What if retired judges can't draw a greater number of competitive districts? Bill Mundell--whose organization, Californians for Fair Redistricting, sponsored Prop. 77--argues that the result would still be more centrists. Why? Because simply removing the power to draw district lines--e.g. reward and punish--from party bosses would allow intra-party dissenters to flourish regardless of what the districts look like. Mundell even thinks this anti-boss effect vastly outweighs the effect of any increase in the number of competitive districts that would follow reform.
He could be right! But I'm not sure about his argument. In general, it's not necessarily a bad thing for party bosses to have power, as long as the parties win and lose on the basis of fair elections in fair districts. Maybe self-segregation has gotten to the point where the second-best alternative for promoting competition is to weaken party unity, or even party identity. I'm not ready for that step just yet. Why don't we pass Mundell's initiative and see if the result is more competition?
P.P.S.: If voters don't want district lines drawn by politicians, or by retired judges, maybe we shouldn't have them drawn by anybody. Specifically, why not let computers draw them. My colleague Robert Wright has suggested a John Rawls-like protocol, in which the two parties operating behind a veil of ignorance agree on the parameters to feed into a redistricting computer, and also agree to abide by the results. Let Maptitude do it! It's so high-tech it might appeal to Californians in a way geriatric judges don't. ... Backfill: Dr. Weevil made exactly this proposal back in 2002, and I linked to it in 2002, and made the same cheap Rawls reference in 2002. It's all coming back to me. ...
P.P.P.S.: It is pathetic how some columnists have grasped at second-order flaws in Prop. 77 as a reason to oppose it. Am I saying their view of public policy is warped by a visceral and institutional opposition to Schwarzenegger and an emotional need to see him humbled? Yes! 1:55 P.M. link
Mystery Solved?kf thinks it has resolved the mystery of what NBC is hiding about the crucial Russert/Libby telephone conversation of July 10, 2003. It's known that Libby called Russert to, in Russert's words
"complain about something that he had been watching on MSNBC, and he was rather agitated about it"
NBC has been strangely non-communicative about which MSNBC program Libby was complaining about, though Michael Crowley, TalkLeft , JustOne Minute, and the New York Times have all suggested that it was Chris Matthews' Hardball, which had been discussing the Iraq War, the faulty WMD intelligence and Joseph Wilson's now-famous trip to Niger.
But if that's the case, why couldn't NBC just say it?
Here's one answer: kf hears, through trustworthy and knowledgeable sources, that in his conversation with Russert Libby gave vent to the archetypal (and wrongheaded) charge that Matthews was animated by anti-Semitism--presumably because Matthews talked a lot about "neoconservative" Bush aides and war supporters and interviewed guests (such as Pat Caddell) who did too.
If that was Libby's complaint, it would help explain why NBC wanted to keep quiet about its exact contents. Not only does it potentially bring up a wild, hard-to-refute issue that the network would rather not have to deal with--but Libby's jag is also something you wouldn't forget, or make up, which would make Russert's testimony extremely convincing at trial. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may have wanted to keep it secret so it would have as much of an impact as possible, and Russert may be trying to honor a request from the prosecutor.