Thursday, November 25, 2010

Suggestions for the Lame Duck Congress

 Folks have asked if I'll offer another checklist of suggestions for near-term political action, now that the U.S. House of Representatives is about to pass into Republican hands. This new set of proposals would bookend the To-Do list that I wrote back in 2006, when the Democrats swept back into control of the House.

Well, it's been an eventful four years, an era that proved my fundamental diagnosis... that most of our current political craziness is not so much about hoary-stupid "left-right axis" but rather by personality type.  For example, Democrats are not primarily typified by "leftist" outlooks, but by a manic personality. A frenzy to try things. Indeed, nearly all of the pro-capitalism experiments that have been tried, in recent years, also came from dems. (An assertion I can easily prove.)

In contrast, although Barry Goldwater disowned the "neoconservative" sub-species as crazy and contrary to most classical conservative values, the one consistent trait that Republicans always seem to display (and did in Goldwater's saner version) is the depressive personality type. Beyond pathological grouchiness, recent GOP politicians have also been among the laziest since the beginning of the republic, passing less far legislation (even when they held every branch of government), holding fewer hearings and proposing fewer bills -- even on their favorite issues -- than any other Congress in 100 years.

(Reminder: this appraisal hasn't a scintilla to do with superficial issues of "left-vs-right.")

But that psychological diagnosis is beside the point. The last 4 years have been frenetic, all right. So, shall I attempt once more to offer recommendations, now that the frenzied workaholics only have a few weeks left to try things? Since Nancy Pelosi and her crew saw fit to ignore almost everything my earlier catalog of desires, why should I bother?  The Democrats have scarcely more than a month, before depressive-phase gridlock settles onto Capital Hill.


=== FIRST, IS DIVIDED GOVERNMENT A BAD THING? ===

Don't many of your neighbors ascribe to the nostrum that "divided government is best"? Indeed, there have been silver linings to past episodes of division. After Newt Gingrich's 1994 Republican resurgence, Bill Clinton decided to turn his attention away from grand scale legislation* to becoming the best administrative president on record. Distracted by sexual witch hunts, the press paid little notice when JD Powers and other neutral analysts called the Clinton Administration the most efficient and well-run and... believe it or not... honest in US history.

 (Despite Fox-rhetoric, not one Clinton era official ever went to jail, or was even indicted, for malfeasance of official duties. Not one. The first time that's ever happened in US history.)

If Barack Obama were to follow that course -- simply tuning the civil service to deliver our money's worth under current law -- well that may be a disappointing fall-back.  But, since the core and central neocon aim has always been the undermining and ruination of the United States Civil Service (ask me why), its restoration under BHO would be a victory, of sorts. (You never noticed any of this?  Well, whose fault is that?)

(* Note: I leave out the strange year 1995, when Newt's fresh-new Neocon Congress actually experimented with acting like grownups, seeking to achieve real accomplishments by ... um... legislating! And by negotiating with Clinton and the Democrats. Certain measures that passed that year, under the "Contract With America," were moderately impressive, including Welfare Reform and budget control measures that later enabled Clinton to clamp down and deliver the only substantial budget surpluses since World War II.  And Democrats who are incapable of parsing how 1995 was different than the deLay/deMint era are too-easily falling into simple-minded partisanship of their own.

(Alas, this brief era passed away with lamentable swiftness, as the Republicans dumped Gingrich and swerved into their ongoing weird combination of disciplined dogmatism, culture war, jibbering anti-intellectualism, and stunning laziness. Again note: this ain't about "left-right" but sanity.)



=== ENOUGH GRUMBLING. HOW ABOUT SUGGESTIONS? ===

All right, then. Are there things I'd recommend for the coming political phase?  There are two time regimes to consider.

a) The remaining lame duck session of Congress.  (I'll race through these.)

b) The stretch following Boehner's installation as Speaker, until the 2012 elections. (I'll save these for next time.)



=== CAN LAME DUCKS ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING? ===


Oh, they are scrambling. Pelosi and Reid and the Capital Hill Dems. Frenetic to get something done in the next 6 weeks, they'll not pay the slightest heed to my recommendations.  Still, here are a few.

1.  Limit any tax cut extension to 5 years.  I believe the Bush tax cuts for the rich should be allowed to expire... compensated with a new-jobs credit and new equipment credit for small businesses. But if the cuts are to be continued, I agree they should expire in another 2 years.  In fact. all the rest of the cut extensions should be for no more than 5 years.

 Why tie the hands of a future president and Congress?  Give some future Congress the same choice YOU now face.  In 2015, the economy may be much better, and we could get another chance to start paying down the mountain of debt. (The way adults do.) It will be easier, at that point, to not pass a continuation of some of the tax cuts, than it will be to pass an actual increase.

2. Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bush era corruption. Um, why hasn't this happened already? Were you actually hoping/expecting to reason with fellows like Senator deMint? Were you trying to take the high road and set an example?  Were you that naive?

Wasn't the whoring at the Minerals Management Agency enough of a smoking gun?  Enough cause to unleash a special prosecutor... and also to enact my other suggestion, to establish the office of Inspector General of the United States? IGUS would ensure that never again could a political cult take over Washington and turn the US Civil Service into its private brothel.

I believe a special prosecutor can be appointed by simple majority vote, without being blocked by filibuster. In any event, there is nothing more important that the Dems could do, during their remaining six weeks.  I'm especially interested in seeing light shone on the vetting of "emergency clause contracts" during our twin trillion-dollar wars, wherein massive amounts of American wealth simply vanished to Only God Himself Knows Where.  Appoint a Special Prosecutor! Unleash him.  And let Boehner just TRY to call him back.

3. Get the lame duck Congress to re-fund the Office of Science and Technology Assessment.  Pre-pay the trivial cost for 10 years in advance, out of pocket change. Scientific-minded Americans have been urging of return of a nonpartisan OSTA, ever since 2006.  Rush this through!  And force the GOP to filibuster this blatantly moderate and reasonable act.

This is so vastly more important than the political caste seems to realize.  No other single act would better demonstrate that the Democrats favor the tradition of "reality-based decision making" that underlies the Enlightenment. No other single act would better show what side they are on, in the ongoing "War on Science."

4. Give the minority party the power of subpoena. Yes this seems nerdy. But I explain in my earlier list of suggestions. This will seem self-serving if done right now.  Better if you had done it last year. But grab the chance.  Do it now... and force Boehner to yank it back.

I have tons of other suggestions. High priorities that I wish the Dems had chosen to work on, during their brief stint trying to catch up.  (And not one of my proposals had even a hint of "socialism" about it! Indeed, they were all remarkably pro enterprise!)  But it is clear that we are heading back to gridlock in a few weeks.  So I will stop yattering about those things...

...and talk next time about what ought to happen during the Boehner Era.

54 comments:

Brendan said...

So far we have Scooter Libby and now Tom DeLayTop Republican faces jail term(I loved DeLay's line "The criminalisation of politics undermines our very system.") convictions even without a special prosecutor.

One question though. Isn't gerrymandering illegal(It should be)? He admits to that.

Tony Fisk said...

On IGUS: the Governor's opening speech for the opening of the 51st Victorian State Government (Nov 1999):
"The government's first item of legislation will restore the powers of the Auditor-General by repealing the 1997 Audit (Amendment) Act."
Seems the ALP thought it a priority back then.

A hypothetical cartoon with DeLay defending himself in the dock: caption reads: "I ... I did *not* have sex with that money!"

I'm not sure what you mean about gerrymandering. I thought it was legal (but ought not be)

Brendan said...

Tony, I was asking because I don't know the US law since I too hail from Victoria. I thought I had better check with people more expert(just about anyone who posts to this blog).

The more I see of the US system the gladder I am to be living in Australia, hung parliament or no.

Anonymous said...

I leave out the strange year 1995, when Newt's fresh-new Neocon Congress actually experimented with acting like grownups, seeking to achieve real accomplishments by ... um... legislating!

I confess that the main thing I remember about Newt's congress that year was when they shut down the federal government. That was stupid.

Tony Fisk said...

David has a long spiel about gerrymandering and what to do about it.

LarryHart said...

Brendan:

One question though. Isn't gerrymandering illegal(It should be)? He admits to that.


I haven't read the specific admission, but I'm thinking that what might be "illegal" is not the usual gerrymandering that is done after the census every 10 years, but the Texas redistricting that was pushed through in 2003 BETWEEN the census cycles. I'm not sure the Texas legislature is legally empowered to redistrict at will.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk said:

David has a long spiel about gerrymandering and what to do about it.


One point he made was that it was not desirable for blue California to unilaterally give up gerrymandering while red Texas and Florida (for example) continued to do so. The cure should be designed so that a large number of states foreswear the practice at the same time.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. California DID pass a proposition to give the redistricting power to an independent committee, while as far as I know, Texas and Florida will go right on gerrymandering for the GOP thank you very much.

That's akin to saying that I don't like the designated hitter rule in baseball (which I don't), so MY team will bat its pitcher, while YOU are free to substitute a home-run slugger for YOURS. The result isn't that others will follow California's lead, but simply that Republicans will pick up seats. California deciding not to gerrymander on its own (rather than as a bargaining tool to get red states to do the same) is tactically as bad as throwing away the public option BEFORE negotiation.

David Brin said...

Well, well, I voted against Blue America's largest state dropping its gerrymandering without extorting reciprocal action by some big Red State. But that did not happen.

And I am cheerful about it! This was by any stretch the MORALLY right thing to do. It will shake up safe constituencies and disempower fanatics... and I hope it will set an example.

Meanwhile, send my suggestions to your congress-critters!

Tacitus said...

Regards gerrymandering I think the only fair system would be one where each congressional district must conform roughly to the dimensions of its state. Say, no more than a 75% increase or decrease in the x and y axes. Iowa should have square looking districts. Hawaii might prove problematic.

As to David's Lame Duck agenda, there could be some room for give and take. If I were in a position of influence I would say:

1.banish the term permanent tax cuts. Nothing is permanent. Heck, we can amend our very Constituion under the right circumstances. I would be willing to pay higher taxes if there were some serious attempt at entitlement reform. Since that is not gonna happen in the next 5 weeks I guess a temp extention of the cuts would be ok.

2.I have no specific problem with looking at past administration's misdeeds. But we as a society have generally not been vindictive to past leaders. I got no issue with looking at, for instance, Iraq contracting. But the same degree of scrutiny would also be due to recent stimulus spending, which may not bear up to close scrutiny.

3. An impartial science advisory board poses no problems. Trying to rid it of partiality might. Look at how the FDA has been coopted by Big Pharma.

4. Maybe some ratio of supoena power between majority and minority parties? Make sure the power is not used exclusively as a political flail....make those supoenas count, they are a limited resource. And always recall that political fortunes change quickly!

We'll see how it goes, but I don't regard the Dem leadership too highly.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

1.banish the term permanent tax cuts. Nothing is permanent. Heck, we can amend our very Constituion under the right circumstances.


In this case, we're talking about a very specific use of "permanent". The tax cuts that are about to expire next month are not permanent because...they're about to expire. The law that lowered the tax rates had an expiration date, and unless specific action is taken, those rates will expire Jan 1.

If congress makes the cuts permanent, that means they pass a new law saying the rates now have no expiration date. No, it's not "permanent" in the sense of preventing action by a future congress. But changing them would then REQUIRE action by a future congress (which might, for example, have to overcome a filibuster or a veto).

In this sense, "permanent" doesn't mean "can't be changed", but "won't change all by itself".

David Brin said...

I suggested a gerrymandering solution that takes one sentence.

Let there be minimal overlap between the districts for state assembly, state senate and congress.

Thus the assembly may gerry THEIR districts to be totally partisan. FINE! The senate seats will likely be much less so, and likewise the Congressional districts.

One sentence. Done. Oh, I suppose another sentence setting an upper limit to perimeter-to-area ratios.

Sociotard said...

I'm still not sure how "minimal" could be defined. Computer algorithms? Wouldn't that be prey to the same kinds of fraud that plague the new computer voting systems?

My solutions was for state governments to all use parlimentary systems for state legislatures, and mandate that creating districts could not be vetoed by the governor. Parlimentary systems don't have the problem with Gerrymandering that our system does. Of course, the parlimentary thing would just be for states, not the federal level. This way, we still get specific representatives in the federal government tied to specific regions in specific states. However, those regions would be defined by legislatures that were not quite as partisan, because they were not influenced by gerrymandering themselves.

Sociotard said...

So, how intent does North Korea seem on reigniting hostilities? Because I know we're pulling out of Iraq, but it doesn't seem like we're pulling out fast enough to be able to deal with a new land war in Asia.

Robert said...

My father suspects (and I must admit his reasoning seems sound) that North Korea is trying hard to get into a war with the U.S., at which point the leadership will flee to China for sanctuary and the "problem" of feeding and repairing North Korea will become an American and South Korean problem. This may even be part of the reason why the succession of power has gone the way it has... because this "young twerp" would likely be captured and put on trial while the rest of the senior leadership escapes with money and other resources.

Rob H.

salast: The use of salad as ballast in ships

Sociotard said...

Except the 'young twerp' is the son of the country's leader. If the senior leadership were planning this, why would they choose that particular fall guy?

David Brin said...

bizarre theory.
Consensus is they want to bully everybody into sending enough food to keep the lid on, so they can stay bullies in their little pond.

Ian said...

North Korea is just ding their normal routine.

bizarre provocative acts designed to produce concessions from the south and/or to increase the internal level of fear and suspicion.

It'll likely pass.

Robert said...

Here's something to consider, and worry about: the U.S. Marine Corps describes itself as almost being a religion. I remember how Dr. Brin was concerned about conservative Christians taking over our armed forces, and stating the Air Force had been a primary target of this. I think he missed his mark here: we appear to already have this happening in the Marine Corps.

Of course, I think Dr. Brin has in the past questioned why we even need a Marine Corps. in this day and age, when the Navy already does much of what the Marines do, and the Air Force covering the rest. But we might start considering the possibility of phasing out the Marine Corps. as its own military organization and making them a specialty force of the Navy and Army (perhaps a joint-cohesion force that recruits from both organizations and has them train together).

Not that this will ever happen: there's too much inertia and tradition behind the Marine Corps. Even the most cost-conscious libertarian-leaning Republican would never touch that third rail. Though it would be a delightful sight to see, especially if there was intelligent discourse concerning this and the advantages (and disadvantages) of phasing out the Marines.

Rob H.

David Smelser said...

It is a lot harder to game and type of minimal redistricting plan if you define minimal because any propose redistricting can be evaluated and validated to determine if it is, in fact, minimal.

I really think that the redistricting commission should create a scoring algorithm for evaluating proposals. Then create an x-prize type competition to see which individual (or group) comes up with the best scoring plan and then adopt that plan.

Also regarding CA: Does anyone know if the redistricting commission is only for federal seats or does they also redistrict for state seats?

Because I'm all in favor of fixing the gerrymandering at the state level. Even if it cost a seat or two at the federal level, it may not be such a bad thing in the long run. Since state government officials eventually run for federal office, I wouldn't mind seeing less extreme candidates at the local level eventually bubble up to a federal position.

David Smelser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

No amount of redistricting will cost a State seats at the Federal level; seats are apportioned by population share. Districting has a few Federal caveats, mostly, I think, to protect against underrepresentation of minorities *overall*, but for the most part it's a State-level process.

rewinn said...

Tacitus2

"... I have no specific problem with looking at past administration's misdeeds. But we as a society have generally not been vindictive to past leaders. I got no issue with looking at, for instance, Iraq contracting. But the same degree of scrutiny would also be due to recent stimulus spending, which may not bear up to close scrutiny."

If a president can be impeached for lying under oath about a blowjob, then an ex-President can be indicted for 4000 cases of felony murder. (Every death as a foreseeable result of a felony ... such as lying to Congress about Iraq ... is "felony murder" ... that's black-letter law.) To put murderers on trial is not "vindictive"; it's "justice".

As for war contracting vs stimulus spending: please do not be obscene. We have dead servicemembers from shoddy construction work by in-theater contractors and from Iraqis enraged to revolt by the crimes upon them by undisciplined mercenaries (...even today Halliburton seeks to immunize itself even from civil suits on the matter ... )

I doubt you'll find such murderous conduct amoung domestic contractors even in the most loosely supervised domestic contracts.

====
As for gerrymandering and fairness and whatnot - it's hard to get a definition of "fairness" that we can all agree on. Should Congressional representation closely track its party preference at the state level? Or is it more important that people of a district have someone - even of the opposite party - who pays special attention to their corner of the state?

If I had my druthers, I'd dump the useless Senate and run Congress under a Parliamentary system, but that'll never happen so long as the change requires the cooperation of those who would lose their power. Perhaps converting Congress into an institution for the voting of proxys? On election day, you specify which candidate gets your proxy. The 435 with the most proxys get a seat in Congress with a number of votes equal to the number of proxys they hold. This would let those who are very powerful under the current system stay powerful, but let in a few outriders who can scrape together support accross the country.

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

Should Congressional representation closely track its party preference at the state level? Or is it more important that people of a district have someone - even of the opposite party - who pays special attention to their corner of the state?


When discussing the evils of gerrymandering, the point isn't so much whether districts should or should not match the state's party preferences, but whether the representative in question is held accountable to the voters. As long as politicians get to choose their voters (rather than the other way around), the system is broken.

Robert said...

Off on a science tangent for a moment, a Russian scientist is trying to combat global warming by introducing herds of ice age-era critters (those that survived, that is) to the Siberian permafrost in the hopes that large herds of wildlife will turn permafrost into grasslands and trap the carbon within them.

I hope it works. And he is right in that once there's a sufficient population in there, it will skyrocket and quickly fill Siberia... and the predators living up there will likely compensate as well. Heck, we might even see the dangerously-endangered tiger shift into Siberia (was there a Siberian tiger at one point?) where greater food and a larger range may allow it to flourish with less threat from poachers (some will be poached, but with such a large range it'll be difficult to drive them into extinction as is currently happening).

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

...(was there a Siberian tiger at one point?)...

I know Wikipedia isn't usually seen as a good source of information, but I can't see any reason why anyone would have altered this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_tiger

unial: a unisex urinal, designed for use by either gender.

Tacitus said...

There still are tigers in Siberia. The Amur tiger is in fact the biggest of the subspecies.

If interested, there is a posting on Instapundit, the conservative/libertarian grand central station. It links to a debate on rejuvenation between David Brin and Aubrey de Grey. www.instapundit.com, currently about fourth from the top of the page, will move down as more posts accumulate.

Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

Definitely a few Siberian tigers left, but they are on the edge...

A post on Sarah Palin's facebook wall mounts a spirited and lucid defence of reference to allies in North Korea. (It really is quite amusing, whoever you think the author is)

Less amusing: King Abdullah requesting that the US invade Iran?
Well, there's no harm in asking, I suppose!

But when did this take place, and what was the response?

sapenthi: a race of intelligent, lithping alienth (related to Igorth?).

Tony Fisk said...

Interesting situation in Victorian state election: the Libs appear to have got a narrow majority following swings of up to 10%, but the number of postal and absentee votes almost outnumbered the ballots on the day!!
It will be interesting to see if there's a skew in the uncounted ballots, and what happens as counting proceeds (and how the electoral commission will handle this situation in future!)

The Abdullah remarks seem to be dated around April 2008 (and were rejected). I'd like to see what was said earlier.

This looks like a good spot for a space station! (minor detail, it's not in orbit around Earth.)

Robert said...

Definitely should have remembered about Siberian tigers. I blame a lack of caffeine when I posted that, and being in a rush to leave. Sorry about that. ^^;; At least I didn't call North Korea our ally... ;)

Now on to a couple interesting articles (addendum note: seeing that the post vanished after I posted it and I recognize what happened last time (the URL is causing issues) I'm posting the URLs without HTML coding. My apologies on this) (addendum note 2: it happened again. I'm posting the two URLs separated to see which one is being nuked by the system):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/28/AR2010112802024.html

The Republican Party may be dead in California, which bodes ill for the Republican party itself as a national party. The article mentions several things that have killed the Republican party in California, including the alienation of non-Caucasian voters by Republicans and a shifting of the party to the Right, with an emphasis on the over-65 crowd and on Caucasian men, both of which are not a strong position to build a voting base from (with one, you risk your voters dying off of old age, and the second is becoming more and more a minority group, albeit one with significant economic and social power).

Robert said...

(and here's the second link, hoping it works...)

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/11/27/danforth-lugar-overboard/

The second article concerns Senator Dick Lugar and the fact Lugar will likely face Tea Party competition in 2012... and includes a comment from former Senator John Danforth that suggests if Danforth is seriously challenged in the Republican primary, then the Republican party as a whole may be beyond redemption.

Posted without comment. Tempted to comment, but I'll be good and stay true to the "can't talk about politics" straitjacket I'm stuck in thanks to getting lost trying to find the polls.

Rob H.

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LarryHart said...

Robert:

The Republican Party may be dead in California, which bodes ill for the Republican party itself as a national party.


Oh, how I wish I could believe that, but as a Democrat and a Cubs fan, I've learned to expect disappointment. The GOP seemed dead and buried in Illinois as recently as 2006, but today, we just swore in a Republican to fill out Barack Obama's old Senate seat. The problem seems to be that every time someone kills the Republican Party (since 1964), they forget to chop off the head and bury the parts at separate crossroads.

Robert said...

You're talking to someone who wishes the Republican Party would make a comeback in Massachusetts to help balance the out-of-control idiocy of Massachusetts Democrats (which are a different breed than the Democrats in the rest of the country - to use Dr. Brin's analogy of Depressives and Manics, Mass. Dems are so manic they make their brethren in the rest of the nation look depressive in comparison).

There's nothing wrong with Republicans. What's wrong is how a super-minority faction has seized control of the party, turning it into something it shouldn't be. To use a medical comparison, the Republican Party has a cancer, and this cancer has resisted chemotherapy and radiotherapy to continue growing and metastasizing.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...

Political parties rise and fall, change names, change their orientation from progressive to conservative. These things matter little in the long run.

It may well be that the Republican party is changing into something else, and please recall that this is something that many of you were wishing to have happen a couple of years ago.

Be so very careful what you wish for.

Now, if on the other hand California does not present a desperate case study in the need for a successful fiscal conservatism, under whatever flag, then there is no hope for that state or for our nation as a whole.
Tacitus

Robert said...

What has happened to the Republican party (and has happened to a (significantly) lesser extent to the Democratic party) is a combination of Voter Apathy and the growth of the Independent voters faction. The people who are now making up the Tea Parties are the ones who've been voting consistently in the Republican party for decades now. Moderate Republicans succumbed to apathy and then saw the election of increasingly conservative candidates in office. They were turned off by the message of these ultra-conservatives (and the lack of moderate candidates to oppose them), so they quit the Republican party rather than try to run for office themselves.

This becomes a Catch-22. The ultra-conservatives have become a larger and larger percentage of the Republican party because more and more moderates quit because they don't like where the Republican party is going. This has resulted in the ultra-conservatives achieving critical mass.

Now, it is nearly impossible for moderate Republicans to remain in office. You have to embrace the far Right in order to stay in the good graces of the remaining Republicans. Unfortunately, critical mass for an ultra-conservative Republican party is insufficient to win in a number of states. The reason Republicans won so big in 2010 is anger over the ineffectiveness of Democrats to end the Recession... which Republican leaders ensured by blocking as many legislative bills in the Senate as possible through the filibuster and refusing to negotiate. This gave specific Democrats too much power, so they demanded kickbacks to help their own states... which Republicans used in a public relations coup that showcased Democrats as ineffectual and corrupt.

The big test for Republicans will be 2012. If Republicans are saddled with Palin as their Presidential candidate, then there will be a significant backlash against Republicans as people go out to vote against her. More people will be voting in 2012 in any event, which will be detrimental for Republicans unless they are able to pass legislation and see the economy improve under their control of the House.

The problem being... if the economy improves, Obama is strengthened. If the economy weakens, the Republicans are damaged due to being the ones in charge of the House. If the economy just stays the same, Republicans are likewise damaged. Possibly the best-case scenario is a weakened economy with someone other than Palin (say, Romney) running against Obama. Republicans gain the White House... but lose the House and Senate.

Theoretically.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...

Predictions are all too often a type of Wish Projection! But what the heck I have a decent batting average...

Palin either does not run or does not get much traction after the first couple of small state primaries. If the last two years have taught us anything it is that lightly experienced divisive figures should not be in the Big Chair.

GOP ends up nominating a midwestern governor, of whom there are about three plausible choices.

Obama wins a second term because the economy is improving.

Further attrition of incumbants of both parties.

Of course, this assumes Obama moves to the center a bit. If he "doubles down" on the progressive agenda again (and he is up to about 32nd's down by now), he is a one term pres who does not get many invites from Dem officeholders....the few survivors will have kept their distance.

Tacitus

Robert said...

Ah, well if we're going with Wish Projection, then I'd say that a young charismatic Republican, probably Hispanic, takes the lessons that Obama taught using social media to his advantage and starts building a grassroots effort to (despite his/her inexperience on the national level) draw young people into the Republican Party. This core of youthful voters that newly register and unite behind the Upstart will (combined with his/her charisma) end up with surprising victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then proceed to prevail against the Old Guard using a message of anti-incumbency and the youth movement assisting him/her to win the Republican primary (the question being whether the Upstart would choose an older "experienced" establishment Republican as a running mate to draw in the old-guard Republicans, or goes for broke with another younger Republican candidate who isn't a Washington Insider to draw in even more disenfranchised voters.

The Upstart then proceeds to win over Obama in a fairly tight race because of all of the youth vote that feel betrayed by Obama's failure to uphold all of his promises. Upon getting into office, the Upstart CONTINUES to use his/her grassroots connections to bully/shame the Republican Congress (seeing that if a Republican wins in 2012, they'll probably also win in the House and Senate by inertia) into enacting more moderate legislation to keep the youth vote as part of the new Moderate Republican party.

There's several jokes bandied about that the Republican emblem should be changed from the Elephant to the Phoenix, seeing that they have been reborn. The Tea Party feels disenfranchised and tries to go third-party, but ends up being unable to gain much traction, especially as most mid-level conservative Republicans would rather vote for the new Moderate Republicans than risk allowing the increasingly liberal Democrats getting control of Congress.

You know, if we were going for Wish Projection here. ;)

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

I know you guys (Robert and Tacitus) are more Republican than not, but from my perspective, the only "wish projection" in your story there is that the Democrats are increasingly liberal.

:)

Robert said...

Well, when you get down to it, the Democratic party has become more conservative because the moderates have fled the Republicans. If the Republican party regained its sanity and became more moderate, then the Republicans that fled to Democrats as the saner of two choices would have the chance to rejoin the party they wish they still had. The end result would be fewer moderate-conservatives in the Democrats, and a "leaning" to the left by the lack of association.

So indirectly you're right. But we speak of this as the end-result of Republican politicians regaining their sanity and the party itself no longer dominated by a group that is out of touch with American society as a whole.

Rob H.

TwinBeam said...

OK, I can't believe no one has raised it here in the home of "transparency" yet:

What do you think of the latest "radical transparency" by WikiLeaks?

Good thing, or should governments be allowed to keep some things secret in the name of practical diplomacy?

Is South Korea better or worse off for it being made public that China has had just about enough of North Korea? Etc?

What is the most interesting revelation so far?

How about the official responses to the leaks? Anger at WikiLeaks for doing the leaking of course - but also anger at poor security practices allowing the leaks.

Tony Fisk said...

I referred to the Saudis' 'request' earlier.

Public response to wikileaks is mixed but appears to be generally positive. Personally, I would like to see a wider mix of sources being trumpeted (while the biggest to date, the US is only one of several. It depends, too, on who decides to blow their whistles. This is less likely where the probable response is a bullet to the back of the head)

Is it in the public interest to have all this revealed? Tricky, but overall I feel I've no reason to trust someone to tell me what I shouldn't know.

I certainly think the US response is a bit over the top, especially calls to have wikileaks registered as a terrorist organisation.

Probably the first thing that will happen is that diplomats will learn the use of courtesy in their despatches.

Robert said...

What I find interesting is the next set of "leaks" that will apparently be coming in a few months: Wikileaks has the dirty laundry on one of the big banks and is going to leak it. Personally I think they should release that data NOW, not later. This latest release is going to likely result in another next-generation cyber-attack. This one will be from the U.S. to shut down Wikileaks.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

Someone just tweeted about wikileaks: "Dear Government: like you always tell US, if you've done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear!"

I'm not sure if I entirely agree about that, but on the whole, if we're the good guys, then we should be on the side of openness. If it's embarassing to the Saudis for the world to know that they wanted us to attack the Iranians for them, well I certainly feel their pain, but not in the way our troops do.

Tony Fisk said...

One issue with wikileaks: how much is it beholden to Assange's whim? While I suspect he is simply a figurehead, there is still a group deciding what and what not to release.

Tony Fisk said...

Vale Worldchanging

Anonymous said...

Eh? What the...?

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/nov/HQ_M10-167_Astrobiology.html

TwinBeam said...

Re: NASA press conference:

http://astrobiology.asu.edu/Astrobiology/Home/Home.html

TheMadLibrarian said...

Robert, did you see the just-up headline? Someone is doing a DOS attack on Wikileaks.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40433287/ns/technology_and_science-security

crizzi -- Italian Christmas specialty cookies

TheMadLibrarian

Robert said...

Yes, I saw. And it is a next-generation attack apparently - it's a Denial of Service that attacks the DNS directly rather than using a Botnet to overwhelm the site. The hacker involved is believed to be ex-military and has gone after jihad forums and anti-American websites in the past.

So it's not quite a government-ops, unless the hacker in question is contracting out to the Feds while maintaining a non-government persona.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert,

Maybe I'm misinterpreting your remarks, but it SOUNDS as if you're saying that when I said it was a fantasy that Democrats were increasingly liberal, it's only because their ranks are watered down by former Republicans who have fled that party.

What I MEANT was that there is a popularly accepted view of Obama and the congressional Dems--so accepted as to be considered self-evident truth--that they're raging socialists intent on pillaging the wealth of real producers and implementing totalitarian control over hapless America. To me, this is so at odds with the record of the actual Democrats as to be absurd. In fact, in the face of a crisis of Great Depression proportions, Obama has specifically chosen to be more Andrew Mellon than Franklin Roosevelt. The dems are willing to let banks foreclose on homeowners, now that those banks themselves have been saved by taxpayer largesse. They're willing to let unemployment benefits lapse because we "can't afford them", while they're about to cave on a permanent tax giveaway to the wealthy. And now, they're asking their supporters to write letters to the editor of local newspapers in favor of lowering wages?

You may disagree with me on whether any of these things are good or bad, but the fact is that that's what this administration and congress are actually doing, and for all that, they're portrayed as the greatest Socialist menace in history? THAT's what I meant when I said that "the Democrats are increasingly liberal" is mere wish-projection.

SteveO said...

Re:NASA press conference:

http://astrobiology.asu.edu/Astrobiology/Home/Home.html

Prediction: Chemical evidence of life has been found on exoplanets.

People like us will be agog at the implications for humanity and the universe.

Most people will forget about it in around 60 seconds.

(Feeling a little cynical today...and overwhelmed by the wonder of the universe...)

rewinn said...

Chemical evidence of live on exoplanets plus letters to the editors demanding wage cuts, taken together, explain Fermi's Paradox:

We're entertainment.

===

("...or, as Rod Serling would have it, 'To Serve Man ... It's a Reality Show!'")

David Brin said...

There are no exoplanetary astronomers on the list of panel members for The Dec 2 announcement. None at all. Hence, I lean toward something having to do with prebiotic and biotic chemistry. (One of the scientists is known for forecasting an imminent shortage of free phosphorus on Earth, for fertilizers, as the great known deposits get mined out.)

David Brin said...

Onward to next posting...