Archive for September, 2011

Friday whimsy: Inaugural Address Word Clouds

September 30, 2011
Friday whimsy: Inaugural Address Word Clouds

I like presidential inaugurations. I like the symbolism of transferring power in a republic. I like the assembly of the entire government in one place. I like that they take place at the Capitol, subtly and whiggishly marking the legislature — and not the President — as the fundamental governmental entity. I like the...
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On last night

September 29, 2011
On last night

There are a million people writing great things on the Internet today about last night. I’m going to tell a story: I was sitting in a bar in Boston — I think it was the Beacon Hill Pub —  a year or two after I got out of college, maybe 2001. It was a...
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In (partial) defense of less democracy

September 28, 2011
In (partial) defense of less democracy

Former CBO and OMB director Peter Orzag had an article in the New Republic on Monday that made two claims: first, that political polarization in America is causing legislative gridlock that is reducing the capacity for even basic government functions; and second, that the solution to this problem is to shift some decision-making away...
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On leadership

September 27, 2011

According to news reports, Senator Blunt is considering running for a party leadership position in the Senate, in the wake of Senator Alexander’s announcement that he will be stepping down as Republican Conference Chair in January. This got me thinking about congressional history. Senator Blunt, you see, served in the leadership in the House...
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On political donations

September 26, 2011

Following Matt Yglesias, Jon Bernstein offers his advice on the most efficient way to donate to campaigns: So there’s no mathematical equation for exactly how to spend your money, but Yglesias is certainly right: it’s hard to see presidential re-election as a good use of money, no matter how important the president is (and remember: as...
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On anti-incumbency and partisan landslides

September 26, 2011
On anti-incumbency and partisan landslides

I’m starting to once again hear about the “anti-incumbent attitude” of voters, and the effect this will have in 2012. As I wrote back in Spring 2010, I think too many people confuse anti-incumbency with ideological landslide. But I was just fiddling (for other reasons) with some election data, and saw something mildly interesting....
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Research Note: On writing your congressman

September 26, 2011
Research Note: On writing your congressman

It’s no secret that the Internet has radically transformed the practice of legislative politics on Capitol Hill. Information is everywhere, and moves like lightning. Staffers are no longer chained to their desks and their hard-line telephones. And, perhaps most importantly, the relay of information from the Hill to the rest of the country (and...
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Sports Fan, Stats Geek?

September 24, 2011

A quick plug for Ben Morris and his Skeptical Sports Analysis blog. Ben’s an old poker buddy of mine from Yale and he recently won the 2011 ESPN Stat Geek Smackdown.  One look at his blog will convince you that he’s not only a killer sports statistician, but he’s also an engaging and humorous...
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Shutdown 101: The Politics

September 24, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote about the basic mechanics of a government shutdown. Today, I’ll quickly cover a little bit of the politics. I’m not going to spend a lot of time writing about the specifics of the current debate. You can get the facts from a variety of journalistic sources, and some pretty darn good...
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On Turning Off the Lights: Shutdown 101

September 23, 2011
On Turning Off the Lights: Shutdown 101

Now that the specter of a government shutdown is (once again) upon us, it’s probably a good idea to review what that actually means. There’s a lot of information out there that presents government shutdowns in very precise legal terms, but it can be a slog to read it. I’m going to try and...
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How often does the majority lose in the House?

September 22, 2011

That’s the question being asked over at The Monkey Cage. I don’t have any hard data, but my anecdotal memory says: 1) In general, not very often. 2) The losses comes in a bunch of flavors: pulling a doomed bill prior to a vote (ex: Boehner debt bill, July 2011), losing a final passage...
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Aftermath of the CR failure

September 22, 2011

By a vote of 190-230, the House yesterday failed to pass the continuing resolution (CR) that would temporarily fund the government while FY2012 appropriations are completed. Forty-eight conservative Republicans voted against the bill, largely arguing that it did not cut enough spending; all but 6 Democrats also voted against it, largely because it forces...
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On the credibility of veto threats

September 21, 2011

Simple question: how credible is Obama’s recent veto threat, and what effect does it have in the context of veto bargaining? Three points: 1) In general, I don’t think a veto threat is very credible for the President this Congress. The Senate is controlled by the Democrats, and thus any legislation coming out of...
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On no-longer-quite-as-special interests

September 20, 2011
On no-longer-quite-as-special interests

I was browsing through President Obama’s plan for economic growth and deficit reduction this morning, and a few things came to mind. First, credit to the White House for putting this document out. I’m not an economist, so I can’t really judge it on the merits (there are not-unexpected rave reviews from mainline dems,...
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On the meeting places of legislatures

September 19, 2011
On the meeting places of legislatures

Greetings from Austin, Texas! Blogging will be spotty over the next few days, as I’m down south coordinating a project that I’m undertaking with some folks at the University of Texas. After my flight landed mid-day today, I had some time to kill, and I managed to get over to the state capitol for...
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On the effectiveness of campaigns

September 17, 2011
On the effectiveness of campaigns

Reading Homestyle with my Congress class right now. On pg. 17, a classic quote about congressional campaigns: “Seventy-Five percent of all the money we spend in a campaign is wasted. But we don’t know which 75%.” This quote will ring true to anyone who’s ever worked on a campaign. A friend of mine who...
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On Presidential Focus, Presidential Credit, and the Homestead Act

September 17, 2011
On Presidential Focus, Presidential Credit, and the Homestead Act

There are two distinct ideas floating around the chattering class right now that I think are related. The first is a criticism of the Obama administration — articulated here by Bruce Bartlett — which argues that they made a major mistake by turning to health care after the stimulus passed, instead of staying laser...
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On the Properties of Great Card Games

September 16, 2011
On the Properties of Great Card Games

I’ve come to a rather striking (at least given my past thinking on the matter) conclusion over the past few months: Oh Hell is the greatest card game ever invented. By far. And by that I mean “it’s the most fun game that you will want to regularly play and will be able to...
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On the possibiltiy of a centrist 3rd party in 2012

September 15, 2011
On the possibiltiy of a centrist 3rd party in 2012

There has been some recent rumbling — added to today by Chuck Todd — that a credible centrist 3rd party candidate for the Presidency might emerge next Spring. And by the way people are talking, they don’t mean “John Anderson credible,” and they don’t mean “Ross Perot credible.” They mean the real deal: Teddy-Roosevelt-Bull...
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Congressional Jargon

September 14, 2011
Congressional Jargon

One thing that’s pretty hard to find on the internet is a good guide to the jargon of Capitol Hill. I don’t mean formal terminology related to floor procedure, that can be found in quite a few places. I mean the language that staffers use. Like any profession, the Hill is chock-full of wonderful...
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