I have to do a little research. It seems to be a favorite talking point by politicians on all sides of a debate to criticize or dismiss a piece of legislation based on the number of pages it has. It's an odd bit of criticism: how long is too long, how long is too short, doesn't it depend on how many laws the bills are enacting? doesn't it depend on the number of amendments? Watch this space. I am going to find some answers. If you know some of the data, please post a response or send me an email!
Entries in Politics (16)
An interesting international perspective on politics:
"...So, believe me, US politics don’t have a Left. Looking at the presidential candidates, I am frankly appalled. None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden. They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority…." (from Aardvarchaeology)
Over the last year I mentioned "Americans Elect" several times: Americans Elect: Another Opinion, Field Of Dreams: Americans Elect, and Americans Elect - A viable third party?. Without rehashing or rereading my previous posts, basically, AE promised to get their candidate on the ballot in all 50 states by beginning the legal work really early, while driving an online process to select a candidate. This was their promise (from their own site)
Their web site was very credible and well done. (I looked at it now, and it's still nice, but they essentially concede that they failed without coming out and saying it.) They had Thomas Friedman talking about them, and I was kind of excited about it. But I became a little nervous about it when I saw a distinct conservative lean in the candidates that they were putting up, and very few names I had ever heard about. I wondered whether this was actually a highly sophisticated operation that wasn't really what they were trying to appear to be.
Well it's been a while since I had heard of Americans Elect but I fully expected them to carry through on their mission and promised. But I just looked at the 'sample ballot" for my town, and Americans Elect actually are nowhere to be found.
I wonder what happened to them!
I am looking forward to watching the Presidential debates tonight. But for all the wrong reasons.
I believe I know pretty clearly what each side's positions are and what they points will be. So, like when I watch a car race (which is rarely) secretly I have to admit that I will enjoy the suspense of seeing the big crash: the screwup, mistake or unscripted moment.
Here's an article that pulls out a bunch of revealing details of the arrangement between the two sides and the moderator about what can and cannot be done during the debates. It's pretty revealing and interesting, for example:
- "The candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates."
- "The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges."
- "At no time during the October 3 First Presidential debate shall either candidate move from his designated area behing the respective podium."
- For the October 16 town-hall-style debate, "the moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate...."
Read the whole article which also includes a link to the pdf of the 'contract' that both sides signed. Again, pretty revealing.
By the way, do we blame the media for promoting the "cage fight" view of the debates? No, we should blame ourselves. They are just showing us what they know we will tune in for.
(Also, this just in, commentary in Esquire "The Last Stand for Humanity for an Election in Which Bullshit Is Now the Status Quo: Your Debate Preview")
Americans Elect got Tom Friedman to endorse their effort to get a third party presidential ballot in November. He wrote about it and convinced me too that it was a good idea. A month or two ago I started having misgivings and now, it seems like things are really turning sour for Americans Elect.
An article in Techpresident.Com paints a pretty bleak picture:
"Americans Elect is the best example of the Field of Dreams Fallacy I have ever observed. The organization spent a reported $9 million building a cutting edge platform, assuming that high-priced technology and a mainstream media blitz would result in a centrist groundswell that revolutionizes American politics. It built no participatory community, and assumed that the Internet would magically serve one up for them. The result has been an all-too-predictable failure." (from Techpresident.com)
Maybe we didn't understand the dynamics of the web well enough:
"Maybe, just maybe, this was prove a high-enough profile blunder that we'll learn something from it about the limits of online politics from it.
The lowered transaction costs of the web help to reveal the true demand curve for citizen politics. That can prove transformative -- particularly around issues where there's pent-up demand, but traditionally high barriers to participation." (from Techpresident.com)
But that didn't happen:
"That's not the case with voting, however. The barriers to voting aren't very high. People don't follow politics because they don't like politics. For issues where no one was particularly motivated, and barriers were already pretty low, the new media environment doesn't change outcomes.
There is no radical center in American politics. Build the nicest platform money can buy for a disinterested population and you're still going to be left hearing the chirp of online crickets." (from Techpresident.com)
A month or two ago I read an article by Thomas Friedman introducing Americans Elect, an innovative concept for bringing a third major presidential candidate to the table for this year's Presidential contest. I liked it so much I wrote about in on my blog.
So it is with great interest that I came across this recent article by Gail Collins totally hating the Americans Elect concept:
"But it's too dangerous. History suggests that this election could be decided by a small number of votes in a few closely contested states. You do not want it to turn on a bunch of citizens who decide to express their purity of heart by tossing a vote to Fred Website.
Plus, the whole Americans Elect concept is delusional, in a deeply flattering way: We the people are good and pure, and if only we were allowed to just pick the best person, everything else would fall into place. And, of course, the best person cannot be the choice of one of the parties, since the parties are ... the problem. (from Time to Elect the Worst Idea)
Wow. I admit that a little while ago I started having misgivings about Americans Elect. The reason was that I could see no candidates there that I knew or liked. And those that were doing well seemed very conservative. It got me wondering whether I had been tricked into donating my $25 to Republican or Tea Party front. I have no evidence of that, but for sure my enthusiasm has dropped quite a bit.
Here's an interesting article "Modernizing Conservatism", yes, not my typical subject matter. Written from a Conservative's viewpoint it critiques some of the pillars of American Conservatism that might not be effective or useful anymore.
The part I found the most interesting is the argument against the popular Starve The Beast concept in our current political discourse. As I understand it (a big caveat) the Starve The Beast idea is that the only way to shrink the size of government is by cutting budgets severely. Because, while everyone agrees that government is too big (!) congress does not have the will to shrink it by eliminating parts of it.
So instead, do it indirectly, so that the cause and effect are separated enough and it will get through. You cut budgets in a macro way today, meaning, budget caps, tax cuts, and so on -- don't go into too much detail about the specific stuff you are cutting. And then, tomorrow, the impact of the cuts are noticed but it's too late because the dies are cast and the beast shrinks or dies.
The problem with this is that we (the people and the leadership) like the benefits of big government so much that we revert to deficit spending despite the macro cuts. See for example the unfunded Iraq war that was explicitly kept 'off the books'. And so the beast doesn't starve, the bill is just passed on to future generations.
The Serve The Check concept says, make sure that everything the government does shows up on our tax bills. I think this implies actually raising taxes. Maybe break them out into bits that can be identified: this line goes to the military, this line goes to health care and so on. Now we can see in painful detail on our tax returns what our taxes will be and we, the electorate, will insist on shrinking government.
"Long-term evidence indicates that the starve-the-beast strategy not only fails, but may make the problem of unrestrained spending growth worse, suggesting that a "serve the check" strategy might be a more effective means of curbing the growth of government spending.
The simple explanation for this seeming paradox is that the starve-the-beast strategy currently allows Americans to receive a dollar in government services while only having to pay 60 cents for it.3 Rigorous analyses from centrist economists Christina and David Romer of UC Berkeley4, and from libertarian economist (and Reagan White House alumnus) William Niskanen conclude that the starve-the-beast strategy fails.
Strikingly, Niskanen's analysis found that lower taxes correlated with higher levels of federal spending. As a result, Niskanen argues that raising taxes may be the most effective way to reduce gov-ernment spending." (from Modernizing Conservatism)
Ok I am going on and on. Here's the article: Modernizing Conservatism