Monday, July 31, 2006

The Problem for Democrats in 2006

It is getting so you cannot walk out the (internet) door without tripping over yet another disgruntled Republican. I posted on this topic a few weeks ago. Last week, we had several more prominent examples, among them former seven term Republican congressman and Korean war hero Pete McCloskey - who saw fit to call for a divided congress on his website:

"I have found it difficult in the past several weeks to reach a conclusion as to what a citizen should do with respect to this fall's forthcoming congressional elections. I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans, active in Merced and San Bernardino Counties as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area... It has been difficult, nevertheless, to conclude as I have, that the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006. Let me try to explain why..."
Good reasons, good read, good man. Left of center blogs like Stupid Evil Bastard, Seeing The Forest, Huffington Post, and Suburban Guerilla, take note and find reason for confidence in the prospects for November. But Pete McCloskey is too easy to dismiss. For many Republicans, he is the ultimate RINO, as he supported Kerry for President in 2004. Moreover, he was just soundly defeated in a quixotic attempt to unseat incumbent Richard Pombo in the CD-11 Republican primary, and can be easily painted the color of sour grapes.

More difficult to dismiss is uber-conservative William Buckley, who was complaining last week on CBS that George W Bush is not a real conservative:
Again bloggers take note: Balkinization decided that Bush really is a "uniter" as he is managing to unite liberals and conservatives in oppostion to his policies, and if you read this post on the Intellectual Conservative, one is inclined to agree. Newsbusters, on the other hand, just can't handle the truth, that Buckley really is saying Bush is not a conservative. They develop a "nuanced" interpretation of Buckley's remarks that would frankly make Bill ("depends on what the defintion of is is") Clinton proud, claiming he was misquoted (by CBS on their own interview, on video). The post stands out as a clear indication of Republican concern.

David Broder takes the search for disgruntled Republicans to a new level. He does not even need to walk out the door to find one. He has a disgruntled Republican as a houseguest and writes about it in hs Washington Post column:
So, you may ask, what does all this have to do with the the title of this post? Where is this "so-called" problem for Democrats here? The problem is right there in the middle of the Broder article: "If it wasn't for Pelosi," he said, "I'd just as soon the Democrats take over this fall."

"If it wasn't for Pelosi..." In other words - No matter how far the Republicans have strayed from bedrock "limited government" conservative principles, no matter how rampant the corruption, no matter how important it is to restore checks and balance between the executive and legislative branches, the disgruntled Republican cannot get past these words: "Speaker of House - Nancy Pelosi." And if the disgruntled Republican cannot get past those words, then when the disgruntled Republican gets in the voting booth in November, the disgruntled Republican is going to vote Republican.

This then is the problem for Democrats in November:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?

From the Brodie column again:
Karl Rove has found the weapon of fear he needs to "locate and turn out their voters". It is the bogeyman of a San Francisco Liberal as Speaker of the House, and third in the line of succession to the Presidency. Rove will be fanning this fear with hurricane force. The windspeed is already picking up. Examples:

Evans Novak Political Report - The Absurd Report
Republicans Ace in the Hole - Mike's America
Did I wake up and its November already? - Carolina Conservative

Note, I am not commenting on Nancy Pelosi, her politics, or fitness for the role of Speaker of the House. I am merely observing that she is a hurdle for conservatives and disgruntled Republicans who would otherwise be reluctant to continue supporting this crop of big government, big spending Republicans. There are two possible cures for this particular electoral virus. The first cure is the divided government voting strategy - which can innoculate the conservative voter against this Roveian infection, with the white blood cells of historically documented fact: Divided government restrains government spending. I submit, that the divided government rationale can get conservatives over the Pelosi hurdle, essentially givng conservatives permission to vote Democrat. The reason for conservatives to vote Democrat in '06 is purely to cast a tactical vote to secure the objective of restraining spending thorugh the documented mechanism of divided government. Conservatives should also recognize that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not as so bad, when you consider the other cure:

My preference ...
Just Vote Divided.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ann Coulter's War on Science

UPDATED: June 27, 2007
After this post, this post and this post, I really did not want to spend any more time on La Femme Coulter. I really thought I was done. Really. I did manage to studiously avoid her as she paraded (yet again) through the talk show circuit this week, spewing more book-selling nonsense like "Bill Clinton is a latent homosexual." But, I do watch Chris Matthew's Hardball. To my chagrin, there she was, defending her venomous style to a questioner by, believe it or not, bragging about her book sales:

UPDATED: 01-September-06 - [Welcome to visitors from Immunoblogging's Skeptic Circle. With the uptick in traffic, I noticed we had broken links on this page. Fixed now. Thanks for link.]
She also complains bitterly that Chris only wanted to talk about the "words she uses" as opposed to the ideas she writes. An interesting distinction that completely eludes me.

One of her ideas (in fact, a chapter title) is "The Left's War on Science". In that chapter, she cites research from Peter Dolan as evidence of how the left distorts or ignores scientific research when promoting the problem of global warming.
"About the same time, the journal Nature published the findings of scientist Peter Doran and his colleagues at the University of Illinois. Rather than using the UN's "computer models", the researchers took actual temperature readings. It turned out temperatures in the Antarctic have been getting slightly colder-not warmer- for the last thirty years." - Ann Coulter - "Godless" pages 190-191
Well, in the New York Times yesterday, Peter Doran makes it clear that it is actually Ann Coulter, who is incorrectly using and distorting his research in the service of her agenda.
Cold, Hard Facts By Peter Doran
Published: July 27, 2006
"In the debate on global warming, the data on the climate of Antarctica has been distorted, at different times, by both sides. As a polar researcher caught in the middle, I'd like to set the record straight... Our results have been misused as "evidence" against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel "State of Fear" and by Ann Coulter in her latest book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism." ...Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals thanks to worldwide bans on ozone-destroying chemicals all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth?"
That would seem to indicate that it is is not just Ann's "choice of words" but her ideas don't stand up either.

Equally damning for Coulter's scientific pretensions, is this series of articles at Talk Reason (tip of the hat to blogger Scoobie Davis) where James Downard does some heavy lifting, debunking Ann Coulter's "Godless" anti-evolution screed. Excerpt:
"... Coulter's tome landed in my crosshairs on account of the third of her book (the last 4 of 11 chapters) devoted to assailing the Liberal's Creation Myth, Darwinian evolutionary theory. Her sashay into matters scientific delightfully illustrates a common theme in sloppy thinking. Coulter is a secondary citation addict.

Like a scholarly lemming, she compulsively reads inaccurate antievolutionary sources and accepts them on account of their reinforcement of what she wants to be true. It never once occurs to her that she might find it prudent to check on the reliability of those sources before accompanying them off the cliff, either by investigating critical takes on those sources, or by actually inspecting the original technical literature directly."

As it happens, Coulter has a skilled affinity for making snap (and wrong) judgments about papers she hadn't read.... The pattern is repetitive. Coulter draws on a newspaper piece rather than Bridgham et al. (2006) or even the commentary by Adami (2006). Bereft of any familiarity with the context or conclusions of that report, she boldly forged ahead to get the whole thing hilariously wrong."
Secondary Addiction Part I: Ann Coulter on Evolution
Secondary Addiction Part II: Ann Coulter on Evolution
Secondary Addiction Part III: Ann Coulter on Evolution

That is it. Now I am really done with posts about Ann Coulter.


UPDATE (06/27/2007): I kept my word. I have made no subsequent posts about Ann Coulter in the 11 months since this post. But on the occasion of the Godless paperback publication, and the subsequent revival of the Coulter "Crazy like a Fox" bookselling tour on co-conspirator Chris Mathew's Hardball ("Ok - we all got it now? - Coulter sells books, Matthews gets a ratings boost/ increased ad revenues, Edwards gets a contribution surge, Deal?") . Who am I kidding? I get a boost in links and traffic. We are all pathetic.

Anyway I thought I'd update the post as I am really really curious if she corrected or edited her misrepresentation of Doran's work in the paperback edition. I already overpaid for the hardcover edition last year, so I'll be damned if I will spend another nickle on the paperback. But If anyone reads it, let me know.

Technorati tags:, , , .

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Divided Government - QandO Q&A

While I was "heads down" all last week trying to wrestle this blog to the ground, and learning more than I ever wanted to know about HTML, CSS, XML, RSS, and MMBA's (Many More Blog Acronyms) , I managed to completely miss this great thread posted by Jon Henke at The QandO blog. Interestingly, my last post linked to an older QandO post on the same subject, but somehow managed to miss this one. Sigh... I am just not getting the hang of this blog thing. Anyway, I was just going to leave a comment, but as I am a week late to the party, and everyone has moved on to the hot topic of the day, I decided to instead respond here (and cross-post there).

Excerpts from the post:

One (Party) Ring by Jon Henke on the QandO blog.
Many Republicans — the actual fiscal conservatives and libertarians, anyway — are becoming more and more disaffected with this state of affairs... The modern Republican is Gandalf, having won the primary against Frodo, and fidgeting with the Ring of Power in his palm. So much good I could do, so many people I could help, if I only slipped it on, and besides, you just know that Saruman would wear the Ring if his party took Congress... It seems to me that the optimal libertarian and fiscal conservative strategy is to seek gridlock. And if that means a temporary alliance with the Democrats, well, what of it? The Democrats may be worse than the Republicans in many ways, but a divided government can thwart the ambitions of both... we probably ought to explore our free agency, rather than becoming dependable votes in the future. The Democrats will certainly be The Enemy again, but not until they are actually in charge of something. In the meantime, libertarians oppose an overweening State and the Republican Party is the State. Do the math."

I could not agree more. In fact I was pre-agreeing when I wrote this last May:

To support the documented benefit of divided government by voting Democratic in the 2006 election, is not the same as "finding a home" in the Democratic party. It is simply tactical support to obtain an immediate and desireable result: Fiscal restraint and better federal governance through the mechanism of divided government. To continue to support Republican single party control of the Federal Government in the face of what has actually transpired over the last five years can only be read as a naked appeal to "pay attention to what Republicans say, but ignore what they. In fact, by achieving the result of divided government through the support of Democratic candidates in 2006, the supporters of limited government will have a stronger foundation for supporting the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, with the enhanced hope that the next Republican President will actually "walk the walk".

More great dialog in the comments, too much to do justice now, but I cannot resist making a few comments on the comments:

Tom Perkins comments:
How do you propose to turn gridlock into improvement?
Ok, I'll take a crack at it. First, divided government (defined as executive and legislative branch not controlled by the same party) is not equal to gridlock, although it can have that temporary result. This administration proved that single party Republican control can be as wildly profligate as single party Democratic control. Divided government is documented by Niskanen and Ritter to restrain spending. It is a simple hstorical fact. We can guess at the mechanism of wny it works, but the fact that it does work can and should be accepted as empirical fact.
MichaelW comments:
I’m thinking that this November, there’s a strong chance that I’ll just write in a candidate ...
Yes, this is the preferred libertarian response. One I have used myself. It is a vote for principle. It is a vote for futility. It is a vote for continuing the political irrelevance of the libertarian party.
Robert Fulton comments:
So where is the politician who sees things as you do who is is reaching out to libertarians? Presumably he would be a Democrat...
This misses the point. The idea is not to join the Democrat party. The point is to accomplish a libertarian objective of restraining gevernment growth and spending by casting a tactical vote for the Democrats in 2006. Think of it as the usual libertarian response of throwing away your vote, but accidently actually accomplishing a libertarian objective by doing it.
Gerry comments:
Theory ... We’ve seen rather large deficits basically since Nixon was forced out of office.. Simple in concept, that is. Devilishly hard to do in reality. You have to figure out who really are the right people, and they have to figure out how to sell themselves, and we actually have to pull the levers..."
Actually it is more than theory. It is historical fact. Yes there are always large deficits, but Niskanen and Ritter show that they are larger and grow faster when you have single party control of the legislative and executive branch. Perhaps this is not as devilishly hard as you might think. The dynamic of divided government accomplishes the desired objective of restraining government growth, not the individuals or parties that make up that divided government state, or even what they say or believe. Democrats (or Republicans) do not create the result. Divided government does. Republican vs. Democrat is a false choice. Single Party vs. Divided Government is the real choice.
Don comments:
Voting Democrat will sure send that "we want less government" message. . The only options I see are "R" or "L".
So Don, how has that only "R" or "L" thing worked out for you over the last five years? Re-elect this generation of big government Republican congressman into another majority with this big government President, and guess what you will get for the next two years? It's pretty simple really. You want to vote for that? Hey knock yourself out.
ABC comments:
To be even more of a stickler, there was no surplus under Clinton. The debt increased every year just as it has done since 1960.
True. But spending growth was restrained. You have to stop the bleeding before you can heal the patient. And it was not Clinton that created the fiscal restraint. It was the dynamic of a divided government.
kyle N comments:
Clinton was a fluke that could not happen under the current move towards the left in the current Democratic party. (and who believes that Hillary would be a centrist?)
No one believes that. The Dem party will not restrain government growth. A divided government will. In any case, the presidential election is in 2008. This is 2006. We have an election in four months. Vote for divided government now, stop the bleeding, then vote for a "born-again" fiscally conservative Republican in '08.
Lance comments:
Mary Katherine Ham is exactly right about why I can’t vote Democrat, they aren’t even lying about wanting my vote enough to change...
This is not about finding a home in the Demcratic party. This is not about trying to change the Democratic party. This is not about whether you feel wanted by the Democratic party. This is not about whether they "really, really like you". This is about voting for an objective of limiting government growth through the known mechanism of electing and maintaining a divided government in Washington.
Robert Fulton comments:
one is hard put to buy Jon’s hope that libertarians have any welcome in the Democratic party other than as a vote...
This is not about finding a home in the Democratic party. This is not about trying to change the Democratic party. This is about voting for the objective of limiting government growth through the known mechanism of electing and maintaining a divided government in Washington.
Robert Fulton comments:
The best I can do is help the Democrats "purify" the Democratic party? Sorry. I’ll join the ranks of the non-voters first ... better we should all write in "Gridlock" so that everyone knows where we stand and how to get our vote in the future.
This is not about finding a home in the Democratic party. This is not about trying to change the Democratic party. This is about voting for an objective of limiting government growth through the known mechanism of electing and maintaining a divided government in Washington. Elect a divided government in '06, then you can waste your vote in '08 like a good libertarian.
Aldo comments:
Regarding Clinton’s surpluses: only a fool would vote for the Democrats in the expectation that future Democratic administrations will model themselves after Clinton’s... The fact is that the Republicans have shamelessly violated their core principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility, but the Democrats have never had any such principles in the past and are not claiming to have them now.
That is not the expectation. The expectation is that a divided government will restrain the growth of government because it historically has been shown to do so by Niskanen It is a tactic, not a strategy.The Democrats won't do it. The Republicans won't do it. A divided Federal government will.
Peter Jackson comments:
...When I say the system needs to be changed, I mean the whole enchilada...
True. Great ideas, all. But are they going to happen in the next four months? If not, then vote for Divided Government now, stop the bleeding, and we might be able to start the process of getting some of this institutional reform in '08.
Aldo comments:
If that is the best plan, libertarians might as well quit politics and become a gardening club. I would prefer to sit out entirely than to give our mandate to a party that represents the polar opposite of everything we stand for.
As opposed to a party that says one thing in order to make Aldo feel good about voting for them, then actually does the polar opposite of everything he stands for. Got it. That is much better, of course. But - as a practical matter - sitting out is almost as good as voting positively for divided government.
Keith, Indy comments:
How is gridlock improvement? Well, if you were on a boat that was sinking, and you managed to bail out just enough water so you didn’t sink further, that would be an improvement. It’s not a solution, but a stop-gap measure. A way to try and play one side off the other until you can get the "right" people, or the "right" legislation enacted to correct things.
Peter comments:
The odds of your one vote changing the outcome of any election is very, very small. I recommend Keith’s #4 (vote your conscience). I’m more or less a one issue voter. I don’t vote for drug warriors. Ever. Or at least not for any office which has a role in the drug war. Which means I vote Libertarian almost exclusively. And it’s so easy. I always leave my polling place with a spring in my step, whistling a happy tune. My candidates don’t win of course, but so what? The voice of my individual vote speaks much more loudly from the Libertarian column than it would from the Dem or Republican column. And maybe if the voices from the Lib column grow loud enough, the other two party candidates will notice, and even co-opt some Lib positions, which frankly is fine by me.

In terms of our individual votes, all of this strategizing is more or less meaningless. The winner of the election will very, very, very likely win with or without your individual vote. And it’s like the man said: if we alway do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.

Actually, Peter - your (our) candidates don't win at all. Ever. I have voted this way. It is easy. It is voting for principle. Voting this way is also the reason that libertarians are an impotent political force. Libertarian ideas are powerful ideas that do have an impact on the politcal dialog, but libertarian politics are irrelevant. Why not vote to accomplish a libertarian objective instead of only a libertarion principle?

This is another easy way to vote in '06 and actually have a real impact. It is certainly true, that we are talking very long odds here. But in '06, with a limited turnout, and a highly polarized electorate, it is just possible that a simple idea, widely communicated, to a relatively very few voters on the margin can make a difference. If only there was some sort of ubiquitous communication medium that had the potential of getting this idea widely disseminated, we might get just enough votes to make a difference. Something like a vast network of tubes. Too bad it does not exist. If it did we could let the politicians know that there is a libertarian voting block that does not throw it's vote away every election.

What is needed, for this to work in this very short time-frame, is an organizing principle. A principle that is so obvious, so logical, and so clear-cut, that no leadership is needed, no parties are needed, no candidates are needed, and no infrastructure is needed. Ideally it is just this easy: You think about the principle, and you know how to vote.

That organizing principle exists. It is Divided Government. It is absolutely clear-cut and easy to understand. Divided Government is documented by Niskanen to work in a practical real-world manner to restrain the growth of the state. The entire idea can be communicated in a sound byte. As a voting strategy it can be implemented immediately.

Whatever the percentage of the electorate that libertarians and disgruntled limited government advocates represent, whether it is 9% or 20%, if they vote as a block for Divided Government, they become the brokers of an evenly split partisan electorate. They arguably become the single most most potent voting block in the country, specifically because they are willing to vote either Democratic or Republican as a block. Specifically because they are not fused to one party or the other.

It means, libertarians must ignore what the politicians say and look at what they actually do (Niskanen again). It means ignoring spurious invitations to fuse with either "big tent" party that no longer stands for anything meaningful. It means voting straight Democratic in 2006, and (if successful in establishing divided government) voting Republican for President in 2008. It means the difference between libertarians being a completely impotent political force, and libertarians having the biggest swinging political "hammer" in town.

And it can be done this year.

It can be done in the next three months.

Just Vote Divided.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I Am An Acronym.

Having opened a store on CafePress, created logos and images, purchased some domains, and secured relevant e-mail and IM monikers, this post is purely a placeholder to stake out some Intellectual Property and Trademarks. Nothing more here

Divided We Stand United We Fall.


Divided & Balanced ™
Now that is fair.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The unexamined meme is not worth propagating.

With apologies to Socrates. This blog is well into it's third month, and it is time to checkpoint, to take stock, to assess, to weigh feedback, and to indulge in a little navel-gazing. So...

Welcome to our first "State of the Blog" post.


As of the date of this post, traffic is holding in a consistent range of 20-30 viewers/day with an occasional spike higher. Low but not surprisingly so. Note to self: Do better.

I have been gratified by some of the comments and e-mails I've received. Particularly those from some traditional media writers and authors I respect.
"Great blog. We really appreciate the coverage." - Paul Rieckhoff - Author, Chasing Ghosts (from an e-mail)

"I'm glad to see my offbeat slant on your Blog. It will be very interesting to see if Griffith outpolls King ..." - Logan Jenkins - Columnist San Diego Union-Tribune (from an e-mail)

"Great post. ... Making the invisible hand visible is kind of brilliant. Take a look at a column I wrote a couple weeks ago on third parties -- it heads in the same direction." - Dick Meyer - Editorial Director at & Columnist (from an e-mail)

"Reader and blogger MW offers an interesting solution to the problem of how libertarians can organize themselves for maximum political impact: Always vote for divided government. Always... That divided government keeps down spending is now the conventional wisdom. The idea of using that concept as the central organizing principle of a political movement ... it's far-fetched. OK, it's implausible. But it might stop anything much from ever getting done in Washington, D.C., which is a start..." from Divided We Stand" posted on Real Clear Politics by Ryan Sager - Author, The Elephant in the Room.

We've found about a dozen links to DWSUWF since starting the blog, all without benefit of blogging tools like trackbacks, webrolls, advertising, RSS, etc. (oversights which I intend to remedy). This seems like a low number to me, but apparently it puts the blog in the top 350,000 or so blogs, out of a universe of some 30 million. So ... upper 15%? Whatever. Net-net, It's links like this one that encourage us to think we are on the right track -

Jonathan posed this response "Divided we .... stand?" at Crush Liberalism:
"This article raises some fantastic points and questions, especially for the libertarian at heart... The author recommends letting the GOP lose in 2006, and thus have a divided legislature and executive branch. I like his points, and I have a few of my own.... what exactly would the Dems harm us with? They wouldn't get a damned thing passed into law, provided that (a) Bush can ever find his veto pen, and (b) he remembers that he's supposed to be a member of the "conservative" (snicker) ideology. ... Would Dems try to increase taxes? Sure. Would Bush veto the tax increases? Likely. Would a Dem House have the votes to override a veto? Nope. House Speaker Pelosi? Yeah, it's pretty scary. However, so is House Speaker Hastert right now... In short, I doubt that the Dems would get anything done. And as far as I'm concerned, based on what I'm seeing coming out of a "unified" government right now, I'd be pretty content with having nothing getting done.... Food for thought."
An Idea whose time has come?
In the end analysis, success for this blog will not be measured by traffic, but by whether the ideas discussed here have legs, and whether they have an impact on the political dialog. The "Divided Government" meme, is not original with this blog, but has been knocking around in articles and posts since before the '04 election. As an academic topic, its has been around even longer (see sidebar links). It clearly has some traction, but has not significantly emerged above the "noise level" [Compare "divided government" to the "cut and run" meme.] That said, there is a discernible and steady drumbeat of columnists, bloggers, and authors that drag the idea out on a regular basis, declare it good, then promptly put it back on the shelf. Well and good, but this idea is going to need to get much greater traction if it is to have an impact on the '06 elections. Moreover, the "Divided Government" meme may be just the cattle prod needed to get the electorate over the "all politics is local" hurdle (more on this subject in a future post).

Steve Silvinski (whose work featured in an earlier post documents just how bad single party control can get) , wonders in his post Budget Discipline: The Democratic Theme for ‘O6? whether the Democrats are starting to get the message:
"Remember when some of us limited-government types were wondering when the Democrats would finally realize voters were fed up with the GOP’s massive federal budgets and start talking about fiscal discipline? Well, it’s finally happened — the talking, at least. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi just gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) in which she professed that Democrats would launch a campaign to reduce the number of budget earmarks if they won a House majority in November."
Of course, the beauty of Divided Government, is that it really does not matter whether the Democrats are sincere in what they say. In fact, it does not matter what they (or the Republicans) say at all. It is not the Democrats that will control spending, it is not that the Republicans that will control spending, it is the fact that the government is not controlled by either that will control spending.

Conclusion and Call to Action
It's time to retool. We have an organizing principle, we have an intellectual foundation, and we have evidence of support for the idea, from both the right and left. But we need much more visibility to get the message out. We need RSS feeds, blogrolls, haloscan, feedburner and advertising on the blog. We need logos, buttons, posters, bumper stickers, maybe even tee-shirts and pretty models to ratchet up promotion - and cripes we've got a lot of work to do. Whatever it takes. Most importantly, we are going to need allies to see if we can really get this thing off the ground in the next few months. Perhaps those allies are to be found in these posts culled over the last couple of years.

Other Voices in support of Divided Government.
Alex Knapp's post "Voting for Gridlock" from Outside the Beltway:
"Ronald Bailey argues that those who favor small government should vote for gridlock this November. That is, they ought to vote for Democrats.... I'm inclined to agree. The health of the Republic is much better served by having as much power spread out as possible. Partisan politics and gridlock are an extra Constitutional separation of powers that helps to minimize government intrusions "mostly."

Ted's post "Ideology vs. Reality" at Reason
Sadly, I think there's something to this theory that ideology-trumps-reality: If my guy isn't in the White House, then the economy must be a mess! ...But what if who's in power is less clear? Our government spends less when one party is in the White House and the other controls Congress. Is this another reason to root for divided government? ... In other words, while our political affiliations might shape how we see the economic conditions, for a good chunk of us there comes a point when we no longer stand by our man simply because we identify with the party in power.

Jonny Butter's post "Thinking it Over" at Total Information Awareness:
"Because I circumlocute so damned much, I want to make clear what I am advocating for and what I'm not. I'm not advocating for any particular course of action in Iraq in this post, even by implication - only for divided government in DC for the next two+ years. I want independents, moderates and conservatives who don't have the luxury of voting for a Hagel or a Lugar to vote for Democrats in November - or to stay home, at least. I want them to consider the strategic importance of divided government at this point."

Ronald Bailey's post "Vote for Gridlock" at Reason:
"How would gridlock benefit the country? First, Democrats and Republicans might stymie each others spending proposals, thus reducing the budget deficit. It's not a complete fantasy. During that blessed era of gridlock of the 1990s, total discretionary spending fell by more than 8 percent. We might also be spared disgusting exercises in political posturing on issues like gay marriage and flag-burning....So do your patriotic duty and vote for gridlock this fall. As for my first ever Democratic primary vote - I'm going cast my ballot for James Webb."

Bill Hobb's post "In Praise of Gridlock" at his homepage:
" The much-hyped "government shut down" was a non-event for most Americans. We ought to do it more often, and for longer periods of time. Blake longs for divided government again, so here are my questions: Would it be better, for advancing the principles of conservative government, to have a Republican president and Democrats in control of one or both houses of Congress, or to have a Democrat president and Republicans in control of on or both houses of Congress?"

Jon Henke's post "Third Way Politics" at The Q and O Blog
"The only time Republicans have been anti-State with any vigor is when they've been out of power and confronted with Democratic initiatives. As I've said before, the Party out of power is always somewhat libertarian, if only to confound the Party in power; the Party in power is always anti-libertarian, because, hey, cool, power! ... For my part, I think divided government is our optimal state right now.. Short of an insurgent liberty-oriented 3rd Party (which I don't see happening) our only chance at limitation-through-competition is to have the Democrats square off against Republicans. Nothing motivates the Republicans to be good Republicans like Democrats threatening to be good Democrats."

Baron Violent's post "Dividing Line" at Restless Mania:
"I still don't believe it's possible that the Democrats will take over Congress, though they may take the Senate. However, wanting Democrats to win some control and wanting divided government in a lot of cases isn't about wanting one party to pass their agenda. It's about precisely the opposite of that. We've been shown in the Bush years the worst parts of one-party rule the likes of which this country hasn't been subject to since LBJ. We need some restoration of separation of powers here, and we need a Congress that alternates from being asleep at the wheel and hog farming."

Glen Dean's post "Join The Gridlock Party" at Christian Libertarian:
"I have never, not once in my life, voted for a Democrat, never. But this November I am calling for the Republicans to lose their majority in the House of Representatives, which means I will have to do the unthinkable, and vote for a Democrat. Of course I live in the most Republican district in the state of Tennessee, so I don't expect my Congresswoman to be defeated. But there are a lot of districts in other parts of the country that may be up for grabs... The only way that our government will ever reduce spending is if it is divided. Judicial appointments are too important to allow the Democrats to control the Senate and the Executive Branch, but we can and should sacrifice the House. All spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. The House is responsible for this mess.... I support gridlock, I love divided government, and I hate efficiency. The House GOP makes me sick and I hope they are soundly defeated this November."

BNJ's post "Republicans need to lose" at Cynical Nation:
"This will probably piss off some of my Republican readers, but I hope that principled conservatives will understand why I'm writing this, even if they don't agree. I'm hoping the Republicans lose at least one house in Congress this November. It might not happen, of course, but this is a wish, not a prediction. Let's be honest. The Republicans have become too comfortable and too entrenched in the culture of power and corruption that permeates the capital. I've reluctantly concluded that the only hope of snapping them out of it is to hand them an electoral defeat. Look at the exploding federal budget and ask yourself what good they're doing. I've long been a fan of divided government, and I believe a few years of such a setup could be quite healthy (although Bush would have to learn how to use his veto pen.)"

Joe Gandelman's post "House Passes Measure That'll Hurt Mostly Democrats" at The Moderate Voice:
"So much for meaningful reform that tries to seriusly fix the system in general. Instead we get yet another demonstration about why one-party rule has proven to be a disaster in terms of authentic problem solving and biparitsan solutions..."

Glenn Dean's post "I Hope We Lose Big Time In 06" at Nashville Truth:
"I can't believe I am actually suggesting this, but we should not only vote for, but campaign for their Democratic opponents. We have to send these big spending, government expanding Republicans a message. We have to campaign for their defeat. I would rather have divided government and gridlock than a Republican President and a Republican Congress like the ones we have now."

Nick Gillespie's post "Big Government Cons" at Reason:
"...the Wash Post is one of the last places you'd expect to see a house editorial condemning government spending. But they do so today, attacking "big government conservatives" who spend spend spend while talking a good game about cuts cuts cuts. The Post does a real public service by highlighting the GOP's profligacy under George W. Bush: Of course, the short answer to the Post's rhetorical question is: Both. Though there's little question that government spending grows less under divided government."

Warren Meyer's post "We Won't Respect You in the Morning" at the Coyote Blog:
"Again, small government libertarians like myself, who held their nose and voted Republican in the last election, have been used....the Republican promise of smaller, less-intrusive government is getting harder and harder to believe. Especially when a more plausible plot line is unfolding every day: that the GOP has put aside the ideals of Reagan and Goldwater in order to pursue a political strategy based on big spending. ... It is not in the least bit comforting to have my suspicions confirmed by Cato, whose whole report is here. Bring back divided government! I will take Reagan-Democrat Congress or Clinton-Republican Congress over this any day."

Doug Bandow writes in "The Conservative Case for Voting Democratic" at the Cato Institute:

"Complaints about Republican profligacy have led the White House to promise to mend its ways. But Bush's latest budget combines accounting flim-flam with unenforceable promises. So how do we put Uncle Sam on a sounder fiscal basis? Vote Democratic. Democrats obviously are no pikers when it comes to spending. But the biggest impetus for higher spending is partisan uniformity, not partisan identity. Give either party complete control of government, and the Treasury vaults are quickly emptied. Neither Congress nor the President wants to tell the other no. Both are desperate to prove they can "govern" - which means creating new programs and spending more money. But share power between parties, and out of principle or malice they check each other. "

Methinks we need to step up our game. We need to be more effective getting the message out, and we need to be more persuasive that the concept of Divided Government is not just an intellectual indulgence. This is the right way to vote, and the way to change the direction of our country.

NOTE: This blog will be undergoing extensive renovation over the next week - so fewer posts and periodic weirdness is anticipated

UPDATE: 24-July-06
Well, that was harder than I thought it would be. But, I've got a little breathing room now, with a nice new column on the left, a blogroll, working feeds, some beginning advertising and a couple of other bells and whistles. It's a start. There are still some items that seem a little out of kilter here, but I'm tired of screwing around with the technology. This will have to do. Back to content.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

To earmark or not to earmark, that is the question.

I like Joe Lieberman. I think he is a man of integrity. But I could not believe what I was hearing in the Lieberman/Lamont debate Thursday. Ned Lamont took a principled stand that earmarks are wrong and a corrupting influence in Washington. Joe brazenly pitched that he should be Senator because he would be more effective earmarking funds for state projects (transcript linked and excerpted below). This is what we have come to - electing our representatives in Congress based on the size of the bucket they bring to the Federal spigot. "Vote for me! I can grab the taxpayer's money with both hands, not just one!"

Under the single party control of this administration the deficit is the worst ever, spending is the worst ever, and big brother government is growing with alarming speed. In the face of these problems, Joe says to elect him because he can ensure that Connecticut will get their full share of slop at the public trough. Maybe it will work. Maybe the people of Connecticut will vote for the man with the bigger bucket. Maybe the next President will say "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask how much more your country can do for you than anyone else." And maybe 18 years in the Senate is just too long for anyone to be exposed to the culture of corruption that is Washington D.C. and not be tainted.

Sorry Joe, but it's time to go. We have big problems with this adminstration, and you do not look like part of the solution. You look like part of the problem.

The transcript:

Lieberman, Lamont Spar in Conn. Primary Debate - CQ Transcript
LAMONT:" ... let me talk about the ethical scandals in Washington, D.C., talk about that transportation bill. Talk about that bill with 6,341 earmarks. An earmark is a special piece of pork written by a lobbyist, submitted at the last moment. And it's wrong. It's legal, but it's wrong. If you're not shouting from the rafters that this is wrong, then you're complicit and you're part of the problem.
That bill also included the infamous bridge to nowhere. That's a lot of the waste. Those are the misplaced priorities. Those are the facts that we have 63 lobbyists for every Congressman in Washington, D.C. I think it's so important we get people to Washington, D.C. who are free of lobbyists influence, who can't be bought, who are going stand up and act on behalf of the public good."

LIEBERMAN "... there are earmarks that are good. Is he against the earmarks I put in the bill for $50 million to decrease congestion along I-95, or the money that I got for intermodal transportation centers at New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Stamford, or the money for ferry service from Bridgeport -- New Haven and Stamford to take cars off of I-95? Those are good earmarks which I gather he'll be against.

LAMONT: Look, you want to boast about how many earmarks you bring to the state of Connecticut? Alaska gets 10 times what we do. We're not doing very well on that front. But more importantly, I think we should outlaw these earmarks...
I think we should outlaw these earmarks. I think they corrupt the political process. I think they are written by lobbyists and they're wrong ...I think these things should go through the congressional process. Sir, you have been there for 18 years. You support the earmarks, you work with the lobbyists, and that's what needs to be changed.

LIEBERMAN: The earmarks are great for Connecticut... It helped me save the 31,000 jobs at the sub base in New London. It helps me to clean up Long Island Sound. It helps me to return more money to Connecticut for our transportation funding, and it will help me in the years ahead, which this is all about, not just Iraq. Deliver affordable health care, lower energy prices, make us energy independent, and do something finally about producing new jobs, high-paying jobs for people here in Connecticut."

"I'm the one who saved the 31,000 jobs at EB and a lot of others. I was able to raise the money we got for transportation funding over the next five years, by 20 percent, to $2.5 billion, creating tens of thousands of jobs in construction. I delivered for the state. And that's what I'll do, because I'm not just about one issue. I'm about the people of Connecticut and their well-being.""... Well, the first thing to say is that I built up some seniority, and I'm the second in seniority in the Armed Services Committee and that helps me deliver contracts and jobs for Electric Boat. I was able to insert in a bill $75 million of design work which will keep hundreds of designers and engineers at Electric Boat working.

I am the second in seniority among Democrats on the Public Works Committee. That allows me to return transportation, more transportation and public works money to the state. And I'm supporting legislation that will invest in our schools and training of our workers."

"...I have worked to deliver for the people of this state, and they know it. I have saved the thousands of jobs. I have cleaned up the sound. I have gotten transportation money. And I am the one based on my seniority -- incidentally, I think people have to ask themselves, with all that's at stake in the next six years, could Ned Lamont have saved those 31,000 jobs at the submarine base? Could he deliver the contracts that will save jobs at E.B.? Will he be able to get grants to fuel cell energy companies, and biotech companies here in Connecticut that will create more new jobs and whole new industries?

The "earmarks" comment caught a few other ears ...
Sean at Connecticut Conservative reviewed the debate
Of course, the Porkbusters are all over anything to do with earmarks
Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish made it the "quote of the day"
Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics wonders how earmarks will play in Connecticut.
I was wondering the same thing, Ryan.

UPDATE: Some Connecticut bloggers posted the video, so perhaps we'll find out

Sujal at Fatmixx is conflicted and asks a different earmarks question.
Scarce at My Left Nutmeg posted the video to some "nutmeg" support.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Iraq Independence = Cut and Run = Drawdown = Two Years and Out

I intended to post this on the fourth, but indulged in too much beer, too much barbecue, and too much pursuit of happiness. Just as well, as I can now include the very sound bite from the President's speech at Fort Bragg that almost caused me to swallow a rib: "Setting an artificial timetable would be a terrible mistake,'' the President said. "A timetable would send a signal to Iraq's enemies that if they wait just a little bit longer, America will give up."

And yet, Mr. President, as you know, a timetable is already set. You know it, I know it, Bob Dole knows it, Nouri al-Maliki knows it and General George Casey knows it.

I keep reflectling on what Paul Reickoff said on Hardball last week (posted here). Chris Matthews asked two Iraq/Afganistan war vets and authors if by the year 2008, we will essentially be out of Iraq. Paul responds "... absolutely and I think it‘s because the generals in the Pentagon are going to force him to draw back our presence over there. I just think given the size of the active duty, we‘re very much over committed. And you can‘t continue to run the active duty in the Reserves this hard without a break." Nate Fick adds "I agree with Paul. The active duty force and the reserve force can‘t keep up this pace..."

It just rings true. We have a timetable to get the majority of our combat troops out of Iraq, because our military brass knows that what we are doing now is not sustainable, not win-able and they want our troops out. The deadline is 2008. Now, if it was just these two vets saying this, it could be easily dismissed, but step back and consider what has transpired over the last few weeks.

The debate on Iraq has changed dramatically, even if it seems that no one has noticed. Yes, the pundits are still speaking in easily digestable sound bites, bloggers are still spewing vitriolic partisan venom, and President Bush is still pandering to the base with meaningless phrases like "cut and run" and "stay the course". But the fact is, we are no longer talking about a debate between an undefined "stay the course" vs. an undefined "cut and run". In the last few weeks, there was real meat put on the bones of what Chuck Hagel called "focus-group tested buzz words". Suddenly we have some fairly detailed plans on the table from across the political spectrum. We have a plan from three leading opposition candidates. We have a plan from the prime minister of Iraq, and we have a leaked plan from our top officer on the ground in Iraq. We have also seen a debate of a specific drawdown plan conducted by the representatives of the people of the United States on the floor of the Senate. And - here is the real interesting part - In all of these plans, we are out of a primary combat role Iraq in two years.

So we are no longer arguing about the black and white issue of War or Peace. The debate is now about these shades of gray:
  • Are we out in 18 months Or 24?
  • Do we have a residual force of 1 Division or 4?
  • Will we have permanent bases in Iraq?
  • How many rapid-reaction troops will be deployed "over the horizon" in Kuwait and elsewhere?
This is the Iraq debate now. We are debating "when" and "how", but no longer "if". We will be out of Iraq in two years.

Details and nuance bring complexity. You can't track the plans without a scorecard. As a service to the blogospheric community, I have assembled an outline, summarizing and comparing key elements of these plans, which are linked and excerpted here. This is a first effort, a "beta" version if you will. I intend to keep this spreadsheet updated as details emerge, or until I find a website news story that is doing a better job. Included initially for comparison is the leaked General George Casey "Drawdown and Run" plan, the Biden plan, the Nouri al-Moliki plan, and the Kerry-Feingold resolution. Full spreadsheet linked from image below.

Of course, the right decision is to let the military tell us how they are going to get us out, rather than have drawdown details debated on the Senate floor. General Casey has develeoped a plan, and that makes the Casey plan the right plan.

This is what it boils down to.
The fear from the paranoid left is that General Casey's plan is just a Karl Rove "head-fake" to mollify the electorate until we get past the November elections. This was reinforced by Press spokesman Tony Snow who was all over the story in his briefing the next day. As Kevin Reese put it: "The bubble burst a day later when President Bush and his spokesperson, Tony Snow, played down talk of a withdrawal, saying it was one of many options presented by Casey."

I think the opposite is true. Casey's plan is the real plan. Snow's comments and Bush's pandering are intended to distract the base from the Casey drawdown plan until we get past the November election. I know that long term memory is a liability in the blogosphere, but it was only last April that five retired Generals were calling for Rumsfeld's head. Why would military dissatisfaction with administration strategy be limited to retired generals (who can talk openly) and not active generals (who cannot talk openly)? Last fall, General Casey was quite explicit about the problem with "stay the course", saying that troop reductions were needed to "take away one of the elements that fuels the insurgency, that of the coalition forces as an occupying force. A smaller U.S. presence could deflate some of the anger feeding the insurgency, Casey suggested." Crafting and presenting withdrawal plans to the ideologues in this administration may be the only vehicle for the military to communicate their strategic preference to "cut and run" drawdown the troops. The Casey plan creates a real political problem for Rove. Let's call it "The 38%er Problem" in deference to the hard-core support from 38% of the population that still think the President is doing a good job on Iraq. That 38% must be motivated and turn out in November for the Republicans to retain Congress. In fact, with the redistricting and the political dice heavily loaded for incumbents, that 38% may be all that is needed for the Republicans to retain control. Those 38%ers are motivated by "stay the course" and really do not want to hear anything out of the Bush adminstration except "stay the course". The Casey plan just does not sound like "stay the course". It actually sounds closer to "cut and run". Hence the problem. It is just too hard to explain - even for Karl Rove. An Iraq exit plan now presents real political risk with the core Republican base.

There is only one way to make absolutely certain that the Casey "Cut and Walk" plan is actually implemented, and not shelved or delayed for political gain in 2008. Elect a Democratic Congress in 2006, restore checks and balance to our Federal Government, and let our military lead us out of this morass.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Political slogans like "cut and run" debase debate

Not everyone dances to the catchy political tune of the day. Submitted for your consideration, one more reason why Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska tops my ranking for President in 2008. In this recent speech on the Senate floor, he demonstrates the independence, intelligence, and integrity we need in Washington today.

"Congress fails in its duty when we do not probe, we fail when we do not ask tough questions, and we fail when we do not debate the great issues of our day. There is no issue more important than war. The war in Iraq is the defining issue on which this Congress and this administration will be judged. The American people want to see serious debate about serious issues from serious leaders. They deserve more than a political debate. This debate should transcend cynical attempts to turn public frustration with the war in Iraq into an electoral advantage. It should be taken more seriously than to simply retreat into focus-group tested buzz words and phrases like "cut and run",” catchy political slogans that debase the seriousness of war. War is not a partisan issue, Mr. President. It should not be held hostage to political agendas. War should not be drug down into the political muck. America deserves better. Our men and women fighting and dying deserve better. " - Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
So let's review. To apply the DWSUWF voting strategy, and secure the blessings of Divided Government for ourselves and our posterity, we first vote for Democratic control of at least one house in 2006. Then, with the executive and legislative branches split between the parties, we can safely support Republican Chuck Hagel for President in 2008.

Any questions?