Saturday, December 29, 2007

Republican Like Me

[with apologies to Black Like Me author John Howard Griffin.*]

MW - Democrat MW - Republican
On the left, MW ( D), providing aid and comfort to the enemy.
On the right, MW (R) , soliciting illegal corporate contributions to lobby corrupt members of congress for political favors.

For a year the idea had haunted me, and Thursday night it returned more insistently than ever. If a Democrat became a Republican in San Francisco, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on political belief, something over which one has limited control? This speculation was sparked again by the blog post glowing on the laptop screen in the den of the high rise condominium that served as my office. It was Jon Swift's "Best Blog Posts of 2007" year end round-up, linking my June 23rd screed explaining why I must become Republican in order to preserve divided government. In an overlapping window on the screen, a story from the LA Times [1] showing how new California Republican primary rules might work to Ron Paul's advantage in heavy Democratic districts like San Francisco. As few as 7,000 Ron Paul votes in San Francisco (California Congressional District 8) could garner as many delegates at the Republican convention for Ron Paul as the Republican winner in "Loyal Bushie" territory like Orange County. Another window was open to the December 5th Evans-Novak Report - Money quote: "Republican confidence about winning the presidency actually has declined... We have had several Republicans tell us ... they wondered not only about the outcome of the '08 presidential election but also the long-range future of the GOP."

If it was that bad for Republicans in the rest of the country, what would it be like for Republicans in San Francisco? I feared for the local Republicans, despite the assurances of the supposedly "tolerant" Democratic San Francisco Mayor and all Democratic Board of Supervisors, who continue to insist they represent a culturally diverse community, committed to tolerance and the the rights of all, claiming to accept and embrace people of all colors, creeds, religions, sexual orientations, and beliefs. "Right." I thought. "They tolerate everyone except Republicans". I lingered on, looking out at the view of Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay. My wife slept in the room next door. I sat there, surrounded by the cool ocean breeze coming through my open window, listening to the sea lions barking in Fisherman's Wharf, unable to leave, unable to sleep.

How else except by becoming a Republican could a Democrat hope to learn the truth? Though we lived side by side throughout the blogosphere, communication between the two political parties had simply ceased to exist. Neither really knew what went on with those of the other party. The Republicans will not tell the Democrats the truth. In 2006 they learned that if unpleasant truth is revealed to Democrats, the Democrats will cause Republicans to lose elections and go to jail.

The only way I could see to bridge the gap between us was to become a Republican. I decided I would do this. I prepared to walk into a life that appeared suddenly mysterious and frightening. With my decision to become a Republican, I realized that I, a political blogger, knew nothing of the Republican's real problem. I knew then that I must enter 2008 as a Republican.

Friday was gray, cold, wet and depressing, matching my mood perfectly. Except for the wet part. I donned my best "Jack Abramoff" trenchcoat, and walked down the hill to City Hall.

MW in front of SF City Hall, enjoying his last few minutes as a Democrat

The San Francisco Department of Elections is in the basement of City Hall. It was a short easy form. In a few minutes the painless procedure was over. I was a Republican. I asked the clerk if I was the only Republican in San Francisco. "No." she said as she turned her back and walked away. "There are some others." She didn't seem interested in talking to me, would not meet my eyes, and behaved as if I was not even there. "I am still me..." I thought. "I have not changed." Yet, somehow it seemed things had changed around me.

As I walked out, I stopped to look at a memorial in City Hall for soldiers of the Army's 363rd Infantry Regiment, the unit called "San Francisco's Own." The memorial commemorates the combat action of the unit in the 1918 Battle of the Meuse-Argonne. The plaque says "360 killed, 980 wounded..,Distance advanced into enemy territory 34 kilometers." On the way in, as a Democrat, I wondered if those 34 kilometers were really worth the 1,340 casualties. On the way out, as a Republican, I was ashamed of myself for not supporting the troops and questioning the wisdom of our WWI leadership.

In the rotunda a wedding was in progress. A heterosexual wedding. In front of a Christmas tree. My first thought - "Bill O'Reilly needs to know about this." Maybe there is some hope for The City.

Walking back I stopped at a Starbucks on the corner of California and Van Ness to warm up. Earlier in the day, as a Democrat, I had ordered a Vente Double Latte with organic Guatemalan espresso regalo, certified grown without exploitive labor practices, half caf, half decaf, no-fat milk. Now, as a Republican, all I wanted was a small coffee - black.

When I got home, I thought back to what the election clerk told me, but found no comfort knowing I was not the only Republican in San Francisco. I refused to wallow in self-pity. After all, being a Republican in San Francisco could not be any worse than a Libertarian lesbian lawyer becoming a Republican in Arizona. I had it easy. But I would need help facing this brave new world. I sat down, poured myself a scotch, and flipped on Fox News.

UPDATE: 3-Jan-07
[1] The referenced LA Times article disappeared behind the their pay to read firewall. For now, the article is still visible in google cache and the relevant paragraph is quoted below:
"Under the rules, whoever wins in San Francisco's District 8 -- represented by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and containing 34,000 registered Republicans -- will receive the same number of delegates as the top vote-getter in Orange County District 48, held by John Campbell, with 200,000 Republicans. In Pelosi's district, the winning threshold is low. Primary voter turnout historically is less than 50%, which means fewer than 17,000 Republicans are likely to vote. With a wide field of candidates, the number of votes to win a plurality -- and the district's three delegates -- is likely to be just a few thousand." - Scott Martelle, LA Times

[ * NOTE: The first five paragraphs of this post are a paraphrase of John Howard Griffin's seminal work "Black Like Me" and includes direct quotations from the book. It is a reflection of the state of American education that I feel I have to explain this here.]

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I like me! I really like me!

Blogger Jon Swift is first out the door with a compilation of the best blog posts of 2007, in a post creatively titled - "Best Blog Posts of 2007". DWSUWF is not going to quibble and point out that 2007 is not quite over, and that there are still five days and 137 million more blog posts for Jon Swift to choose from before the 2008 ball drops in Times Square. Jon's selected posts were nominated by the bloggers on his blog roll, an exclusive club whose membership is limited to those bloggers that also list Jon Swift in their blog roll. As DWSUWF is a member in good standing of the Jon Swift blogroll, DWSUWF was entrusted with the nomination of DWSUWF's best post of the year.

This from the DWSUWF nominating submission:
My favorite post of 2007 is my 6-23-2007 post: "I change my underwear political party affiliation." which I also cross posted at Justin Gardner's Donklephant.
This was an important post as I single-handedly stemmed the tide of defections from the Republican Party, by committing publicly to converting to Republicanism and restore the GOP to the pre-Bloomberg defection membership level. I also like this post because (atypically for me) I successfully maintained a single metaphorical theme for well over 50% of the post. In addition, I was able to illustrate the point of the post by promoting my new line of DWSUWF Logo thongs.
DWSUWF is humbled to have our post included in Jon's compilation. But DWSUWF does not want to sound narcissistic. DWSUWF is not just interested in DWSUWF's opinion of which 2007 DWSUWF post is best. Certainly not. DWSUWF is also interested in you, the DWSUWF reader's opinion of which 2007 DWSUWF post was best. Feel free to offer your opinion in the comments, which (if DWSUWF deigns to accept it) will not moderated out of existence.

When you finish leaving your comment here, head over to Jon Swift - in addition to the excellent DWSUWF post, there are a lot of other really good posts linked for your reading enjoyment, and with Memeorandum linking him, you don't want to be the only one to miss it. Check it out.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government Duodêvîcêsimus - Special Winter Solstice Edition

UPDATED: 23-Dec-07
Welcome to the December 21, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Divided Government Duodêvîcêsimus - Special Winter Solstice Edition.

Winter Solstice

Ahh - the winter solstice. The shortest and darkest day of the year. At precisely 11:08 PM PST, 21-December-07, the earth leans a maximum 23 degrees off of our orbital plane, and then starts leaning back. It is the moment that we in the northern hemisphere begin to observe the return of the light. It is literally the darkest, yet the most optimistic of holidays, pregnant with the promise of spring, the hope of fertility, and the bounty of a new year. Is there any other calendar observance that offers such a mix of science, myth, art, mathematics, mystery, tradition, sex, archeology and history? Religions and cultures, ancient and modern, find reason to note and celebrate the day. The only thing missing is politics. Who better to remedy that gap than DWSUWF? If not us, who? If not now, when?


As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the duodêvîcêsimus edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. Without further ado the top 10 light bringing Divided Government posts and articles, since our last carnival ...


We begin with William Wilson who found a "A Gift from Divided Government" under his Winter Solstice Tree at Townhall:
"While the professional commentators and self-appointed gurus bemoan “gridlock” and the ills of divided government in Washington, the actual results of inaction are a blessing for all those who believe in constitutional principles and the Bill of Rights... Divided government has proven itself the best defender of liberty we have. Hopefully we can keep it that way. And with the FEC dark and as impotent as they seek to make the average citizen, there’s a good chance at success."
The gift that William unwrapped, was the handcuffed FEC, shackled by the political bickering of our happily divided government. Divided government - The gift that keeps on giving.

Heath at the The Everyday Republican quotes and agrees with Stephen Moore editorializing about another gift in the Wall Street Journal and offering "One Budget Cheer" for divided government:
"House Republicans voted against the omnibus bill en masse, but the truth is that many of them and their Senate brethren privately wanted it to pass as much as Democrats did. They want their earmarks too... The larger lesson of this year is that divided government has its uses. By using his veto pen, and with the help of House Republicans in particular, Mr. Bush has been able to reduce the rate of spending growth and continue to shape policy. The Schip health care vetoes were especially important in showing Democrats that the GOP couldn't be easily rolled, despite a media assault and GOP Senate surrender. That's more than we expected, even if it's not as much as Mr. Bush might have achieved. May we have even more virtuous gridlock next year."
Could not have said it better myself.

Peter Boettke at The Austrian Economists is on the horns of dilemma deciding w
hich is worse - the current Bush presidency or the prospect of a Clinton presidency in his post "Is George Bush the Worst President in my lifetime?":
"My attitude toward politics remains extremely cynical, if somewhat more depressing now than ever before. I tend to follow the idea that you can either laugh or cry at politics and I have always more or less laughed at the buffoonery , but the cumulative effect of Bush's policies is hard to laugh at --- especially since the prospects for a post-Bush push for pro-liberty policies is so unlikely. The prospect of the next President Clinton is scary because she will not be blocked by divided government and her ideas are 100% worse in terms of statism than even Bill's were."
Peter, stop the hand wringing. The answer is in your post. We just have to vote to keep it divided.

Muckdog at the The Trading Goddess has the divided government gift thing figured out, and put it on Santa's list in "Checkin' it Twice":
"The 2008 election circus is already in overdrive. Once the holidays are over, we're going to be hit with 24x7 election coverage. It's definitely a bad time for a writer's strike, as the only competition for election coverage will be battle of the choirs or other nonsense. I think politics is a bunch of noise, and I favor divided government (aka, gridlock). The more that gets vetoed or stalls out in the process, the better off we are. I'm a fiscal conservative, so I'm hoping the winners in 2008 can balance the budget and keep taxes low."
Agreed. But if you favor it Muckdog, and you want this gift from Santa, you've got to work for it, and vote for it.

Missy thinks our divided and divisive government is a result of the"Self-Interest of Political Parties" posted at American Flag Waver, where she provides a history lesson on how we started on the path we find ourselves now:
"By the time the 1828 election rolled around, Jackson supporters had rallied and the birth of new ways of conducting campaigns occurred. Open air rallies, torchlight parades, debates and media endorsements took the place of ethical dignity. Martin Van Buren “believed that division and conflict were constructive and should become a permanent feature of American politics.” He supported Jackson and subsequently took the office of President after Jackson. I’d like to think the results of those tumultuous years weren’t exactly what those men intended. I find it hard to imagine Jackson, Clay or Adams in a mud-slinging battle such as we see today. I’d like to think their desire for the office of President was because they felt they could do good for this country and its people. Today’s politicians appear to be more interested in power and what it can do for them and less interested in what they can contribute to the welfare of the United States."
Missy does not give our founding father's enough credit. I agree with Martin Van Buren that this state of partisan bickering was exactly what they had in mind. They were all too familiar with politicians more interested in promoting their self-interest over that of the country. It was James Madison in the Federalist Papers that said "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition." Divided government reinforces that notion. Single party control undermines the constitutional checks and balances that the founders intended.

Betsy at Betsy's page is also offering to provide a little tutoring suggesting that "Perhaps we need more education on how Congress works":
"I hope that Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters know better. They've both been around long enough to know how Congress works and that the majority can't push through whatever they want especially when there is divided government. It was always extremely doubtful that policy was going to be directed out of the House of Representatives. The Senate allows for the minority to stall and block legislation as long as they can stick together. Given that the Democrats had been adept at utilizing those rules when the Republicans were in the majority was there any real reason to think that Republicans wouldn't return the favor?"
No, none at all. That is exactly why we are getting more libertarian friendly results now with a Democratic Congress and a divided government than we were getting with Republican Congress and a unified Republican government. It's really quite simple.

Speaking of education, we have this diary by Chris Bowers from the school of "If you don't agree with me, you are a fascist." posted at Open Left with an apparently irony-free title of "Bi-Partisan Consensus Fascists":
"Over the last forty years, a time period covering the span of even pundits like David Broder, there have been thirty years of divided government in Washington, D.C. The long runs of Democratic and Republican trifectas that preceded those forty years have been forgotten. "getting things done" has always meant negotiating a path between two parties. For aging pundits it will always mean just that. The result is an authoritarian belief in some sort of fake bi-partisan consensus, will of the people be dammed. It doesn't help that the punditry is just about the whitest, oldest and most male profession in a country that is growing more diverse every day."
I dunno, since Chris is so dismissive of "authoritarian belief in some sort of fake bi-partisan consensus" I can only assume he must be a supporter of a "democratic belief in real single party authoritarianism" - or something.

Frank DiPinto at the Cool Blue Blog is also a bit confused. I had high hopes when I started to read his post "Divided government works pretty good":
"Back when the 2006 election results came in, Scalzi professed his love for divided government. When I asked if that meant he would be voting for a Republican President in 2008 since Democrats owned Congress, I didn't get an answer. I admit, though, that I was skeptical of the whole divided government thing: namely today's Democratic Party in charge of Congress. Turns out I'm pretty happy with the results... on the budget issue, I have to say, the spending restraint would not have been possible had the Republicans kept control of Congress. So yeah, I'm pretty happy with the results. Scalzi, not so much. In fact the only thing he got right was the divided government being a good thing part."
Sigh. He starts out so great! But then he finishes the post with this -
"The best thing that can happen now is for Republicans to convince the voting population that they have learned their lesson and get back in control of Congress. The divided government thing has served its purpose. It's time for the return of the adults."
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie. The best thing that can happen is for you to learn the lesson of your post. Put the Republicans back in charge of the legislature and the executive and we will get exactly what we had for the last six years. The lesson is that Republican or Democrat, we are dealing with self serving politicians first, who, regardless of party, will succumb to the temptations of earmarks and campaign contributions. The difference between single party Republican and and single party Democratic government is simply which special interest pigs will be invited to feed at the trough.

Tim Shaughnessy reported in the The Shreveport Times on DWSUWF favorite William Niskanen, lecturing at the Southern Economic Association conference in New Orleans in his story "Cato Institute chairman offers useful advice":
"A third theme he discussed was the idea that, despite the calls for bipartisanship, the best times for taxpayers is when government is politically divided. Government grows wildly when both houses of Congress and the president are of the same party; it is restrained when the two parties combat each other over legislation and budgets. Sadly, we may only be able to enjoy two years of divided government, sandwiched between the earlier six and future eight years of unified partisan power."
I think of Willima Niskanen as The Godfather of Divided Government.

Finally, I have to include fellow Ron Paul supporter D.K. of "It's a Free Country" who posted a review of our efforts here in a post coincidently entitled"Divided We Stand, United We Fall":
"This unique site declares that divided government is better for us than unified government. By divided, I mean an executive branch and legislative branch controlled by separate parties, whereas by unified I mean one-party rule over both branches. DWSUWF states that we are best served by voting in such a manner that we continuously divide our government and pit the parties against each other into gridlock..."
So far, so good, D.K.
"We’ve certainly seen some positive outcomes from the November 2006 divided government, such as a President locating his veto pen for the first time in 7 years, as well as congressional oversight that has been long since missing..."
Yes. yes.
"Unfortunately, a lot of things divided government is supposed to fix have failed to be fixed. For example, the Democrats are now expected to allow Senate Republicans to attach tens of billions of dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a $500 billion-plus government wide spending bill... That would be in exchange for Republican support on a huge domestic spending measure, and we’ve already seen a huge domestic spending measure take place once already, one that included subsidies to nearly every kind of industry that federal government has no business supporting... We have seen no end to the wars that divided government was elected to curtail.. We seen no change in the destruction of the 4th Amendment and our civil rights - no change in the Patriot Act ...Considering all that, I find it hard to accept that divided government is working this time around."
Now that is really annoying. So close. So very, very close. But D.K. took a big wrong turn there in his analysis. Look D.K. - In every example you cite, under divided government there has been incremental improvement over the state we were in with single party control a year ago. No - divided government is not a magic incantation that can change things overnight. We don't live at Hogwarts with Harry Potter. We live in the United States and our government just does not work that way. One year of incremental improvement under a divided government cannot undo the damage caused by six years of disastrous single party control. But things are better than they were a year ago. And it is better than it would have been if the Republicans had maintained control of Congress. And it will be better in another year than it is now. Still, D.K. - I enjoyed your post, and appreciate the link and thoughtful review.

UPDATED: 23-December-07
I don't know how I missed this post, but it's too good not to include in this carnival. Ilya Somin is effusive "In Praise of Divided Government" at the Volokh Conspiracy:

"In a series of posts last September (see here and here), I predicted that the cause of limited government would be better off if the Democrats took control of at least the House of Representatives. I reasoned that Bush would be more likely to oppose new government programs passed by the Democrats than those advanced by his own Party. The Democrats, for their part, would be unlikely to enact new government-expanding initiatives advocated by Bush, such as the major expansions of federal spending and regulation that he pushed through Congress in his first term. So far, this prediction has held true. Bush and the congressional Republicans have prevented the Democrats from passing most of their government-expanding agenda. The Democrats, in turn, have taken away from Bush the option of pursuing a big government agenda of his own (as he did in the first term with his prescription drug and education bills). Historically, divided government has been a boon for limited government, and the past year has been no exception. There has been one other major benefit of divided government over the past year: it forced Bush to shift to a more effective strategy in Iraq. Ironically, it is a strategy (increasing troop levels; pushing for Sunni-Shiite political compromise) that many Democrats had rightly advocated in 2004-2005 but abandoned by the 2006 election. Had the Republicans held on to control of Congress in 2006, it is highly unlikely that Bush would have changed course on Iraq as radically as he did. In my pre-2006 election posts, I correctly predicted that the Democrats would not be able to force a withdrawal from Iraq and speculated that they might provide some "adult supervision" over the administrations' mishandling of Iraq's reconstruction. I did not anticipate, however, that Bush would change his failed policy as much as he actually did."

Good stuff Ilya. Coincidently, I also had a "series of posts in September predicting that the cause of limited government would be better off if the Democrats took control of at least the House of Representatives." Actually, practically every post on this blog since it's founding in April 2006 has been predicting that the objective of limited government would be better served if we elect and maintain divided government. Glad to have you on board.

Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock. For this edition, we seemed to attract several posts in support of Ron Paul, no doubt due to the Ron Paul badge in the left sidebar. Well, since the only way to maintain divided government into 2009 is to elect a Republican president, and Ron Paul is the only declared Republican President I can stand, I have decided to go ahead and include all the submitted Ron Paul posts without comment:

So sue me.

With that we conclude this edition.Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government ûndêvîcênsimus - Special New Years Hangover Edition, which we resolve to post on Wednesday, January 2. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Thursday, December 20, 2007

DWSUWF Returns &
The AMT rises from the grave.

I'm back. Actually, Mrs. DWSUWF and I got back from our month long Sahara adventure over ten days ago. Yes, that is me pictured with some new friends I made in the West Africa desert a few weeks ago. It was the trip of a lifetime and, frankly, since returning I have been more interested in transcribing our travel journal/photos, rather than wading back into domestic politics. Anyone interested can find more than you want to know about our trip on the mobile blog or if you are just curious about my new friends, that story is posted here.

So what have I missed?

When I left, Charlie Rangel was promoting a revenue neutral fix of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and in my last post more than a month ago, I weighed in with some (faint) praise for the the proposal. I concluded that, on balance, the benefit of getting rid of the truly onerous AMT outweighed the negative aspects of raising taxes on the top brackets to pay for it:
"Getting rid of the AMT is an important incremental step in the right direction. Rangel's bill accomplishes this in a fiscally responsible manner, even if the top ten percent must pay a little more to finally put a stake through the heart of this undead bloodsucking tax code vampire."
This morning I heard President Bush whining that the Democratic Congress took too long to get the AMT fix to his desk:
"Bush also complained that legislation to protect middle- and upper-middle-class families "from the burden of the alternative minimum tax" came so late that it was likely to slow the processing of tens of billions of dollars in tax refunds. "When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas, it is not a responsible way to run this government," Bush said."
Of course this begs the question of exactly what the Republican Congress was doing about the AMT for the SIX YEARS before the Democratic Congress got something to him this year - but I wondered - exactly what actually did pass? From Jeffrey Birnbaum writing at the Washington Post:
"Had the patch not been approved, 81 percent of taxpayers with taxable incomes of $100,000 to $200,000 would have been affected by the AMT, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. Nearly half of taxpayers who earn $75,000 to $100,000 would also have been affected without yesterday's legislation. Thanks to the bill, however, 10 percent of those who make $100,000 to $200,000 and fewer than 2 percent of taxpayers who earn $75,000 to $100,000 will now have to pay the AMT. Overall, 4 million households will have to pay the tax, about the same number as in 2006...

On Tuesday, the Senate rejected a House-passed AMT patch that would have covered its cost by closing offshore tax havens used by hedge fund managers. The Senate earlier rejected a House plan that would have increased the tax rate on managers of hedge funds and private-equity firms."
It's a band-aid, not a cure. The AMT vampire still walks the earth sucking the lifeblood from middle class taxpayers. The patch is the equivalent of putting garlic around the neck of some 2007 taxpayers to keep the undead AMT ghoul at bay, just to let it slake it's blood thirst on other unprotected 2007 middle class taxpayers. And in 2008???
"Congress next year must patch the AMT again or force millions of families to pay more tax. The patch's revenue loss then will rise to $65 billion, an amount that Andrew B. Lyon of Pricewaterhouse Coopers said would be "extremely difficult" to raise."
Net net: The same number of people who got screwed by the AMT on their 2006 taxes will get screwed again on 2007 tax returns. The AMT problem has simply been pushed out of sight/out of mind over the November, 2008 election horizon. It will have to be addressed again (or not) next December after we have elected a new President and Congress. This shell game is what we got from tRepublican obstruction in the Senate instead of putting a stake through the heart of the AMT now and paying for it from higher taxes on Hedge and Private Equity funds/managers. The middle class still carries the load. And GWB and the Republicans in the Senate seem to think that this is somehow a superior solution because ??????

You got me. Whatever. The GOP needs a lot of help. I'll see what I can do.

It'll take me a while to ramp back up, but I should have DWSUWF back in full focus when we get past the holidays and in time for the Iowa/New Hampshire returns.

In the meantime, what better way to wade back in, than an all new Carnival of Divided Government? In honor of Bill O'Reilly winning the war against Christmas while we were gone, we'll be publishing the latest edition precisely at the moment of the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice - tomorrow, December 21, 2007 at 11:08 PM PST. There is still time to get your submission in, blog articles may be submitted for the next carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form, but a reminder - if your post does not include the words "divided government" - don't bother.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In Praise of Congress

Wherein DWSUWF implements a self imposed Fairness Doctrine,
and gives the Democratic Congress equal time.

In praise of the 110th Congress
Most of the DWSUWF “divided government” posts since last year's mid-term election have focused on the need to elect a Republican president to maintain divided government into 2009 (examples here, here, here, and here). The reason is simple. Due to structural elements in the 2008 Senatorial contest, Republican resignations, and the continuing political unpopularity of the President, an expanded Democratic majority in the Senate is a foregone conclusion and a Democratic super-majority in the Senate (60 votes) is within reach. A Democratic majority in the House of Representative is also certain to continue and will probably increase. DWSUWF has focused on the presidential race specifically because electing a Republican president is the only path to re-electing a divided government state and continuing to enjoy the benefits of divided government into 2009. As a result of this single minded focus on the 2008 presidential election DWSUWF has short changed the other side of the divided government coin - our Democratic Congress. I will attempt to address that oversight now.

Both the President and Congress continue to take a beating in the approval polls. From a recent AP-Ipsos poll:

“Thirty-two percent approved of President Bush's performance in this month's Associated Press-Ipsos poll, about the same as last month's all-time low for him in the survey of 31 percent...: Twenty-five percent approved of the way Congress is handling its job, a slight increase from the 22 percent who approved last month, a record low in the four-year-old AP-Ipsos poll.”

Not coincidently, the President has been ratcheting up his rhetoric with a Congress-bashing offensive “surge”. Oddly enough, while both the Executive and Legislative approval ratings are pathetic, Congressional approval ratings have increased more than the Presidents during this Federal branch steel cage match. The President's Oct 30 White House remarks may explain why the administrations partisan political surge has been less than effective.
“President George W. Bush lashed out at Congress Tuesday, the third time he has done so in two weeks... Its failure to send a single annual appropriations bill to his desk, he said, amounted to "the worst record for a Congress in 20 years ... We're near the end of the year, and there really isn't much to show for it. The House of Representatives has wasted valuable time on a constant stream of investigations, and the Senate has wasted valuable time on an endless series of failed votes to pull our troops out of Iraq... This is not what congressional leaders promised when they took control of Congress earlier this year."

So - the President is complaining that spending increases have been contained due to congressional inaction, while congressional action has focused on a means to end the Iraq war and aggressive oversight of an administration guilty of criminal activity at the highest levels (Remember Scooter? Commuting an “excessive” sentence does not make Libby any less guilty or any less criminal. Criminal Obstruction of Justice was proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the office of the Vice President.) As a consequence of the “time wasting investigations” other potentially illegal activities and extra-constitutional overreach of surveillance authority have been exposed and admitted in the F.B.I, Justice Department, and N.S.A, some engaging major telecom corporations as co-conspirators.

Excuse me, Mr. President, but that is exactly what congressional leaders promised at the beginning of the year. Moreover, that is exactly what DWSUWF hoped for when we advocated voting for a Democratic Congress and a divided government one year ago. Call me contrary, but include me in that 25% that think this Congress is doing a good job, even a great job. Sure, much of the good stuff in Congress is happening in spite of themselves, and purely as an artifact of gridlock and divided government. What do I care? I love this Congress.

In praise of my congressional representative.
Pollsters and pundits note that even when there is great dissatisfaction in Congress as a whole, constituents perversely tend to approve the performance of their own representative. So it follows that if I am satisfied with Congress, I must love my representative. This is true. I live in California Congressional District 8 and am represented by Nancy Pelosi. She is the best. Sure, I was a little tough on Nancy at the beginning of the year with that unseemly power grab, and I find her blind support of the corrupt Jack Murtha rather annoying, but overall she has done one hell of a job. I am more than happy to turn over some blog space to Nancy Pelosi to explain for herself what Congress has accomplished in the last 11 months:
“One year ago, the American people entrusted their hopes and their dreams, their aspirations for themselves, for their families, and for the future in this New Direction Congress. We come here today with great confidence and pride in what we have achieved and what remains for us to be done. I am proud to stand before the majority House Democratic Caucus and salute them, from our chairmen to our newest members, for their great leadership on behalf of the American people... We have begun to restore accountability by making this the most honest, open, and accountable Congress in history. We are holding the Bush Administration accountable for its failed policies in Iraq. Because our first responsibility is to make America safer, we will never stop fighting for a New Direction in Iraq. A direction that strengthens our military, refocuses on the real war on terrorism, and brings greater stability to the region. Every day we will work hard to bring our troops home safely, honorably and soon. With faith in the future, the New Direction Congress will continue to make progress for America’s children. With faith in God, I know that we will succeed. Thank you."
I'm good with that. Did we get everything we expected from this Congress over the last 11 months? Far from it. Nancy understands that, and understands that Iraq is the single biggest source of American frustration with Congress and the reason for their low approval rating. How could it be otherwise when 70% of Americans understand that the Iraq adventure was/is a mistake?

Yes, Nancy understands it, even if Tom Foreman distorts her statement with misleading editing on CNN.

Two reasons why I know that Pelosi is doing a great job:

1) Republican reaction.
Republicans tried to hold on to their majority House in 2006 by invoking the specter of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House as no less terrifying than a Balrog in the mines of Moria. But now, the best they can up with is stuff like this.

2) Democratic reaction.
In the meantime, on the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are so happy with Nancy Pelosi that they just can't say enough about her. Republicans must just love watching the Democrats eat their own. Cindy Sheehan is even mounting an independent bid for her congressional seat. No matter, Nancy Pelosi is wildly popular with her constituents, like me.
Anyone who can piss off the activists of both parties, hold her leadership role, show real results in Congress, while continuing to fight the good fight on Iraq is doing something right. Leadership is not a popularity contest. Nancy Pelosi is providing real leadership for the loyal opposition in a divided government that accurately reflects a divided country.

In (faint) praise of HR Bill 3996
On November 9th, the House of Representatives passed HR Bill 3996 - The Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 [PDF]. I was quite pleasantly surprised by this bill, particularly given how the Republicans invoked the image of Charlie Rangel chairing Ways and Means as a bogeyman to be feared almost as much as the great satan Pelosi herself before the midterms.

As a small "l" libertarian leaning Democrat Republican, I put more emphasis on practical political results vs. strict adherence to Libertarian Party dogma. This means that I will support a compromise bill that provides incremental libertarian improvement, even very small incremental improvements. Dale Franks "neolibertarian" description is a useful rule of thumb in this regard:

"When given a set of policy choices,

* The choice that maximizes personal liberty is the best choice.

* The policy choice that offers the least amount of necessary government intervention or regulation is the best choice.

* The policy choice that provides rational, market-based incentives is the best choice."

The bill is an attempt to undo the damage from a particularly onerous and badly implemented bit of past government action. Specifically the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which (in concert with inflation) continues to drive more and more of the American middle class into carrying a higher tax burden than was intended HR 3996 is a reasonable effort to fix problems in the tax code that are hurting a lot of people in the middle class. It allows the majority of taxpayers, including all the middle class (upper, middle, lower) to get off of the automatic annual AMT tax increase escalator and does so in a revenue neutral manner. Republican critics attack the bill on the basis that it imposes a surtax on income above $200,000 in order to meet PAYGO requirements (no new deficit increasing bills), and will be a net tax increase if the Bush tax cuts are permitted to expire on schedule in total. This is an unlikely scenario, and in any case is a red herring argument when applied to this bill. Issues related to extending the Bush Tax cuts should and will be addressed when that legislation is considered, and not be imposed on this bill.

Rangel spokesman Matthew Beck defends the bill against its critics:
"That sort of reaction from many advisers "ignores that this bill would provide overwhelming tax relief to more than 91 million families," said Matthew Beck, spokesman for the Democratic membership of the House Ways and Means Committee. Under Mr. Rangel's proposal, that many families would receive substantial tax relief, Mr. Beck said, while some 1.7 million taxpayers would see an increase in their tax liability. The tax relief would extend to small-business owners, Mr. Beck added. Criticism "also ignores a significant reduction in the corporate-tax rate," which has been advocated by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Mr. Beck said. Corporate-tax rates would be lowered to 30.5%, from the current rate of 35%, but many companies would lose deductions they currently enjoy."
The apparent Republican case is that the AMT should be repealed, without any revenue offsets to maintain a tax neutral result. Given the wild out of control spending of the last six years of single party Republican control in Washington, an additional overall tax cut here, (as is seemingly being advocated by the Republicans attacking the bill) would just push more of the burden on to the next generation to pay for it. At some point the piper will be paid in either taxes or inflation, and the Republicans seem only to happy to have the cost of their war and new entitlement programs paid by our children and grandchildren.

Is the bill perfect? Far from it. My strong preference would be for a radical overhaul of the tax code, applying as flat a tax as politically feasible with as few exceptions as possible. That option is not in the cards. HR Bill 3996 is incrementally better than what we have now. Sometimes, incremental improvement is as good as a small "l" libertarian can hope for. Sure, it would be great to see all income taxes flattened and lowered, but Rangel is a Democrat after all. It is not like the Republicans even made an effort to get rid of the AMT during their 6 years of big spending, big deficit, big government single party control. In fact, the disingenuous Republican argument ignores the fact that the Republican controlled Congress was only too willing to let AMT creep raise additional revenue to partially fund their earmark and spending explosion in the first six years of the administration.

Getting rid of the AMT is an important incremental step in the right direction. Rangel's bill accomplishes this in a fiscally responsible manner, even if the top ten percent must pay a little more to finally put a stake through the heart of this undead bloodsucking tax code vampire.

Note to MB - See you in Ouagadougou.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

DWSUWF takes a holiday.

Today MW and Mrs. MW begin our second great travel adventure in Africa. Our first was more than a dozen years ago, and also marked my first effort creating a web page. The end result was a travel journal on the (then) new World Wide Web. That time it was Southern Africa, this time it is Western Africa - Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

Why West Africa? You got me. I asked Mrs. MW the same question about our trip to South Africa, and it was one of the great experiences of my life. I don't ask any more. Mrs. MW is a closet anthropologist/archaeologist, always wanted to explore this part of the world, so we are going. I am just along for the ride. I think it was Kurt Vonnegut that said "Unexpected travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." Cue the music.

I am informed by Verizon that my TREO 700 will not work anywhere we are going to be, including London - so it stays home. I am bringing an old laptop, will attempt to maintain a journal on the mobile blog as we go, but am not optimistic once we leave Dakar. I may even feel compelled to post on DWSUWF - infrastructure, time and technology permitting. For the most part, I expect it will be a political blogging holiday, which will make Mrs. MW happy.

In the meantime, my brother HDW has agreed to blog-sit DWSUWF while I am gone. Where I consider myself a libertarian leaning to the right, HDW is a libertarian leaning to the left. Actually he is more solidly left, but leaning libertarian. Well, he might really be a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, that just thinks he is libertarian. Whatever. While an enthusiastic supporter of the divided government thesis in the 2006 mid-terms, let's just say that he is considerably less enthusiastic about voting for a Republican President in 2008 to keep the government divided. He can explain himself. The point, is that if/when he posts anything here, I am likely as not to disagree with it, and may need to rebut it on my return. It'll make for a more politically diverse and interesting blog.

On a less political note, HDW has done the trailblazing for our trip to Mali. It was through his participation in a Northwestern University NUAMP's project, that we learned of the great historical libraries of Timbuktu, and the project to digitally document some of the thousands of ancient texts that still reside there. Hopefully we will meet some of the team he works with in our few days in Timbuktu at the end of our trip.

Back in December. Out.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You are very welcome, Ron.
[Note to David Frum: Your problem is obvious.]

From my e-mail inbox Monday:
"Thank you very much for your donation of $100.00 to the Ron Paul 2008 Presidential Campaign. Your donation will allow us to expand and grow our campaign.We depend on donors like you to help us spread the message of freedom, peace and prosperity through Ron Paul’s candidacy. Thanks for being a part of the campaign!"
After returning from a weekend abalone dive adventure, the Ron Paul "money bomb", timed for Guy Fawkes day, got my attention. It was time to put my money where my mouth is, and contribute to the Paul campaign. I would have preferred to send it to Chuck Hagel, but since he is AWOL, Paul gets my primary contribution. Turns out I was a below average contributor.

From Tuesday's inbox:
"Amazing! I have to admit being floored by the $4.2 million dollars you raised yesterday for this campaign. And unlike the fatcat operations of the opposition, the average contribution from our 36,672 donors was $103. I say "you raised," because this historic event was created, organized, and run by volunteers. This is the spirit that has protected American freedom in our past; this is the spirit that is doing so again. Some of the mainstream media have sat up and taken notice. Others have pooh-poohed our record online fundraising. But the day is coming--far faster than they know--when they will not be able to ignore our freedom revolution."
The reaction in the blogosphere and MSM was amusing and interesting. I caught Ron Paul being interviewed on Tucker. Paul seemed genuinely bemused by the success of the effort. Tucker Carlson couldn't believe that Ron Paul had never met the individual who instigated the one day Guy Fawkes "Money bomb" effort. I'll link the video if/when I find it. The MSNBC video link appears to be broken, but here is the transcript:
"CARLSON: Now, this fundraising success took place on what in Great Britain is Guy Fawkes Day, which was the day foiling the plot to blow up the house of Parliament in the 17th century. Why that day. What is the significance for you?

PAUL: No significance to me. Other than fact that now I know that November 5th is an important day in fundraising. But I wasn‘t too much aware of that particular point in history, nor the movie that they recite and refer to.

And I have not met the individual who put this all together. All I know, it‘s been spontaneous, it wasn‘t driven by the campaign. We certainly didn‘t discourage it but we had nothing to say about it because the individuals were organizing on the Internet. I think it shows the power of an idea.

CARLSON: What do you mean. You never met the guy responsible for organizing more than $4 million in money for you?

PAUL: If I did, I don‘t remember it. Somebody said, we ought to get his telephone number now that it‘s over, you ought to probably call him. I plan to do that. But if I‘ve met him it was pretty casual, but I don‘t think I have to met him to tell you the truth. But this is part of the campaign. The fact that we have over 1,100 meet up groups is rather significant, they‘re coming from around the world.

So the message I think is very important and the people are responding to it. But to me it‘s just message which is something that I‘ve been talking about for years. It‘s a message of what has made America great, our Constitution, important of individual liberties and self reliance and self responsibilities. So it‘s not a strange message. A lot of Americans have forgotten about it now we‘ve revived the interest all of a sudden we found out that it‘s a very exciting message."

Justin Gardner at Donklephant has a great reaction roundup post as does Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. Most fun is the sniping between Andrew Sullivan and David Frum.

"A $4.3 million haul in 24 hours. Good enough to rattle Frum. Frum tries to belittle the achievement by comparing it to Ralph Nader's $8 million fundraising in 2000. But over half that in mere hours? The Ron Paul phenomenon is real. The Christianists and neocons will decry it because it affects their power over the GOP. And because when a conservative stands for freedom again, it resonates and threatens them."
"Just noticed that Andrew Sullivan opines that I am "rattled" by Paul's haul. Personally, I think it is Andrew who has been "rattled" by being caught in yet another of his careless or reckless errors and inaccuracies. But for the record, he's [SIC - snicker - DF is accusing AS of being careless on the same line with a typo -mw] my view on the Paul candidacy... It would be interesting to know how many of today's Paul donors were Nader donors then... Of course I am saddened to discover that many thousands of Americans have rallied to a candidate campaigning on a Michael Moore view of the world... Ron Paul is Nader, not Perot."
I've just got to say, Frum’s post is one of the odder things I’ve read in a while. In a short post he manges to compare Ron Paul to Ralph Nader, Michael Moore, and Howard Dean, but draws a distinction between Paul and Ross Perot. Well, I guess I have to be happy with the last. I always thought Perot was a few bricks short of a full load. James Joyner at Outside the Beltway attempts to sort it all out.

The only way one can make any sense out of whatever the hell it is that Frum is attempting to say, is by assuming that Frum thinks that anyone who is against the Iraq war, regardless of their views on other issues like constitutional protections, fiscal responsibility, and individual freedom, is a Nader/Moore Liberal. If that is indeed what he is saying, then Frum is my designated poster boy for the new Intellectual Bankruptcy of the Right. “You are against the war? Well, that defines you as a liberal Democrat.”

David Frum is either confused or deluded about who is supporting Ron Paul. Let's try to help David. I am one of the very Ron Paul supporters that saddens Frum, and no - I never contributed to or voted for Ralph Nader. Don’t particularly agree with Michael Moore either. Or Howard Dean. Fact is, Paul is as close to a polar opposite of a Nader/Moore liberal as one can get. Just to try and ease David Frum's fragile emotional state regarding RP's supporters, - this particular Ron Paul supporter is committed to voting for the Republican nominee regardless of whatever piece of shit the GOP eventually nominates. How is that as an endorsement for your party and candidate, David? I'll even vote for your favorite Giuliani, although he does not make my top 10 stack ranking.

My rationale is familiar to readers of this blog. I vote for objectives like good governance and fiscal responsibility. Those objectives are documented to be accomplished by divided government, and divided government can only be maintained into 2009 by electing a Republican President. A shit Republican president with a Democratic majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate, will govern better than a great Democratic President and a united Democratic Congress (see LBJ). So on February 5th, 2009 - I'll be voting in the California Republican primary for Ron Paul, and hoping for the best.

Let us dig a bit more into the mind of Frum. This from a Cato Unbound series six months before the midterms, initiated with a David Frum essay and concluding with his summary:

Future of the GOP: It’s Up to the Democrats

Ross’ question about the future of “fusionism”—the longstanding alliance between libertarians and social conservatives—is a very profound one. Let me suggest a couple of thoughts that may help us think it through together.
  1. While strict doctrinal libertarians have always been a vanishingly small minority in America (cocaine vending machines anyone?), the libertarian disposition or tendency is large and strong.
  2. So long as the Democrats (or anyway the Democrats’ northern leadership) remained effectively a social-democratic party, libertarian-leaning voters had no choice but to support the GOP."
Not really. As documented in a prescient Cato Institute Policy Analysis and post-midterm election observations, the libertarian swing vote did indeed have a choice. It chose to elect a Democratic Congress and a divided government. As Frum correctly points out, the libertarian "disposed" swing vote is small. However, it is large enough to swing national elections in our evenly divided polarized political electorate. The libertarian swing vote is now supporting Ron Paul. It is not big enough to get him the nomination. It is big enough to cost the Republicans the White House, if the Ron Paul Republicans do not stay in the Republican fold. Captain Ed gets it right:
"What does this tell us? The libertarian impulse may have stronger legs than anyone recognizes. It certainly seems more individually vibrant than the "values voters" segment of the Republican Party, which hasn't even produced a candidate in this election, let alone this kind of impromptu grassroots effort... Beyond Paul and his flaws, the Republicans had better start paying attention to these voters. Like it or not, they represent a passion that seems to have left the GOP in recent months, and even if they skew young and may not vote as promised this cycle, they will eventually. Rather than continue to write them off, Republicans have to find a way to address them..."
Let us correct David Frum's essay title -

"The Future of the GOP? It is up to the libertarians"

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.