kf's Big Plamegate Scoop

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 29 2005 4:02 AM

kf's Big Plamegate Scoop

Pay attention this time, dammit!

(Continued from Page 7)

This is the crucial point: Every aspect about managing occupied Iraq could have turned out better with more time. There would be more chance to line up Arabic-speaking or Islamic allies; more time to get adequate U.S. troops on the scene; more chance to think about protecting the power system, the hospitals, and other aspects of the public infrastructure; more time in general to ask "what if..."

He could be right! But I had thought the advice of many neighboring "Arabic-speaking and Islamic" countries--worried about volatile popular anti-U.S sentiment--was, in effect, "If you're going to do it, get it over with quickly." ... 2:32 A.M.

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"They even tried to stick Curveball on me": Arianna Huffington has wasabi with Chalabi. It's a useful, non-fluffy report,, even if the Iraqi Deputy P.M.'s sweater "can only be described as Cosby-esque." ... 11:55 A.M. 

Christopher Byron argues that GM's possible bankruptcy stems, not from the "ceaseless, decades-long squabbling" between the UAW and management, but specifically from the Delphi spinoff "cooked up for GM by the folks at Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch in 1999." That's because Delphi's unfunded pension liability may now be re-foisted back onto GM. ... But if Delphi had never been spun off by GM, wouldn't its unfunded pension liability, having never been foisted off at all, be bankrupting GM anyway? The Delphi shuffle seems merely a surface distraction, a veil over the underlying pension problem. But maybe I'm missing something ... 2:21 A.M.

Robert Scheer defends gerrymandering:

Because of "safe" or less contested races, legislators at least have the potential to pay attention to their constituents rather than to those who finance the hotly contested races. It is not true, as The Los Angeles Times editorialized, that under the current system, "extremists reign," but rather that responsible legislators can focus on constituent needs rather than waging costly electoral battles financed by lobbyists.

This proves my point about why the LAT should have kept Scheer: he's so wrong he forces you to think.

a) Suppose a state's districts were drawn so that each party was represented in the legislature by however many representatives its statewide support merited, but all those representatives were given safe seats. (This is roughly the pro-incumbent deal that states like California implemented.) Does the downside--legislators' freedom from fear of loss and resulting lack of immediate accountability--outweigh the upside--freedom from the distorting effects of having to campaign and raise funds? I tend to think yes, but admit it's a closer question than I'd thought. Otherwise why have elections? An approval plebiscite once every decade or so should be enough to validate the good work of "responsible legislators" in pursuit of "constituent needs." ...

b) Of course, in an all-safe-seat state, the makeup of the legislature won't reflect the popularity of the parties for long. If popular opinion shifts, one way or another, it won't be reflected in a change of legislators until dissatisfaction reaches the tsunami proportions necessary to actually unseat a "safe" incumbent. ...

c) Plus almost by definition, safe seats discourage battles for the center, and hence centrist candidates. That doesn't displease an anti-centrist like Scheer. But the 51% of the people at the center are by definition a majority! They deserve at least a few seats, no? (That's all they'd get in redistricting reform; most seats would remain "safe.") ...

d) The lobbyists are hardly out of power in the current system. Does Scheer think California legislators don't whore after campaign money? If you're a Democrat in a safely Democratic district, you still need lobbyists' help to win the primary election, if not the general. ** Or would Scheer get rid of primaries too? ...

Why not clean up elections to curtail lobbyists' influence instead of abandoning elections in favor of a North Korean-style system of party service to the people! [Dial that back a bit?-ed Sorry, got carried away. But you get the point. ... Update: If David Horowitz is right  a North Korea reference is more appropriate than I'd thought. ]

** More (and better): An 11/12 National Journal article notes that, contra Scheer, the power of each party's core interest groups (e.g., the NRA, the NEA) and their lobbyists is actually magnified when the contest is in the primary rather than the general election.

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