Archive for Political Science Fiction

Helping make an indifference

Jumping off from last week’s QOTW, mushroom observes:

If you look at most of what drives the discussions about political parties it often revolves around whether or not politicians care. Bill Clinton was elected because he could feel our pain, not to mention feeling up our interns. George Bush campaigned as a compassionate conservative and suffered because he was supposedly uncaring with regard to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Obama has taken a hit recently because he was yucking it up on the golf course with his celebrity partners moments after a press conference in which he expressed outrage and grief over the beheading of journalist James Foley.

Democrats and Republicans, all successful politicians are good at pretending to care about the concerns of their constituencies. The truth is that most of them really only care about themselves, their own financial and professional success, and the pursuit of power. Most are lawyers. Lawyers are people who make a living by pretending to be a friend speaking for whomever is paying them.

If we’re going to play Maximum Cynic here — and really, why shouldn’t we? — this could benefit Hillary Clinton in 2016, since nobody is likely to be emotionally invested in the idea that she cares.

On t’other hand, there’s such a thing as Constituent Service, when you have to ask a favor of a pol even though you’re not in a position to add to the contents of his wallet or the cash flow of his PAC. This state’s delegation is mostly pretty good at it, I am told, though it’s been many years since I had to call on a member. (How long ago? There were Democrats elected from this state.)

And I have to wonder if the mavericks in Congress — our own Tom Coburn is a prime example — are that way because they’re not lawyers. (Coburn, lest we forget, is an OB/GYN.)

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Meanwhile in Montgomery

A change in legislative compensation is coming for the Alabama legislature:

Starting after this year’s elections, Alabama lawmakers will be paid the median household income for the state.

The state has hired a law firm to help determine that amount.

In 2012, Alabamians approved a constitutional amendment making the change in lawmaker pay.

Well, okay. Did it take a law firm to determine this amount?

In 2012, the median household income in Alabama was about $42,000.

Not mentioned in the article: how much they’re getting now. Reid Wilson of WaPo ferreted that out last year:

Alabama legislators only make $10 a day in actual salary, but they get $4,308 a month in expense budgets and $50 a day when the legislature meets.

Says Wikipedia: “The length of the regular session is limited to 30 meeting days within a period of 105 calendar days. Session weeks consist of meetings of the full chamber and committee meetings.”

So this is, then, a raise? And state voters approved it? Then again, these hardy souls must deal with the Alabama Constitution of 1901, which runs over 340,000 words, or about half the size of Atlas Shrugged.

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Walking off from the runoff

I cast ballot #290, according to the machine, at 4:53 pm. With competitive races in both parties, I think I was expecting a few more than that. Still, there are lots of folks wedded to the concept of “Runoff, schmunoff.” Perhaps one of these years we can do the Instant Runoff thing.

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Yes, we have no [anything]

For those of you who thought things would improve in Venezuela once Hugo Chávez passed on, you might want to think again. Now there are food shortages, and the word from Caracas is that the government is going to Do Something. Unfortunately, it’s going to do what a Chavist government can’t help but do, and that’s muck things up worse:

Rather than understanding that the problem is due to a drop in production and a drought in foreign currency to buy the products required by the population, now the “queues” making the lives of consumers miserable every day get the blame. A few days ago, Andrés Eloy Méndez, the newly appointed Superintendent of Socio-Economic Rights, announced that the Government will start a “war against queues” at supermarkets, another fictitious conflagration that adds to the so-called “economic war” [Nicolás] Maduro frequently resorts to.

The first mistake, of course, is appointing a Superintendent of Socio-Economic Rights, which in terms of functionality is right up there with establishing a Ministry of Play-Doh.

Anyway, you may be sure that Méndez takes his phoney-baloney job seriously:

From this “battle” of audits arose the erroneous idea that one of the main causes of people spending up to three and four hours in a commercial establishment is that supermarkets have a significant number of checkout counters closed. And a couple of supermarkets were fined over this, including the Bicentenario Plaza Venezuela in Caracas, where only 26 checkout counters out of 60 were operational. Also, the Bicentenario branch was requested to outline a plan to cover and ensure the operation of all counters in the future.

Of course, opening more checkout counters will not add one single banana (probably imported from Colombia) to the stocks in Venezuelan food stores.

But wait! It gets worse:

[I]t has just been announced that the ministries of Science and Technology and Food are developing a biometric fingerprint recognition system that will allow to monitor “who buys and how he/she does it” and to control the so-called “bachaqueo” (a type of smuggling activity common in the Venezuelan border with Colombia), according to Méndez. This mechanism would be put into operation for both private and public network supermarkets by early 2015.

Number of additional bananas to be sold as a result: zero.

These ideas are so horrible and have such minimal potential positive impact that I expect Harry Reid to propose at least one of them before too long.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Quote of the week

Gagdad Bob explains the current composition of the Democratic Party:

[H]ere’s a timely aphorism by [Nicolás Gómez] Dávila: “The worst demagogues are not recruited from the envious poor, but from among the embarrassed wealthy.”

This fully explains the high-low composition of the Democratic party, with super-wealthy elites at one end and lofo and lower IQ hordes at the other. You could say that the difference between the two is that the elites are bankrupt in every way except financially.

This little formula explains why the wealthiest counties in the nation trend Democrat, just as do places like Ferguson. The two are locked in a deathly parasitic embrace, for liberals destroy and have destroyed the very people they most rely upon to support them at the polls, and the underclass can be relied upon to support the very people and polices that ensure its own continued ruin. The resultant civilizational collapse is what they call “progress.”

If these are the parasites, who then are the hosts? Answer: everyone else.

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You’re watching GOTV

Does the process of Getting Out The Vote require that you, you know, actually get out once in a while? I’m one of those weird people who thinks it does.

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A conspiracy of northpaws

This post by Robert Stacy McCain has drawn over five dozen comments so far, of which this one by TheOtherAndrewB is my favorite:

Since the annual Airing of Grievances has come early this year, why don’t we move on to the REALLY important stuff? Only 2% of Americans are gay, but fully 10% are left-handed. How DARE we assume that this constitutes a majority! Sure, 90% is bigger than 10% in your cis-handed world, but that is just oppressive dexteronormative thinking. We should allow (and by allow, I mean force) children to experience the rich diversity of left-handedness. Make all children wear an enormous iron mitten on their right hands until age 18. And, while we are at it, lets force every manufacturer of doorknobs, light bulbs, sporting equipment, cars, industrial machinery and computers to reverse everything they make. At no cost to the consumer and with no unintended consequences.

Ned Flanders was not availididdlyable for comment.

(Why, yes, I do seem to be mentioning light bulbs a lot these days.)

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No place to wear a star

Although I don’t believe that should disqualify him:

An 87-year old man is running for sheriff in Washington state because sometimes, as he says, letters seeking change are just not enough.

Dave Olinger of Oak Harbor, located about 90 miles northwest of Seattle, is a man of his word and convictions and, oh yeah, a nudist.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Heck, Joe Biden is alleged to be a skinnydipper.

Olinger’s problem with the incumbent?

Olinger, who has a political science degree from UC Berkeley, said the incumbent sheriff, Mark Brown, was running unopposed and as a Republican.

“It is a position that is not supposed to be associated with a political party,” Olinger said.

And so Sheriff Brown will be primaried. Washington State has an open primary, so Olinger’s political affiliation is not germane:

Olinger was first going to try and get on the ticket as a member of the nudist party, but later decided the Democratic Party worked just fine, he said.

“I would do a good job for the county,” he said. “I have a real chance of at least making the [general election] ticket.”

In other news, apparently there’s some sort of nudist party. I had no idea the Body Freedom Collaborative might actually hold political-party status.

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No countability

Article I, Section 2, of that document no one in Washington seems ever to have read:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers … The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years.

This is the Constitutional mandate of the Bureau of the Census. All the rest of this stuff is extraneous:

Received an envelope with frightening-looking shields and seals, urging “the person who resides at this address, not you personally” go and participate in Census questionnaire on their website. If I don’t, they said citing ## XX Article of YY US Law, I’ll be thrown in jail or charged a hefty penalty. It’s all for the greater good, they said — to let the government know where, in which community little children cry from hunger and which ethnic group in particular these crying children belong to.

This is the sort of thing that raised the ire of our old friend Nunya Bidness, who probably would have responded almost exactly this way:

I bet some govmint clerk will be a bit surprised to find West-African Chinese man of 85 and income of 250K, living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, badly in need of hearing aid, guide dog and a life-supply of Prozac.

The point is not so much to put one over on the Feds — though they richly deserve it — as it is to make their figures (more) unreliable, comparable with, for instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which over the past six years has been turned into a propaganda mill, and not a good propaganda mill at that.

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There’s no need for argument

Carl J. Domino, who’s running for the House from Florida’s District 18, has proposed something called “Fix Congress First.” Apparently it’s not “fixing” in the veterinary sense, more’s the pity. But this is the opening pitch:

If we want to put Washington back to work for the people, we need to reform the Congress itself. I propose we get back to being citizen legislators by establishing 8 year term limits for US Representatives and setting pay for Congress at the median pay in their district.

Half of that sounds plausible. The other half, not so much: I can think of no reason why Henry Waxman’s replacement in CA 33 should be paid more than Markwayne Mullin in OK 2.

Ohio’s Third Base Politics notes:

This would significantly reduce the income of many Congressmen, leaving the door to these elected offices available to only wealthy people, like Domino. In addition to that, Domino is proposing that some minority and female Representatives earn wages hovering near the poverty line, depending on their family size… The Democrats are already beating the drums of the “War on Women” and Domino is playing right into them. Even if it is unintentional, he is reinforcing the stereotype of Republicans being rich, out of touch old men who are trying to keep minorities and women down.

And come to think of it, why this interest in term limits? Domino is 70, fercrissake. Term limits are coming for him whether he likes them or not.

Oh:

Domino was a Representative in the House of Representatives of the U.S. state of Florida… Domino served from 2002-2010, where he had to stand down due to Florida term limits.

So apparently he’s used to that sort of thing. And Florida’s term-limit law doesn’t keep Domino from seeking another office after maxing one out.

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Spent thinking

Above the fold in this morning’s Oklahoman:

Oklahoma taxpayers could get a small cut in their state income taxes beginning in 2016, but nobody can say whether that’s even likely to happen.

It’s all based on a complicated revenue-based “trigger” built in to the measure.

So complicated, in fact, that even state Treasurer Ken Miller, who holds a doctorate in economics, said it’s about as “clear as mud.”

“I just don’t understand the logic of a trigger,” he said Thursday. “There’s no economic reason to pass a measure today predicated on a future event, when one can simply wait for that event to occur and then preserve the flexibility. It’s difficult to explain the mechanics of the trigger and it’s certainly difficult to communicate to the taxpayers what their taxes are going to be.”

(NewsOK link once the paywall lets this through.)

But it was deemed necessary to pass the bill, because tax cuts, doncha know. Enough members of the Legislature are emotionally wedded to the concept that they’ll even pass an imaginary tax cut, just to say that they passed a tax cut. This is the next step before you get to Nancy Pelosi’s immortal utterance “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” which, if it isn’t the dumbest goddamn thing ever said by a legislator, is way ahead of whatever’s in third place.

Ken Miller’s a pretty bright guy. If he can’t defend this measure, it can’t be defended. Now situations like this can be avoided by the simple expedient of not passing crappy bills; however, for some reason the electorate, perhaps persuaded by the legislature — or maybe it’s the other way around? — seems to think that passing a bill is almost always better than not passing a bill, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

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711 craps out

For those around here who might not remember the original referendum from ten years ago, the text of the measure enacted by Oklahoma State Question 711, now picking up speed on its presumably inevitable roll to the dustbin:

(a.) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

(b.) A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.

(c.) Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

This is what I said at the time:

Inasmuch as same-sex marriages are already illegal in this state, this measure is superfluous; more to the point, while there are perfectly logical reasons to oppose them which don’t imply that the opponent is necessarily some horrid hidebound bigot, I don’t like the idea of establishing a precedent that in the future could be used by horrid hidebound bigots for some nefarious purpose — this isn’t a chainsaw, it’s a bludgeon — and that reason alone is enough for me to vote No on 711.

That slippery slope can go in several different directions, you know?

Anyway, no licenses are yet being issued, and nothing is final, even by the dubious political definition of “final.”

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Quote of the week

The Ruling Class really, really hates not getting to rule:

Most of all, I think — they despise us for not giving a damn what they think particularly, and rejecting practically everything that they tell us to do — ride public transportation, move into urban stack-a-prole housing, give up eating meat (or much of anything else), and continuing to believe that we can raise our own children and sort out our own lives without self-elected nannies breathing down our necks 24-7. Very likely the well-manicured and delicate hands of the new ruling class itch for a whip to give us all a good thrashing for our temerity. Indeed — they are no longer our countrymen in spirit, any more than the Tory sympathizers who departed the American colonies two hundred years and more ago are.

Civil war, you say? Not a chance — of it being civil, anyway.

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And sitteth at the left hand of .GOP

This passes for Republican strategy, or strategery, these days:

The Republican Party has come into the Internet age, just barely, or is at least cynically attempting to acknowledge the existence of the Internet by allowing young people to pour money into the RNC’s coffers one $20.16 domain name at a time (yes, $20.16). Or they’re just screwing with everyone and distracting the wider Interwebs by challenging them to find every last domain name on the RNC’s .GOP block list (for the record, porn.GOP was not available, even though all we were going to do with it is put up a black screen and make some awkward shuffling noises).

Does this mean we can expect to see Republicans In Domain Name Only? [Answer: yes.]

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Up from wherever

Tony Woodlief on the Littlest Immigrants:

I don’t think they love their children any less than I love my own, which tells me something about what their lives must be like, to send their babies away. Their children stream northward in droves — as many as 60,000 this year — and we don’t want them. We don’t want their skin lesions and their hungry bellies, we don’t want their parents and aunts and uncles likely to follow, we don’t want them taking our jobs and clogging our classrooms and driving without insurance on our roads. We have no place for them in our country and certainly not in our hearts.

And yet:

What if, instead of greeting the federal agents with protest signs, we greeted them with petitions? Give us these children. We will feed them, we will clothe them, we will give them shelter. We will teach them and we will pray over them. Their parents, God help them, sent them away, and now here we stand to make good on the faith or hope or desperation in which those mothers and fathers sent them forth. Give us these children, and we will find a way. We will show mercy, because while we can scarcely agree between ourselves on anything else, we agree that the kingdom of heaven includes a hand stretched out in love.

It’s utterly impractical, I know. But how have we done so far, Christians, with practicality? For Christ’s sake, let’s not be known for our practicality.

Yeah, I know, I know: we’re being played for chumps by our wicked (no other word applies) government. Think in terms of a Higher Authority.

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Quote of the week

Your humble narrator, having previously contemplated continuing shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, has recommended an increase in the fuel tax, one of the less intrusive options available.

Congressmen don’t think like that. Jack Baruth quotes one, and gets at the heart of the matter:

“If all we did was set this up to collect the road fee, that’s actually a more expensive way to collect the fee. The gas tax is actually a very inexpensive tax to collect. But if we are able to have a platform that does all these other things, to share the costs, and give people a richer transportation experience, I think people will voluntarily make that transition.”

We’re missing all the air quotes, I think, let’s put them back in:

I “think” people will “voluntarily” make that “transition”

When you read “voluntarily” in modern wonk-speak, you can take that to mean “Any amount of resistance short of facing down the Bureau of Land Management with the local redneck militia,” and that’s what it means here as well. The motorists of America will be given a single option: GPS-based usage tracking tied to a central payment account that will also be debited for parking and traffic tickets. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a speed camera just sitting by the site of the road dinging every motorist who goes by at 1mph over the limit a nice, round five hundred bucks. And why not?

Naturally, the same government that manages to lose all the incriminating IRS emails will keep solid-gold-permanent records of your travels until the end of time. If they do it with the justly-reviled public-private partnership, those records will be sold to Equifax and your insurance company as well. With your travel and your Carnivore records, the government knows exactly who and what you are. In real time, they’ll be able to understand your entire life. Imagine the day when driving to an oncology clinic results in a sit-down with your company’s HR representative to discuss your future with the company. Or the day when your employer can simply buy a list of your whereabouts sorted to its particular interest. Or the day when parking your car outside a gun store every Sunday and walking across the street for ice cream results in the ATF visiting your house to discuss your gun-nut tendencies. Or the day when driving through known drug-sales areas results in a SWAT team tossing a flashbang into your child’s crib.

Note the ludicrous phrase “richer transportation experience.” Any “richer” experience, as defined in DC-speak, makes you poorer by definition: not only are the results not favorable to you, but you have to pay for them in the first place.

“Oh, Jack, you teatard anarchist commie libertarian,” you’re sighing. “How else are they supposed to address the Highway Fund problem?” Well, I would suggest that destroying the last vestiges of privacy and liberty in this country are not any less meaningful than keeping up the pace of road construction. I would also suggest that it’s not my job to come up with ideas as to how the government can easily accomplish its goals without trampling its citizens underfoot. But since you asked, I’ll come up with one: A ten percent tariff on cheap goods imported from China would add 50% to the existing Highway Fund tax level, enough to address all concerns for the foreseeable future.

Assuming, of course, you could get the idiots in Washington to spend it on that, as opposed to any of the useless crap they’d want to spend it on.

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It’s easier than it looks

Thoughts on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby by Warren Meyer:

It seems that a huge number of Americans, even nominally intelligent ones, cannot parse the difference between banning an activity and some third party simply refusing to pay for you to engage in that activity. This really does not seem to be a complicated distinction, but yesterday I watched something like 40% of America fail to make it. How is it possible to make any progress on liberty and individual rights if people’s thinking is so sloppy?

It’s not. Although in some cases, based on my own observations, it’s less “thinking” than simple reflex.

I am minded of Justice Scalia’s concurrence in NEA v. Finley, 1998:

“Those who wish to create indecent and disrespectful art are as unconstrained now as they were before the enactment of this statute. Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to epater les bourgeois; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it.”

Some people didn’t comprehend that either.

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Run it off now

Way back in 2006, Michael Bates made a pretty persuasive case for Instant Runoff Voting.

How would this have worked in, say, the recent Mississippi Senate primary? Roger Green explains the process:

In the Mississippi GOP scenario, after the June 3 primary, Thomas Carey’s votes would have been distributed to [Thad] Cochran and [Chris] McDaniel, based on who was Carey voters’ second choice. Majority would have been reached. There would have been no need for the June 24 runoff, and no chance for the Democratic party supporters to vote in the Republican primary without foregoing their opportunity to vote in their OWN primary.

Which would have avoided that whole debacle rather neatly.

I once questioned how this could be implemented on this state’s optical-ballot system, but that doesn’t really seem to be much of an issue, and besides we’ve replaced the entire fleet of scanners since then.

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Quote of the week

Francis W. Porretto, on the country’s rapidly expanding “non-military” military:

In a nation where “laws” (and “regulations” enforced as “laws”) have proliferated so voluminously that even the most astute legal specialists cannot know them adequately, does “law and order” constitute a sufficient justification for a fully militarized police system?

An effectively nationalized police system?

Armed and armored by the Department of Defense?

Equipped with tools of surveillance beyond Orwell’s imagination?

Whose myrmidons are indemnified for any acts of wrongdoing no matter how dramatic?

If so, how do these United States differ in principle from North Korea?

After reading up on the DPRK’s Ministry of People’s Security, I’m inclined to think that the only substantive difference is volume.

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Dead man running

There’s really not much one can add to this:

Political opponents accuse each other of lying all the time, but one Oklahoma congressional candidate took his accusation to a new level this week when he claimed his opponent was actually dead and being represented by a body double.

KFOR in Oklahoma reports that Timothy Ray Murray believes Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), his opponent in the congressional Republican primary, was executed three years ago and is being represented by a look-alike. Because he believes Lucas is really dead, Murray said he will challenge the results of Tuesday’s Republican primary, in which Murray received 5.2 percent of the vote. Lucas won the primary with 82.8 percent of the vote.

“It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011,” Murray said in a statement posted on his campaign website. The statement claimed Lucas and “a few other” members of Congress from Oklahoma and other states were shown on television being hanged by “The World Court.”

Not that I object to Congressmen being hanged or anything, but “The World Court”? What, did the Illuminati have the week off?

And we’ve had dead people on the ballot before, but you can usually assume that they were alive on the filing date.

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Dollars of darkness

A chap named “badanov,” and I presume he is, left this comment at The Other McCain, riffing off a Molly Ball piece for the Atlantic that McCain linked to for background:

T. W. Shannon may have received endorsements of Freedom Works, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, but what Miss Ball failed to note is that Shannon was supported by a galaxy of democrats as well as liberal republicans. No one in Oklahoma thought those endorsements were carefully considered; I certainly didn’t think so. Those endorsements were all head scratchers, endorsing a politician with such little experience.

So when the head of the PAC which was the first in line to give Shannon money was busted for drug possession, a pattern emerged that those endorsements were poorly considered. Despite the star power of all those endorsements, they couldn’t hide the stink, and so Shannon went down harder than an Obamacare website.

Shannon has a promising future if he carefully considers who [his] paymaster is, and he stops taking dark money without considering the source. This election cycle he didn’t and he thankfully got caught.

There are those who think all money in politics — except, of course, funding from their friends — qualifies as “dark,” but this is hardly their sole delusion.

Incidentally, this was Ball’s conclusion on l’affaire Shannon:

The race was expected to be close, but it was not. Lankford ran away with it, taking 57 percent of the vote, crushing Shannon by more than 20 points and avoiding a runoff. The very conservative voters of Oklahoma, a very conservative state, wanted the candidate with conservative positions but a responsible profile — someone who doesn’t want to burn Washington down and might see fit to vote some other way than “no” once in a while. What Republicans want isn’t more Thad Cochrans. It’s more James Lankfords.

She says “burn Washington down” like it’s a bad thing. Then again, I didn’t vote in that race, for the most obvious of reasons. (Hint: closed primary.)

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Hoosier spouse

Same-sex marriage comes to Indiana, and Roberta X gauges the response:

State GOP politicians are cheering on the appeal and seem to be implying there’s a circuit split (which would be an excellent reason to haul the mess up before the Supreme Court, who might even hear it — I wonder how many appeals are refused after a Justice has a nightmare about Dred Scott?). If there is a circuit split, I’m not finding it.

And predictions of what is to come, from the fervid imaginations of the General Public:

The next step, according to some, will be dogs and cats living together, followed by Nazis riding dinosaurs, people marrying houseplants and legalized polyamorous unions — I suspect the last strongly supported by the divorce attorney union in quivering anticipation of the financial resources of an 8-person marriage.* (Conversely, nobody older than age six really wants stormtroopers on T-Rexes goose-stepping down Main Street. Common ground at last!)

And you got this mainly because I wanted to reproduce the footnote:

* “Buy in bulk and save!” One would expect more huddling-up when times are difficult, especially in this age of extended families no longer living in the same neighborhood. This leads me to suspect the demand for more-formal polyamory is already well-matched to supply: pretty small. The “If they legalize it, everyone will want to do it,” argument is bilgewater: the people who want to already are. One might apply this principle more widely…

And should, if only because slopes are really hard to gauge for slipperiness until you actually lose your footing.

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Not to mention the Greens

Once you’ve reached a Certain Age, you inevitably wonder about things like this:

If Democrats are liberals, and liberals are socialists, and socialists are blood-brothers of communists, how did the Democrats become associated with the color blue? I mean communists have been called Reds for forever, but in the modern USA, it is the Republicans, the staunch opponents of anything that even smells of cooperation, who are the Reds. Why is that?

As is the case with most modern idiosyncrasies, it’s a television thing. From the Washington Post, just before the 2004 elections:

The first reference to “red states” and “blue states,” according to a database search of newspapers, magazines and TV news transcripts since 1980, occurred on NBC’s Today show about a week before the 2000 election. Matt Lauer and Tim Russert discussed the projected alignment of the states, using a map and a color scheme that had first shown up a few days earlier on NBC’s sister cable network, MSNBC. “So how does [Bush] get those remaining 61 electoral red states, if you will?” Russert asked at one point.

In an interview yesterday, Russert disclaimed credit for coining the red-state, blue-state distinction. “I’m sure I wasn’t the first to come up with it,” he said. “But I will take credit for the white board,” Russert’s signature, hands-on electoral vote tracker.

But it may have been David Letterman at CBS who provided the cultural imprimatur:

As the 2000 election became a 36-day recount debacle, the commentariat magically reached consensus on the proper colors. Newspapers began discussing the race in the larger, abstract context of red vs. blue. The deal may have been sealed when Letterman suggested a week after the vote that a compromise would “make George W. Bush president of the red states and Al Gore head of the blue ones.”

Incidentally, Prince’s Purple Rain album was released 30 years ago this week.

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Turned out like before

There wasn’t much on the Democratic ballot in today’s primary, rather a lot more for the GOP; in fact, signs were posted to the effect of “REPUBLICANS USE BOTH SIDES OF BALLOT.” I showed up at the two-precinct polling place at 4:52 pm and cast what appeared to be ballot #408. Behind me were two Republicans: a pretty young lady and a grizzled old man. (Now that’s a coalition.) I was back in the parking lot before 4:56. Overall, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; this is normally a semi-slack period, with things getting busy after 5:30 to 6 pm. (Polls close at 7; there’s also a rush first thing in the morning for the 7 am opening.)

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Some semblance of a ballot

Oklahoma Democrats are in about the same sad state as California Republicans: outnumbered and then some in state offices, they’re more than decimated but less than demoralized. Maybe. At any rate, Tuesday’s primary gives me, as an actual Oklahoma Democrat, a very short ballot to contemplate.

Four Democrats — and, for that matter, two Republicans — would like to chase Janet Barresi out of the Superintendent of Public Instruction office. Of the four on my ballot, I’m leaning toward Freda Deskin, who founded a charter school (ASTEC) in the east end of the old Shepherd Mall back in 2000. It’s not a selective school, either: “ASTEC does not test students for admittance, require only students eligible for AP courses or ask students to leave if test scores are low. We believe all students can grow from where they are.” Evidence of same: the middle school gets a blah D-plus on the most recent state ratings, but the high school scores an A. At some point, it appears, they’re indeed growing.

For US Senator (Unexpired Term) — in other words, Tom Coburn’s seat, Dr. No having decided to retire two years early — we have three candidates, one of whom (Jim Rogers) I’ve seen on a ballot before. My pick here is Connie Johnson, who just finished up her fourth full term representing Senate District 48, on the city’s northeast side, mostly because she’s pretty good at thinking outside the box. (She worked to knock down one of the state’s perennial Fetus Personhood bills; I generally tend to favor such things, but the amendment she offered was a classic of its kind. That bill never made it to the House, let alone the governor’s desk.)

For House District 5, vacated by James Lankford, who’s running on the GOP side for Coburn’s old seat, we have three Democrats. From the Old Guard, there’s Tom Guild, retired college professor, making his third try; from the Far Corner, there’s Leona Leonard, chair of the Seminole County party apparatus; and somewhere in between, there’s Al McAffrey, who served three terms in the State House, representing District 88, and then a term in Senate District 46. Truth be told, what I’m hoping for is for McAffrey to prevail in the primary and then take on Republican Patrice Douglas, former Edmond mayor most recently on the Corporation Commission, just to see who gets the most out-of-state money.

My rule for County Commissioners has been honed down over the years to “Is the incumbent under indictment?” Willa Johnson, who came to District 1 after years on the City Council (Ward 7), is not under indictment, and I know from nothing about her opponent, one Ron Henry from Luther, so Johnson gets the nod.

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Something, um, happened

Can’t find your tax-return documentation? Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) to the rescue:

Taxpayers who do not produce documents for the Internal Revenue Service will be able to offer a variety of dubious excuses under legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX 36) a week after the IRS offered an incredibly dubious excuse for its failure to turn documents over to House investigators.

Under Stockman’s bill, “The Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Act,” taxpayers who do not provide documents requested by the IRS can claim one of the following reasons:

  1. The dog ate my tax receipts
  2. Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction
  3. Traded documents for five terrorists
  4. Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon
  5. Left on table in Hillary’s Book Room
  6. Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy’s car
  7. Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords
  8. Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar
  9. Was short on toilet paper while camping
  10. At this point, what difference does it make?

Stockman’s bill likely faces an uphill battle in Congress, whose attention has been distracted of late by the annual Invertebrate Festival (January 2 until gaveled to a close).

(Via this Smitty tweet.)

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Turned off by turnout

A friend from Canada weighs in on the desirability of a truly universal franchise:

There is one phrase you hear a LOT around election time which I can guarantee that my friends and acquaintances will never hear leave my lips. It’s “I don’t care/It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just be sure to vote!” Uh, no … not for me at least. The reason they’ll never hear it is simply because I care VERY much who people vote for and I can’t flippantly suggest otherwise. I also freely admit that while I am not at all a fan of voter apathy, if said apathy were to keep those who might be inclined to support the right-wing agenda from going to the polls, I’d be in no way broken up over their failure to exercise their civic duty. So yeah … that’s one phrase I never say.

I used to worry about voter apathy, but I don’t anymore.

And I’m just self-centered enough to figure that if fewer folks show up at the polls, my single solitary ballot is worth that much more.

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Fill those holes with money

A survey conducted by the American Automobile Association says that drivers would be willing to pay more in fuel tax:

Two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) believe the federal government should invest more than it does now on roads, bridges and mass transit systems, according to a new AAA omnibus survey of 2,013 adults. Only five percent of respondents believe the federal government should spend less on transportation. These results come as AAA urges members of Congress to increase the fuel tax, which will address significant transportation safety and congestion issues nationwide.

Survey Highlights:

  • About half of Americans (52 percent) are willing to pay higher fuel taxes per month on average for better roads, bridges and mass transit systems.
  • Nearly three times as many people (51 percent) are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports increased federal spending on transportation than would be less likely (19 percent).
  • Approximately two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) agree that taxes on gasoline and diesel consumption are appropriate for transportation funding.
  • More people believe that roads, bridges and transit systems have declined in quality over the previous three years (43 percent) than those who believe the quality has improved (32 percent).

Not mentioned here, but not hard to find, are those who believe that any increase in the fuel tax will go, not to improving the state of transportation, but into general governmental slush funds: they’d support the tax if they thought it would actually do some good.

I suggested a plan about three years ago:

[I]ncrease domestic production enough to cause a noticeable decrease in the price at the pump, increase the tax enough to take up the slack, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary. It would never fly, of course.

Certainly not. In Glenn Reynolds’ immortal phrase, “insufficient opportunity for graft.”

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I wasn’t ready for this

The “Ready for Hillary” campaign — “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee,” as the fine print says — sent me a packet this week, and instead of sacrificing it to Weber, God of Charcoal, I actually opened the darn thing. As such things go, it was fairly innocuous, with a cover letter by Senior Adviser (huh?) Craig T. Smith, informal enough to open with the phrase “So here’s the deal.” The recommended donation is $35, and I suppose I’d feel better if the credit-card information included the CVV, but the trend in political campaigns — and not just Democratic political campaigns, either — is toward Minimum Security Possible.

Also included is a print of a 2009 photo of her taking the oath of office as Secretary of State, which looks something like this:

Hillary Clinton being sworn in as Secretary of State, January 2009

Of course, she was five years younger back then, but what perplexes me is that shadow in the shape of a chin strap. At least, I think it’s a shadow.

I did look for the obligatory Koch Brothers reference, and found only a hint in Smith’s letter, which refers to “billionaires with personal agendas.” As a thousandaire with a personal agenda, I automatically tune out this kind of class-warfare stuff.

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Quote of the week

David Warren’s conspectus — as distinguished from “prospectus” — for Canada’s Conservative Party:

If elected, we promise to do nothing. There will be no new initiative in any area of government. Should some foreign power threaten us, we shall smoosh them promptly. Should some other unforeseen event positively demand our attention, we shall respond in like spirit to make it go away. Such contingencies aside, we shall avoid enterprise of any sort. Instead, we shall devote our entire attention, not to doing, but to undoing things. And not just little things but big things; and not just a few notoriously rotten apples in the eyes of vested interests known to be unloved, but the whole apple pie, the whole bakery. We shall make the Tea Party in the United States look like a bunch of socialist whiners. We shall make the UKIP in Britain look like Europhiles. Our ambition, as we cling to power, shall be to undo every gratuitous Act of Parliament, or other superannuated government measure, going back to Confederation, if not to Champlain. We shall repeal legislation, erase regulations, close government departments, demolish the buildings, salt the earth on which they stood, fire and retire civil servants by the refugee shipload. We shall sack them on the beaches, we shall sack them on the landing grounds, we shall sack them in the fields and in the streets, we shall start with the CBC. Our motto shall be that of the Machine Gun Corps of the British Army in the Great War. (“Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”) We shall do this deliberately and persistently and remorselessly with no more attention to public opinion than will be necessary to lure our opponents into traps.

Inexplicably — or maybe not so inexplicably — the Conservatives chose not to adopt this as a platform.

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