America is the Netflix of democracy. One of the US Postal Office services that made Netflix the DVD company possible was that the postie picks up any letters that are left in the mail box. For Netflix it meant they could mail you a DVD, you watch it, and when you have finished, you put it back in the mail box, the postie picks it up and it magically goes back to Netflix.
Voting in the United States is the same. For registered voters on the early ballot lists, the counties mail you a ballot and you have a couple of weeks to research the candidates and mark off who you are going to vote for. When you are finished, like a Netflix DVD, you put it in the mailbox, the postie picks it up and back it goes to the local electoral commission to be counted.
Normally they don't bother counting these early votes unless it is close, but the early voting and the USPS innovation in delivering and mailing mail makes it so simple to be a part of the electoral process. The early voting ballots for the 2012 Presidential Election are mailed out (in Arizona) on October 11th and the last day to submit an early ballot by mail is November 1st. Election day is November 6th and early voting ballots have to be received by 7pm that day to be valid. If you cut it too fine, the option is to physically go down to the booth and vote.
The United States has an optional mechanism for voting. You have to register first. In Australia when you turn 18 the government automatically registers you to vote. This is a good default option that the United States should use to try and get voting numbers up. The increasing polarization of American politics has meant that only a small number change their mind, or have to make up their mind during the campaigns so getting out the vote, or GOTV, as it is called becomes important.
Despite the recent spate of legislation at the state level by the Republican Party to disenfranchise voters, America does make it ridiculously easy to register to vote and to receive ballots ahead of the election. The early ballot is a wonderful piece of technology and democratic innovation that allows the voter to research, contemplate and make good civic decisions rather than in the heat of the moment in the ballot booth.
The chance to research and think things over before voting is important as American voters are inundated these days with propositions that change state constitutions and city council charters. The propositions are not always obvious what they are for, and what their effects will be. Having time to research these is necessary.
Netflix built a remarkable business around the DVDs and the mail and pickup. American democracy is using the same technology, and had been prior to Netflix, for voting. In the 2004 presidential election twenty two percent of voters were using early ballots that were mailed in. This was up six percent from the previous presidential election. It is a great way to make an informed vote in your time. It should be remembered it is a nice innovation by the USPS where they pick up your mail from your mailbox that makes this possible.
Today was my first day at a new job, and this morning while I was getting ready my wife asked me, "What did you want to be when you were seven?" When I thought about it, the thing that hit me was that in 1977 the job of software engineer didn't exist. There was probably a few people working in assembly back then, but the idea that I would be spending my day interacting with a build stack that included maven, jenkins, nexus and a container and libraries that had tomcat, camel, activeMQ, spring, junit, etc etc etc. And it all running on virtual hardware! As a seven year old that stuff didn't exist.
If I recall correctly I think I wanted to be a fighter pilot or astronaut back when I was seven. Both noble professions, but one was highly competitive in Australia due to its small military and the latter non-existent as the only space programs have been in the US, Russia and Europe over the last thirty years or so and even those have not had much in the way of people missions.
Sometimes I feel like the steam engineers of the industrial revolution. Some of them made history and advanced the technology in large bounds, but most of them kept some non-descript industrial operation running; far more efficiently than they could have done prior to steam, but they are largely unnoticed and they most likely told their children that when they were seven the profession of a Steam Engineer did not even exist.
Anecdotal I know, but sometimes it takes a little epiphany like that to drive home just how much the world has changed in the last thirty years.
The ongoing investigation by the US Attorney's office against Joe Arpaio has been dropped. Apparently there is not enough evidence to convict in a criminal case. There are existing civil suits against Joe Arpaio which have a greater probability of success.
Arpaio and Thomas and their opponents all complain that the charges - or lack thereof - were politically motivated. While politics may have weighed in the debate, experts say the bottom line was this: There are no federal statutes specifically covering their actions.
"There is no question really that they used their office, abused their power, to criminally charge judges and public officials without any evidence," said attorney Michael Manning, who represents several of their targets in civil lawsuits against Thomas and Arpaio. "That certainly put them in harm's way in a civil court. But just because it's wrong in a civil court doesn't make it wrong in a criminal matter."
This is pretty normal as the level of proof to convict in a criminal case is far higher than in a civil one. In the early days of Arizona's statehood, often the Sheriff was the only executive office around. There is no doubt that people wanted to elect a Sheriff so they could place a limit on a Sheriff's power. In this day and age of state and national democracy there is no need for the Sheriff to be elected anymore. Governor's pay the price when they are not responsive enough. The Sheriff should be an appointed office.
As a follow on from the Who Are These People? Arizona Democratic Primary 2012, who were the winners of the primary? In District 9 for the US Congress Kristen Senema won the primary. I voted for Shapira. So my first choice did not get in there. Senema will be facing Vernon Parker from the Republican Party. In the Arizona State Legislature for District 24, Lela Alston won the Democratic Primary. I voted for Hobbs. Alston will be facing Auggie Bartning.
For Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Renzone beat out John Rowan in the Democratic Party, but come election time, for me it will be an 'anyone but Joe Arpioa" vote. In Scottsdale the Mayor was won by Jim Lane and Scottsdale Council by Virginia Korte, Suzanne Klapp and Guy Phillips. AZCentral has a pretty good results page.
One of the differences between the American and Australian system is that party's have primaries which are run by the state. Apparently it was an innovation at the state level in the early 1900s to wrest the choice of candidate from the parties themselves and has become popular enough to expand to all states.
Whether you take part in a primary is determined by the states' laws and how you register when you vote. If you register as a Democrat you can vote in Democratic primaries, Republicans have the same limitation. Some states have an open primary where anyone can vote in any party primary. Arizona is mixed between an open and a closed primary as Independents can vote in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. This is known as a semi-closed primary.
I registered Democratic since I was disgusted with the Republican Party, but that was a mistake I am kicking myself for now. I should have registered Independent and participated in both Democratic and Republican primaries in an effort to influence there being a choice of candidates when the actual elections come along.
Another interesting quirk is that you can 'write in' candidates. There is a listing of acceptable write in candidates on the Maricopa County website; candidates. The positions up for election in the primary are: US Senator, AZ Senator, AZ Congress, AZ Corporation Commissioner, County Board of Supervisors, County Assessor, County Attorney and County Recorder.
America has a lot of democracy and there are positions there that should not be elected, instead they should be chosen by the executive at the appropriate level. Not sure how qualified I am to choose candidates for those positions. This is probably where party signaling comes into effect and people vote along party lines. The town I lived in in Virginia though banned party affiliations and everyone had to be an independent. It was actually hard to work out people's motivations and politics without party signaling.
US Senator for Arizona At the US Senate level Richard Carmona is running unopposed. The Senate in Arizona has been dominated by elderly John McCain and Jon Kyl who are both Republican. Kyl is retiring so the Democrats probably think they have a chance. The two candidates on the Republican side, Jeff Flake and Wil Cardon, are battling it out in the primary though neither are open tea party or establishment candidates. It is thought that Flake will face Carmona in the final election and currently it is polling as a tie between the two.
Arizona Congressional District 9 For the US Congress the three primary candidates are David Shapira, Krysten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. This is for the 9th District that recently got new boundaries as part of the once every ten years redistricting. The District includes South Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Ahwatukee and eastern Phoenix downtown.
Shapira and Sinema are both State Senators with Shapira being the current minority leader. Cherny's claim to fame was that he was a former Clinton staffer and the flyers we have got in the mail include pictures of Bill Clinton all over them. He also has a slogan of saving the middle class. Sinema's flyers concentrate on women's issues and protecting women from intrusive legislation amongst things.
Shapira's policy statements on sustainability, jobs and education seem reasonable. There is nothing really new there and for the most part his pages on health and veterans are conservative, attempting to protect what is there from Republicans deconstructing them. Shapira does not mention immigration or public transportation.
Sinema's policy statements seem a little more populist, such as over coming partisanship, which is a noble goal but seems futile with the current Republican Party as Obama has found out. On immigration Sinema is reasonable with a mix of the dream act and better visas. Like Shapira she is conservative on health care and seniors, protecting what is there now.
Cherny has even less policy statements than Shapira and Sinema and is the most populist of the three. Ironically the push for a public option and better financial regulation ring a bell with the disgruntled voter - including myself. Probably not going to happen though, so I think Shapira gets my pen mark.
Arizona State Senate District 24 The two candidates in the Arizona state senate are Ken Cheuvront and Katie Hobbs. Cheuvront owns a well named restaurant on Central Ave named after himself. He has also been a state senator since 2002 and a state legislator prior to that and had the distinction of being the first openly gay man to be elected to the legislature.
There are five Arizona legislators that are openly gay including Krysten Sinema. You would think that is surprising in a heavily red state like Arizona, however, like nearly everywhere, the urban areas trend heavily blue while the suburbs and rural areas trend red. Phoenix downtown, Tempe and Tucson tend to be heavily blue.
Katie Hobbs is currently in the Arizona House of Representatives and now running for senate. Her policy statements are on schools, jobs and equal opportunity. This question and answer seems reasonable though Cheuvront's are as well.
Hobbs by a millimeter.
State Representative District 24 This has Jean Cheuvront-McDermott, Tom Nerini, Lela Alston and Chad Campbell competing in the primary. McDermott is Cheuvront's mother. Like her son she has no website, which is odd. Nerini's website mentions education, economy and health care. Chad Campbell appears to the current sitting member and has some pretty strong policy statements that reflect the poor legislation that has been coming out of the state assembly. Lela Alston is a previous state senator and appears to be running due to;
"I want to be your state representative because I am appalled at what the Republicans in power are doing to our state. The devastating impact that bills coming out of this legislature have on families, the disabled, seniors, jobs, education and healthcare is unconscionable and it needs to stop."
I am going to go with Campbell, since his motivation is along the same lines as Alston's and he fleshes them out in a little more detail.
Corporation Commissioner The candidates fro this primary are Paul Newman - the current commissioner, Marcia Busching and Sandra Kennedy. It appears that the corporate commissioner is elected to run the Arizona Corporation Commission executive office. Their website states:
In most states, the Commission is known as the Public Service Commission or the Public Utility Commission. Our Commission, however, has responsibilities that go beyond traditional public utilities regulation. These additional roles include facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety.
By virtue of the Arizona Constitution, the Commissioners function in an Executive capacity, they adopt rules and regulations thereby functioning in a Legislative capacity, and they also act in a Judicial capacity sitting as a tribunal and making decisions in contested matters.
Paul Newman's issues include solar, climate change and renewable energy. Marcia Busching's website stays within the normal boundaries of issues; seniors, rates, business red tape. Sandra Kennedy has an interesting website that goes into length about compressed air storage. Given Newman's awareness of climate change, I will give him the nod.
Early Ballot The rest of the positions either have one candidate or no candidates. I am not about to do any write in candidates so I am done with my democratic duty until the next primary or election. One of the other cool things about American democracy is the early ballot. The electoral body mails a ballot out to you. Which you fill out and research in your own time. You then put it in your mailbox with the pre-paid envelope the electoral body includes; the postie picks it up, and you are done with voting. No need to go to a booth on election day. It is ridiculously convenient.
I recently finished reading Twilight of the Elites. The thesis of this book is that since World War II the constant focus on meritocracy in America, where the brightest and the best are the most rewarded, has led to our present day inequality, to social separation and the bad policy making that comes from these two effects of a social system based on merit. Core to this is that we don't really have a meritocracy, while the education system is fiercely competitive, wealth remains a head start and can help achieve higher performance in a system where education is the driving decider in social position.
Unlike a lot of social science books, Christopher Hayes' does not have a lot of foot notes. This is actually a good thing on a kindle as when you press the next page you often hit a footnote link and end up at the digital back of the book and have a confusing path to get back to the page you were once on. The book is very well written and is in the modern style of short and easy to read sentences. The book is shorter than most as well, seven chapters, which is good as a lot of these kinds of books pad with lots of meaningless information.
Hayes' focus on the meritocracy as a failed social system for creating competent elites cames out of his frustrations of the last thirty years of American and global governance. As with many, the global crisis of 2007 and the anemic policy response afterwards were the final straw which lead him to this thesis;
Elite failure and the distrust is has spawned is the most powerful and least understood aspect of current politics and society. It structures and constrains the very process by which we gather facts, form opinions, and execute self-governance. It connects the Iraq War and the financial crisis, the Tea Party and Move On, the despair of laid off autoworkers in Detroit to the foreclosed homeowners in Las Vegas and the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans: nothing seems to work. All the smart people ****ed up, and no one seems to be willing to take responsibility.
Meritocracy is a form of equality. The rights movement has had remarkable gains in the last thirty years in terms of gender, race and sexuality. The 1950 in the United States were a time of great economic equality, but very unequal social outcomes from minorities such as blacks, women and gays. This has changed. However, during that same period we have seen rampant economic inequality which is leading to social inequality. I recently read two other books on this issue with Coming Apart and the Great Divergence, both of which focus on why this inequality is occurring and offer possible solutions.
The first issue was to define the American elites. Rather than the caricatures offered by Fox News of East Coast liberal university professors, the American elite are those that have gone through universities such as Harvard and ceaselessly rotate between government and generally banks and hedge funds. Most of Obama's current cabinet has done this. They are connected in governance and go from positions in national government to boardroom or executive positions at banks, hedge funds and other large companies. All are millionaires because of this ceaseless and effortless rotation. They are very much part of the 1% if not generally higher in the 0.1%.
Hayes argues the elites have gone through separation where they do not interact with the middle class or working class any longer so have no empathy. This makes the other classes marks such as in the case of the subprime mortgages and sending soldiers to war in Iraq. Because the elites don't have much empathy due to this separation, they flout laws and norms, such as Enron and Hedge Funds. Because of political and wealth capture they can make laws - and maintain laws through lobbying - that benefit themselves such as low tax rates and loopholes like the forwarded interest loophole which means they pay a lower tax rate than income workers.
To Hayes a meritocracy can only overcome its inevitable limitations - which leads to a pathologically complacent elite, protected by social stratification, access to power networks and sustained by personal belief in how they are scrappy underdogs who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps despite their obvious privilege - is to increase equality. This means higher tax rates on the rich and a more distributive society. Hayes also believes the more equality of outcomes is necessary to enable a meritocracy to flourish.
We often need to be reminded that democracy and meritocracy are human technologies. Because they work so well in so many situations we tend to look at them as being inalienable or divine truths. They are man made and as such permanently malleable to the social needs and demands of the time. In the software world if a technology is providing the best outcome, then we change to a new technology, drop back to an old technology or improve the existing technology so that it becomes fully functional. Meritocracy can be modified the same way.
Just finished reading The Admirals which covers he careers of America's first Five Star Admirals. This was a new position created in World War II to match Britain's and Russia's Field Marshal rank so that America - whose industrial might was largely winning the war against Germany and Japan had men of the same rank as the other allied nations.
The four men were Leahy, King, Nimitz and Halsey. Of these four Nimitz and King are without doubt more important.
It was King who managed the multi-ocean war effort but also determined the strategy against Japan of keeping the Hawaii-Australian lines of communication open and cutting through the central Pacific as a war goal. King did so while maintaining the heads of state acceptable 'Germany First' political strategy. This meant solving the U-Boat problem in the Atlantic while throwing resources into the Carrier and island hopping war of the Pacific.
Nimitz is probably the best commander of World War II. While the more media hungry general such as MacArthur and Patton sucked up print and air time, it was Nimitz's aggressive leadership during a time when America had precious few resources that led to the victories of the Coral Sea and Midway.
The really big difference with King and Nimitz as supposed to Jellicoe and Togo was that the American commanders understood that the new 18 inch gun on a battleship was the aircraft. They also understand that in a strike force the high speed carriers had to be the center and anyone who couldn't keep up - including battleships - had no place in that task force.
Japan and America understood that in a long war American industrial might would win. Within four years America would be pumping out warships, tanks and trucks at a prodigious rate. Consequently Japan took a short war strategy and tried to smash the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Japan new it could not fight a long war.
America understood this too. Where Nimitz differs is that he was willing to throw the full might of the American carriers at Japan during the early days when there was no guarantee that America could make that difference up with production. In the Coral Sea and Midway, Nimitz had an approach of aggression and the 'final battle', but with carriers instead of battleships as it was in Jellicoe's and Togo's day.
As a consequence, Nimitz as a strategist, forced a stalemate on Japan at Coral Sea and a victory at Midway that made the battles of Guadalcanal and Kokoda an allied victory. From that point on King's strategy of cutting through the mid and north pacific to stop Japan's lines of communication and supply from the oil, rubber and raw materials of Indonesia with Japan led to what we know as the 'island hopping' of World War II.
Japan expanded rapidly into South East Asia and China to make up for the raw materials its home island lacked. The main reason Dutch Indonesia was a goal was because of oil for Japan's fleet. King's strategy of island hopping through the Gilbert Islands to Okinawa with the Navy and Marines was to cut Japan off from the raw materials its Navy and Air Force needed.
The standout in this book is Nimitz. Of the five star Admirals mentioned in this book none has the leadership, strategic and tactical qualities that match his. This book could have been pared down to Nimitz and King, Despite the importance of Leahy as Roosevelt's and Truman's right hand man or loyal confident, or Halsey's bulldog fighting ability, the stand out leaders of the US Navy - and the allied world in WWII - are Nimitz and King in that order.
The effect of the Citizen's United ruling was obvious in the Republican primaries as individual donors gave large amounts and the anonymous SuperPACs started spending large amounts for their preferred candidates. Whether they had a bearing on the outcomes of the primaries is an another issue. The establishment candidate, Mitt Romney, ended up the victor which suggests the money wasn't destabilizing to the expected outcome.
Citizen's United vs FEC started as a specialized ruling of the McCain-Feingold Act on whether a documentary critical of a candidate could air prior to an election. The FEC said no. The Roberts court decided not to give a ruling on this particular instance of the law and instead reconvened to re-assess whether it was constitutional for corporations, non-profits or unions to be restricted from spending on elections, however they are restricted in their ability to give money to candidates and parties.
As always wiki has excellent coverage of all the issues, and the new yorker has an excellent article on the events leading to the decision in the case.
McCloskey's book The American Supreme Court makes obvious that the court's decisions have the politics of the time as distinct boundaries. The court will not make decisions beyond the point that the politics of the time will accept. The interesting part though is that the court is an intrinsically political institution and does not operate in the area of intrinsic law and rights that the myths of constitutionalism would expect.
The Citizen's United decision by the Roberts Court over turns several other previous decisions by the Supreme Court. It was also done in a manner that was activist in nature by reframing the questions rather than answering the original narrow question of the case. This form of conservative judicial activism has without doubt become politically possible and defensible due to the rise of the radical Republican Party right over the last twenty years which has the message discipline and media outlet avenues to support the Roberts court decision.
Polls show that not everyone is aware of the Citizen's United decision, but those that have believe it will have a large negative effect on political campaigns. That is understandable. Democracy is inherently an egalitarian affair in the 20thC with one person one vote now a rule rather than an exception. The idea of one dollar one vote seems unfair, especially in a time of rising inequality where the 1% appears to have the political ear already.
The Citizen's United is also being satired by Stephen Colbert who has his own Super PAC. As Colbert joked at a recent dinner; "I was particularly excited to meet David Koch earlier tonight because I have a Super PAC, Colbert Super PAC, and I am happy to announce Mr. Koch has pledged $5 million to my Super PAC. And the great thing is, thanks to federal election law, there's no way for you to ever know whether that's a joke."
One of the areas where Citizens United has had an effect is that they have become an arm of the candidates political campaigns. Many of the SuperPACs during the South Carolina primaries were run by the candidates former advisors, aides and political directors. The money funding these SuperPACs is from corporations which have been freed of limits courtesy of the Citizen's United ruling.
Starting a corporation is quick and cheap in the United States which does not want to thwart the promise of entrepreneurism. However, there have been instances of wealthy individuals creating a shell company purely for the purpose of donating to a candidates SuperPAC. The company is dissolved almost immediately after. Some media sleuthing has managed to discover the identity of these donors.
According to AEI, in the recent Republican primaries; "Outside groups are outspending candidates by more than 2-to-1, and candidates for the presidency and other office are beginning to see one of the more pernicious side effects of Citizens United -- that the candidates are increasingly being crowded out of the prime television ad spots they want and need to get their messages across."
We are also yet to go through a general election where the spending and effects on each of the parties, Republican and Democratic, can be determined. If the Republican primaries are anything to go by, the establishment and expected candidate will be the one that wins. It is doubtful that an outsider will win, but it may give them greater legs in a campaign than they would otherwise. Gingrich being an example.
Democracy is a messy and mass scale technology. It is also right more often than it is wrong. The Roberts Supreme Court is able to dabble in conservative judicial activism due to the nature of radical right wing politics and its supporting political and media institutions.
The Roberts' style of conservative judicial activism will become the norm while the politics support it. The only way to flush it out of the system will be for Republican voters to eschew the radical candidates in their party, or alternatively for voters to choose Democratic candidates - who are definitely more centrist - and moderate Republicans at the ballot box.
This appears a bit of a forlorn hope, as the history of the last twenty years has suggested the opposite and with the election of Barack Obama the Republican Party and its Tea Party faction have become increasing radicalized. Hopefully democracy and voters get it right soon and some of the worst excesses are diminished or vanish.
cam: I am surprised at how infantile the Ricketts superpac donor document is which is the header image. Having 'hussein' in there pretty much gives an idea of the tone of the rest of it. It makes it seem like some of the superpac influence will be crazy rich guys with too much money to spend. Craxzy rich guys have been involved in politics before, but usually as candidates.
cam: According to this article; "Right now, more than 80 percent of the money raised by superPACs has gone to pro-GOP groups. And, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 80 percent of all the money raised by these groups has come from just 100 individuals[.]"
This documentary is from 2007 but it is the first I have seen of it. The three accents that linguists identify in Australia are the broad, the general and the received accent. The first is the think Queenslander accent, the general is the standard Australian accent (which I speak) and the received accent is the Australian accent with British overtones that many older Australians speak and is largely a remnant of the cultural cringe.
Anecdotal, but I have noticed in the United States that people have difficulty understanding me when the sentence I am speaking has lots of 'r' sounds in it. For instance, try ordering a Harp Lager in an Australian accent in the United States and it is fascinating what people think you have asked for. One time I was offered hot water. My American wife likes to tell the story when we were on Hamilton Island and a young Australian girl said was should try "Snow Queen." My wife later worked out she had said snorkeling.
These days Australians think I am American and Americans think I am Australian. It is most likely because my pronunciation of the 'r' sound is hardening up through having to communicate daily with Americans for the last fifteen years. The documentary identifies the 'r' sound as the quintessentially Australian part of the accent and the most identifiable.
I also used to run into issues in the United States when I first came over when having to spell my name since it contains multiple vowels. Americans confuse the vowel sounds for each other when the Australian accent pronounces them. It made for some entertaining phone calls. These days much is done over the internet and it is not as necessary to spell names and addresses over the phone so things are easier in that respect.
Thomas Mann's and Norman Ornstein's book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks" studies the state of modern governance in the American federal government. Their book looks into why governance is dysfunctional and how it came to be that way.
Currently the Republican Party in the United States is operating under absolute party discipline which previously had been a function of parliamentary systems who - by necessity - form executive government through a legislative majority. This has meant the Democratic Party has had to start acting and voting as a party bloc in order to counter the Republican Party's voting and message discipline. This has frayed the collegial nature of the US Congressional system which is a necessary component of governance in the Washington System.
The authors also identify the second major cause of governing dysfunction as the Republican Party which has become, "an insurgent outlier - ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
So how did the Republican Party become so disciplined in its operation and how did it become immune to governing for the common good? The authors point to Newt Gingrich's strategy for the Republican's gaining a House majority after forty plus years in minority status. He decided to refuse to co-operate with Democrats in votes, on the floor and in committee. This was the beginning of the absolute party discipline.
Gingrich also saw that bringing the reputation of Congress into disrepute would make voters more likely to throw the bums out and replace the incumbent Democrats with new Republican representatives. There was ample ammunition; Democrats had been in power long enough that enough Democratic representatives had ethical issues and were arrogant in their wielding of power over a now obstinate minority. However, Gingrich had little need for looking at his own hypocrisy and was comfortable creating scandals for the Democrats within the institutional norms that he participated such as over drafts with the House bank.
When the Republican Party obtained a majority in the House after the 1994 elections, under Gingrich's leadership they maintained absolute party discipline and still managed to vote as a bloc. This remained consistent with the Hastert and DeLay leadership days during George H.W. Bush's presidency and more recently with the Young Guns and Tea Party representatives which Eric Cantor appears to be leading. When discipline did look like fraying, such as under the Medicare Part D vote when it was kept open on the floor indefinitely, party leaders such as DeLay would bend house rules to bring an errant vote back into the party fold.
The party's themselves have changed to be less collegial over the years. Currently the most liberal Republican is more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. This has not always been true and in this century has been a recent phenomenon. In the current congress, "the degree of overlap between the parties [is] zero". The authors also make the point this is true for the party apparatus as well including activists, delegates, opinion leaders, donors etc.
Another point they make is that is true of the voting public wich has also become polarized. A good example of this is the so-called independent voters, who, despite claiming their fence sitting status with pride, will vote every time for same party; making the true independents a very small number of Americans.
The Republican Party has responded to this by ideological polarization by making the party more narrow by "silencing, co-opting, repelling or expelling" any position that competed with party orthodoxy. Aiding this has been the economically successful business model of Fox News that provides a consistent cultural and political view to its viewers. The downside of this business model is that it has no moral, ethical or factual mooring and will happily deceive in order to maintain the unified view point.
There are numerous websites and blogs that are dedicated to the same information delivery mechanism such as the drudge report, the breitbart sites, and op-ed writes like Jonah Goldberg and William Kristol. The older school style of this media is talk back radio which is equally as ethically and morally challenged. Rush Limbaugh is undoubtedly the biggest fish in that pond though there are many others that deliver the right wing talk back message. The authors write:
The impact of all this is to reinforce tribal divisions, while enhancing a climate where facts are no longer driving debate and deliberation, nor are they shared by the larger public.
Another area of dysfunction is the filibuster in the Senate allowing a minority to delay, obstruct and often stop any form of good governance from the majority. The holds and delays can be anonymous and the onus is on the majority to get over the hurdle rather than the other way around. This is a well known issue that is starting to get more and more media time especially as the false equivalence aspect of it is being focused on by many media commentators.
The filibuster has also been used to for nullification. The authors write that this is; "blocking nominations, even while acknowledging the competence and integrity of the nominees, to prevent the legitimate implementation of laws on the books." This is done to stop executive branch agencies being able to implement or enforce the laws they are required too through lack of staff or funding.
So what do the authors think the solution is? Their main goal is to ensure there can be no radical party and that governance comes back to its pragmatic goal solving policy state. The authors note that the existing system will most likely fix itself. America has had bad Presidents and bad Congresses before and it did not collapse upon itself. Faith in the current constitutional arrangements and patience in the good will of the American people and politicians is necessary.
The authors do argue that making the political parties more centrist can be achieved through electoral modifications. They point to Australia's mandatory voting system, open primaries and by making campaign funding funnel through small donors.
There are some issues with those prescriptions; Americans don't like being told to do things by government such as mandatory health insurance - though hypocritically mandatory car insurance doesn't seem to be an issue - and mandatory attendance at the ballot box might be a tough sell. It was in Australia originally as well, but it has become accepted over time.
Open primaries already occur in some places. A quaint aspect of the American electoral system is that when you get your voter card you can say which party's primaries you want to vote in. This is used for the closed primaries which choose candidates. These laws differ by state as per the federal nature of the American system.
With the recent Citizen's United ruling by the Supreme Court - which incidentally over turned precedent from multiple cases - it is likely that restrictions on money into politics is a difficult component to restrict. There appears to be a distinct advantage for the Republican Party in this area as well.
It is most likely that Americans will have to rely on the constitutional system and its messy cross branch nature to correct itself and flush out the Republican Party's ideological extremism and unwillingness to govern competently in a two party system. The Washington system and its electorally clunky technologies in conjunction with democracy will most likely find its way out of the mess it is currently in.
Phoenix Eats Out is the restaurant review site for Phoenix, Scottsdale and Old Town Scottsdale which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb and Bell Pass. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak is a long and difficult hike.
Alternate Australian Constitutions
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC] which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com URL now.
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002) and
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999) which are good places to start.