A week ago, with the Angels a few games past the one-third mark of the season and at .500, I began to wonder if it was possible that this team was just “a .500 team” after all. The team should be better, and when they held their own through the first several weeks of the season despite a starting rotation devastated and a bullpen in name only, I was confident they’d still end up dominating the division–eventually. But they kept reverting to .500, and the thought came to mind that maybe they were on a two-year process of correction. There was, after all, no way that last year’s team was really “a 100-win team.” Yet it won 100 games. Somehow. Take 100 in 2008 and the prospect of 81 in 2009, and you have about a 90-win team. Which seems about right–if not still a bit on the high side for the core roster this team has played with recently and its implausible (but somehow successful) hitting philosophy of situational contact.
Then the team entered the soft part of its schedule otherwise known as interleague play. What a difference six games against the Padres (a dreadful team* that somehow can play .400 ball in the NL) and the Giants (who could even be called contenders for the league’s wild card) can make. Suddenly the Angels are at .545 and a game and a half out. And this season the team will cross the 40% mark of its season while playing the dominant team in the subordinate league. (Can anyone really see the Dodgers as a “.650 team”? A 105-win pace? Really?)
The Angels still should win their division. But if they lose it to the surprising Rangers, I shan’t shed a tear, not with the latter team’s president being Nolan Ryan, who–more than any person other than my mother–was the one most responsible for my learning to appreciate the joy that is the game of baseball. Not only is it inherently hard to root against a team that has Nolan Ryan as its president, but I want Nolie’s philosophy to win.
* Despite Adrian Gonzalez’s 60 homer pace. What an amazing (40% of a) season.
Yesterday I looked out the window at about six in the morning and saw an unusual reflection. What was it? Oh, morning sun–the first time in nearly six weeks that there had been actual sunshine at sunrise.
Today things have returned to normal.
View to the east of the finca, 8:40 a.m., 17 June 2009
The telegraph was important to the 1890-92 revolt against a tobacco monopoly granted by Nasir al-Din Shah to a British freebooter, which harmed Iranian merchants and farmers. The 1979 revolution was fueled by cassette tapes of the sermons and speeches of Imam Ruhollah Khomeini. And now we have twitter.
I am not on Twitter myself (and will admit that I don’t quite “get” it), but for those who are and want to help, Jack (in the comments) points us to some evidently useful advice.
Juan Cole points to some aspects of the regional results in Iran that do not make sense–unless there was widespread fraud, that is. (And perhaps the authorities even amended some of their initial fraudulent reports to make them look less ridiculous.)
“I’m going to vote Green or UKIP.” (This was a fascinating discussion: the young woman was hugely Eurosceptic and convinced each country should just be allowed to do what it wanted, even when I brought up Poland and coal-fired power stations; yet her views on every other subject we ranged over entirely matched the Green Party’s, and she was very keen to see women elected. But I still don’t know how she’ll vote.)
Rob Richie (of Fairvote) sent me this item. It seems to imply that Venezuela’s electoral system, which has been mixed-member proportional since 1993, may be on the verge of becoming something far less proportional.
Criticism against the Organic Law on Electoral Processes (LOPE) continues. Non-governmental organization Ojo Electoral said, in a statement, that the legal instrument undermines the democratic quality of the electoral laws and Venezuelan society.
Members of the electoral watchdog highlighted that the LOPE eliminates, in Article 7, the principle of proportional representation set forth in article 63 of the Venezuelan Constitution, by removing the link between nominal election system and proportional representation through the establishment of lists.
The group explained that this situation “removes the provision that ensures proportionality and, on the contrary, it provides the pernicious effect of the so-called twin ballots, a party duplication technique that contradicts the spirit of proportionality, without the need to use this mechanism.
The NGO deems it possible that the new law could permit the establishment of politically-biased electoral districts to allow the creation of electoral districts in which a powerful constituency could elect more government positions than those opposing a given political project.
The elimination of the link between the nominal and list tiers would imply a move to a “parallel” mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system.
A question for the readers: Has there ever been an authoritarian system in which the president lost a reelection bid, and in which the system remained authoritarian?
Obviously, I am thinking here of Iran, which has an unusual mix of authoritarianism and competitive elections–restricted, but competitive.
The context is that there have been, for the last few years, ample signs that much of the clerical establishment that actually rules Iran would like to clip the wings of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and perhaps be rid of him. But if his intra-regime opponents could not somehow get him to step aside (and I have no idea if there was ever any such organized effort), it would be hard to imagine most of the clerics not rallying behind the incumbent.
For an authoritarian system to allow an election defeat of its incumbent head of government presumably would simply be too risky.
Usually, authoritarian systems that have even minimally competitive elections never have significant intra-regime challengers in those elections (unless the regime is teetering, that is), either because the head of the government is a single-term position (as in the formerly authoritarian Mexican system) or the ruling coalition is sufficiently coordinated around a leader who serves multiple terms.
I have speculated previously about whether the Iranian regime was becoming more “institutionalized” over time, or not, and what it might mean if it were.* However, at this time, I still have more questions than answers…
* In addition to the linked item, there were two follow-ups, themselves linked at the bottom of the first one.
But maybe they were just setting a trend. Even as the Concertacion, the ruling alliance of the Christian Democrats, Socialists, and other center-left parties, has selected its presidential candidate (Christian Democrat and ex-president Eduardo Frei) and is geting ready to form its congressional lists, a Socialist is collecting signatures for a possible “independent” first-round presidential bid. Greg Weeks has the details.
One of the other candidates is Mehdi Karroubi, who narrowly missed the 2005 runoff, being edged by Ahmadinejad by less than two percentage points. Ahmadinejad in 2005 won only 20.3% of the vote in the first round, to 22% for former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad won the runoff 63.4-36.6.
Of course, Iran is by no means a democracy, and the presidency controls the interior ministry, which is responsible for the administration of elections. So official election results have to be taken with caution. Still, it is a lot easier to steal a close election, such as 2005, when Ahmadinejad’s second-place finish in the first round was considered a “surprise,” and Karroubi alleged fraud. In this election, we are unlikely to see a surprise second-round contender, as we did in 2005 (if a runoff is even needed this time). However, if results show Ahmadinejad narrowly ahead, we can expect suspicions to be rife–especially considering the “unprecedented” turnout. Iran may not be a democracy, but there is a lot of interest in this election.
The interest extends to expatriates, who are eligible to vote. This surprised me, as I would have imagined that expatriates would be more likely to be opponents of the regime, and denied voting rights for that reason.
I have previously discussed Iran’s unusual brew of authoritarianism with quite competitive elections. Just click “Iran” in the “planted in” line above, and scroll.
A proposal to change Maine’s state legislature from bicameral to unicameral has achieved “initial approval.” As Matt Yglesias comments, “We have fifty states, but in some ways remarkably little institutional diversity between them,” in spite of the fact that “nothing terrible seems to happen in unicameral Nebraska.”
Under Lebanon’s power-sharing political system, seats in the 128-member parliament are split equally between Christians and Muslims, with further sub-divisions for various sects.
Indeed, each of 128 seats is set aside for a specific “confessional” group, in a fixed distribution, and the balance of confessional seats in any given mult-seat district reflects the religious make-up of the district only sporadically and more or less randomly. (Given that there has been no census in nearly 80 years, no one actually knows; there are no “secular” seats, nor seats for voters who are not of one of the officially recognized flavors of Christianity or Islam.) Within those rather severe limitations, there is actually open competition among parties. The result is that the partisan balance and the confessional balance also match only sporadically and more or less randomly, with the confessional winners of any given set-aside seat being determined typically by voters of other confessions.
Our correspondent says competition is particularly fierce in Christian constituencies, with the Christian vote split evenly.
Now it is not clear here whether “constituencies” means Christian set-aside seats (which vary widely in the extent to which the votes of Christian voters determined the outcome) or districts with mainly Christian voters (who may be voting for other confessional set-asides). Probably both.
Of course, all (especially American and Israeli) eyes are on one particular player in the Lebanese scene:
Hezbollah is fielding only 11 candidates, though it is a powerful member of the broader opposition coalition, which includes the maverick Christian leader Michel Aoun, and the mainstream Shia movement Amal.
The electoral system is multiple nontransferable vote (MNTV), in which voters have as many votes as there are seats in their district. The votes must match the confessional balance required of the district’s delegation. Not surprisingly, most voters choose to cast a pre-marked ballot. It ensures they get it right. And many voters are paid just to make doubly sure that their vote “counts.” In fact, the total cost of the vote-buying is estimated by one Lebanese newspaper editor to have approached a billion US dollars.*
(I thank my student, Chris H., for helping me make sense of this confusing system!)
* The linked item, from Haaretz, runs under the provocative headline, “Would Hezbollah win in Lebanon election lead to war with Israel?” This is well beyond my area of expertise, but the answer seems pretty clear to me: NO. The last war between Israel and Hezbollah was something of a debacle for Hezbollah (as for Israel), and increased electoral, and perhaps governmental, participation can only stand to make Hezbollah more conservative (in the sense of having more of value to conserve). As the story notes, almost in passing, “It has already been forgotten that the two Lebanon wars and the offensives in between took place when Hezbollah was not in the coalition or participating in government.”
Does anyone want to talk about the European Parliament elections? They start tomorrow, and quite apart from the body actually being elected, they could have some pretty significant impacts on certain European countries’ governments.
OK, so it is not exactly the golf-ball sized hail that struck parts of west Texas earlier, but this is quite a good sized hailstone for these parts. We almost never get hail at any time of year. Or rain at this time of year. And today was marked by thunderstorms and brief rain and hail throughout much of the day. Strange. And a lot nicer (and more interesting) than the uninterrupted marine layer gloom of most of the previous five days.
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