A quick note to all the fightin' liberals out there

Please stop forcefully defacing the word "Republican" in blog posts and comments. "Repugnantlican." "Repiglican." "Repukelican." They are all stoopid.

Sure, "Demrats" is nothing inspired either, but lets just concede this skirmish and move on to more favorable rhetorical terrain.* Okay? Okay.

*"Health rights" instead of "pro-choice"; any takers?

The Irresistible Lure of the Tubes

I'm not sayin' anything. I'm just sayin'...

Next time you feel the need to bash Reid...

...please read this blog comment from FiveThirtyEight before you do so.

I'd like to offer a contrasting view to [most of] the comments above and Nate's original post. I am a former GOP Senate staffer and thus have a somewhat different perspective on how filibuster situations tend to function.

With respect to Nate's data on filibuster trends, the existence of divided government has a lot to do with the number of filibusters per year. The graph Nate included perfectly correlated with this hypothesis, at least in relative terms. Any time one party controlled the WH and another the Senate, the number of filibusters increased from the preceding year. Further, under divided government, the number of filibusters tends to increase in presidential election years as the parties seek to sharpen their differences and (1) embarrass the other party or (2) highlight to important interest groups that they are working hard on those groups' favored issues. There's some pretty good political science literature out there by Keith Krehbiel on this issue, if you're interested in further reading. I think these are all important background issues to keep in mind when considering the 110th Congress and the question of whether Harry Reid has been an effective majority leader.

Focusing on the 110th Congress, I don't see much evidence that Sen. Reid is to blame for any perceived lack of effectiveness. With only 51 votes in the Senate, Reid's options were severely limited -- yet Nate's post seems to make no allowance for this fact (relative, for instance, to the 55 seat majorities in the 109th, 106th and 105th Congresses where both the total number of filibusters and the number of failed filibusters was markedly lower). Whereas the offering of carrots and threatening with sticks may be effective when the majority party need only pick up four or five votes to attain cloture, that same approach intuitively seems much less useful when the majority needs nine or ten votes to cross the Rule XXII threshold. More than that, I can attest from firsthand experience that holding out is much easier if you aren't the last one needed for cloture. As evidence, look up Sen. Stevens' tirade after the failed ANWR vote in the 109th Congress. Stevens lost by one vote I think (Coleman promised to support Stevens but switched), and Stevens promised intense retribution on the Senate floor. My understanding is that Stevens followed through on his promise via DoD Approps.

Going beyond the numbers and to the substance of this idea that the majority leader can force Senators to read the phone book for hours on end, my suggestion is that people advocating this view fundamentally misunderstand the actual dynamics of the Senate floor. Bill Frist did absolutely everything he could to please the evangelical right during the judicial nomination wars, and only on one or two occasions did Frist actually employ this tactic (in both cases Frist ordered cots brought in, and had Fox News cover the event). On a third instance that I can think of Sen. Reid initiated a sort of counter-filibuster sua sponte, speaking for hours at length about his home town of Searchlight, NV. There's a great exchange in there between Reid and Sen. Roberts ("rock on!"), by the way. In none of these cases did the floor theatrics produce any meaningful change in cloture voting patterns -- though they may have caused southern Dems such as Pryor, Landrieu, Lincoln, and co. to hew a little closer to their states' conservative line.

When a majority leader decides to try and require a filibustering minority to speak at length, here's what actually happens procedurally. First, the leader makes a motion to proceed to the bill in question. The minority objects. So now the pending question is the motion to proceed, and debate on that question begins. Unless the majority leader files for cloture and gets 60 votes, or unless s/he convinces the minority to withdraw their objection, the leader is stuck. So the leader, embracing the strategy Nate now endorses (and which during my time on the Hill was embraced by the hard evangelical right), dispatches a deputy to the floor to continuously make the motion to proceed. As long as there is one R on the floor each time to object, the game is a stalemate. The R's DO NOT have to talk during this stalemate, they don't have to be on the Senate floor, and in fact, the Senate could spend most of the time in a quorum call. The only thing that matters under Rule XXII is that someone be there to object whenever the motion to proceed is made by the majority.

Assuming through some miracle the majority manages to win on the motion to proceed, then the same problem plays out on the actual merits of the bill, on naming conferees, and on the conference report if the bill gets that far. As long as the minority cares more about playing defense than enacting legislation, no amount of carrots or sticks can change this rock-solid reality. Since the 111th Congress GOP, like that in the 110th, seems fixated on this do nothing/re-brand/draw contrasts approach, I'd say Sen. Reid has little in the way of actual leverage through use of theatrics such as those described above.

All of the above is not to say there is no advantage to be had from anti-filibuster theatrics. Certainly the majority can score some press points and interest group points by doing what Nate seems to be suggesting be done. But in terms of actual vote outcomes, my argument is that such tactics will not produce any substantial dividends. I know this because I saw the same story unfold myself under Sen. Frist's tenure.

As Frist, Daschle, Lott, and Dole all found out in good time, the job of Senate majority leader is a very tough one, and one that is almost certain to earn one alienation from both the opposite party and one's own partisan base. The enormous gulf between public perception and reality with respect to floor mechanics/Rule XXII is a big part of that.

'FOIA' is a verb

In light of the problems the Obama White House has been having with vetting its appointees, here's an interesting article from the WaPo about the legendary Hollywood lobbyist, Jack Valenti, and the FBI's investigation into his sexuality.

The story's not really about Valenti – the conclusion was that he had a friend who was gay. Instead, it's about the on-going study of J. Edgar Hoover's tenure at the FBI and mid-century America's obsession with homosexuality. Thanks to FOIA, there will be more stories like this about other legendary figures in the years to come. We may be shocked to learn not just who was gay, but how aggressive was the effort to uncover the sexuality of public officials. Then there's this little gem from the article:
[I]n October 1964, a man whose name has been redacted from the records called an FBI official in New York. The caller encouraged the FBI to investigate Valenti "as a sex pervert," files show. "He based this request on the fact that he had read in the newspapers that Valenti swims in the nude in the White House pool."
Is it really that easy to initiate an FBI action‽ I wonder what sort of investigations are going on these days which will in a few decades be seen as asinine.

Meta-note: Sorry to be so quiet lately. I will (hopefully) go back into radio silence soon. Some of what I've written here already may have crossed a line. Nevertheless, if you share my interest in Assemblyman Ty Cobb's ambitions, I do still want to hear from you.

2nd meta-note: Hey, Apple/Google/Mozilla/etc., add "Obama" to your spellcheck dictionaries already!

Stay and Defend

Here's an interesting connection. Officials in the U.S., including Washoe County, are revisiting stay and defend policies that allow folks to defend their homes against wildfires because of the estimated 200 deaths in Australia's firestorm.

This is a really tricky subject. Humans are usually faster than wildfires but it's difficult for individuals to judge when they are not. When it seems that there are not enough firefighters to keep property safe, a person may be compelled to stay and defend it. As we've learned recently, that can be a fatal mistake.

But to protect someone from that mistake means forcefully evicting them from their property and their right to safeguard it. That is not something many Westerners look kindly upon.

Oops! Mixed metaphor

"Picking up a steam" is usually a positive metaphor for progress and increase. Neither of those adjectives apply to the U.S. economy, currently.

(Nice thing about front page headlines, tho, it'll probably get fixed within the hour.)

"Senator" Ty Cobb? Yipes!

So here's this Ty Cobb guy again. Yay.

Now Anjeanette's reporting on Cobb's supposed $80,000 in leftover cash to run for the Nevada Senate in 2010.

It's not all that cut-and-dry, though.

The contribution and expense forms make it near impossible to get a true gauge on how much a candidate has left over in a campaign bank account because they require only current fundraising by period. An optional line exists to report unspent contributions. In prior years, Cobb has refused to fill in that line. It's a bit difficult to see how he still has $80,000 left. Adding up all of his reported contributions and expenses from when he first started fundraising in late 2005 indicates he should only have about $61,000 in the bank.
Sixty grand, eighty grand, whatever.

I've previously established my disappointment with Cobb's style of conservative politics. Bob Beers was ousted last year and the Senate does not need him back. Besides, Ty Cobb is no Bob Beers. That man was special.

But if the guy sees fit to keep climbin' the pole, by all means, I am in no position to dissuade him. I cruised on over to his website, just to see what he's got to offer. I was a little startled to see this gem on the lower right corner:
The Sun is Vegas's liberal alternative to the right-wing Review-Journal. It is not a friend to the LuvGuv or his enablers in state politics, but it is a paper of record. If the Sun saw fit to give Assemblyman Cobb an atta-boy, perhaps I needed to re-evaluate my assumptions about the guy.

Unfortunately, I've yet find the June 10, 2007 article cited.

The Sun offers its archives online free of charge, so go ahead an take a look yourself. By my reckoning, there are four post-session wrap-ups from June 10, 2007. Two of them, the editorial and a column from Jon Ralston, go after the LuvGuv for being a blockhead. (The full details of his escapades had not yet surfaced, so they can be excused for rather dull hit pieces.) One is a blog post giving Speaker Barbara Buckley the unofficial title of Best Legislator conferred by the lobbyists of Carson City.
"You could probably re-phrase the first question to ask who is the second-best legislator since Barbara Buckley is clearly the best," wrote one respondent. And that about the Democratic speaker from a business lobbyist! Another wrote that it was "not even a question." Her agenda, her caucus control, her brains, her toughness – those and other qualities were roundly invoked. Congrats, Madame Speaker.
So that leaves a winners-losers sketch by Patrick Coolican. The kudos are numerous and they ignore policy preferences, so the LuvGuv got a high-five for successfully avoiding a tax increase, as he promised. What was there to say about my favorite Assemblyman?
Although widely derided by establishment types for casting the only "nay" vote in the election of Buckley to become speaker, Cobb drew a significant following among conservative Republicans...

Look for Cobb to lead efforts by Assembly Republicans to make some gains in 2008 to narrow the Democrats' 27-15 majority. In 2010 nearly 40 percent of Democrats will face term limits, which will lead to a wide-open election, and, who knows? Speaker Cobb? Probably not, but surely he's fantasized.

(I'll overlook being called an "establishment type." This time.)

That's not a scathing rebuke but also I'm not sure it can be accurately paraphrased as "Thumbs up!" At least not with quotation marks.

The questionable endorsement is part of a campaign mailer put out to sell Cobb's legislative accomplishments in 2007. It's a decent piece. It is odd that a politician from Reno would quote a liberal paper from Las Vegas, but you take what you can get. Still, the RGJ, Review-Journal, Appeal or *shudder* North Lake Tahoe Bonanza didn't have anything more substantive or positive to say about Nevada's latest conservative star?

Anyway, there's the evidence. Ty Cobb is considering running for Townsend's seat in 2010. Now, there has gotta be a Dem in the South Meadows that can keep him out of the Senate. Bonnie Parnell? Sheila Leslie? Anybody...?

"Historic" preservation

Here's an interesting article in the New York Times about a town in Mississippi that is turning their nondescript water tower into a landmark. It dates from the 20s, but really its value is as a piece of vernacular.

Vernacular is a concept that gets a lot of play sometimes. It really just means 'everyday' and its the opposite of post-modern.

The pic above is the oldest building in my hometown, Elk Grove, and the town's own water tower. Elk Grove, like a lot of places around the West, can really only trace its history so far back. Most of it original structures were built quickly, cheaply and ultimately they were temporary. To get an idea of what Elk Grove was – and where it may go – means following its journey into modernity.

Clearly, we need to protect the most amazing of the 20th Century's structures, such as DC's Third Church of Christ Scientist. The complete story, though, requires preservation of the banal as well.

Facebook Ads

Which of the options is most appropriate for this ad?

I abstain, because "dumb" is not on the list.

Abstinence Only Education

Are you bored going out in the evenings, meeting interesting and attractive people? Then try the RiskQuiz, brought to you via Cartophilia.com!

Yours truly got 100% with 3:10 remaining. Post your results in the comments! If you can beat my time I'll, um, swear fealty to you.

So that's why I'm sick!

Flu Season Building in Va.
State is first in nation to report widespread outbreak;
CDC says illness might spread rapidly.

Thanks, WashingtonPost.com!

The Return of Moonbeam

This headline from Capitol Alert is a few days old, but it's been sitting in my in box, intriguing me...

Brown sits atop Democratic money primary

Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Friday that he raised $3.4 million in 2008 in advance of an expected bid for governor in 2010. That sum leaves Brown, a Democrat, perched above his two declared Democratic rivals, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who each reported raising on the order of $1.1 million last year.

It's WAY too early to get speculative, but this does startle me a bit. It also does not include Mayor Villaraigosa, a likely candidate, nor DiFi, whose candidacy is still in question but who would obviously stomp everyone in fundraising.

I've expressed my concerns about Newsom as the nominee, but I'm also worried about Brown. If I had to choose between the two, I have no idea who I'd pick. I do hope, cautiously, that DiFi would intervene in that situation...

Battle of the Potomac

The new respective leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties, Tim Kaine and Michael Steele, are both from the DC metro area. And the President is a former Senator, when most of his modern predecessors were Governors. Though both Kaine and Steele are going to spend a lot of time and money making things play in Peoria, "beyond the Beltway" politics seem to be out of fashion.

DCist picked up on this, too.

In recent years, Virginia has served as evidence of how the Democratic Party may retain hope in otherwise conservative states -- Kaine, former Governor and current Senator Mark Warner, and Senator Jim Webb have proven that the Commonwealth is no more red than it is a rich shade of purple. And while Maryland has been a relatively consistent Democratic state, Steele's choice represents the gravity which many Republicans lend to the need to attract the diversity of voters in the D.C. suburbs, exurbs, and beyond. For two parties that are increasingly looking to amplify their national message and appeal, they've chosen a regional battleground to do so.

This doesn't mean that local matters will be elevated to national status, but it does suggest that both parties see their future in expansion. The question remains whether this is demographic expansion or ideological expansion. That is, although Dems are getting better at talking with conservatives around the country, they are probably winning in Virginia because the northern Virginia suburbs are becoming more diverse rather than because of a renewed progressive ethos in the hollers of Appalachia.

In any event, 2010 should be an awesome battle.