Friday, December 25, 2009

A Peter Schiff Christmas

Just in case you are brimming with good tidings and bubbling over with holiday cheer, Peter Schiff is here to offer a dour double dose of reality.

Just because he was right in 2006-07 about the financial crash, and he was right in 2008 about the collapsing dollar and rising gold, it doesn't necessarily mean he will be right in 2009. Does it?

Peter, I think your analysis is clear, cogent and correct. I even sent you a contribution for your Senate campaign. I'd love to see you be a libertarian voice in the Senate much like Ron Paul is the libertarian conscience of the House...


If you want to get elected Senator from Connecticut you are going to have to come across as something other than a humorless prophet of doom. You need to find a way to temper your message with at least a hint of optimism and - dare I say it? - "Hope". As an example - Ron Paul's media friendly phrase - "Freedom is popular." Just saying...

You can't get elected if all your supporters are suicidal.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rachel Maddow & Ezra Klein "be careful what you wish for" Filibuster Edition

Rachel Maddow has been waxing eloquent of late about what she considers "abuse" of the filibuster rule in the Senate by Republicans "obstructing" the legislative process. She ignores the simple fact that there is a 60 vote filibuster proof Democratic majority in the Senate, making it mathematically impossible for the Republicans to maintain a filibuster on anything. At worst, they can be accused of enabling Democratic party obstruction on any given bill. That said, she and Ezra Klein make some interesting points in Monday's show about the history and evolution of the filibuster rule in the Senate.

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As any good partisan, Rachel complains loud and long about the GOP "abuse" of the filibuster, while glossing over the Democratic "abuse" of the same procedural tool. To be fair, she does make a perfunctory mention of the Democrats use of the filibuster to block George W Bush judicial nominations. The Republicans had a smaller majority in the Senate at the time, so the Democrats then (unlike Republicans now) actually could filibuster anything.

That 2005 episode famously prompted a Republican leadership threat invoking the "nuclear option" to change the Senate rules and limit the use of filibusters. The showdown was averted by the bipartisan "Gang of Fourteen" led by John McCain, effectively saving the filibuster and earning him the enmity and derision of the right. Those same partisans on the right should be on their knees right now thanking John McCain for allowing Republicans to retain what little relevance they have in the Senate today. At least they can attempt to cobble together bipartisan filibuster efforts (which is the only kind that can succeed in this particular Senate). Run of the mill partisan hypocrisy aside, it was this exchange that caught my attention:
MADDOW: "Well, this has been a subject of frustration to people in both parties at different times and at different, more or less, convenient intervals... How hard is it to get rid of the filibuster? I feel like I‘ve read a lot of different analysis about how many votes it would take and what process you‘d need to kill it if you wanted to.

"People disagree on this... What you‘d basically, I think, need to have is Congress will need to remember that it is supposed to be an independent branch of government that is supposed to act on major, going concerns. And so, you‘d have the two parties get together and decide, “We don‘t want it to be the case that when we‘re in the majority, we can‘t do any of the things we promised the American people we‘d do.”And so, six years from today, when we don‘t know who will be in power the filibuster phases out. But for that to happen, you need Congress to begin acting like a branch of government and not just an attachment or an accessory of the president—which hasn‘t been the case for sometime now."
Somebody once said something about the consequences of failing to learn the lessons of history. You might think Ezra and Rachel would learn something from the Republicans who were once so exercised by Senate filibusters, and who are now - less so. But, let's go with Ezra's six year proposition. Contrary to his assertion, we can make an educated guess at what the Senate will look like six years hence.

I'm already on the record about the likely composition of the Senate over the next two election cycles. On Tuesday, Chris Matthews took a closer look at the "Top 5 Endangered Senators" in 2010 cycle:

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Interestingly, the top 5 endangered Senators are all Democrats. This clip is worth watching just to see Matthew's ham-handed shilling for all five, including the pithy observation that only stupid voters in Connecticut would try to unseat incumbent Chris Dodd. More to the point, the 2010 Senate election will be played out on a structurally even playing field, with each party defending an equal number of seats. Losing five seats would have to be considered a rout and unlikely under those circumstance, but nevertheless, Ron Brownstein and Charlie Cook invoke that very possibility (at the 6:20 mark).:
Chris Mathews: "Who is the most vulnerable Democrat?"

Ron Brownstein: "I would say Dodd. One thing to keep in mind though Chris... In big years, in wave years, in 1980, 1986, 1994, 2002, 2006 all the close Senate races went the same way. In many ways, these guys are not entirely the captain of their fate...

Chris Matthews: "Can a Republican lose this year coming up? Can a Republican incumbent lose any race anywhere next year?

Charlie Cook: "I would not be surprised to see no Republican incumbent House or Senate lose."
Even if there was a five seat shift, the Democrats would retain a majority with Joe Biden breaking the partisan tie. I am sticking with my forecast of a net gain of 3 seats for Republicans. Regardless whether it is 3 or 5 in 2010, it gets more interesting in 2012, when the field tilts dramatically in favor of Republicans. Of the 33 seats contested, the Democrats will be defending 24 seats, and the Republicans only 9. Even if they win 2 seats in 2010, it is virtually a fait accompli that the GOP will retake the Senate majority in 2012. In 2014, 21 of the 33 seats are defended by Democrats and 12 defended by Republicans. Again - advantage GOP.

Which brings us back to Ezra Klein's plan for phasing out the filibuster. "And so, six years from today, when we don‘t know who will be in power the filibuster phases out...". Uh Huh. Should Klein's plan actually find support on the Senate floor, it raises the specter of a simple majority of Republicans in 2015 undoing the Health Care plan that required a 60 vote Democratic plurality in 2009. Definitely in the "be careful what you wish for" category.

OTOH, should the Democrats sponsor such a measure in the Senate, they might find some surprising bi-partisan support from Republicans with a somewhat longer view.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit's New & Improved Scientific Method

UPDATED: 6-Dec-09

Central to understanding the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit kerfuffle (dubbed Climategate) is an appreciation of the "scientific method". The scientific method outlines the rules of the game when competing and contradictory theories vie to explain the world in which we live. McQ at QandO offers a good summary of the methodology and where the CRU comes up short:
"Other scientists have, for years, been asking for and been refused the original data on which the CRU based its hypothesis of man-made global warming. We see pundits defending the science claiming the emails don’t prove AGW to be a fraud. Maybe, maybe not – but what they do show is a consistent effort to avoid providing the data requested to others who would like to test it. That alone should raise a sea of red flags to any real scientist. The last thing those who are sure of their hypothesis and their science should be doing is actively trying to keep the data which underpins their hypothesis from being tested as demanded by the scientific method."
True enough. The CRU scientists invest a great deal of time in their models of anthropogenic global warming. They are convinced that they are correct. Their critics believe they have made critical errors with faulty assumptions and the CRU models are projecting scenarios that are the scientific equivalent of GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) . Scientific methodology and observation will ultimately prove the truth or falsity of their models. That is the nature of science.

However, when politics enters the game, the rules change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (and fellow Nobel Prize winner Al Gore) bestowed upon the CRU the imprimatur of absolute truth - of "settled science" - of "overwhelming consensus". None of which is true. These phrases have nothing to do with science or scientific methodology. Nothing. This is the language of politics, not of science.

The CRU scientists were granted a status where they could, for a time, modify and referee the rules of the game as played by believers and skeptics alike. The consequences can be found in the purloined e-mails.

I have spent some time browsing through the the e-mails, documents, and blog reactions (The complete directory can be downloaded here, and the e-mails searched here). It is quite the guilty pleasure. Reading the purloined e-mails and documents and understanding their context provides a greater education on the current state of global warming science than a dozen viewings of "An Inconvenient Truth".

As a service to the blogging community, I can now reveal one document that escaped the purloined CRU data dump. I have reverse engineered the CRU Scientific Methodology from the procedures documented in the e-mails and code. It is clear to me that they have built on the work of maverick chemist Theodore Hapner, who revolutionized thinking about the scientific method in 2006. Standing on Hapner's shoulders, and with the backing of the IPCC - The New & Improved CRU Scientific Methodology can now be revealed - it is shown graphically at the top of this post, and amplified with a few examples from the CRU files below:

1) Assert Predetermined Conclusion
"This work played a critical role in the conclusion reached by the 1995 assessment of the IPCC that "the balance of evidence suggests that there has been a discernible human influence on global climate". Subsequent IPCC reports have strengthened these statements (in 2001: "there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities" and in 2007: "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations") and led most governments, industries, multi-national companies and the majority of the public to accept that the climate is warming, and humans are part of the cause. Accepting the evidence is one thing, but not all governments appreciate the full scale of the problem yet." - The History ot the CRU - according to the CRU
2) Select Data & Massage -
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999
Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,

Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow.

I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998. Thanks for the comments, Ray.

3) Align hypothesis, code & data to pre-determined conclusion
From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/ , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.
; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!! ; yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904] valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$ 2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’ ; yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)
This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s 1930s — see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century.
4) Confirm hypothesis by plotting carefully weighted and selected data
From: "Michael E. Mann"
To: Phil Jones, Tom Wigley, Tom Crowley, Keith Briffa, Michael Oppenheimer, Jonathan Overpeck
Subject: Re: Prospective Eos piece?
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 2003

... Re Figures, what I had in mind were the following two figures: 1) A plot of various of the most reliable (in terms of strength of temperature signal and reliability of millennial-scale variability) regional proxy temperature reconstructions around the Northern Hemisphere that are available over the past 1-2 thousand years to convey the important point that warm and cold periods where highly regionally variable. Phil and Ray are probably in the best position to prepare this (?). Phil and I have recently submitted a paper using about a dozen NH records that fit this category, and many of which are available nearly 2K back--I think that trying to adopt a timeframe of 2K, rather than the usual 1K, addresses a good earlier point that Peck made w/ regard to the memo, that it would be nice to try to "contain" the putative "MWP", even if we don't yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back...
5) Assess results by comparing to hypothesis predetermined conclusion

"One example from something called a “SOAP-D-15-berlin-d15-jj” document.

A non-native English speaker shows a plot of various proxy reconstructions from which he wanted to “reconstruct millennial [Northern Hemisphere] temperatures.” He said,

“These attempts did not show, however, converge towards a unique millennial history, as shown in Fig. 1. Note that the proxy series have already undergone a linear transformation towards a best estimate to the CRU data (which makes them look more similar, cf. Briffa and Osborn, 2002).”
In other words, direct effort was made to finagle the various reconstructions so that they agreed with preconceptions. Those efforts failed. It’s like being hit in the head with a hockey stick."
6) If true (agrees with pre-determined conclusion) - Publish results in non-reproducible way (refuse to provide data, dismiss critics, and lose source data).

To: santer1
Subject: Re: See the link below
Date: Thu Mar 19 17:02:53 2009

... I'm having a dispute with the new editor of Weather. I've complained about him to the RMS Chief Exec. If I don't get him to back down, I won't be sending any more papers to any RMS journals and I'll be resigning from the RMS. The paper is about London and its UHI!"


At 16:48 19/03/2009, you wrote:

Thanks, Phil. The stuff on the website is awful. I'm really sorry you have to deal with that kind of crap. If the RMS is going to require authors to make ALL data available - raw data PLUS results from all intermediate calculations - I will not submit any further papers to RMS journals.




From: Phil Jones
To: "Michael E. Mann"
Date: Thu Jul 8 16:30:16 2004

...The other paper by MM is just garbage - as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well - frequently as I see it. I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!
7) If false (at variance with pre-determined conclusion) - review, re-select, re-weight data, rinse and repeat.

From: Kevin Trenberth
To: Michael Mann
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009
Cc: Stephen H Schneider, Myles Allen, peter stott, "Philip D. Jones", Benjamin Santer, Tom Wigley, Thomas R Karl, Gavin Schmidt, James Hansen, Michael Oppenheimer

Hi all

... The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate...


From: Phil Jones
To: John Christy
Subject: This and that
Date: Tue Jul 5 15:51:55 2005


... Also this load of rubbish!

This is from an Australian at BMRC (not Neville Nicholls). It began from the attached article. What an idiot. The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn't statistically significant.
Heh. The computer model is true. The observations from nature are wrong. Everything you need to know about these guys is right there.

As statistician William Briggs points out, there is no need to invoke conspiracy to understand their actions. True Believers convinced that they hold the white hot sword of truth with the future of mankind hanging in the balance will not take kindly to scientific criticism or correction:
"I have not seen open acknowledgment that the premise that forms the models is false. That is, that it is possible, even with the observed small increase in atmospheric CO2, that that gas has at best a marginal effect. As far as I can tell by my early reading, all the folks in those emails truly believe their models (it’s the observations they don’t love).

There is no conspiracy, as far as I can tell. A conspiracy would obtain if the participants knew their stated beliefs were false, yet the still espoused them with the goal of winning either money, or power, or control, or whatever. My early, and admittedly incomplete, judgment is that all of these people really are convinced that catastrophic warming is on the way and that it will be caused by mankind. Further, they believe it fervently."
Of course "True Believers" will use that sword to skewer the scientific process if necessary to advance their goals and their vision of the truth. But mother nature is a bitch. And if the observations of nature do not agree with computer models, the models and the science behind the models will go by the wayside. No matter how fervently and how many believe otherwise.

That is the scientific method.

Well, that was quick. Phil Jones (liberally quoted in e-mails above) has stepped down as Director of the CRU while the investigation is proceeding. At least he knows that his legacy of a new improved scientific method will live on at the University of East Anglia.

Also - edited the graphic and post for typos, links, and clarity.

UPDATE II: 6-Dec-09
An updated version of this was cross-posted at Donklephant, stimulating an interesting comment thread. Check it out.

Bringing back some of the Donk updates to this post - It has been 16 days since the CRU data was leaked, on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, and the story continues to grow. By that I mean it is now hitting the mainstream network news (but only after first being confirmed as a real story by Jon Stewart). Even the New York Times feels compelled to explain why they have been giving the story short shrift.

A mystery remains, as Senator Barbara Boxer disingenuously reminds us. The identity of the whistle blower who released the data is yet to be disclosed. Personally I think the perpetrator is a hero, on the order of Daniel Ellsberg releasing the Pentagon Papers. If I was to take a wild guess, I’d take a hard look at “Harry” the CRU programmer of the now infamous HARRY_READ_ME file. He had the access, he had the means, he had the technical chops, more than any single person on the planet he understood the depth of the deception in the code, and for motive he may simply have decided he did not want to be an accessory to the scientific crime of the century.
While the MSM focuses primarily on the e-mails, the bigger story is in what is now being referred to as “The Smoking Code”. This is the clearest explanation I could find to an inherently complex and technical subject – looking at the detailed workings of the computer code. It comes from Robert Grenier, a self described “scientist and engineer with an agnostic stand on global warming” blogging at Cube Antics.
This is how he starts:
“Emails prove nothing. Sure, you can look like an unethical a-hole who may have committed a felony using government funded money; but all email is, is talk, and talk is cheap. Now, here is some actual proof that the CRU was deliberately tampering with their data. Unfortunately, for readability’s sake, this code was written in Interactive Data Language (IDL) and is a pain to go through.”
Next he goes line by line through the code showing where factors were added to shape the model into a global warming “hockey stick”. There is too much detail to put here. Go to his blog and read it.
This is what he concludes:
“As you can see, (potentially) valid temperature station readings were taken and skewed to fabricate the results the “scientists” at the CRU wanted to believe, not what actually occurred… First and foremost, this doesn’t necessarily prove anything about global warming as science. It just shows that all of the data that was the chief result of most of the environmental legislation created over the last decade was a farce… I tried to write this post in a manner that transcends politics. I really haven’t taken much of an interest in the whole global warming debate and don’t really have a strong opinion on the matter. However, being part of the Science Community and having done scientific research myself makes me very worried when arrogant jerks who call themselves “scientists” work outside of ethics and ignore the truth to fit their pre-conceived notions of the world. That is not science, that is religion with math equations.”
Curiouser and curiouser. As Copenhagen gets underway, I think we'll stay with this story for a while.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carnival of Divided Government
Quattour et Trîcênsimus
Special Turkey of a Dollar Edition

Graphic ripped from Won Park,
with apologies to Norman Rockwell,
served up by DWSUWF

Welcome to the 34th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The Quattour et Trîcênsimus - Special "Thanks to Obama, Geithner, and Bernanke Our Dollar is a Turkey" Edition.

Time to be Thankful
Even as the Administration, the Fed and our Congress destroys the value of our currency and by extension, our standard of living.

DWSUWF has much to be thankful for. I am thankful for CNBC, which is the only network where you can get beyond the sound bites, the mindless partisan sniping, and actually learn what is going on with our government policies and the consequences for the economy, jobs, the dollar, our standard of living and the future of our country. Case in point - this week on CNBC we learned about the consequences of devaluing our currency by printing money to service insane debt created by wild spending...

[apologies for the formatting - I don't know why CNBC video "embeds" add all this blank space, and I can't figure out how to fix it]

... after all, since we are coordinating with central banks the world over, and since every other country of significance is also stimulating their economy devaluing their currency, we are safe in the smug assumption that there is nowhere else to go but the dollar. Our leadership arrogantly assume the dollar can continue to rest on its reputation as the reserve currency of last resort, as we continue to print more and more and more. Two problems with this plan - 1) No one has yet figured out how to print gold, copper, steel, or oil - 2) Everybody else in the world is not stupid.

So China is hoarding commodities, and India, Russia and other countries are buying gold specifically to hedge against the dollar. It would seem we are migrating toward a global gold standard whether we in the US want to participate or not. In the meantime the US continues to play Russian roulette with our currency and standard of living.

Let us again turn to Peter Schiff, who was right in 2006, was right in 2008, and who now tells us what to expect in 2010 and beyond. Three for three??

Frightening. But any investor would be foolish not to listen to what he has to say.

I am also really, really thankful that Scared Monkey posted this clip from SNL, which is quite possibly the single best bit that SNL has ever done:

Just get it over with!

My side hurts from laughing.

I am thankful that one year from now, we will be reviewing the results of the 2010 midterm elections and what they portend for the 2012 presidential campaign. As some may recall, only one year ago, Barack Obama ushered in the new permanent realignment of the American political landscape. With that election we learned that the United States was actually a center-left country. We learned that the Republican Party if not already dead was doomed to succumb to the inevitable demographic shifts in the populace and that ideas like fiscal restraint are so last century and irrelevant. Having learned all of this from the 2008 election we can only assume that the recent 2009 GOP gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia are attributable to the last spasms of a dying GOP corpse. And in that context I am thankful to Professor Jacobson's penetrating analysis of the 2009 race:
"Republican Bob McDonnell has been projected the winner of the Virginia Governor's race. Proving that even a small, unpopular, fringe party which does not appeal to moderates or independents, can win over a large, popular, mainstream party. The secret? More votes."
Finally, I am thankful that as we turn our eyes to the 2010 midterms, the prospect for and value of divided government is once again getting its due from the political chattering class. Which, thankfully, finally brings us back to the Carnival.

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government quottor et trîcênsimus (XXXIV), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single 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.


We begin with Gene Healy, blogging in the Small Government Times and offering "Three cheers for divided government":

"The Framers tried to craft a constitution that gave politicians proper incentives to check each other. “Ambition [would] counteract ambition,” as James Madison saw it, with congressmen keeping presidents honest and vice-versa.

Things haven’t worked out as planned. Too often, party loyalty trumps constitutional fidelity, as evidenced by former House speaker Denny Hastert’s self-image as a “lieutenant” of George Bush rather than a guardian of congressional prerogatives.

But when different parties hold the legislature and the executive, the Madisonian system works better. Divided government leads to many more congressional investigations into presidential misconduct, and, as two University of Chicago scholars demonstrated recently, “the White House’s propensity to exercise military force steadily declines as members of the opposition party pick up seats in Congress.” When politicians wax sentimental about “the wisdom of the American people,” it’s usually a good idea to hold on to your wallet. If we’re so smart, who’s to blame for the clowns we elect?

But when it comes to separating the purse and the sword, we may be brighter than expected. A good chunk of us deliberately split our tickets. In 2004, two political scientists crunched the numbers, estimating that more than 20 percent of American voters were “cognitive Madisonians.” In plain English, these voters consciously tried to “divide power and balance policy.”

Hear. Hear. While DWSUWF agrees with the sentiment, we don't believe that there are 20% of us who make this decision consciously. If there were, we would not now be under full sail with One Party Rule navigating the ship of state onto the rocks of financial ruin. But if we few, the Dividists, who do vote consciously for a separation of power between the parties keep beating the Dividist drum, we may yet get there.

One problem is that too many of that 20% think like Ann Althouse, who is still rationalizing her vote for Obama, despite understanding the benefits of divided government in "How much worse does Obama have to get before Althouse decides McCain would have been better?" :
Here's my original 2008 election post-mortem — "How McCain Lost Me". Excerpt, beginning with a quote of something I'd written just before the election:
"Usually, I prefer divided government, but that doesn't mean I need to support McCain. I've seen McCain put way too much effort into pleasing Democrats and flouting his own party, and I can picture Obama standing up to the Democratic Congress and being his own man. What, really, will he owe them? McCain, by contrast, will need them. And we've seen that he wants to be loved by them. "
...Yes, yes, I know. The "clarification" is killing us, and once we're dead, there's no coming back. And Obama isn't standing up to the Democratic Congress, unless he's doing it in some really subtle way that one day I'll appreciate.
I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. She knows that divided government works to restrain the growth of spending. She know that Single Party Rule leads to abuse of power and reckless spending. Yet she still voted for Single Party Rule and continues to rationalize her decision. No matter how many times I read her rationalization, I still can't figure out why. Somebody help me. Does she make any sense at all in this post?

John Batchelor looks ahead to next year's midterms in "Scripts for 2010":
"The Republicans enjoyed Executive and Legislative majority rule rarely in the 20th century, and the results were deeply foreboding or dire, such as the 1907 Panic, or the 1929 crash, or the Iraq war. The Democrats enjoyed the same with sluggish to damning results, such as the First War, the Great Depression after the bank failures of 1933; the Second War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. Divided government has long been the best scenario to confront the surprises of foreign policy and domestic lunacy. It reminds of the Churchill remark about democracy, the best of a bad museums of governance. Is there a good prospect for divided government for the 112th Congress in a year's time. Negative. Long shot."
Agreed. The GOP simply dug themselves too deep a hole to get out in one election, but they'll certainly make up ground in 2010. If they can pick up two or three seats in the Senate, their structural advantage in 2012 gives them a great shot to retake the Senate and restore divided government 2012, even if Obama is re-elected. Barring a "Mark Foley" or "Dan Rostenkowski" type scandal with a similar level of corruption from Democrats exposed immediately before the election, the GOP will pick up seats, but will remain a minority in both houses in 2010. It is just too hard to unseat incumbents.

One of Seven, blogging at the South Bend Seven patiently explains why "There's a reason they call it Oppostion.":
"I say viva la oposición because (1) a divided government is a friend of Liberty, and (2) it's arrogant to think, as the party in power always does, that the opposition is opposed because they're stupid or hate America or don't care, rather than actually having different opinions."
Stunning how that 48% that did not vote for Obama in 2008 refuses to just go along with the sweeping mandate of the 52% landslide majority that did.

Speaking of elections , DaveG at Race 4 2012 considers the meaning of the 2009 special election results and assesses the mood of the country as we look forward to the the next two election cycles. The mood he finds? - decidedly "Anti-Establishment":
"Tonight was a victory for many things. It was a victory for the Republican Party, a sorely needed win by a party that was left for dead just one year ago in the wake of a supposed national Democratic realignment. It was a victory for those who believe in divided government, who recognize the extremism and corruption inherent in one-party rule... But first and foremost, tonight was a victory for the anti-establishmentarian sentitment that is currently permeating the American political psyche — a sentiment which was present in full force just one year ago and that was misinterpreted then, and probably will be misinterpreted now, as an ideological mandate instead of what it really is: discontent with the decimation of the American Dream and a belief that the elites and the political establishment, regardless of party, have the blood of the Republic on their hands."
I see a "malaise" speech in our future.

FLG, blogging at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown, is stunned to find himself in agreement with a A Charles Blow column in "A First":
"FLG completely agrees with the first clause because he believes Americans have a preference for divided government. He also agrees with the second clause, but not for all the reasons Blow cites. Blow's conclusion is that the Democrats haven't enacted enough of their agenda and they are beset by obstacles that make them unpopular. FLG says the agenda is unpopular and the obstacles are in their way largely because of that unpopularity."
Not to mention just plain bad legislation and heart-stopping spending.

Steve Vaillancourt at Red Hampshire finds hopeful signs in recent Rasmussen polls as does our favorite Scared Monkey - "Republicans up 6 points in generic ballot...":
"Rasmussen also discovered that, perhaps as an indication of how badly things are going now, voters favor “divided” government. Only 30 percent think it’s good when one party controls both houses of Congress and the Presidency. 45 percent have come to believe that divided government is the answer, something I’ve long believed in. Dynamic tension prevents the mischief of big government spending and control of our lives."
Positive news, particularly about the divided government attitudes. Whether that translates into votes remains to be seen. The generic ballot is a notoriously poor indicator of House of Representative election results. People don't vote for or against generic candidates, but they do vote for incumbents 97% of the time. Perhaps focusing on dividing the government is the way to overcome incumbent inertia.

Hal at Right Thinking from the Left Coast has been a consistent divided government advocate as long or longer than DWSUWF and like DWSUWF holds that view regardless of whether it is Dems or Reps with Single Party Rule. We also find ourselves sympathetic to Hal's Heidi Klum hope in "A clean sweep in the land of lovers":
"I would not be surprised at all if Obama goes the Clinton route—remaining somewhat popular, winning re-election, but being utter death to Congressional and Gubernatorial Democratic candidates. I love divided government. I could live with Obama as President and a Republican Congress. But then again, I could also live with getting daily neckrubs from Heidi Klum. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen."
True. But it gives us hope. At least for the divided government thing. Hope for those Heidi Klum neck rubs? - not so much.

Craig Farmer has a warning for Democrats at New Liberal - "Democrats will lose power if health care fails":
"Add to all of this the natural tendencies toward divided government, and the natural political cycles that general punish the party of the newly elected President in the next off-year election and Demcrats should get the message: Pass a good health care bill. The best one you can think of. It may be your last chance for generation. If you do a good job, you will minimize the drop off on our side in terms of turnout, and may actually convince indepedent voters to stay the course. Anything else may be a disaster. "
I've got news for Craig. Democrats will lose even more power if this disaster of a trillion dollar incomprehensible health care abomination passes without any political cover from Republicans.

The admin at "Truth Daily"appears seriously confused while gushing about the president in "Obama tells Congress 'Get a mop":"
"This man is tough. There can be no doubt about that. He commands respect. So what do you say Republicans, are you going to end this divided government, shut your pie holes and “get a mop?”
First, we do not have a divided government. The definition of divided government is when one party does not hold the executive branch and majorities in both legislative branches. So here is your daily truth - The Democrats hold the White House. The Democrats have an 80+ vote majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats have a 60-40 filibuster proof plurality in the Senate. That is the definition of One Party Rule.

Mathematically the Republicans can obstruct nothing this President does or wants. Only Democrats in Congress can obstruct this President. The worst (or best) thing you can say about the Republicans is that they are choosing not to help President Obama overcome Democratic obstruction. The Republicans are under no obligation to provide the Democrats political cover as they pass extraordinarily bad legislation and bankrupt the country. Hope this lesson helps you add a little more truth in your daily blogging dose. You are welcome.

In my favorite post of the Carnival, maybe of the year, maybe of all-time, Allan Bevere gets religion and confesses in "I Humbly Repent of my Wayward Ways":
"Up until a couple of years ago, I was a big fan of divided government, that is, one political party in the White House and the other party in charge of Capitol Hill. But then something happened-- I caught a strange virus. I started to believe that having only one party in power might prove to be very productive for our government and, therefore, by extension the American people. So, we had six years of Republican rule in both the legislative branch and the executive branch of government. Now we currently have the Democrats in charge. In watching both parties going wild with total power in their hands, I write this post to publicly repent of my wayward ways. I have returned to the true faith of believing once again in divided government and the holy process known as gridlock."
You are forgiven my son. We welcome you back to the Dividist flock with open arms. For penance, say three "Hail Madisons" and reread Federalist #51.

Finally, a history lesson from Mary Kate Cary writing in US New and World Report with an analysis of "Why Obama Needs a Big Republican Victory in 2010":
"As conservative as Reagan was, he governed from the center because he had to work with a Democratic Congress. Similarly, within days of that "liberating" night in 1994, President Clinton met with political strategist Dick Morris. The two started to map out his policy of "triangulation," in which Clinton would be the apex of the triangle, working between and above the two parties. It turned out that Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans played more of a role in ensuring Clinton's re-election than any of the Democrats on Capitol Hill did.

Gingrich has been watching what Pelosi's been doing, and he gave some advice to the current president last week. "Obama faces a choice," he wrote. "He can attempt to run a left-wing government against the American people. Or he can govern from the center with a large majority of Americans supporting him. He can have either his left angry or the American people angry." Gingrich knows that divided government would bring Obama to the center, just as it did Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Democratic control of the House, Senate, and White House hasn't been a boon to Obama. It has been a bust. His best chance for re-election in 2012 is a massive GOP takeover of the House and Senate next year. Everybody wins."
I love waxing nostalgic about divided government under Bill Clinton - Ah, the good ol' days.


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 in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition we offer Everett presenting a nugget of truth from Friedrich Hayek on the road to serfdom in "The Danger of Ambiguous Legislation" posted at Honest Inquiry. :
"This point is quintessentially non-partisan. The passage of ambiguous legislation leading to policy decided not by elected representatives but by bureaucrats, or left to judges, would seem to define the last 60 years no matter which party dominated politics."
And with that we conclude this edition.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

Since this carnival is focused on the topic of Divided Government, and seeing how voters spectacularly rejected the idea in the 2008 election with no real prospect of restoring divided government before 2012, this carnival has been on a reduced publication schedule. Look for DWSUWF to pick up the pace in the new year, with the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government quinque et trîcênsimus (XXXV)- Special Two Day Hangover Edition on or about 01-02-2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided GovernmentNOTICE: In the past, this blog has taken the time to post Technorati tags at the end of every post. We used Technorati because it provided a great service - It allowed me to easily find blogs that link to me, and to notify blogs that we have linked to them. The new Technorati no longer performs this function. At least not for this blog. I have no idea what the new Technorati is supposed to do, but it does nothing for DWSUWF. I hope to find another service that picks up what Technorati left behind. So we'll drop our Technorati sidebar widget, and leave them with this last tag:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

District 23 - Politics, Proxies, Predictions.

UPDATED: Friday November 06, 2009
It had to be District "23". This obscure upstate New York Congressional district is getting a lot of national attention, and deservedly so. So many interesting elements - where to begin?
  • The MSM usually describes it as a conservative Republican district (reportedly no Democrat has represented the district since 1859), but OTOH we learn from the same source that the district voted 52-47 for Obama in 2008. 52% - 47% - the exact percentage of the Obama's national popular vote victory - so does that make District 23 a proxy for the national electorate?
  • There were three candidates for the house seat now there are two. The hand-picked Republican machine candidate has dropped out and endorsed the Democrat.
  • On election eve - a third party Conservative candidate is leading the Democrat by 6% points, with 18% undecided. 18% undecided on election eve? Really?? These voters have got to really hate the two choices they have left to still be undecided so late.
  • The results for this district are a referendum on the Obama administration. Or not.
There is enough pontification, broad sweeping conclusions and evolving conventional wisdom in this district to provide fodder for a dozen blog posts.

A few weeks ago, when Democrat Bill Owens took a lead in the (then) three-way race, the NY Times considered the race "pivotal". Now? - not so much:
"It is probably not wise to draw broad lessons from Tuesday’s results about what might happen in next year’s midterm Congressional elections and high-profile governor’s races."
Then, conventional wisdom was that Independent Hoffman and Republican Scozzafava split the conservative vote and opened the door for Owens. More likely, Scozzafava and Owens are so similar politically, that they split the moderate vote and opened the door for Hoffman - the only true fiscal conservative in the race.

Frankly, my libertarianish views are probably more closely aligned with Owens than they are with Hoffman - particularly on social issues. However if I lived there I would have to vote for Hoffman - it is the only way to cast a vote in opposition to the ruinous financial policies of this president. Even if I liked Owen better, he is a Democrat first and would just fall into partisan line on spending, deficits and taxes. We'll see how District 23 feels about it, but (since Nate Silver is reluctant) I can't help but weigh in with a this quick post and a prediction while the votes are being cast -

The combined 24% Scozzafava and undecided vote will - of course - be determinative. I figure it this way - If people are still saying they are undecided at this point - they really really hate the two choices they have left. So... They will either 1) Not vote, or 2) Waste their vote with a protest for Dede - or - hold their nose, flip a coin and cancel themselves out splitting between Hoffman and Owens. Lets say the Dede protest vote drops to 4%, and that leaves 20% to split. If we assume these undecided to be mostly fiscal conservative, I expect that will skew the split to Hoffman. Even if they agree with Owen's socially moderate positions, it'll be too hard for them to pull the trigger for another rubber stamp vote for the reckless and destructive fiscal policies of this president and congress. Owens needed to distance himself from Obama and Pelosi, just like McCain needed to distance himself from Bush. He didn't. Biden's last minute rally didn't help - he most likely reinforced the connection to the insane administration spending.

So I say the 20% remaining undecided splits 11% to Hoffman and 9% to Owens, and my final prediction:
Hoffman (I) 52%
Owens (D) 44%
Scozzofava (R) 4%
I'll update later, with some more thoughts as the votes are counted.

UPDATE: Friday, November 6, 2009

As pointed out by the commentariat, this update is a bit late. The reason is a plumbing catastrophe that is of no interest to the reader but is consuming a large portion of my life. Regardless, as commenter Roy notes, my prognostication skills leave something to be desired. the NY 23 final results:
Candidate Party Votes Pct.
Bill Owens Dem. 66,526 49.0%
Doug Hoffman Con. 62,308 45.9
Dede Scozzafava Rep. 6,986 5.1
As far as my predictions are concerned, I clearly let wishful thinking override my own analysis. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that the independents who were sufficiently concerned about administration spending to overlook Hoffman's positions on social issues and his weakness as a candidate would have already been in Hoffman's poll totals. So it should not have been surprising that the remaining 24% "undecided" and disaffected Scozzafava supporters broke more heavily for Owens. They simply hated Owens less than they hated Hoffman. My bad.

While the election was not predictable, the reactions are. Some on the right are calling this a victory, seemingly ignoring the more conventional definition of victory - you know - getting more votes. Some on the left are positively gleeful describing a social vs. fiscal conservative "civil war" which sound a lot like more wishful thinking. Others offer a bit more thoughtful and circumspect analysis of the win. In general, it seem moderates are satisfied with the result in NY 23. It all still begs the question - Why did Owen win? Commenter Roy has one answer:
"People voted for Owens because of the candidate, the man, and the issues he stands for."
Interesting hypothesis. It could happen I guess. Still... I expect in an election as fractured and close as this one, it is the feet on the ground that make the difference. I understand from an unnamed source that the Dems recruited, relocated and paid top dollar for the best field operatives they could find for this election.

Only battle tested vets from the 2008 Obama campaign were considered for this front line effort. Hard core, hard working, committed mercenaries willing to do the kind of grunt work on the phones and on the street that make the difference in local elections. Democratic congress critters with close 2010 elections in conservative districts would do well to recruit operatives with the 2009 Owens campaign on their resume. A few hundred of these carpetbagging political street fighters will more than cancel out dozens of carpetbagging national political drive-by pundits, politicos, and media windbags.

Other lessons that can be teased out of NY 23:
  • It is still practically impossible for a 3rd party to win an election for federal office.
  • The fusionist social conservative/fiscal conservative alliance is as necessary a condition for GOP electoral victory now as it was in Reagan's era - validating yet again Ryan Sager's thesis from his excellent 2006 book "The Elephant in the Room".
  • Anyone who thinks social conservative issues should take priority over fiscal conservative issues in the next election, are not paying attention.

The Owens victory was important, if for no other reason that it permitted Democrats as well as Republicans to claim victory on Tuesday. What it didn't do, is permit anyone to continue to beat the dead horse that the Obama election represented a transformational permanent realignment in the political landscape.

The final word on the real meaning of Tuesday's election will be spoken - not by the words of pundits or politicians, but by the actions of the blue dog Democrats. Particularly those facing re-election in previously Republican districts in 2010. Dems like the man Fox anchor Neil Cavuto called "the biggest of the blue dogs" - Pennsylvania Representative Jason Altmire. In this recent interview with Cavuto, Altmire very diplomatically explains why he probably won't support Pelosi's health care bill:

CAVUTO: "...if voters and candidates a signal that they have had it it with runaway spending, the runaway beneficiaries could be the very fiscally conservative democratic congressman... you guys were arguing for finding a substantive way to pay for healthcare reform... Now - how crucial was this election."
ALTMIRE: "I'm in the process of going through the bill talking to my constituents and trying to make a determination. To determine if moving the ball forward is the best course of action... I'm not convinced that this bill is it, whether it is substantially different enough that's going to allow me to vote for... I think the discussion on the income tax increase is misguided and misplaced as part of the health care bill. There's no question that they've increased the threshold. They've done the same on the small business aspect. It still takes a punitive approach. It's my opinion if you don't offer health care to your employees as a small business owner, it is not that you don't want to, it's because you can't. And the better approach is to help small businesses afford is not to penalize those that don't. So I do still have some concerns."
Sounds like a "no" vote to me. Let's see how he votes, and for that matter - how Owens votes on the Obamacare bill.

For if there is one thing of which we be certain, it is that predicting anything related to "23" is fraught with uncertainty.