Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Union - The Musical!
"How to Succeed as President Without Really Trying"

2014 Obama State of the Union - The Musical!
State Of The Union with phone and pen.  
Welcome to the Dividist's annual coverage of the Presidential Address to Congress - aka State of the Union - The Musical!

In 2007, as a blogging toddler, the Dividist despaired at finding a unique approach to the SOTU when so many other bloggers would be traversing the same ground. The answer came from Bob Woodward. In an on-line Washington Post forum the Dividist asked whether the SOTU had any real relevance. Woodward responded by saying it was "mostly theater." Genius. That was the answer. What better way to frame the SOTU, media and blog reactions than within the lyrics of a Broadway show tune?

The game is to start with a Broadway song then find blog posts, news stories, tweets, essays, and commentary that can be vaguely referenced in the song and link them to the lyrics. It keeps the Dividist awake and blogging throughout the speech and mandatory drinking game.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good news! The Imperial Unitary Executive is going to "get things done".

Unitary Imperium Executor
It was a good week for presidential power grabs and executive branch assertions of fiat authority.  For our constitutional form of government, not so much. The administration started the week with a PR offensive to assure everyone that the President has a pen and a phone and for some reason this makes Congress irrelevant. Very reassuring.

Washington TimesDan Pfeiffer: 'President Obama is ready to use every executive action available'
"White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer sent an e-mail early Tuesday to preview President Obama's plan to use his executive power in ways Americans have never seen before. "President Obama has a resolution for 2014: That this will be a year of action," Pfeiffer said in the e-mail, pointing out that Obama would no longer be waiting around for Congress to get things done.  "Instead, the president will use his executive authority, both his pen and his phone, to work with anyone to get things done..."
CBS: Obama On Executive Actions: ‘I’ve Got A Pen And I’ve Got A Phone’
"Calling for “all hands on deck” to assist the economy, President Barack Obama is urging his Cabinet to identify ways to keep his administration relevant ...“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama said Tuesday as he convened his first Cabinet meeting of the year.  Obama continued: ”And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward..."
The President summoned the Obamite Minions to rally around this initiative to bypass all that messy congressional legislative unpleasantness in the service of his agenda:
"2014 will be a year of action for the American people — and President Obama is ready to use every executive action available to him to make sure of it... Tell the President you're IN for 2014..." 

 The Dividist filled out the form and told the President he is IN, but he really isn't. The Dividist is actually much more IN with checks, balance and separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch as intended by the founders and codified in our Constitution.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pining for earmarks, longing for graft, and fetishizing "getting things done"

Boehner and Pelosi at the feet of George Washington Plunkitt.
Tammany Hall got a lot done.
Last week, while commenting on a John Harwood column about Ronald Reagan's negotiating skills, the Dividist pointed to a missing political tool that makes it harder for our federal government to forge compromise:
"Harwood missed another factor that made it easier for both Reagan and Clinton to push a deal through a divided congress. In the Reagan and Clinton eras legislative ideological opposition could be softened through the widespread practice of sweetening deals with earmarks secretly carved out in committee. Lets' call it what it was - a form of legalized bribery to buy votes by throwing money to a district or big contributor. It was slimy. It was corrupt as hell. But it was sure effective in greasing the legislative skids and blunting ideological opposition. It still happens, but not to the degree that it did in the Reagan and Clinton years. The loss of that tool makes the job harder for Obama. Regardless, if the question is where does responsibility lie for getting deals done in a divided government? The answer is that the buck stops in the Oval Office. Full stop."
David Plotz at Salon used Chris Christie's modus operandi as a starting point and takes it to another level. Here he pines for earmarks and waxes nostalgic for just the right amount of corruption in "Politics Should Be Dirtier":

Monday, January 13, 2014

Clinton & Obama admit 2007 Iraq war policy positions were influenced by politics. So was President Bush 2004 Iraq war policy. One is worse.

"Politics has no place in war policy." That's a good one!

A war-time memoir from a former Secretary of Defense  is nothing new.  It is unusual, perhaps unique, for the number two man in the United States military chain of command to publish a memoir while his Commander in Chief is still in office and the war is still going on. I plan to read  Bob Gate's new book "Duty" when available to the general public later this week.  Part of my interest in the book stems from hearing Bob Gates speak at the MPSF Speaker Series last year.

Like most, I've had to be satisfied with observing other's observations of the memoir as excerpts are revealed in the press and political talk show circuit.   Rather than comment on the commentary (there are plenty of pundits filling that role), I'll wait until I've had a chance to read it myself.  However, there is one excerpt getting a lot of attention that deserves a second look.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Gallup poll finds record level of independent non-partisan pretension.

The Independent / Centrist / Moderate Black Hole
Earlier this week Gallup reported a record high 42% of American chose to self-identify as independents rather than associate themselves with either the Republican or Democratic party:

"Americans are increasingly declaring independence from the political parties. It is not uncommon for the percentage of independents to rise in a non-election year, as 2013 was. Still, the general trend in recent years, including the 2012 election year, has been toward greater percentages of Americans identifying with neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party, although most still admit to leaning toward one of the parties."
This was greeted with the usual triumphalism from moderates, centrists and independents living in the hope of an imminent implosion of the political duopoly. But there is far less here than meets the eye.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Progressive Pundit Posits Prejudicial Political Polarization

Greg Sargent asks "How 'polarized' is the American electorate?":
"The American people are “polarized.” That idea is repeated so often as an explanation for why Washington seems mired in dysfunction and gridlock that no one even stops to question it anymore. Yes, the system is polarized, in the sense that we have divided government on the federal level, or, as Dan Balz recently noted, in the sense that state governments under an unprecedented degree of one-party control are moving in sharply different directions. But how polarized is public opinion on the issues themselves?"
Sargent makes a fair and balanced assessment of the American body politic by citing progressive pundits spanning the political spectrum from the left to the far left. Unsurprisingly he determines that the United States really is a left of center country with a broad consensus around progressive issues:
"E.J. Dionne’s latest column notes there is majority consensus behind ideas about ”economic justice” and the safety net, but that it’s obscured by the degree to which one party remains captive to a conservative minority that wants to unravel that consensus... Majorities support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. While people tell pollsters they don’t like Big Government, they support getting our fiscal house in order through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, as Democrats want, and majorities oppose cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Large majorities support federal spending on infrastructure to create jobs. Majorities backed the core ideas in the American Jobs Act, which included spending on road repair and tax credits for job training, paid for by taxes on the rich."
And of course, with all this broad consensus among Americans in support of a progressive agenda, there is no one to blame for Congress failing to embracing our progressive future but those illegitimately elected GOP cultists in the House of Representatives:
"As David Wasserman explained just after the 2012 elections, geographic voting distribution patterns and redistricting has created a GOP lock on the House by cossetting Republicans away in safe districts, where they enjoy the support of “an alternate universe of voters that little resembles the growing diversity of the country.” ...Add it up and the stalemate in D.C. in the face of major challenges is at least partly due to this unconventional, unbalanced situation, and may be partly in spite of the state of national opinion, not because of it."
"I don’t want to overstate this..." Sargent writes as he wildly overstates this and concludes:

Friday, January 03, 2014

Friday Flotsam
"Warmists in Paradise" Edition

Scientists demonstrating climate change, or Antarctic weather,
or the heartbreak of cellulite, or something.*

Welcome to Friday Flotsam, an occasional feature serving as an end-of-week blog catch-all. It seems apropos to use this vehicle to  collect stories and photos associated with the aborted Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) that captured social and mainstream media attention this week.  So without further ado, time for the Dividist to stroll down our metaphorical beach ice floe and take note of the detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered this little island ice-locked bay of rationality in the great big frozen blogospheric ocean.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Can we do tax reform and immigration reform in an election year with a divided government and a lame duck president?

Why Yes! Yes We Can! 
There is only one catch...

We could do it in 1986, and maybe in 1998, but not in 2014. That's the thesis of  John Harwood's article in the New York Times: "When a 2nd-Term President and a Divided Congress Made Magic".

First Harwood explains why it worked in 1986:
"In 1986, President Ronald Reagan sat in the White House. Fellow Republicans controlled the Senate but not the House — a mirror image of the alignment President Obama governs with today. That September, strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed a drastic revision of the tax code that eliminated valuable tax breaks while lowering the top rate to 28 percent from 50 percent. The following month, less than three weeks before Election Day, bipartisan majorities transformed the federal immigration code as well, with amnesty for some already in the United States, penalties for businesses hiring illegal immigrants, and more money for border enforcement...  All of them accepted two stipulations that, by narrowing the range of disputes, made getting to yes easier. They agreed that the new tax code would raise the same amount of money as the old one (making it “revenue neutral”), and that it would get that money from the same groups of earners (making it “distributionally neutral” as well)."
Then Harwood explains why it won't work in 2014:
"Mr. Obama and his party want more tax revenue and more progress against income inequality, which has widened since Mr. Reagan’s time. Republicans have more difficulty selling reductions from a top rate of 39.6 percent than from 50 percent as in 1986...  What controlled the action was what the congressional scholar Norman Ornstein called “the problem-solving caucus” — driven more by issues than partisan imperatives. Today, Mr. Ornstein said, that caucus “has dwindled dramatically.” That’s in part because the number of truly competitive districts — where voters selected a member of Congress from one party and a presidential candidate from another — has dwindled from 45 percent of all House seats in 1986 to only 6 percent, or 26 seats, today.  The crucial ingredients for bipartisan action, former Senator Bradley said, are “independence of thought and capacity to listen.”
A good article, but I think Harwood missed a couple of points. President Reagan prioritized doing a deal ahead of ideological or partisan concerns. Don't get me wrong. Reagan was a partisan and an ideologue. But he made doing deals a priority and was willing to suffer the slings and arrows from his own party to get a deal done. As Harwood points out in the article "Republicans like Phil Gramm of Texas... called granting permanent residency to some immigrants who had crossed the border illegally “outrageous.” Nevertheless, Reagan got the immigration bill passed.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Carnival of Divided Government LVI
Excessum et Renatum
Special Last Carnival
& 2014 New Year Edition

Welcome to the Carnival of Divided Government Excessum et Renatum - Special 56th and Final 2014 New Year Edition.

As noted before, the whole "Blog Carnival" concept is well past its "Sell By" date, eclipsed by Facebook, Twitter, and other social network aggregation schemes. Blog Carnivals were popular when the Dividist started this blog in 2006. The idea was to solicit and compile posts and articles contributed to the carnival on a particular subject then periodically share the content and links on the blog. Social media fulfills that function now.

We've not received much relevant content contributed to the carnival for a few years. This feature morphed into a simple compilation of topical posts and articles that caught the Dividist's attention as he wandered about the 'sphere. The format was as comfortable as a old shoe, so we just kept it going.

As we return from an extended sabbatical, kick off an election year, and attempt to insinuate this blog into social media platforms, the time has come to put this obsolete format to bed. This last effort will help the Dividist "prime the pump" after the long layoff, but the Oblogocare Death Panel has spoken. Without further ado, here the Carnival of Divided Government swan song....