect a third candidate from that party. In Western Australia, the ultimate pattern of transfers was similar. There was a ticket called Conservatives for Climate and Environment, which started with 0.1% but picked up transfers from the Liberty and Democracy Party (also 0.1%). When LDC was eliminated, the CCE votes then went to the Climate Change Coalition, while the LDC went to Democratic Labor (just under 1% on the first count). When Climate Change votes needed to be transferred, both their votes and those of CCE went to the Australian Democrats (1% on first count). Must of the original Democrats vote total eventually went to the Greens, while those votes the Democrats picked up from CCE went further rightward once the Democrats were eliminated. Much further rightward: Family First. Those votes, as well as most of those that were originally with Climate Change ultimately wound up with the Christian Democrats, whose final votes gave them .71 of a quota at a point at which the Greens had .75. What put the Greens over the top was a half quota’s worth of votes from Labor on the last count. In other words, the Greens owe the final margin to Labor votes and not to voters who preferred right-leaning small parties that had some signal of concern for the environment in their party name. [↩]
Today’s [yes, Saturday is already "today" in Australia] federal election will show whether Prime Minister John Howard’s strategy to fight the election on economic terms has paid off, or whether Australians will decide to go with the new leadership team of Labor and Kevin Rudd. [...]
The contest is not only tight in the 150 House of Representatives seats – there is also a dramatic battle for the Senate.
The Greens hope to pick up a seat in the ACT from the Liberals, which would immediately strip the Coalition’s Senate control.
This poll will also determine the future of the Australian Democrats.
I will shortly be off line till some time Sunday, my time. So I will leave this as an open thread for anyone following the results.
In addition to this thread, there have continued to be comments regarding the election in previous threads (including “The time has come”) on Australia and STV. See “propagation” on the right sidebar for the latest contributions.
As always, thanks to my readers in (or interested in) Australia for keeping us up to date.
So, just when I thought maybe Tony Reagins was a smart GM (the O. Cabrera-Garland trade), he goes out to prove my judgment was way too premature.
Apparently, the new GM thinks that his team can’t have too many aging and overpaid left- or center-fielders.
Torii Hunter will turn 33 during the next season, and thus 38 before this contract (assuming it is finalized) is up. He had a .334 OBP last year, which is certainly not terrible, but it was only .311 on the road (where he hit only .272). Last three years he’s got a .335 OBP and .487 slugging (.326/.492 away, so not much difference). Well, at least his 45 doubles in 2007 (21 away from the Twin Bagger (or is that Baggy?) Dome) were by far a career high. Otherwise, his peak was 2002. That was a long time ago in a ballplayer’s lifetime. And, with moves like this, the Angels’ 2002 peak won’t be revisited again for some time, either.
I note that the result mentioned here refers not to any dually nominated candidate, but just to district incumbents. I suppose the argument against letting an incumbent enter parliament despite the district defeat is stronger than the argument against dual nomination more generally. But in addition to the argument I make at that link, I agree with David (at Kiwiblog): “all that would happen is MPs in danger of losing their seat would migrate to list only candidates.” [↩]
An article from NZ Stuff looks at a recent poll and the likely government-formation scenarios for the election expected in about a year.
… a result of 45 per cent on election night would put the Treasury benches within National’s reach. But â€“ and this is where the worry beads get pulled out â€“ not close enough to be assured of crossing the line. Based on Saturday’s poll results, National would hold 57 seats and could muster another two with the help of its natural allies, ACT and UnitedFuture. Close â€“ but not close enough to break out the cigars.
Labour, in the other camp, would hold just 51 seats, but can call on its natural allies the Greens and the Progressives, taking it to 58 seats.
Under this scenario, the Maori Party is kingmaker.1
The article notes that there are plenty of reasons why neither party would like that, although the Maori party has voted with Labour just over half the time while voting with National only about a third of the time. In fact, it is the Greens that the Maori party is closest to on a wide range of issues.
As for strange-bedfellows coalitions, the article notes:
Of course, MMP has ways of making uneasy fits work â€“ the Greens and Labour are incompatible on numerous policy fronts (take trade, for instance). But the lessons forced on both by the genetic engineering standoff [in 2001-02] â€“ coupled with the comfort that comes from having fashioned together a good working relationship over Labour’s eight years in government â€“ have stayed with it.
The Maori party need not have cabinet seats or any other formal role in a coalition, of course.
The Maori Party may yet decide to stay on the cross-benches â€“ that debate is still raging within the party.
National then might be able to form a minority government courtesy of an abstention deal from the Maori Party on confidence and supply â€“ but its agenda would be hostage to a Parliament which, on voting record, would be predominantly Left-leaning.
Imagine that! A government “hostage” to the people’s representative agents!
Thanks to Greg, in the previous thread, for sending the item along.
The article later notes that the results projection assumes NZ First will not be in parliament, but that one can’t count Winston Peters out. Indeed, as discussed in the previous NZ thread, he will probably run and win again in his old district of Tauranga. Obviously, the projections assume Hide will again win Epsom, keeping the ACT in. [↩]
I was pleasantly shocked by the Cabrera-Garland trade. The Angels have two excellent shortstop prospects whose progress has been blocked by Cabrera. O-Cab is a terrific glove man, but not much of a hitter, other than singles (and in 2007, he rediscovered his doubles swing). Garland is a decent 4th or 5th starter who eats up innings and is in his prime. Cabrera is well past his prime. I never liked his signing, and this is a great first trade by the new GM, trading away a fan favorite (who I also thought was one of the manager’s favorite) who is overrated and over the hill and getting good value in return.
Shortly, we will know the winner of the NL MVP award, the last of the regular-season awards to be announced this year. The pundits are all saying Jimmy Rollins or Matt Holliday, and that it will be close.
I am not going to try to estimate where either of these choices would rate among the all time worst selections for MVP, but I would maintain that either would be a contender for the worst in many years.
Rollins was only the fifth best hitter on his own team in 2007, and it is not as though he was particularly close to fourth best. Is his defense (or those “intangibles” that certain writers like to prattle on about) enough to boost him to best (er, “most valuable”) on his team–and in the league. In a word, no. In fact, the guy is only the third best hitter among the defensively valuable up-the-middle players on his own team. Some MVP.
As for Holliday, he was third in the league in OPS behind Chipper Jones (who gets not a mention in these discussions) and Prince Fielder (who gets mentioned, but won’t get the award). But I have to wonder, would a left fielder with an .859 OPS even be mentioned in these discussions? The answer is yes, because that is Holliday–away from the high altitude of Denver. Sure, 1.157 (his home OPS) is very valuable. But you do play 81 games away from home, and the Rockies were not very good away. Maybe if their best player had been a bit farther into the league’s upper quartile on the road, the team would have run away with the league’s best record, rather than barely managing to win the league’s wild card.
So, who should be the NL MVP? Beats me. Choose one from Jones, Fielder, Pujols, Utley, or Howard. Not Holliday or Rollins.
“Christians cast first stone” is the title of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about negotiations for preference exchanges before Australia’s general elections this Saturday.
Relations have soured between two small parties, Family First and the Christian Democrats, and the incumbent Prime Minister, John Howard (Liberal party) took part in the discussions. (He needs all the vote transfers he can muster–and then some.)
Family First had been pressing for a national preferences deal in which the Liberals would direct Senate preferences to Family First Senate candidates in all states in return for the Christian-values party’s lower house preferences.
But after the talks between Mr Howard and the Reverend [Fred] Nile [CDP leader], the NSW Liberal Party broke with the national deal, putting the CDP in first place in its list of candidates to receive its preferences, followed by Family First in second place.
In retaliation, Family First dropped the CDP to ninth place on its preferences distribution list, ranking it lower than the Liberty and Democracy Party, the Climate Change Coalition and Pauline Hanson’s new party.
But Family First still favours the Liberals in NSW ahead of Labor and the Greens.
The Liberty and Democracy Party “supports voluntary euthanasia” and “opposes regulation of gun ownership and anti-smoking laws in restaurants, pubs and clubs. It supports legal recreational use of marijuana by adults.”
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