Archive for Political Science Fiction

We’re talking truth here

Beyond dispute, as it were:

Of several Texas media I looked at, only the San Antonio Express-News mentioned the 139-year period during which the Democrats held this office.

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Primary purpose

Roger remembers:

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday so it was primary day. Unsurprising, the voting, which had already begun at 6 a.m. in New York City and a few other counties, was postponed to September 25, notably with seven new polling places.

I understand it, I really do. September 11 is for not forgetting. But what better way to remember than to stick up a proverbial middle finger at terrorism by casting the ballot that the planes hitting the World Trade Center interrupted?

I like the cut of this man’s jib.

And besides:

Truth be told, I think a September primary is too late. In races with an unchallenged incumbent, a late primary is a disadvantage to anyone running in a primary, who will have only eight weeks to consolidate the fractured segments of the party and run against a usually entrenched and better financed opponent.

The federal primary in New York State is at the end of June, so those running for Congress, House and Senate, compete then. I think ALL the primaries should be held at that time. It would also create a savings for the local Boards of Election, who wouldn’t need to find people to staff the voting booths in both June AND September.

We have so damned many election dates in this state. We might be wise to consider consolidating some, or preferably all, of them.

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You’re not helping

Britain’s exit from the European Union remains controversial, which should surprise no one. One of the reasons for that is simply that the country was seriously divided on the matter; it’s not like there was anything resembling consensus, and there were reasonable arguments on both sides.

This wasn’t one of them:

Inevitably Brexit entered the conversation.

Said neighbour declared herself as having voted for Brexit, followed swiftly by her annoyance that many stereotyped those who voted to leave as racists.

Honest, guv I try hard not to judge (It’s a very complex issue distilled down into a stupidly black and white voting choice) but within a minute or so I received one of those “that doesn’t help” moments when she suddenly said that, in a way, she quite admired Hitler as at least he got things done.

It’s just that some of the things he got done were things that ought not to have been done at all.

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Two dozen centuries ahead of you

I suppose I should take some fraction of a bow for catching on right away:

Men have been cleared out of government and the women are in charge. That’s the premise of a play, opening on Thursday, which has been collectively written by a group of leading female figures.

Which of course is the standard stereotype: men compete, women cooperate. But “written by” is highly debatable:

The Assemblywomen by the Greek playwright Aristophanes was first written in 391 BC.

Back then, a play about the women of Athens dressed as men (complete with fake beads) storming the Assembly and taking charge was seen as a totally unrealistic premise.

Indeed, that was one of the reasons it worked as a comedy — and made for the perfect vehicle for the playwright to criticise the Athenian government at the time.

Now, a group of leading female figures — among them poets, writers, comedians, broadcasters and politicians — have given the show a makeover, and the newly-titled Women in Power opens this week.

I suppose rewriting the more familiar Lysistrata was deemed out of the question.

And this sentence is tossed off in the very first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on the Aristophanes original:

The play invents a scenario where the women of Athens assume control of the government and instate pseudo-communist reforms that ban private wealth and enforce sexual equality for the old and unattractive.

Senator Warren, your plot is waiting.

See also Steve Sailer: “The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.”

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Level of dunderheadedness

You probably already knew this:

In 1969 Laurence J. Peter enunciated a principle, probably the most important revelation about large organizations since Parkinson’s Law. It explains why just about nobody in a large organization is particularly good at his or her job. They have been promoted through jobs they were actually okay at until they reach their level of incompetence and that’s where they remain in the organization. Not everyone reaches her or his level of incompetence. Some retire or go to another organization and the rare few are able to tackle any job that comes their way. That’s maybe one in a million.

The mayor of Chicago is manifestly not one in a million:

Rahm Emanuel has Peter Principled out as mayor of Chicago. He was okay as Deputy Whip although a lousy Congressman. He would have made an excellent head of the DNC since the job requirements are that you can raise money and strategize elections and those are Emanuel’s core competencies.

But not only has he reached his level of incompetence as mayor of Chicago, he’s peculiarly unqualified for the job. He doesn’t have people skills; he doesn’t have a natural constituency; most of the money he raised for his election campaigns was from outside the city; he’s antagonized important people. He doesn’t have charm or charisma; he can’t inspire people; he doesn’t have management skills; he doesn’t have technical skills. Being able to raise money and strategize elections is enough to get elected but not enough to be mayor.

Yet Emanuel is moving on. Why?

I believe that he thinks that J. B. Pritzker will be elected governor in November and it won’t take him long to run the state into a ditch. Running for re-election in the environment that will prevail by then with the city and state in desperate financial condition and political turmoil will not be a success-oriented experience.

The wise rat doesn’t wait for the ship to start sinking.

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Best hashtag of the 2018 election

So far, anyway:

(Everything you always wanted to know about Kevin Stitt.)

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There’s always an objection

This brief Oklahoman editorial is almost right on the mark:

Regardless of who wins Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff election for attorney general, no one can say the winner had no skin in the game. Incumbent Mike Hunter and challenger Gentner Drummond have both put sizable amounts of their own money into their campaigns. Less than a week out from the election, Hunter had loaned his campaign about $700,000 while Drummond had put in $2 million. The job of attorney general pays $132,825 a year. Yet we doubt campaign finance critics will see this as a good development. When candidates raise large sums from other people, they’re accused of selling the office to special interests. When they use their own money, they’re accused of trying to buy the office. Such “heads I win, tails you lose” arguments are one reason the public is right to ignore those critics and focus most of their attention instead on candidates’ messages.

It’s not so much heads and tails as it is the standard American “It’s okay when we do it.” And who’s a “special interest,” anyway? Right: someone who’s not on Your Side. When both sides claim to be on the side of the angels, you should probably assume that the system has gone to hell.

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth tells off a commenter:

When you use words and phrases like “horrible fascist regime” to describe the Trump Administration, you are wantonly destroying any power that those words and phrases might have to warn people of authentic NASDAP-style fascism in the future. The irony here is that Trump was elected because people like you used your “power words” like “racist” and “sexist” and “fascist” to describe people like GHWB and Mitt Romney and John McCain. You used those words so often that you effectively inoculated sensible people against them.

Twenty years ago, if I heard that someone was a “racist” I took that accusation seriously and it changed the way I looked at them.

Today, if I hear that someone is a “racist” I assume that it’s a hyperbolic accusation born from political differences.

You’re doing the same thing to “fascist”. You’re using it to describe a man who is to the left of Reagan. So guess what? In 2048 when some Generation Z fellow runs on a platform of racial purity and mass murder, everybody is going to shrug at “fascist” the way they shrug at “racist” and “sexist” now. Great work.

Furthermore, when you call Trump a fascist, you are spitting in the face of the six million Holocaust victims and all of the other people who were assembly-line murdered by an actual fascist regime. You are trivializing their deaths. You are making light of their suffering. Earlier this week I explained to my son how the Nazis melted the gold out of Jewish teeth before sending them to the camps. You’ve taken that horror and used it to score political points against somebody who campaigned with a rainbow flag, somebody who received the highest rating from Jesse Jackson, somebody who has donated his own money to democratic and humanitarian causes over and over again.

You don’t know what a Nazi is. You’ve never met one. All the real Nazis were handled for you well before you were even born. If you walked around the corner and met a resurrected 19-year-old blonde, blue-eyed corporal of the Waffen SS you would piss your pants and run away. You live in a cotton-candy padded-cell world protected on all sides by cops, soldiers, and other “fascists”.

And the distance imposed by the very nature of the Internet. Any idiot can tweet, and many do; but people who will actually put themselves at risk to “speak truth to power,” as the children say, are few and far between.

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It’s just not fare

This statement drew a bit of flak over the weekend:

And after reading too much of the discussion, I decided that this was the best response:

“Oooh, look at the swells with actual covers on their wagons!”

But Hurley evidently wasn’t up to defending her position.

True equality exists in one place: the graveyard. And even then, some people will complain about other people’s bigger headstones — though the actual residents won’t be among them.

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H8 pl8s

In the fall of 2000, I reported to a local tag agency, wrote a terribly large check to the Tax Commission, and was handed a license plate with six characters: three letters, followed by three numbers. The letters were FME, to which I paid no attention. In fact, I gave it no thought until the following summer, when I attended a chat-room function in deepest New Jersey, and people started asking me about that filthy plate. Apparently the Garden State would not allow that three-letter combination. The fact that the first two digits were “69” amazed them further.

In view of that incident, this one seems somehow notable:

Razvan Stefanescu, a Romanian living in Sweden, returned to his native country for a holiday recently, driving his car which sported personalised licence plates. The plates read “MUIE PSD.” In Swedish, this combination of letters is of no particular note. There’s no hidden meaning to them. In Romanian, however, they’re a bit more inflammatory. “Muie” is a loanword from Romani mui (“face”), and is used as a slang term for “blowjob.” Its pragmatic use in Romanian is far stronger than “blowjob” in English, however. “PSD,” meanwhile, is the ruling Social Democratic Party. So taken together, a comparable English translation would be “Fuck the PSD!”

In Sweden, of course, this was of no consequence. But…

Once Stefanescu was back in Romania, the police confiscated the licence plates and suspended his driving licence. They claimed that the plates weren’t valid in Romania, opened up a criminal file under his name, and put out a statement saying they’d consulted with the Stockholm Interpol Office who’d confirmed that personalized plates were only valid in Sweden. But this justification was almost immediately contradicted by the Swedish Embassy, who said the plates should be valid across the EU.

The results were easily predictable:

The whole affair then degenerated into a specious technical argument about number plate regulation, with some people citing the 1968 Vienna Convention while others cited a 2015 Belgian amendment to the Convention. By this time, though, the whole incident had become a symbol of state disinformation and authoritarianism.

Alas, my state specifies that the tag stays with the car, so when my wrecked vehicle was sent to the shredder in 2006, the plate would never again be allowed to infect the minds of Jerseyites — unless, of course, it was reissued to someone in 2017 when the state returned to a three-letter/three-number format.

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Keep your damn corn

By most estimates, ethanol as a component of motor fuel costs a few percentage points in fuel economy; in my own car during the summer, the difference has been 1.3 mpg, or about 4.5 percent. What are we getting for this tradeoff? Nothing good, says the EPA:

An extensive report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that including ethanol into the U.S. gas supply is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere and soil.

In a study titled “Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that ethanol derived from corn and soybeans is causing serious harm to the environment. Water, soil and air quality were all found to be adversely affected by biofuel mandates.

“Evidence since enactment of [the Energy Independence and Security Act] suggests an increase in acreage planted with soybeans and corn, with strong indications from observed changes in land use that some of this increase is a consequence of increased biofuel production,” read a portion of the 159-page report.

The ethanol mandate has negatively effected water quality, with greater biofuel production resulting in more harmful algae blooms and hypoxia. While most algae is harmless to water, some forms — such as the kind produced in Lake Eerie from biofuel feedstock — has emitted toxic chemicals into the water. This harmful algae can consume the oxygen in the water, a process known as hypoxia, killing other wildlife.

Um, “Erie” is the name of the lake. “Eerie” is a town in Indiana.

Increased irrigation — fueled by growing demand for ethanol — has also taken a toll on the ground, with the report finding “grassland-to-annual-crop conversion negatively impacts soil quality because it increases erosion and the loss of soil nutrients.”

Back in middle school, we were taught the necessity of crop rotation: you can’t plant the same damn thing over and over again without damaging the soil. Evidently this is no longer being taught.

Essentially, the study found that biofuel mandates are boosting production of corn and soybeans. Large-scale production of these crops is causing environmental degradation. The EPA also found that — at least in some instances — using ethanol in lieu of gasoline resulted in worse air emissions.

“[A]ir quality modeling suggests that production and use of ethanol as fuel to displace gasoline is likely to increase such air pollutants as PM2.5, ozone, and SOx in some locations,” read a section of the report pertaining to air quality. While traditional gasoline contains more CO2, ethanol-based fuels have more nitrogen oxides (NOx), which can be more harmful to human health. NOx can exacerbate asthma by causing inflammation of the respiratory airwaves, with long-term exposure resulting in decreased lung function.

We’ve had ozone alerts all last week. And no matter what you heard, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Ask any tree.

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You down with G.O.P.?

The Republican Party, says Dave Schuler, is a mess:

It can win elections at the local, state, and national level but it has a grave problem with governing, particularly at the national level, because the contradictions in governing well while opposing big government are just too great. Republican governors fare better but not in places where they face concerted, steadfast, and well-funded opposition as is the case in Illinois. The situation in Wisconsin will provide a test case.

Yeah, but … POTUS?

The party’s problems were never so evident as in the recent campaign for the party’s nomination for president. Trump vanquished the representatives of each of the party’s factions seriatim, simultaneously demonstrating his strength, their weakness, and the fecklessness of the party organization in responding to the challenge he posed.

Trump is a one-man party. He is one of a kind, sui generis. He will build no organization and leave no successors.

Those factions agree on exactly one thing: the taxes are too damn high. Is this also Trump’s conviction? The only thing I’m sure Trump believes is that he should be in the White House.

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Damn water is wet again

Um, no shit, Sherlock:

I can only conclude that Ezra Klein thinks his readers are even dumber than he is.

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Engagement unlocked

Despite one fairly obvious anachronism — Digital Video Recorders were nowhere near being ubiquitous in 1996 — this was my most successful tweet in a while:

Very rare I get 13 likes, let alone 130.

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Polish up that Golden Gate

Somehow “mandate” doesn’t seem to fit:

Elected by the slimmest margin in modern history, London Breed takes the helm of a city Wednesday where, despite a booming economy and rocketing job growth, the majority of voters feel San Francisco is on the wrong track.

And where, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on various programs to house the homeless, clean up the city’s streets and clear up the clogged traffic, only 2 out of 10 voters feel City Hall is doing a good job managing its resources.

“You would think with 2.5 percent unemployment and an $11 billion budget, the public would be more upbeat,” said Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jim Lazarus. “But the encampments, dirty streets, congestion and construction have the public upset.”

We don’t wish Mayor Breed any ill will, but she’s facing a big job.

And an eleven-billion-dollar budget?

Since when is a huge municipal budget supposed to be viewed as a Great Thing by “the public?” After all, who is paying for this bloated budget if not the public?

I’m trying to figure how the 900,000 San Franciscans are putting up with a municipal budget of $11 billion while 660,000 Oklahoma Cityans get by with spending only $1.56 billion. The cost of living is lower here, but not that much lower.

Now San Francisco is legally both a city and a county, so they have presumably greater needs than would a mere city. Oklahoma County (population 800,000) is spending a hair under $200 million for 2018-19.

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As the smoke clears

State Question 788, authorizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, passed by about a 5 to 4 margin, much to the surprise of national pundits, who don’t realize we have running water here, and of local officials, who were hoping to push the whole thing under the rug.

Precinct-level vote counts are now being circulated, and here’s how we did: 804 Yes, 250 No. A solid 76 percent.

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Guard your staplers

My favorite comment on the departure of embattled EPA head Scott Pruitt, called that so often you’d think “Embattled Head” was his actual job title:

It’s almost as though he knew he wouldn’t last long at EPA, and vowed to build the usual Washington nest egg in one-twelfth the usual time.

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Genocide Lite

Horrible forms of oppression that exist todaytoday! — in the USA:

He, or that corporation over there, made such-and-such much money and didn’t pay any taxes.

Congress is spending money on the wrong things.

He watered his lawn on a Wednesday when his street address is odd and not even.

This customer just presumed my gender!

Your Moana Halloween costume is cultural appropriation.

Two-stroke jet-ski engines are horrible for the environment.

Today is the such-and-such anniversary of whatever, or this is something-something month.

Wonder Woman’s costume shows her legs, and the actress who plays her is out-of-this-world gorgeous.

Not enough blacks on Seinfeld and Friends reruns.

Mansplaining and Manspreading.

Microaggressions.

Heteronormative.

Cisgender.

Patriarchy!

To sum up:

You know what I find to be flawed with the US of A? The Number One fly in the soup.

We have an unfortunate tendency to direct very high levels of energy into making people happy who are never going to be happy.

That “pursuit of happiness” business? If happiness somehow eludes your pursuit, it’s someone else’s fault.

At the present rate, by the year 2030 some 62 percent of the American population will be engaged in finding out just whose fault it is.

Expect mirrors to be outlawed by then.

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You will be required to care

It’s been coming for a long time, and now it’s starting to accelerate:

Constitutional government worked because the culture that birthed it believed in personal responsibility. Your life was your own, and so long as you realized that your liberty to swing your fist ended where the other guy’s nose began (as the old saying was), you could live your life pretty much how you wanted (and if civilized life got to be too much of a drag, you could always move to the frontier).

Obviously, we don’t have that anymore. Thanks to social media and half a century of Leftist badgering, our entire lives, cradle to grave, take place in public. “Rights” have been completely unmoored from “duties,” such that public piety to the Current Year’s catechism is now the only measure of a man. It’s a never-ending purity spiral. It won’t stop, because it can’t stop, and when naked force finally shows itself — accept the charges, it’s Tommy Robinson calling — well, weren’t we all supposed to be in FEMA camps already?

To restate things only slightly:

We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

And if there’s one thing we have in preposterous excess these days, it’s unwarrantable jurisdiction.

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She’d never leave Canterlot

“What would happen,” asks a Quora user, “if Princess Celestia from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ran for US president?”

Well, we’re pretty sure she’s at least thirty-five, but beyond that? I like this answer from Kristopher Pohlman:

Princess Celestia isn’t a natural born American citizen, and so is ineligible. Also, she’s a magical talking horse. That’s novel, but not leadership-worthy.

Ignoring that, I don’t think she’d fare well. Her experience as Equestrian royalty wouldn’t prepare her for the complexities of American politics. Also, coming from an autocratic (albeit benevolent) monarchy would do her no favors in a democratic republic.

Her opponents could easily spin the decisions she made as a princess. For example, her inconsistent stance on crime. Pardoning enemy insurgents while imposing lengthy jail time for what was essentially large-scale disturbing the peace sends a mixed message.

If she was elected, I imagine her administration wouldn’t be very noteworthy. She’d be like a liberal George W. Bush.

And then I got lost in contemplation of which American miscreants would be most worthy of a thousand years’ exile to the Moon. The list proved to be quite long.

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Meanwhile in Damascus

Set the clock back to the turn of the century, and you’ll find this:

Upon Hafez al-Assad’s death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad was elected as President of Syria. Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma, a Sunni Muslim born and educated in Britain, initially inspired hopes for democratic reforms. The Damascus Spring, a period of social and political debate, took place between July 2000 and August 2001. The Damascus Spring largely ended in August 2001 with the arrest and imprisonment of ten leading activists who had called for democratic elections and a campaign of civil disobedience.

Nobody has any kind words for Bashar these days. Asma, who studied computer science and French literature at King’s College in London, and who dropped her plans for a Harvard MBA when she married Bashar, is not a whole lot more popular.

Asma al-Assad finds a smile

Asma al-Assad on tour

Asma al-Assad says it's this big

The Syrian First Lady is forty-two, a decade younger than her husband. She’s not allowed in most of the European Union, though she’s retained her British citizenship all these years. And she will stand by her man:

And four years ago, those madcap cutups from She Politico put together two minutes of cheesecake from a series of stills:

Why, yes, I do have rather a lot of Syrians on my family tree. Why do you ask?

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The saga continueth

This story began with what we may assume was a certain amount of animosity:

A contest of candidacy has been filed by Nick Mahoney against Rep. Kevin McDugle, claiming Kevin has not met his residency requirements to file as a candidate for State House District 12.

Nick Mahoney, who is running against McDugle for the GOP nomination for House District 12, explained the basis for the challenge, “We have been made aware of evidence that strongly suggests Kevin McDugle has not lived in District 12 for at least the last six months. In fact, court documents show that McDugle vacated his residency that he claims in his filing for election in April 2017.”

Now turn the knob just a trifle higher:

Nick Mahoney, a Republican candidate for House District 12 and a seven-year Wagoner County Deputy Sheriff, was terminated abruptly Monday morning by the Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott. His termination was preceded by statements made by Elliott to fire Mahoney if he did not exit the race for House District 12 along with statements made by Judy Elliott, Wagoner County 911 coordinator and Elliott’s wife that “(Mahoney) running for State House District 12 will have consequences.”

What does District 12 think? We’re not exactly sure:

At the very least, Mahoney is writing a check:

The cost charged to a candidate initiating a recount depends on the counting method that they request: The cost for retabulation conducted by machine is $600 per county. [Section 26-8-111(A)(2).] The cost for a recount conducted by hand is $600 for the first 3,000 ballots to be counted, and $600 for each additional 6,000 ballots, or fraction thereof, per county. [Section 26-8-111(A)(4).] Requests for both retabulations and hand recounts for statewide offices (all those filed with the State Election Board) must include an additional $300 beyond the amounts listed above. [Section 26-8-111(A)(5).]

It shouldn’t take long to recount 4,671 (more or less) ballots.

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Each other’s shadow

Roberta X isn’t swallowing either of these:

One of Indiana’s Senatorial seats is up for election this year. Democrat incumbent Joe “Almost a Blue Dog” Donnelly and Republican challenger Mike “The Working Man’s Pal” Braun (and their various Committees To Support…) are continuing to wage negative campaigns, focused on the alleged venality and duplicity of their opponent far more than their own qualifications to serve. Both men are sons of the wealthy families, working hard to seem like “plain old guys” and entirely blind to the source (or even the existence) of the crease in their slacks and the shine on their shoes.

So she’s going for a different beverage entirely:

The Libertarian Party of Indiana is running someone: Lucy M. Brenton. She’s good on the issues, a right-down-the-middle Libertarian. She’s raised a passel of children, which I figure is probably better preparation for serving in the Senate than being the boss’s son.

I dialed over to Brenton’s site, and it appears she’s paid the expected dues along the way. And I noticed this down in the corner:

Tag for Libertarian WordPress theme

For real. Or rather, it was for real:

It’s been a wonderful honor to have been chosen by so many candidates over the last four years that this theme has been part of our collection. We know that other foundries will step into the void created by this themes depreciation. Please take a look at our roundup of great political WordPress themes.

Deprecation, maybe.

Then again, my theme goes back to 2006, so it’s not like I’m looking down my nose at the Libertarians.

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And they did turn out

Right about 5:20 — I can’t possibly arrive at five anymore, and besides, I needed a fresh fill of 91 octane — I got to shove ballots #1729 and #1730 into the scanner. (The second one, containing State Question 788, the medicinal-marijuana initiative, got bent on the way in, and tell me that isn’t karmic.) If everyone got two ballots, I was voter #865; #900 reached the door before I left.

The Democrats, as before, were allowing independents and such into their primary. (The Republicans, as before, weren’t.) But some of those second ballots might not have been handed out:

Once at the polling station, you should always insist on getting everything you’re allowed to get.

There were lots of kids at the precinct, presumably just picked up from day care. One lad’s eyes got really, really big as I passed, and Mom said “Yes, you used to have one of those.” It then dawned on her what she’d said, and she gave me a look that was, I guessed, two parts contrite, one part embarrassed. Not to worry, Mom. I may have had something like that myself, back in the middle 1950s.

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Blame those other guys

The wisdom of the Founders continues to manifest itself:

Writing at American Consequences, P. J. O’Rourke defends the Electoral College system by which U.S. voters cast ballots for electors, rather than for candidates. The electors then meet and cast ballots for a presidential candidate based on whichever system operates in their home state. Maine and Nebraska allow splits along the line of the percentage each candidate on; the other 48 are winner-take-all. O’Rourke, who is smarter than I am, ably defends the system as a way of keeping the densely-populated coasts from dominating national races. He omits one key benefit, though. Since there are only 538 electors, that means that only 538 people were required to vote for either of the awful hairballs our system coughed up in the summer of 2016. The rest of us were off the hook — we didn’t vote for candidates. We voted for the candidates’ slate of electors from our state. Whew.

“Awful hairballs.” Remember that the next time someone tries to tell you that the election was, um, hacked.

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Where security costs less

The Scott Pruitt stories just keep getting weirder:

Even before his Senate confirmation, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt mulled running the EPA at least part-time from his hometown of Tulsa, seeking office space there, emails show.

Pruitt ultimately dropped that plan, the EPA told members of Congress in a letter dated June 19.

“Although the EPA staff did explore whether office space was available in Tulsa, this possibility was ultimately abandoned,” Troy Lyons, associate EPA administrator, said in a letter to members of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

House Democrats were unsurprisingly not keen on this idea:

“Establishing a new EPA office in Tulsa may be personally convenient for you, but it seems ethically questionable, professionally unnecessary, and financially unjustified,” House Democrats wrote in a letter to Pruitt in May.

And the agency itself, it appears, had some qualms:

“‘gifted’ or ‘donated’ space could be an optics issue. We can investigate other Federal agencies with office space in Tulsa, or even Congressional space in Tulsa, such as Sen. Inhofe’s district office, but I didn’t want to wave that flag yet. Again, optics. But let me know,” [an] EPA staffer wrote.

Another issue was that the EPA did not want the cost of the new office space to show up as a line item in a congressional bill.

Now there’s the bureaucracy we know and love.

Actually, I like the idea of decentralizing the government generally, but I concede that it would complicate Congressional oversight, in the event that Congress actually wants to oversee anything.

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The dreaded Campaign Ad

The main reason it’s dreaded is because, ninety-odd times out of a hundred, it’s dreadful. The percentage may be even higher in Soonerland, where relatively few races are particularly competitive and most TV spots seem to be limited to thirty seconds and/or one sound bite. I’ve been a registered voter for 46 years, and I don’t remember even a dozen memorable campaign ads. I do, however, recall one memorable fake:

If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen

From those wonderful days when National Lampoon was a cultural force, and don’t you miss that? No? Okay, fine.

That said, it is still possible to make a political ad that’s worth remembering. This 3½-minute spot for a Democratic challenger to a relatively colorless Texas GOP Congressman actually seems to be going viral:

TX31 is R+10, so Hegar has her work cut out for her. Still, she’s received around 300,000 views for this spot — per day.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Certainly not strategic

Then again, you never know with this guy:

Scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has now spent more than $4.6 million from public coffers on security, according to documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented under the Freedom of Information Act. The amount represents a $1.1 million increase from Pruitt’s total security costs as released in another disclosure just a month ago.

Pruitt’s high spending on security has become the subject of mounting criticism and a host of official investigations: Several EPA inspector general investigations have been opened, as well as an ongoing investigation by the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee.

Now there’s security, and there’s security:

Since last year, shortly after his Senate confirmation, Pruitt’s office began purchasing security-related items, including multiple vehicle leases, over $80,000 worth of radios, $700 in shoulder holsters for the radios, and a kit to break down doors, among other purchases.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act list expenditures totaling $288,610 on a range of security-related items. The EPA, according to three expense line items for April, spent a total of $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”

I’d bet anything he has a SWAT team or two on speed dial.

Neither of Barack Obama’s EPA heads, Lisa Jackson or Gina McCarthy, seem to have spent anywhere near this kind of money. Then again, Scott Pruitt came to EPA from the state of Oklahoma, where you always talk about fiscal responsibility while never actually displaying any.

(Via Charles P. Pierce.)

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Woman’s got Seoul

Sgt. Mom, who spent no small amount of time south of the 38th parallel, speculates as to what’s going on to the north:

The Korean nationals that I worked with, on my various voice and broadcasting jobs were a relatively cosmopolitan lot, and we talked now and again about the North, and the threat intermittently posed, most notably to Seoul, well within artillery range of North Korean big guns. Indeed, about every six months or so, the Norks indulged in what another blogger termed the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken — a regularly-scheduled theatrical bit of sabre-rattling, to which the old Korea hands (and possibly most ordinary Koreans) eventually became pretty blasé. [More here from The Daily Brief] Is there now a possible end in sight to a situation which has existed slightly longer than I have been alive, through Donald Trump’s surprisingly cordial summit with Little Fat Kim? Speculation on the imminent collapse of the North floats around at about the same frequency as the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken. But this time, I do wonder if the Reign of Kim really is on very shaky ground — and Little Fat Kim knows it and is nervous about survival — his personal survival and that of his circle. Bits and dribbles of dismaying information keep trickling out of the hermetically-sealed kingdom; that the soldiers forage for food in the cultivated fields, that the Nork soldier who defected across the DMZ was riddled with intestinal parasites, that the underground nuclear test site collapsed the whole side of the mountain where it was located, that whole districts are stripped bare of vegetation … and perhaps at long last, the Chinese are not quite so blindly supportive of their favorite client state. Is North Korea circling the drain of history, and the Kim regime is trying one last desperate throw of the dice while North Korea still has the appearance of a viable state?

Brinksmanship is not rocket science: if you have exactly one card to play, that’s the card you lay on the table. Still, Little Fat Kim is no less adept at four-dimensional checkers — chess, it ain’t — than The Donald, and he got that way in much the same fashion: regular deployment of actualities and balderdash more or less simultaneously. Obviously Trump and Kim are never going to be BFFs, but then neither are Trump and Justin Trudeau, or Trump and Angela Merkel, or Trump and [pick a name at random]. If you ask me, it’s just as well.

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Greece is the way we are feeling

At least, if we fancy ourselves small-d democrats on the Athenian model. Severian would like to remind you that it wasn’t all that democratic:

Whatever Cleisthenes and the gang actually practiced, it wasn’t based on a social contract as we’d understand it. As you probably remember from your high school Social Studies class, the Greeks were world-class chauvinists. Aristotle famously ranked women just below slaves on the rationality scale, and the word “barbarian” simply meant “not-Greek.” You probably couldn’t play a pickup softball game with the total number of Athenian “voters.” But it didn’t matter, because Athens was so small that Demosthenes himself could come over to your house and personally demagogue you. Socrates, too, for that matter (he fought at Potidaea). Athens’s organizing myth, then, was “democracy” in the football hooligan sense — you voluntarily joined up, but mostly just to have a row with the wankers. Needless to say, this doesn’t work in anyplace bigger than a Greek polis. (The early Roman Republic worked the same way, and yes, I’m aware that I just called Romulus and Remus the original soccer yobs).

Do they even teach Social Studies anymore? The last Civics class I remember hearing about was apparently abandoned about the time the Republicans came up with something they teasingly called the Contract with America; however contractual it might have been, it was seriously lacking in enforcement mechanisms.

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