Archive for Political Science Fiction

Quote of the week

Doug Mataconis, on why the 2016 presidential election is an exercise in futility:

Even if you’re not much of a “horse race” person, though, the 2016 election doesn’t give you much to look forward to. More so [than] ever in the past, we are going to see candidates and their supporters pushing out tightly crafted messages designed largely to appeal pander to the worst aspects of their base supporters Joining them will be the SuperPACs that will be pushing messages different from those of the campaigns themselves, and far more negative. This guarantees that there will be little serious discussion of the issues facing the nation, whether we’re talking about the economy, immigration, entitlements, tax policy, federal spending, the relationship between Washington, D.C. and the states, social issues, and foreign policy. Instead, we’ll get prepackaged slogans, exaggerated claims, over-the-top attacks on opponents, and of course stump speech after stump speech of meaningless flowery rhetoric. Both sides will argue that this is “the most important election ever” and that their opponent will bring doom and gloom to the nation. All of this will be covered breathlessly by the always-on political media, which now exists both on cable news networks and the Internet, to the point where it will be impossible for anyone to get away from it. It is enough to make one want to completely unplug, or perhaps retreat to a desert island.

Vanuatu, anyone?

Then again, this is inevitable in our current hyperpolitical culture:

To a significant degree, we live in a nation that is almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. One of the things this means is that even the most trivial differences between the two sides become exaggerated to the point where compromise becomes nearly impossible. Additionally, the fact that both sides generally spend most of their time sending messages to their own bases means that they feed into the hyperpartisanship that has been created by cable news, talk radio, and the Internet to the point where it all becomes a horrible, soul-sucking, self-sustaining entity. As long as that’s the case, it hardly matters who wins one election or the other, or which party controls Congress by a handful of seats, because the way the system works guarantees that the battle will continue until … well, that’s really the point. The way we fight political battles today, the only way either side can be happy is if the other side is utterly destroyed. That’s never going to happen, though. There will always be Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives. They used to be able to talk to each other, but now all they seem to do is yell at each other, and as a result we have a political system that is frustrating, annoying, tiresome, and so predictable that is utterly boring.

Some folks, largely Democrats, whine about “getting the money out of politics.” I’d be happy if they got the frigging politics out of politics.

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Scoobyus minimus

Most of the chatter about Hillary Clinton’s van trip has been about Chipotle and burritos and such, with hardly any attention paid to the Mystery Machine itself. Ronnie Schreiber has determined that it’s an Explorer Van, a conversion done on an existing Chevrolet chassis, and that it’s not exactly opulent:

While some of Mrs. Clinton’s critics have described the van as luxurious, and Explorer Van’s sales manager described it to me as a “loaded Limited SE model,” he also said that most of its products are used as family vehicles, not executive limousines.

A fully equipped Chevrolet-based Explorer Van runs about $66,000. You can configure your own Explorer Van and check out the standard features and options here. Considering how many of America’s moms are carpooling kids to school in $40-50K Lexus RXes and Audi Q5s, Hillary’s van hardly seems extravagant. She’s traveling comfortably I’m sure, but I’ve reviewed Audis and Jaguars that were more luxurious and exclusive.

Equipment? Meh:

Yes, it does have a decent sized flatscreen television, but it’s not anything close to sybaritic luxury. The seats are leather upholstered, but the second row has standard captain’s chairs and not the airliner first class style seats with footrests like you’d see in the back of long wheelbase luxury cars in China, the new Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach, or in a Japanese domestic market executive van like the Toyota Alphard.

All of which would cost somewhere in six figures American. So if Mrs C is not exactly dead broke, she’s not living especially high on the hog while she’s on the road, which perhaps will reflect favorably on her: said Schreiber, “The fact that she’s a return customer for Explorer Vans humanizes her in my eyes, even if I may have some skepticism about political road trips.” The fancy stuff comes later.

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The fourth-idiot theory

So how about this Marco Rubio dude? The Z Man is not overly impressed:

After eight years of Obama, the GOP is convinced they must have a non-white at the top of their ticket. So much so Jeb Bush is ready to change his name to Juan Eduardo Arbusto. Since that’s not likely to fly, the GOP has Marco Rubio warming in the bullpen, ready to step in as their man for the nomination. Rubio has the added benefit of the immigrant’s back story. He’s a meat head, but charming with a good narrative to sell.

That’s the thing with Rubio. He’s basically a Cuban Sarah Palin. He’s not stupid, but he is not sitting around working physics problems in his free time either. He’s also a man of pedestrian tastes and sensibilities. Unlike Palin, he has the brown force field around him so no one dare call him stupid or even hint at it, for fear of being called a racist.

A good argument for None of the Above? Not as good as this is:

The last 25 years seem to prove that we could just do away with the office entirely. After all, if the last three idiots could not bring down the nation, the office must hold no power at all, relative to the rest of the country.

But watch that next step: it’s a doozy.

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Quote of the week

If “Why do all the candidates suck?” has crossed your mind of late, you might want to take a look in the nearest mirror:

Just as people like the semblance of getting a “real” glimpse into the Real Housewives of Wherever’s lives, we like the semblance of a genuinely approachable, relatable, human, real-keeping presidential candidate. But when the candidate says something a little too raw or real or sarcastic or even eccentric (as real people might) about abortion, or entitlements, or cronyism, or civil liberties, or foreign policy, we freak out.

When we have a choice between the more open, straight-talking candidate or the one that does everything through self-managed media so that they can control the message to the maximum conceivable degree, we go for the latter.

When we have a choice between uncomfortable substance and truth on the one hand, and reality or feel-good talking points and make-believe on the other, we reject the former.

When we have a choice between airbrushed images in magazines or seeing the way people actually look, we want the Photoshop.

When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail, or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives, or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.

What’s that? You say we’re not like that at all? Too bad you missed President Santorum. Or Sanders. Or any of those folks we were told are “unelectable” for whatever reason.

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Inauthenticity is everything

Victor Davis Hanson seems puzzled that Hillary Clinton is even running for President:

Mrs. Clinton has neither a past record that she is proud to run on nor support for an Obama administration tenure that she will promise to continue. She is not a good speaker and has a disturbing habit of switching accents in amateurish attempts to mimic regional or racial authenticity. She accentuates her points by screaming in shrill outbursts, and dismisses serious questions by chortling for far too long. She is deaf to human cordiality, has a bad temper, and treats subordinates with haughty disdain.

So she’s an utterly disagreeable individual. Since when is that a disqualifier in Washington? The electorate claims to want Nice People, but there’s little evidence to support the idea that they’ll actually vote for any.

(Via Fishersville Mike.)

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Tehran of things

The Z Man contemplates the proto-deal with Iran:

Even the parties to the deal are at odds over what is in the deal. They only agree that the deal is an agreement to strike a deal at some point in the future. The Americans take this to mean “soon,” while the Iranians have no understanding of the concept. Persia, in one form or another, has been around for five thousand years. “Soon” is measured in decades.

That has not stopped the 24×7 clown show that is the American media from having a food fight over the deal to make a deal. The Progressives are hailing the deal as the greatest achievement of man since the wheel. Conservative Inc. is condemning the deal and calling Obama Chamberlain. They have a Nazi fetish, comparing every Muslim with a bad attitude to Hitler. I watched a bit of Fox yesterday and it was clear that none of them knew more than my cat about this deal, but they were certain they were right.

However, at least one projected outcome is practically guaranteed:

The fact that every energy firm on earth is lining up to make a deal with the mullahs says the sanctions are sure to be lifted, no matter what Iran does or does not do. Western governments are the tools of their rich people and their business interests. Western business loves groveling to despots. It is their natural state.

That I don’t doubt in the least: business has, or at least has persuaded itself that it has, needs sufficiently urgent that just waiting around for government to address them would be tragic, or at least less profitable.

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Arithmetic, how does it work?

It seems to work better for some than for others:

Emmanuel Goldstein wonders who these Koch Brothers are.

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Mrs. Cleaver is not impressed

There are, contrary to at least one popular stereotype, some decent folks in the public sector, but you don’t hear quite as much about them:

While there are wise and good men and women holding office — and an awful lot of hard-working minor functionaries making the wheels go ’round on meager pay and less respect, embedded with the time-servers, no-hopers and don’t-carers who make bureaucracy a bother — most of government is dominated by the same Eddie Haskell types, snobs, hollow suits and authority addicts who ran student government back in High School. They are the lowest common denominator, and any sufficiently large enterprise will sink to just that. They are supposed to be uplifting my morals and yours, too? Really?

All I need add is this:

Beaver: How come Eddie’s such a creepy guy?

Wally: He works at it.

It’s a talent, sort of.

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Policy wonks may be excused

In fact, they may be escorted to the border and left there:

[W]hat’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data. People in Oklahoma were 10th most likely to say they never vote in local elections, 11th most likely to say they infrequently discuss politics with family and friends, and 14th most likely to say they don’t express their political or community opinions online, according to data collected by the census in 2013.

A major benefit of this disengagement:

You won’t just be avoiding conversations about the presidential election in Oklahoma, you’ll also be shielded from campaign ads. During the seven months leading up to the 2012 election, the major parties spent just $1,300 on ads in the state, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes fair elections.

There are people who truly believe that there is no higher calling than politics. In this state, there is no higher calling than making banana splits at Braum’s, and we don’t give a flying feather about the machinations of those retards at 23rd and Lincoln or of the criminals in the District of Columbia: worthless, the lot of them. And you think we’re going to get out the vote for such pinheads? Life is too short to encourage people who can’t even make proper banana splits.

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Marginal improvements

Any human endeavor which requires spending money eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns, and health care is no different:

Health care reached the point of diminishing returns about fifty years ago. 100 years ago America spent 3% of GDP on health care and people lived to about 60. Today we spend about 15% on health care and people live to about 80. A good portion of that increase in life expectancy is due to better food and less violence. It is axiomatic that as things like health care improve, the cost of further improvement escalates. The marginal return on investment declines.

Getting people to about 100 would cost — what, 75% of GDP? Inevitably there will be some starry-eyed character who cries “But you can’t put a price on people’s lives!” Sure you can. In fact, it’s the only thing you can do, inasmuch as the money tree in the back yard is not producing.

I figure everything that threatens me on a regular basis — blood-sugar anomalies, hypertension, osteoarthritis, Al Gore — will be gone shortly after I am. However, I don’t even want to imagine the price tag for any one of those developments.

Then again, we do know how to do health care right. We just don’t:

America has the greatest health care system on earth. It is super cheap, with lots of options and a high degree of customer satisfaction. It is called veterinary medicine. American pets get better health care than 95% of the world population for pennies. The reason is there are few barriers to suppliers so there are many options along the price curve. There’s also incentives to innovate. My Vet has world class lab equipment because it helps attract business.

On the other hand, few pets live to 100 or 80 or even 60.

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Quote of the week

Governor Pence has already signed it, but this is what one of his constituents thought about it:

The Religious Freedom law wending its way to the Indiana Governor’s desk should have been easy for the Legislature to write. All they had to do is dig up some of the Jim Crow laws from the Deep and not so Deep South one hundred years ago.

One of his commenters elaborates:

I’m tired of people filing lawsuits because some dumbass narrow-minded idiot uses a religious reason to deny service to someone who violates their sense of right and wrong. The dumbass narrow-minded idiot has a right to his opinion, and the last I looked his business wasn’t owned by the government. A normal person thus dismissed would simply nod and walk away, and make it clear to everyone he met that the dumbass narrow-minded idiot was a bigot and should be boycotted out of business. That’s his right, too. Then the free market can take over and either the shop stays in business or goes out of business, depending on what the market thinks.

The lawyers who dominate legislatures, however, have thoroughly imbued the American public with the notion that anybody should sue anyone anytime over anything, down to and apparently including mere butthurt.

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1600 and all that

Mister, we could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again:

I want to see — just once! — a competent Chief Executive, someone who appoints the various Directors and Cabinet members on the basis of ability, not on how much money they donated, how stalwart a partisan they are or even plain chumship. I want a President who’ll hold ’em to account and send them packing if they screw up.

I don’t care if he or she is any good at giving speeches. I don’t care if the rest of the world loves them or hates them. I don’t care about the President’s age, ugliness, gender, ethnic background, marital status or religion. I’m hoping not for a hawk or a dove but for someone who is slow to anger and measured but decisive in action, who acts only when action is truly necessary.

The problem, of course, is that someone meeting this general description isn’t likely to run for high office: (s)he knows the primaries are going to be filled up with knaves and fools and such, and those who would be power brokers are attracted to those individuals and to no others.

A pertinent Coolidge quote, from an address he gave in Baltimore in 1924, at the dedication of a monument to Lafayette:

Great changes have come over the world since Lafayette first came here desirous of aiding the cause of freedom. His efforts in behalf of an American republic have been altogether successful. In no other country in the world was economic opportunity for the people ever so great as it is here. In no other country was it ever possible in a like degree to secure equality and justice for all. Just as he was passing off the stage, the British adopted their reform measures giving them practically representative government. His own France has long since been welcomed into the family of republics. Many others have taken a like course. The cause of freedom has been triumphant. We believe it to be, likewise, the cause of peace. But peace must have other guarantees than constitutions and covenants. Laws and treaties may help, but peace and war are attitudes of mind.

That “shining city on a hill” business still works, if we work to maintain its light. Otherwise, darkness spreads, and not the romantic sort with the full moon and the gentle breezes either.

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Heaven on earth and other jokes

Various outcroppings of what is occasionally called “progressivism” are perhaps best understood as religions without all that tedious God business. There is, however, one distinct difference:

One of the things about these Rousseau-ist cults is they always end up handing power to the worst elements in their cult. From The Reign of Terror forward the pattern has always been the same. The movement grows increasingly fanatical until control is in the hands of psychotic lunatics.

The reason for this is that utopian religions have no natural limit. There’s no line that reads, “This is enough.” Christianity has those lines. Judaism has those lines. Once you do certain things, show you believe certain things, you are pious enough. Built into the religion is an upper bound and a caution about trying to go beyond it. The Catholic Church burned more than a few heretics for trying to immanentize eschaton.

In Rousseau-ist cults, no such limit exists. They are premised on the firm belief that there is a way to arrange things just the right way to create heaven on earth. They don’t call it that, but the echos are there in discussion of health care or poverty programs, for example. Obama spent three years talking about his plan to have more people on government health services while also lowering the cost, a mathematical impossibility.

And it’s inextricably bound up with a political impossibility: everyone, with the possible exception of Ted Cruz, has pretty much decided that reducing the number of people on government health services, irrespective of cost savings, can’t be allowed to happen, because optics. Do not wait by your window for the postman to bring you word that the ACA has been repealed: it will not happen. This bothers me less than the idea that the next scheme by the Rosseauvians — and there’s always a next scheme — will be something much, much worse.

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Should’ve said no

The government of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations needs more money, perhaps for signage, and they plan to get it from Taylor Swift:

The world-famous singer bought an oceanfront mansion in Rhode Island in 2013 that may now have her seeing red. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed a statewide property tax on second homes worth at least $1 million in her budget, now widely hailed as the “Taylor Swift tax.”

The tax would raise an estimated $12 million in tax revenue, far short of the $190 million budget deficit the state government needs to close.

If this was a movie — but never mind. You knew this was trouble when you started reading the article.

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No crown for now

Smitty is not persuaded that Hillary wins this in a walk:

People “in the know” have all of the dirt they want on Her Majesty, and will cheerfully let her soak up all the Commie chlorine (pretty sure they are not on oxygen over there) and block other competition, while soiling Her Royal Personage just enough to keep her from actually getting her cankles across the finish line ahead of the GOP.

Well, there is one minor detail:

I don’t think the GOP is actually that deft.

Not to worry. The Republicans are happy to play Charlie Brown for just about any Lucy who offers to hold the football, so their deftness, or lack thereof, is not likely to be an issue.

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Droning toward oblivion

Hillary Clinton is following a political path we’ve seen before, and it’s likely not the one she thinks she is:

As she enters the Bob Dole phase of her career, she is slightly more interesting. Instead of the bitchy middle-aged “professional” woman, she is a a boozy old gal that is a feature of the Washington cocktail circuit. These are the women who have been married to politicians their whole lives and have a cultured cynicism that comes from years of disappointment.

Like Bob Dole, she is probably a hoot after a few drinks, but you can always sense why no one in the political class thought enough of them to put them in charge of anything. They are the sort of people who never ask, “What if this doesn’t work?” As a consequence, they get jammed up on minor stuff.

Like, for instance, this whole email thing, which wiser pols would have found it relatively easy to avoid. And what the bloody hell was she thinking, having the presser at the freaking United Nations? Yeah, I know, she was giving a speech that day, but this bit of scheduling insured that no one paid attention to the speech except for whatever individuals might have been named therein.

I remain skeptical about her chances to be president. There’s a Bob Dole ’96 vibe here. The party does not have anyone ready that they trust and it is not looking like [a] good year to run anyway. May as well let the old broad have her day in the sun as the first female nominee. Otherwise, everyone will just go through the motions.

The one problem with that scenario is the GOP’s prodigious gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Were I the typical Republican operative, I’d be pushing for bringing back Bob Dole, on the basis that Bob Dole now uses a wheelchair, and hey, look how well that worked in Texas!

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Formerly known as Iraq

Iraq, an arbitrarily created nation with artificial boundaries, is this year’s Balkans, and Michael Totten says it’s good as dead:

Iraq is finished, an expiring, cancerous nation on life support. Pulling the plug might be merciful. It might be cruel. But either way, it’s time to accept the fact that this country is likely to die and that we’ll all be better off when it does…

President Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq. For years — and for perfectly understandable reasons — he was very reluctant to wade into that country’s eternally dysfunctional internal problems, but even he was persuaded to declare war against ISIS in the fall of 2014 when its fighters made a beeline for Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region and the only stable and America-friendly place in the country.

But however engaged the US chooses to be, the current war in Iraq is likely to drag on for years. If Iraq somehow manages to survive its current conflict in one piece, another will almost certainly follow. Its instability is both devastating and chronic. Far better at this point if Iraq simply terminates itself as a state and lets its various constituent groups peaceably go their own way, as Yugoslavia did after its own catastrophic series of wars in the 1990s.

And good riddance, says Bill Quick:

This was what George W. Bush always didn’t quite get: “Guaranteeing” Iraq’s territorial integrity, which was synonymous with guaranteeing the imposed geographical structure of Iraq, necessarily involved guaranteeing a strong-man government, because that was the only way to enforce that structure on people who hated it.

And if his “Democracy Project” had been successful, the voters themselves would have ripped Iraq apart.

Now at least the voters won’t have to exert themselves.

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Playing the erase card

Front page of this morning’s New York Post:

Polls taken after her presser yesterday indicate that a lot of people believe her story — a lot of people in the media, anyway.

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Why we are doomed

Time was, every young American was equipped with, as Hemingway is supposed to have said, “a built-in, shockproof crap detector.” And they would keep that invaluable device all their lives — until they ran for political office.

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Watch that punctuation

Yes, even on Twitter:

He’s not the only one.

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Gathering on the right

One of the more interesting people on both the right side of the aisle and my left column on TweetDeck is Lisa De Pasquale, author of the novel Finding Mr. Righteous and for five years the head of the Conservative Political Action Committee. Amazingly, Jezebel snagged her for an interview, and while their angle was primarily CPAC’s lack of, um, diversity of a specific nature, they did pop a lot of good questions, one of which drew my attention because her answer ends with a universal truth:

Who is the nicest politician or personality you’ve dealt with behind the scenes? The meanest? (If you don’t want to name names, can you drop a general hint or two?)

Aside from people like Ann Coulter who I already knew, the nicest was Rush Limbaugh. Not only was he extremely nice, but very humble. He didn’t have an entourage or any backstage demands. Backstage he asked what had been the biggest news from the conference. I don’t remember what I said, but the reality was he was going to be the biggest news of the conference. That he was genuinely interested in the conference made me proud of the work my team and I had done. He also personally signed 100 or so Limbaugh Letters for our volunteers. I should mention that the man responsible for making his speech happen was the recently departed Kit Carson. He was a great man who, like Limbaugh, was always interested in other people’s opinions.

I won’t name names on the meanest, but I will say it’s never the A-listers. It’s always the B or C-list people who are demanding and impatient. They act like divas because they think that is how important people act.

This may be one of the reasons why I’m still on the D-list after all these years.

The description of Limbaugh is consistent with others I’ve seen: he saves his bombast for the airwaves. (If you didn’t know Carson, he was the “Chief of Staff” at Limbaugh’s EIB Network; he passed away in January after a four-year battle with brain cancer.) And Rush will happily tell you that he’s not really interested in other people’s opinions, which is why he has no guests on the show, but this, too, is part of the act.

Nor was this the only worthy maxim De Pasquale uttered:

CPAC has a history of allowing groups that are controversial. If you put two conservatives in a room they will fight about something, so it’s impossible to get consensus on anything.

Ain’t that the truth.

Meanwhile, Emily Zanotti provides an overview of CPAC today:

CPAC is an event for choirs and not conversions. In the last few years, it’s gained a notoriety that has made it a public spectacle, but the true purpose of the Conservative Political Action Conference is to impress the hordes of College Republicans, with their Brooks Brothers finery and their as-yet-unpickeled livers, and the elderly crowd that has been coming to these things since the first Republican presidential candidate painted his foreign policy on a cave wall — not to preach to the disenfranchised independents and unmoored moderates. The candidates have all the depth of a Lego mini-figurine and the speeches are as nuanced and complex as a made-for-television marine life-motivated disaster movie. And that’s just how it’s supposed to be, especially at the start of a presidential election cycle, when potential candidates are trying to live up to impressive double standards set for them by a party that is, itself, in flux. Everyone who presented himself to the crowd amassed at National Harbor had something to prove, specifically to conservatives, whether that was that they were conservative enough, that they were thoughtful enough, that they were tough enough, or that they were capable of mounting a campaign that did more than annoy network television anchors forced to divert more than thirty seconds of their broadcast away from fawning coverage of Hillary Clinton’s breakfast choices.

How seriously you take this event, it appears, depends on a lot of things besides ideology.

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Turning every which way but out

Some of the folks I follow on Twitter were grousing earlier about sparse turnout at today’s City Council election. And they weren’t kidding: at 5:07 this afternoon I shoved the 207th ballot into the machine. A couple of thousand people live in this precinct; not all of them are of voting age, obviously, but still, that’s not all what anyone — other than the winner, of course — would call wonderful, especially if there had been as much dissatisfaction with the incumbent as I was led to believe. As local auto mogul Jackie Cooper used to say, “Go with the name you know,” and lots of people do. Pols depend on it.

Addendum: From the Gazette’s Ben Felder:

Population of each of the city’s eight wards: around 75,000.

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Cooperation

Like many of you, I’m pretty much in an anti-incumbent mood right about now, and with City Council elections coming up tomorrow — the first day with non-horrible weather in some time, which is a twist — I get another chance to act upon that particular impulse.

I had kind words for Major Jemison early on: he’s definitely on the side of the angels, and I have no doubt that he could fill this spot on the horseshoe with a measure of gravitas. But his insistence on robocalls Every. Damned. Night. has soured me on the man, or at least on the men behind the man, and I worry that if he’s going to take advice from the kind of people who think a Jayne Jayroe endorsement is worth something, he might be susceptible to all manner of bad ideas once sworn in.

So I turn to James Cooper, who, poor fellow, had to endure a chat session with me at the doorway one weekend. (This makes about the fifth candidate in twelve years who’s had to deal with me in bathrobe mode.) He’s appallingly young, but I figure I can overlook that, especially since my own advanced age has manifestly conferred no wisdom on me. More to the point, he’s willing to deal with specific points in preference to grand generalities: he told me that he envisions the next round of MAPS, for instance, gradually moving northward with extensions of the streetcar line, and he’s willing to spend some serious dollars out of the next set of the city’s General Obligation Bonds to finish up the largely undone sidewalk work in this part of town. If that sounds like he’s favoring his own ward at the expense of others, well, that’s what we pay our guy on the Council to do, and it’s not like we’re paying him a whole lot ($12k a year) either.

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You shall not watch us

Yes, folks, it’s Stupid Bill Time again. Oklahoma still has an Open Records Act, for now, though evidently some legislators dislike the very idea of such a thing:

Fees for public records would be significantly expanded and 10 exemptions would be added to the Oklahoma Open Records Act under a bill approved Thursday by the House Public Safety Committee.

Government officials could even refuse records requests that they considered an “excessive disruption of the essential functions of the public body,” under the bill.

Committee Chairman Mike Christian put forth an amended HB 1361 that kept only the original effective date of next Nov. 1.

Christian is an Oklahoma City Republican, but that doesn’t mean this is nothing but a GOP thing:

The original bill [pdf] by Rep. Claudia Griffith, D-Norman, was not much better. It would have undone recent progress in open government by removing access to all law enforcement recordings and removing statutory language confirming that law enforcement records must be made available for copying by the public. The latter nonsense was likely spurred by the city of Norman’s contention that it didn’t have to allow copying of police records prior to the explicit language taking effect Nov. 1.

I assure you, I didn’t vote for either of these jerks, or for the ones who voted it out of committee. But hey, guys, if you didn’t want the public looking over your shoulder, you probably should be doing something with your lives other than pretending to be public servants.

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Opening salvo

City Council elections are the third of March, and I expect a deluge of mail and more phone calls than I can possibly answer, even if I were going to answer them, which I’m not. And if you’d asked me after the filing period ended in January, I’d have said that basically it was a two-man race, between incumbent/loose cannon Ed Shadid and OCU professor James Cooper, and it was just a matter of which one strikes first.

First strike, in the form of the first mail flyer and the first phone call, came Tuesday, from Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. He’s about sixty, I’d guess. And he has credentials out the wazoo, as the jrank.org Major L. Jemison Biography reports:

A political activist, an innovative church leader, and a bridge-builder between African-American denominations, he has addressed a great variety of issues that are central to the development of the modern black church. President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention since 2002, he stepped into a position once held by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2003 Jemison was recognized by Ebony magazine as one of the 100-plus most influential figures in black America.

He has, of course, retired from that position by now. And his issues page looks almost like my issues page, especially with this paragraph:

The last four years have seen bitterness and divisiveness infect the business of the council, where before there was unity and collaboration. Major Jemison seeks to restore the council to a positive working environment where disagreements are handled professionally and each council member works together in the best interests of the people.

So far, I’m liking what I’m hearing.

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Outdoctrination

Last year, Oklahoma barred the use of any of that greasy Common Core stuff; said Governor Fallin, “We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core.”

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren’t. This incident makes me wonder:

The legality of teaching Advanced Placement courses in Oklahoma public schools was raised Monday during a House Common Education Committee hearing on a bill aimed at the AP U.S. history guidelines.

That measure, House Bill 1380, by Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, would direct the state Board of Education to review those guidelines and bar the use of state funds for AP U.S. history courses.

Where Dan Fisher lurks, can Sally Kern be far behind?

It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter.

I sat down and read the actual course description in question — you can too [pdf] — and I think this guideline explains the knotted state of the GOP’s BVDs:

It is the nature of history as a discipline that claims and statements about the past are subject to differences in interpretation. But because the concept outline is the result of careful research into colleges’ requirements for credit and placement, it is essential for the AP Program to provide teachers with visibility into these findings.

And as we all know, for certain values of “we,” colleges today are primarily tasked with turning out neo-Bolsheviks for the New World Order, or some such business.

Fisher’s objection, basically, is that there’s not enough “We’re great! And they suck!” Like anyone would take his word for it. My most reasonable conclusion: yes, there is a reason for American exceptionalism — and there are also exceptions to it.

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Retaking the pledge

In 2005, Patterico called for bloggers to take the same pledge he was taking:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

It took me a day or two, but I eventually saw the wisdom of his approach.

And the Federal Election Commission wisely kept its big yap shut about the matter, until now:

In October, then FEC Vice Chairwoman Ann M. Ravel promised that she would renew a push to regulate online political speech following a deadlocked commission vote that would have subjected political videos and blog posts to the reporting and disclosure requirements placed on political advertisers who broadcast on television. On Wednesday, she will begin to make good on that promise.

“Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed in the Internet alone,” Ravel said in an October statement. “As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense.”

Take your “policy” and shove it, Annie dear. In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no such thing as a Federal Election Commission, and the limit of your public utterances would be “You want fries with that?”

So Patterico is renewing the pledge, and so am I: “If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.”

Period.

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All the cool kids are doing it

That’s the only possible explanation I can see for this:

A poll has just been released which shows that Oklahomans overwhelming favor electing the U.S. President by a national popular vote.

On January 19th and 20th, Public Policy Polling interviewed 893 Oklahomans across the state. The results show that 79% of Oklahomans favor a national popular vote over the current system that rewards the electors to the winner of each state.

Actually, the current system doesn’t do that at all. Voters select a slate of electors, each pledged (or, in some historical incidents, not pledged) to vote for the candidate named on the ballot. (In this state, we even list the actual electors.) But contemporary politicians are utterly desperate for uninformed voters, aren’t they, Robbie?

“It’s clear that the national popular vote is overwhelmingly supported by Oklahomans regardless of party affiliation,” said former State Senator Rob Johnson. Johnson has championed the national popular vote in the Oklahoma State Senate and was the principal author of the legislation in 2014.

It is not any such thing. Get a whiff of the actual poll question:

How do you think we should elect the President: should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current electoral college system? If you think it should be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, press 1. If you think it should be the current electoral college system, press 2.

You do know what a leading question is, don’t you?

Of course, pollsters ask what they’re told to ask. I don’t know anyone who votes the way they’re told to vote, except maybe the anonymous object of Dylan’s scorn in “Positively 4th Street”: “You just want to be on the side that’s winning.” If that’s you, you got a lotta nerve.

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Fair-weather Federalists

Principle? Not if we can help it:

In the last several years, I can count at least four “principled” positions taken by AZ Republicans on Federalism:

  • State law should not pre-empt Federal law (marijuana criminalization)
  • State law should pre-empt Federal law (Obamacare)
  • States should enforce Federal laws that we think the Feds refuse to enforce sufficiently aggressively (immigration)
  • States should prevent the Feds from enforcing Federal law when we think they are being too aggressive in enforcing (Grand Canyon National Park closure during shutdown)

At least Democrats are consistent on Federalism: wherever it is, they’re against it.

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The man must love his work

Just the same, this is a sucky idea:

A constitutional amendment filed [Wednesday] by state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft would ask voters whether or not they want to replace current 12-year term limits with 16-year term limits.

Wesselhoft said House Joint Resolution 1007 would give Oklahomans a chance to cultivate more experience in their state legislators.

“Each time we term out we lose good people with a great deal of knowledge and leadership,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “This empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies, which gives them too much influence over government.”

Or we lose terrible people who exploit the position for their own gain and self-aggrandizement, which also empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies.

The rule, says Wesselhoft, would not apply to current legislators. (Guess who hits the wall at the end of 2016?) And if we really want to cut the hangers-on out of the loop, we need something like Glenn Reynolds’ “revolving-door surtax.”

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