Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he is open to a proposal to expand the playoffs by adding a second wild card team, in addition to the three division winners. The idea, advanced by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, is to make the division races matter more, by putting a wild card winner through an extra hoop: instead of immediately advancing to the Division Series, these now two wild card teams would play each other to decide who goes farther. Various proposals suggest either a one-game wild-card playoff or, more likely, a best of three. During these few days the division winners would rest while the wild cards beat up on each other.
I am all for having two wild card teams, but not for expanding the postseason.
I would offer a simpler solution than Stark’s to the problem–assuming it is one–that teams like this year’s Yankees and Rays may not have enough of an incentive to work for the division title rather than the wild card. It has been evident for some time that both teams were going to the postseason regardless of which one finished first.
Go back to two divisions, and have two wild cards. The wild card teams could come from the same division, if the two best teams aside from division winners were in the same division.
I have never liked three divisions and one wild card, anyway. The risk is too great that one of the division winners is inferior to the wild card winner. So why penalize the wild card team that, in some years, has the league’s second best record? With a division of five–or even four, as with the AL West–what it takes to beat out your intra-division opponents is often far less than it takes to finish second in a tough division–or even third.
Consider this year’s AL, which has been the talking point for advocates of introducing a wild card series. The Yankees, and Rays would still have been assured, for much of the season as it developed, of a postseason berth under either the status quo or the two-division, two wild cards (2D2W) proposal. So would the Twins, who would be in the West Division, and leading it by four games as of today. But the Rangers, who have had a fairly easy time of it in the actual West, thanks to the other three teams never really getting a title chase going, would be in a fight to the finish under 2D2W.
The Ranges are currently 88-70, with a ten game lead over the second place Angels. They clinched early this week in what has been a runaway. Yet they have not played so great for the past two months. Under 2D2W they would be in a good race for the second wild card with the Red Sox (87-70), assuming they did not make up their current four-game deficit against the Twins. The White Sox (84-73) also would still be alive.
So if the objective of having wild card titles, whether one or more, is to generate more interest, the 2D2W proposal does so better than the Stark proposal. The Stark proposal would force the Yankees or Rays (whichever one finishes second in the East) into the shortest of short series (or even one game!) against a team that they may have beaten by a wide margin, while a team with an inferior record, the Rangers, gets to set up its rotation and gain the advantages that accrue in the postseason to a division winner.
The 2D2W would guard against travesties like the 2005 National League West, which was won by the Padres with a barely .500 record. Given that year’s standings, the NL postseason teams were the Cardinals, Braves, and Padres as division winners, while the Astros won the wild card. The Padres were a division winner in spite of having the seventh best record in the league. Yes, seventh. Under 2D2W, the Phillies, with a record of 88-74, would have replaced the Padres (82-80) in the postseason. The other three teams would have been the same.
(Naturally, with unbalanced schedules, the records under 2D2W would not have been precisely the same, because each team would play a slightly different schedule, but the above scenarios give a general picture.)
There are many years when one division winner has, at best, a fifth place finish in the overall league standings. Under 2D2W, the playoff teams would almost always be the top four.
One could still introduce a first-round playoff structure that rewards division winners over wild card winners, if one wanted to do so. For instance, the first round could be a best of seven with the division winner having the first three games at home, instead of only the first two–while still having the last two if it went that far. Or under a best of five, one could similarly ensure the division winner four home games if the series went the distance. Another thought it an asymmetric series: the division winner advances after winning two games, but the wild card has to win three. I will not consider any of these integral to 2D2W; they are additional considerations.
The two divisions, two wild card format would make division races more meaningful, in that it is harder to beat out five (AL) or seven (NL) intra-division competitors than three or four (in all but the current NL Central). It would force the leader of an inferior division into a wild card race (if it could contend at all under this realignment) rather than crown it a division winner. It would avoid the gimmicky wild card one-game or best-of-three playoff idea.
I wonder if Bud would like to consider this as an alternative.
The eastern Canadian province of Canada has a history of anomalous results from its FPTP electoral system. Yet, despite the province’s record (of which I have written before–click “N.B.” above), a referendum planned on an MMP system was canceled three years ago–just after a spurious alternation! (In 2006, the incumbent Conservatives won a plurality of the vote, but the opposition Liberals won a majority of seats.)
In this year’s vote, the Conservatives won the vote by a wide margin, 48.9% to 34.4%. This translated into over three quarters of the seats for the plurality party. Meanwhile, the NDP won over 10% and the Greens 4.5%, but neither of these parties won a seat.
“After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Feast of Booths for seven days. … the Lord your God will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy.” (Deuteronomy 16: 13, 15)
Note to readers: An excellent discussion is underway in this thread. Thanks to all who are participating.
Sweden’s election has produced a parliament with no majority for either main bloc, the incumbent center-right coalition or the Social Democrats. For the first time, an anti-immigrant party, the so-called Sweden Democrats, has won seats.
The BBC compares the Sweden Democrats to their counterparts in Denmark and Norway:
The most important difference between the SD and the others is that, whereas the two Danish and Norwegian parties started out as movements unhappy with everything from crime-fighting to income taxes, the Sweden Democrats have their roots in a racist organisation focused solely on throwing all immigrants and refugees out of the country.
This election also sees the Social Democrats having their worst result since 1921. However, they remain the single largest party, with 113 seats our of 349, compared to 107 for the Moderate Party.
According to preliminary results at the official Swedish elections website, the Social Democrats dropped 4.4 percentage points from the last election down to 30.9%. The Moderate Party gained 3.9 points to stand at an even thirty percent. The Sweden Democrats won 5.7%, an increase of 2.8 over the last election, and giving them 20 seats. The Green Party also scored well, at 7.2%, up 2.0.
Sweden uses proportional representation with a threshold of 4% of national votes or 12% in any given district.
The website indicates that the final count will begin on Monday, September 23. However, on my calendar there is no such date this year.
In today’s Haaretz, it is reported that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that former US president George W. Bush promised that the US would grant citizenship to 100,000 Palestinians as part of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
It has always seemed to me that the US should do something like this to ease an agreement. However, it is much harder to imagine President Obama overcoming domestic opposition to such an agreement than it might have been for Bush.
The Haaretz article also quotes Olmert claiming that the Palestinians did not object to a series of security assurances Israel demanded and the Bush administration accepted during talks.
FURTHER UPDATE: It looks as if the standard links are working again, as of Friday mid-afternoon (Pacific time zone in the USA). It wasn’t anything I did, that’s for sure. So, if it can fix itself, it could just as easily break itself again…
It seems that links within F&V work so long as “/blog” is in the URL, but not without it. Up to now, URLs have worked with or without “/blog”.
URLs for navigating around the blog do not routinely have /blog in them, but adding them gets you to the desired page–including the comment form.
For instance, if you wanted to comment on the recent entry on Afghanistan’s elections, the default for the comment form is http://fruitsandvotes.com/?p=4274#respond. This will not work. But the following modified URL will open up the comment form: http://fruitsandvotes.com/blog/?p=4274#respond
This Saturday Afghanistan holds its second legislative elections since the US invasion. Like the 2005 elections, these will be held with the electoral system that always appears near the bottom of electoral-system experts’ rankings of “best” system: the single nontransferable vote (SNTV).
Under SNTV, the winners are simply the candidates with the top M vote totals, regardless of their party (if any), where M is the magnitude of the district (the number of seats it has in the legislature). Afghanistan has a wide range of M; I have not seen if the magnitudes have been adjusted since 2005, but in that election, districts had anywhere from 4 to 33 seats each, with an average of around 7.*
In 2005, there were no party names or symbols on the ballots. In fact, there were no officially recognized parties at all. Since then, a political parties law has been passed, but a mere five parties have gained the official right to have their symbols on the ballots. So only a tiny minority of candidates will be identified by their party affiliation; the rest will be effectively independent candidates, regardless of whether they in fact have a party affiliation. See Thomas Ruttig at the FP for detail about the parties and the registration process.
Given that SNTV is a party-less electoral system in terms of the process of seat allocation, one could wonder what additional value party labels on the ballot would offer. To vote in SNTV, for any party that has more than one candidate in the district, the voter must know the candidate that he or she favors. Compared to any proportional representation system that uses party lists, or a first-past-the-post system that uses single-seat districts, knowing the partisan identity of candidates is relatively less important.
Key facts about the political consequences of SNTV are:
1. SNTV puts a premium on personal connections (e.g. being a local notable of any kind) rather than party reputation; and
2. SNTV practically guarantees tiny margins of votes between the last few winners in a district and the first few losers, especially in districts electing more than about 5 or 6 seats.
In other words, whether candidates are identified as party nominees or not, it is personal reputations that count above all else. Those personal reputations could be derived from incumbency if the member has stood above others in delivering services or benefits to the region, or from outside electoral politics, such as from being tied to (or being) a local warlord or chieftan. Or it could be a reputation from business or some other pursuit outside politics. What SNTV does not reward, in general, are candidates who try to provide broad public goods or run on ideological appeals.
* There is a gender quota, which does not fundamentally alter the dynamic of SNTV; it mere stipulates that a minimum number of the winners must be women, even if some men had higher vote totals. In a sense, it is two parallel SNTV contests in each district, with one of them reserved for women.
The battle over the future of the long-gun registry is narrowing as a clash of rural and urban values could very well bring about a tie vote on the floor of the House of Commons.
While the governing (but minority) Conservatives are likely to be fully united behind a bill to lift the current gun registry requirements, and the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois unite behind the status quo, the unity of the New Democrats will be sorely tested. The NDP caucus is divided between urban ridings (districts) and rural ones. Classic wedge politics. Or is this a (risky) “Western strategy” opportunity for the NDP itself?
UPDATE: The “Western Strategy” is on hold. G&M today (15 Sep) reports that NDP leader Jack Layton says he was convinced most of his rural caucus to block the proposal to lift the registry requirement. “The NDP plans on introducing its own private member’s legislation next week, which will propose changes to the registry that alleviate rural concerns,” it further reports.
When you stand anywhere in the western side of the Golan Heights, you understand why these Heights gave the Syrians such a great view with which to target Israeli towns and kibbutzim in the Galille’s Hula Valley below (despite the summer haze).
This view is from Nimrod Fortress, a remarkable Crusader-era Muslim defensive position (see more Nimrod photos at the Flickr site). From various hillsides around this region, one can see remnants of positions from which Syrian forces regularly shelled northern Israel between 1948, when the modern state of Israel was founded, and 1967, when Israeli forces captured the Heights.
Given the view from up here, and the relentless attacks of the period of Syrian control, it is easy to see why there is limited enthusiasm within Israel for returning this territory in any future “land for peace” deal with Syria. This is not the Sinai–distant from either side’s population centers. The Golan is not only close to the Galilee region; there is also a distance of a mere 60 km from the current eastern border to Damascus. So even if controlling the high ground is less important in an era of missile warfare than it once was, being able to threaten a quick counterattack on Damascus in the event of a future conflict remains strategically valuable for Israel. Besides, the Golan has water. And skiing. And apples and cherries. Israelis love it, for good reason, even if relatively few have settled it–it is striking how empty of people the region is–and even if it has comparatively little Biblical value to the religious Zionists* (in stark contrast to other territories seized in 1967).
Unfortunately, aside from the photos of Nimrod, I took relatively few photos as we drove through this region in late July. We were too rushed to get to the Witch’s Cauldron and the Milkman for what proved to be, even without photo-op stops, a very late lunch (and a sumptuous one, by the way, with great local goat cheeses). So I am thankful to Michael Totten for his recent post, “Above the Killing Fields of the Galilee,” which includes photos of abandoned Syrian positions and a bombed-out mosque, of the big boulder piles that the Israeli segments of the road from Damascus detour around, of the minefield warning signs, and of a memorial to war dead from 1973. All sights that impressed us as we drove by, yet we did not stop to photograph. We did, however, stop by another disused mosque near Banias. That was after lunch.
In addition to the photos, Totten relays some interesting interviews he had with Golan settlers, and they most certainly are not anything like the Judea and Samaria/West Bank settlers in their political views! The few Israeli settlers of the Golan have more in common with the early, secular and leftist, kibbutzniks than with the dominant strands of the settler movement of the other territories.
All in all, the Golan Heights are a fascinating and beautiful region. A trip there provides real insights into one aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I see the Shugards–quite a similar name!–also have posted photos of the Golan, including the Witches Cauldron and the Milkman restaurant.
And, while we are on the topic of other bloggers posting photos of places I have recently been, Yaacov Lozowick was as taken by the Che store in East Jerusalem as I was. His post runs a good deal deeper than that, however (pun very much intended).
* Even if there are several ruined ancient synagogues in the area, attesting to past Jewish settlement (from the post-Second Temple period).
That cruise ship docked in the left side of the photo (and which the eagle on the left seems to be averting his eyes from) just might be the infamous Mavi Marmara. It sure looks like it, and I know the Mavi Marmara was impounded in Haifa port while we were there.
In the evening from our hotel room:
Across the bay in both of the above photos is the historic city of Akko–a fascinating place. And the high ground in the (not so great) distance is Lebanon.
Haifa, with its very familiar (to a Californian) plant life, beautiful Middle Eastern and Mediterranean architecture, ethnic mix, and of course these stunning sea views, was probably my favorite city in Israel. I mean other than Jerusalem, which is the very definition of incomparable.
Haifa feels like a bit of San Francisco and a dash of San Diego, only with Jews and Arabs as the dominant groups. The city has one of the highest Arab populations of any major Israeli city (again, aside from Jerusalem). Most of the city, aside from downtown and the port, is built on the steep slopes of Mt. Carmel. From the highest ridge, one can see far up and down the coast, as well as off into the interior areas of this small country.
In ancient Israel, an indicator that an extra, “leap,” month was needed to realign the lunar calendar with the solar in time for Pesach in spring was when the almond trees were not yet blooming by Tu Bi-Shvat–the second full moon after the winter solstice. However, I have a leading indicator right now: no pomegranates!
Tonight is the new moon closest to the autumnal equinox. So it is Rosh HaShannah. But pomegranates, a fruit often associated with the holiday, are not in the stores yet. Our own trees, moved from the former finca and pitcured below, are just getting established. That one fruit you see has since fallen and likely would not have been ripe by now anyway.
So while it feels like fall, it is not. In fact, with about two weeks before the autumnal equinox, this is about as early as Rosh HaShannah can be. It seems this new year will need an extra month to keep the lunar and solar in alignment.
In any case, here’s wishing everyone a sweet and fruitful leap year, 5771!
The question came up because Julia Gillard, the current PM of Australia, replaced a co-partisan PM between elections, and Alan noted that her predecessor was the third out of the last ten so replaced. At the time I pointed out that 3 out of 10 was precisely the rate at which PMs in parliamentary systems overall are dismissed by their own parties. More precisely, we found that 30.2% of 354 PMs surveyed left office on account of internal party politics. (The remainder was about evenly split between election defeats and coalition breakdown.) So, Australia seemed “normal,” not a case where PM termination between elections was overly frequent by the comparative yardstick.
But what about compared to similar parliamentary democracies, where majority government is the norm (or at least used to be!)? That is, let’s leave out parliamentary systems where coalitions are the norm, and where perhaps some cases of intra-party conflict are really generated by the tensions of governing in coalition, and not by purely intra-party matters.
My first look at the data suggested that the rate was not much different in this subset than overall (I found 22 of 78). However, quite a few of these were coded in the detailed data as something like “Intraparty — left office voluntarily.” Now, that is clearly an intra-party replacement, so I am not second-guessing our own data coding! However, there is quite a lot of difference between a party undertaking an inter-electoral leadership change because the former PM decided on his or her own accord to leave, and a challenge to a sitting leader who goes involuntarily.
So let’s look at things again, with cases of “voluntary” departure relegated to a residual category.
Now things look rather different. There are only nine of 78 PMs in Westminster systems who leave for reasons that might be termed intra-party conflict. That’s 11.5%, which I have to agree is a good deal less than 3 of 10!
What about in the non-Westminster cases? We should also remove the “voluntary” departures from this subset. When we do, we are left with about 24% leaving due to intra-party conflict in the entire parliamentary data. In the non-Westminster subset, it’s 28%.
So there you have it. Roughly one eighth of Westminster PMs leave due to intra-party conflict, compared to well over a quarter of non-Westminster PMs. That seems pretty significant. And I thank Alan for prompting me to look deeper at the data!
The countries taken as “Westminster” for the purposes of this exercise, and their own rate of dismissals for intra-party reasons, are:
New Zealand (1/12)***
Sri Lanka (0/10 during its parliamentary regime)
The real question, of course, would be to break down majority vs. coalition (and minority) governments, not Westminster vs. non-Westminster. But the two categories are quite closely aligned.
Obviously, another big difference across parliamentary subtypes is in the percentage of PMs who leave office due to electoral defeat. Elections account for about a third of all parliamentary PM terminations, but 48.1% (38 of 79) in these Westminster systems. Electoral defeat is what we might expect to be the most common mechanism of PM termination in a Westminster system, of course. Just as obviously, inter-party conflict is almost never a cause of PM termination in Westminster systems: just five PMs in India and one in Bangladesh left for such reasons. (Perhaps we could add Whitlam, in Australia, who is coded as an “other” due to his dismissal by the Governor General, but the underlying reason for conflict was his lack of support in the second chamber.)
* This was before Rudd’s forced resignation.
** The Indian case is Desai, who headed the unwieldy (and not very Westminster) anti-Congress coalition that collapsed in 1979.
*** I excluded PMs in the PR era, since 1996. Since then, our dataset has only Shipley, who served out her term. We could add Clark, who also survived to see electoral defeat. The two of them would leave NZ, through 2008, at 1/14.
Australia’s Labor and Green parties have reached a support agreement. The Greens won their first House of Representatives seat at the recent election. One seat, out of 150, on over 11% of first-preference votes.
One of the provisions of the agreement is that Green Senator Bob Brown will reintroduce as a Private Members Bill the Commonwealth Electoral (Above-the-Line Voting) Amendment Bill 2008. The Labor party “will consider” the bill. Among other provisions, this bill would allow voters who vote for a party ticket in Senate elections, rather than rank their preferences across all candidates running, to rank the parties in order of preference.
The agreement also includes several proposed reforms to parliamentary procedure, including guaranteeing minor parties the right to ask questions of the Prime Minister no later than the sixth question during Question Time. It further stipulates that the parties acknowledge that any of the Green’s policies for the 2010 election can be brought forward for discussion in parliament. Greens will receive Treasury briefings. There will be a “well resourced Climate Change Committee.”
All in all, a very fine agreement. There is just one catch: the Labor and Green parties remain short of a majority in the House by three seats. There are four independents, whose votes could still give the Coalition (of Liberals and Nationals) a majority if they choose to swing that direction.
The Labor and Green parties appear to have combined for over 49% of the first-preference votes, compared to around 44% for the Coalition. Yet Labor and Greens have just under 49% of the seats, despite the use of a “majoritarian” electoral system (and one that is often taken as a model here in the USA), and despite the fact that the electoral swing from Labor to the Greens was greater than that to the Coalition.
(All claims about the partisan breakdown of first-preference votes need to be taken cautiously until all votes are counted, but the pattern of swing is clear.)
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