"TO DESTROY THIS INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT,
TO DISSOLVE THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE
BETWEEN CORRUPT BUSINESS AND CORRUPT POLITICS
IS THE FIRST TASK OF THE STATESMANSHIP OF THE DAY."
-- Theodore Roosevelt--
Friday, August 29, 2008
Kvatch's Kocktail Hour - The AT&Tini
So here's to the Telcos!
— 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
— Hint of vermouth
— A float of Cristal
Cost: 1 Billion Dollars!
TAGS: Kvatch, satire, AT&T, Lobbying
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Not much by big blog standards I know, but still... it makes us happy. The unruly mob would like to thank each and every one who opted to click on our humble site. We know how many quality sites there are out there, and how hard it is to visit a fraction of them. So it means a lot to us that you want to hang out with us.
Byt the way, here's the proof:
UPDATE: I don't see a link to us there, but sitemeter says that the 100,000the visitor was referred here from this YouTube video:
(So be it. You know it totally fits.)
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Authoritarianism Is A One Way Street
Read this story.
An account from the comments section of that story:
I was there! Just taking pics, but I decided to gtfo when somebody yelled 'GAS!!', and I saw a cop holding said gas canister.Contrast that story, where the cops motivation is to keep the street open, with my eyewitness account of what happened on the 16th Street Mall earlier in the afternoon.
Basically the protesters went into the street in front of the City & County building and the cops weren't keen on it, so they started lining up and telling everyone to get back on the sidewalk, at which point somebody hit the deck in
the street (pepper spray perhaps?) and a mob sort of formed from there. It was
about that point that I whipped out my camera and at the same time my boyfriend
and I both got shoved by a couple of riot cops for doing nothing more than
standing there. We would have moved if they said so, but you know Denver cops,
violence for no real reason. From there the protesters bolted across the park,
past the Seal Fountain, across Colfax and started heading down 15th. Some kid
pulled one of the road closed signs into the middle of the intersection of 15th
and Colfax and the mob made it about a block or two before the cops cut them off
and they sort of got cornered against a building. It was soon after that I heard
somebody yell gas and to run, so I joined a small herd of people in running
cause getting pics is one thing, getting gassed...not so keen on it.
I was on the Mall Shuttle, heading down to Wyknoop where the "Big Tent" is located. Many powerbloggers like Kos, Greenwald, the crew from FireDogLake and so forth are down there and I wanted to see if I could catch any of them. Well, the Shuttle stopped and there was this huge ruckus.Notice that the cops didn't pepper spray the hateful fundies. Nope they protected them, and let them block the Mall for a good 20 minutes! One person was arrested at this incident - and you guessed it, he wasn't one of the fundie whack jobs.
Police officials asked RTD to shut the 16th Street Mall bus shuttle service shortly after 7 p.m., said RTD spokesman Scott Reed. The mall service resumedSo it's abundantly clear to me that the cops interest was not the free flow of traffic.
around 9:30 p.m
If you wish to agitate or protest in accordance with the right wing agenda, no matter how extreme, you have the blessings of the authoritarians. If you wish to agitate or protest against that right wing, you get pepper sprayed and taken to jail.
Freedom of Speech - it's a one way street my friends.
TAGS: DNC, Protesters, Freedom Of Speech, Authoritarianism
Monday, August 25, 2008
Putting The 'Con' In Convention
What is the god-damned point?
It's been over 50 years since there was a contested Democratic convention (even longer for the Republicans). And in that time, these scripted extravaganzas look more and more like award shows—Oscars for the politicians—a chance for our leaders to pat each other on the back and say to the electorate, "Look how f*cking awesome we are! Don't you just want to buy our brand of America?"
In reality though, modern nominating conventions are about two things and two things only: Boatloads of media exposure and unrestricted influence peddling. In fact, conventions are one of the few places left where access to the powerful (or the soon to be powerful) is available to anyone who can afford the price of admission. Why for a mere $250,000, a "sponsor" can buy their way into numerous private events, and for a cool $5M? VIP treatment, access to exclusive skyboxes, and an invitation to the host committee party.
In 2004, $250M was spent on the Republican and Democratic conventions, and although the price tag this election season may not approach that stratospheric number, keep in mind that almost $100M of the cost isn't the rich buying their way into the nominee's presence. It's the Feds using your tax dollars to put together the basics: The facilities, the security, and the infrastructure. That's right...even though there will be no floor fight, not the slightest chance of surprise in the outcome, you're paying a huge chunk of change just so corporations and well-heeled donors can legally get up close and personal with politicians who are supposed to have your concerns at heart!
Imagine all the great things we could do with that kind of money if we weren't wasting it on these glitzy spectacles. Now imagine that it will never, ever happen. Guess that's why it's called a 'Con'vention.
TAGS: Elections, DNC, RNC, Conventions
Until Something Ruder or Better Comes Along, Look At This
TAGS: DNC, Civil Liberties, O No, There Goes Tokyo OH No GODZILLA!, Hey hey hey
Friday, August 22, 2008
McCain can't remember how many houses he has (at last count, through Cindy, he has 12)
To be rich in McCain's book, you have to make over $5 million per year (through Cindy, he's worth over $100 million)
The reduction in troops in Iraq McCain railed against will happen, with an agreement inked by his buddy George W. to pull troops out by 2011.
McCain's rejection of additional troops in Afghanistan lost out to his buddy George W. who ordered an additional 11,000 sent there ASAP.
And Denver will be plugged up tightly all week next week for the DNC. I'd have bought a DNC bike jersy today but wasn't willing to pay the $60 it cost.
Let us thread openly and revel in McCain's campaign jumping the shark.
TAGS: McCain Campaign, 12 Houses, $4.9 Mil/Year is Middle Class, Open Thread
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A Few Campaign Notes For The Obama Campaign
Dear David Plouffe -
Since I know you read my blog religiously and can't wait to hear what my opinion is about how to run BO's campaign, I thought I better get to it and give you my invaluable insight about what you should have on your to-do list between now and the end of the Convention.
- Announce the VP candidate on Thursday afternoon, say around 2 or 3 Eeastern time. You'll dominate the news cycle through Friday night and into Saturday when all the media is going to be congratulating themselves on how wonderful they are at the media kick-off in Denver at Elitch's. After that it's "All Convention All The Time" mode, and all together you'd end up with about 7 days of free national media.
- And about the VP. No sitting Senators, please. Biden, Bayh and Clinton all need to be right where they are in the Senate. You need all the Dem senators and more to be able to actually execute any actual governing. And if you're still really about change, dump the white dudes and I still think you should pick a woman, and there are two pretty good ones available.
- People have mentioned Sibelius, but how about Janet Napolitano? The fact that since she used to be a US Attorney General and was the lawyer for Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas SCOTUS nomination farce, she would be perfect in the OVP to help clean up whatever land mines Cheney has left, not to mention a very good overseer to help clean up the Department of Justice. She has the added benefit of acting like a dagger through McCain's Arizona heart; he'd lose his home state if you picked her.
-Speaking of political daggers through hearts; enough of this bi-partisan/post-partisan talk. Are you frikking DUMB? Listen to me, at a time when 75-80% of people are saying "country going in wrong direction" you need to forcefully REPUDIATE these jerks who have lead us to where we are. All you've got to do is articulate what the people are thinking. It goes kinda like this:
"Damn, things suck, particularly my finances. The Bush administration and it's cronies have damn near wrecked the country by spending all this money on that dumb war, which they lied about to get us over there. And they want MORE of it with Iran? They're probably lying about THAT too.
They need to GO! Their policies stink and have gotten us in this fucking debt-hole with the Chinese and not to mention the shitty Oil Countries. Might as well buy milk to drive your car; same goddamn price per gallon and it's hard to afford either."
So David, understanding what every day people are thinking, do you think that people REALLY want to hear about BI-FUCKING-PARTISANSHIP? No way. People don't want these Republican clowns anywhere near their lives. You don't need to get all nuance-y and professor-ish with the people. To get the people totally on your side just call it what it is. For instance:
- When McCain/Media throws out that "Obama ain't quite 'Merkan" business, you respond with "McCain is a grumpy old man, who doesn't mind killing the children YOU send to Iraq to protect his oil buddies. He doesn't mind doing it at all, and that makes me sick."
- When McCain/Media freaks out because you picked somebody who is not a sitting senator and they start throwing around "inexperience," you respond with "Yeah, look where Bush and your so-called experience got us - in the toilet, buddy, and everybody knows it."
So get busy and get with it.
TAGS: 2008 Campaign, Obama, David Plouffe, Put yer dukes up, Republican thugs!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
FOX Accidentally Tells The Truth
FOX "news" was trying to catapult the propaganda of Russian aggression with an interview of a 12-year-old girl from the San Francisco area and her mother, who were caught in the war zone. Check out the reaction from the FOX bobblehead when they lay the blame squarely on Georgia's Prime Minister Mikheil Saakashvili.
h/t Global Research.ca
TAGS: FOX "news", Media Bias, War In Georgia
Thursday, August 14, 2008
More Kool-Aid from the Right
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"
Hebrews 11:1, King James Bible
I've mentioned faith a number of times in my discussions of the Right, generally followed by a hyphen and the word "based." The Right takes a good deal of their ideology on faith: Drilling brings down prices. Government is bad. We are God's country. But little does the Right take on faith to a greater degree than the mantra, "Tax cuts create jobs."
I beg to differ and there is objective evidence called history. Let's start with some data from the Economic Policy Institute.
In fact, employment has dropped following tax cuts every time they've been cut. Here's Nosy's hypothesis: Taxes are always immediately spent by the Government and mostly domestically. Result is that people are employed by the Government (estimate is that a billion in Government spending is 32,000 jobs), they spend money to employ people elsewhere, the money is re-injected into the economy and transformed into things like roads and bridges (that don't fall in for lack of maintenance).
On the other hand, cutting taxes shrinks Government (the real reason the Right loves tax cuts so much). Fewer people earn wages, more Wal-Marts get built to provide more Chinese goods to the underpaid and the economy generally suffers.
If you also take it on faith that Government is by definition bad, you probably don't mind that jobs are lost when the Government loses revenue. Nothing I can do about it except, again, refer you to Hebrews.
TAGS: Taxes, Employment, Conventional Wisdom, Republican Lies
Monday, August 11, 2008
If It's Such a God-Damned Good Idea....
According to BO (Big Oil) and the Religious Right (Faith-Based economics, among others), drilling domestic supplies wherever they may be found is going to save us from all having to drive Priuses (and thereby bankrupting Detroit who can't figure out how to get 40 MPG). Well, there happens to be a test case and guess what, I'm living in it.
Colorado, it seems, gets very nearly all of its oil from domestic production and Canada. You would think, given the press McCain and Big Oil are giving the potential for vast reductions of the price of oil price through drilling everywhere and adding supply equal to 1% of US demand to the world market, that Colorado fuel would be dirt cheap. After all, the oil we're refining at Suncor in Commerce City comes from here, it's domestic supply (with a nod to Sad's Canadianness). Well, during the great oil price runup, we weren't much below the national average, despite the luxury of not having to import our oil (again with a nod to our neighbors to the north). Here in Denver we were a few cents below the national average, probably because the refinery is ten miles from here and transportation costs are very low but nothing to compare with the promises BO (Big Oil) McCain promises us if we'd only do the 'Murkan thing and drill what we have. Aspen and Summit County blew the national averages away with their $4+ prices for regular.
Turns out his common sense is just another way of saying conventional wisdom. Once the oil produced at the expense of our beaches and wilderness goes into the Big Bathtub, as does ours and Canada's, the price isn't all that much affected by a piddling increase in domestic production.
Like tax increases costing jobs, this right-wing hypothesis, one repeated so often it's accepted more places than the Gospel of Mark, doesn't survive contact with reality.
TAGS: Big Oil, McCain, Reality Check, Domestic Production
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Nothing Wrong, Eh?
Today I walked through my local grocery store and I saw a woman at the customer service counter talking about how tight money had gotten for her and her family. As I passed out of earshot the last thing I heard her say was, "I'm one of the assholes with the adjustable rate mortgages."
COSTAS: This past week, you restated America’s fundamental differences with China. But given China’s growing strength, and America’s own problems, realistically, how much leverage does the U.S. have here?
BUSH: First of all, I don’t see America having problems. I see America as a nation that is a world leader that has got great values.
After hearing each of these statements a chill went up my spine. I think it's clear which of these two people are the asshole. It's not the lady with the ARM. It's the man the American people have allowed to tell them nothing is wrong for eight years while he set about the task of making sure that for most Americans, lots of things are wrong.
So much so that what it means to be an American has changed. That's what Bob Costas was trying to tell the President. He was trying to tell him that the world is gathering for fun and games in a country that commits outrageous atrocities routinely while our deranged "friend" Putin sent his army to rough up one of it's democratic neighbors and we can't really say anything to either of them, can we? That's what "America's own problems" means.
TAGS: President Bush, Economy, Human Rights, Russia
Friday, August 08, 2008
Okay, I left a few Pounds at Shakspeare's birthplace not long ago so I claim the right to parody the Bard. It seems at this point in time that our enemy McCain is drubbing our friend Obama on the question of whether to drill remaining domestic oil reserves. On the surface (about the deepest most Americans go), it seems like a great idea. I mean, if we're getting it from off the coast of Florida, it's domestic, right? It's ours, right? We own it and we should be using it, right?
Well, to say that drilling Alaska and Florida would increase domestic supplies is correct, somewhat. To claim we would benefit disproportionately from it belies either an ignorance of world oil markets or a will to mislead. Or both.
Oil is sold on a world market. Crude currently delivered from oilfields in Alaska or Texas or Colorado costs just as much as crude delivered from the Middle East (again misleading - we get only a small fraction of our oil from the Middle East). What would happen if you could magically increase production of Prudhoe Bay? Would American gas prices suddenly decrease vastly due to the increase in domestic supply?
No. Some of the oil that was currently being delivered to the US could now go to pollute the Olympic air over Beijing or to accelerate climate change but the price of oil would not change appreciably. Oil is traded on a world market. Prices depend on world supply and demand, hence a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico raises prices in Europe although their supplies are not affected. On the supply side, increasing production through drilling more oil would simply make more world supply available, lowering prices in China and leading to more inefficient use of it in US SUVs. The company who wins the bid for the field owns the oil. They will sell it to the refiner who bids highest, be they in Houston or Hamburg. And we will see little to no benefit from the increased oil production since by the time the wells would come into production, demand would have increased more than enough to offset the increased supply.
Some day we will drill the ANWAR. Some day the oil fields off Florida will be exploited. We have to face the inevitability of that. Our goal should not be to protect the fields at all cost but, as Obama has suggested, to use the fields as bargaining power to get what we want. When Obama proposes allowing drilling as a part of a comprehensive energy package, he's being smart. Unfortunately not many of his countrymen appreciate reasoning these days or McCain would be running about the same numbers as Bush's popularity.
A bit more (truth, in short suply these days) about the dreaded tire gauge (should be measuring the pressure on McCain's Brain):
From Popular Mechanics:
The average consumer could improve gas mileage by 3.3 percent by simply keeping his tires inflated to the proper pressure. For the average driver in the U.S. and his 15-gal. fuel tank, that's a savings of about $2.00 on every fill-up. Figure in the increased tire life from those correct pressures, and this is beginning to add up to a handy sum. Of course, if you—or your mechanic—have been diligent about keeping tire pressures set correctly, you won't save anything, which sounds like rewarding lazy people and penalizing the careful ones to me. But that's life....
According to the Department of Energy, underinflated tires alone cost the country more than 1.25 billion gal. of gasoline annually—roughly 1 percent of the total consumption of 142 billion gal. According to the Annual Energy Outlook 2007, published by the Energy Information Administration, offshore drilling would increase domestic production of crude oil by only about 1 percent.
We opened this discussion with Sen. Obama's assertion that we can offset the need to reopen offshore drilling—and save money at the pump—by keeping our tires inflated properly. He's right
TAGS: Big Oil, Tire Gauges, Energy Policy, ANWAR
Thursday, August 07, 2008
TAGS: London Calling, The Clash, Music Video
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die
Send this to every GOPer you know and love!
TAGS: McCain, Paris Hilton, Viral Video, Ridiculous Republicans
Notice a couple things here:
- The tank soldiers aren't worried about the taxi being a car bomb or anything. They would be inside the tank, rather than popping their heads out of it and reversing to crush the taxi again. Also, those who are filming arent worried about it being a car bomb, and exclaim "Do it again!"
- Way at the back of the alley, observe closely and you will see several Iraqi kids come out to see what's happening. In their eyes, is this not wanton destruction and cruelty? It sure is in mine.
We can't get the military out of there fast enough.
And by the way, just my opinion, I don't think we should redeploy to Afghanistan either. It will just be more of the same. Deprogramming these kids, both sets, Iraqi children and American soldiers, from the horrors that they've either seen or inflicted should be one of our highest national priorities.
TAGS: Iraq Occupation, Blood for Oil, Withdraw from Iraq Now!, LWHat they and we face, when the soldiers come home
Monday, August 04, 2008
The Common Good
This being a blog of politically minded readers, the discussion had to circle around to something political. Ted Stevens is loved in Alaska for his prodigious provision of pork (pardon the alitteration - can't resist!). Pork, in the political sense, illustrates what is known as externality. Like the SUV driver who destroys the environment in disproportionate measure to the price he pays for the privilege, a politician gets more from earmarks - pork - than the constituents pay for it. Example is Sen. Stevens's (R-indicted)"Bridge to Nowhere." No sane city planner would want to spend $300 million to connect 50 people adequately served by a ferry to a city with a modern, four-lane bridge. The benefit doesn't justify the cost. Now imagine if you can get the benefit without paying the entire cost - that calculus might just look a little different. This is the calculus of pork and of externality. The bridge still costs the same but the costs are no longer yours. I in Denver am paying a fraction of the cost of that bridge.
Now there are arguments that some pork is beneficial and I won't go there. If Sen. Allard (R-bushclone) gets extra money for the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO (unlikely - he would vote against funding it if he could), one could argue that the benefit accrues to the entire population. I won't say every earmark ever included in a bill under the cover of darkness and shielded from any debate was pork; however, I would certainly prefer the matter be opened to public scrutiny and Congressional debate.
A second political principle often ignored by the fiscally responsible (sic) right is that of the tragedy of the commons. Economics holds that people make rational decisions. Within limits, this is true, especially when we have use of a resource such as public land without having to pay the costs of its maintenance. We can trash the campground and, if we're not caught doing it, the State will have to pick up the tab (and hopefully the trash). Likewise, millions of people can make economically sound decisions such as funding businesses who never intend to make a profit, buying property on credit that is neither secured nor likely to be repaid, or buying barrels of oil (on credit) with the intention of selling them later. All of these are legal decisions and all of them can be profitable - accruing benefit to the shrewd (read lucky) trader.
The problem is that each of these decisions, taken as an unique case, make sense. In an economic sense, they are rational. On the whole they are destructive to the common good. The case for regulation is based on exactly the common good. No one in their right mind wants to strangle business or limit the entrepreneurial spirit. We live as we do today because of both. The problem begins when the entire cost of the activity do not accrue to the person receiving the benefit, as in the case of speculators or pharmaceutical companies. A pharma executive doesn't die or go bankrupt because of the cost of medication, a consumer does. A speculator suffers high oil prices but not in proportion to the profit gleaned from his or her speculative activities. And it is there that damage is done. It is there that Government regulation, the anathema of all good Republicans, has to step in and defend the common good.
TAGS: Common Good, Economics, Earmarks, Speculation
If I were to write a proper post right now it would be on the 'suicide' death of Bruce Ivins. The thing is I couldn't add much to what Glenn Greenwald has already said HERE, HERE and HERE. In the interest of efficiency therefore, I present the links. As Glenn points out Ivins' death has definitely raised more questions than it answered. This is far from being 'case closed,' as the FBI is apparently treating it.
UPDATE: More from Glennzilla on the Ivins case HERE. It turns out a lot of the 'evidence' that the FBI has been leaking to the press is bogus. Who would have imagined that? Maybe the agency should re-arrange their acronym to spell FIB.
TAGS: Bruce Ivins, Anthrax, The Great War On Terror
Friday, August 01, 2008
The Enemy Within
But Gol-darn It, He's OUR Corrupt Bastard"
This story off the AP wire (via SALON.com) triggers a post that's been brewing in my head for a while:
While everyone else in Greater Left Blogsylvania takes the opportunity to gloat over Sen. Steven's long overdue comeuppance, I'm going to take the road less traveled to examine this total disconnect that's obvious in the Alaskan electorate, and by extension the rest of the country's voters.Many Support Alaska Senator,Whatever they might think about Sen. Ted Stevens' honesty or lack thereof, many folks in Alaska aren't ready to see their Uncle Ted go.
Indictment or not, they are grateful for the bounty of federal dollars he has delivered in the nearly 40 years he has represented them in Washington. And they worry about how Alaska would fare on Capitol Hill without him.
"As I told the senator, he can do more in six years that any of his opponents can do in 20," said Joe Williams, mayor of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and one of many Alaska residents who have rallied to the Republican senator's defense after his indictment this week.
Stevens, 84, pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges of concealing more than a quarter-million dollars in home renovations, furnishings and other gifts from an oilfield services company.
Homebuilder Chuck Spinelli picked up some Stevens yard signs Thursday and planned to display them at his home, his office and on his trucks.
"People of Alaska have hired him to bring money back to this state," Spinelli said. "He has done that over and over and over again. Whatever these charges are, he deserves the respect and our admiration. We should wait to see what actually happens before there's a call to do anything."
Alaska has been a big beneficiary of the federal government's largess, largely because of Stevens' leadership role on the Senate Appropriations Committee and his skill at inserting earmarks into budget bills.
I'm willing to bet that if you polled Alaskans or any other Americans about the practice of attaching earmarks, aka pork barrel riders, onto otherwise legitimate legislation you would get a pretty strong reaction against. There are a number of reasons you should object to the practice, regardless of your ideological or party affiliations. First, pork barrel projects increase the federal budget and drive up taxes without producing any overall benefit to the country. Second they are an invitation to corruption, as steering government contracts to campaign contributors and political supporters is a quick and dirty way to provide otherwise illegal kickbacks - at the taxpayers' expense. Third they put the integrity of the original bill in question. Is the Senator or Representative voting for or against on its merits, or because of the existence or lack of an earmark for their constituents? Finally they pit state against state, district against district - and thus get in the way of a concerted effort to solve the problems of the nation as a whole.
The weird and even dangerous thing is, no matter how voters may deplore earmarks in the abstract, or on the federal level, they frickin' love them back home. Oh, yeah give me more. F-EE-EE-D ME! As this story about Ted Stevens illustrates,
"..they are grateful for the bounty of federal dollars he has delivered
...he can do more in six years that any of his opponents can do in 20
...hired him to bring money back to this state
...his skill at inserting earmarks into budget bills."
Even Alaskans' beliefs about "Ted Stevens' honesty or lack thereof" is tainted by this parochialism - this local self-interest. They don't care that he's dishonest so long as that dishonesty is working to give them an unfair advantage over their fellow Americans. Not that anybody should think that the voters of any other state would act differently. It's every man, district and state for themselves in a dog-eat-dog environment, and the devil take the hindmost. Hence my subtitle, 'He may be a corrupt bastard...'
It's no wonder that the Gazette Online, of Cedar Rapids Iowa reported the following:
Stevens, 84, also asked that the trial be moved from Washington to Alaska, where he has been a political figure since before statehood. He was named "Alaskan of the Century" in 1999 after unabashedly sending billions of dollars in federal money to the frontier state. The judge said he was not likely to send the case to Alaska.Alaska ♥s this son-of-a-bitch.
Let's widen the scope of this premise of parochial disconnect, the idea that local (and frankly selfish IMnsHO) political forces outweigh and subvert the greater good. We are confronted with the bizarre fact that the public overwhelmingly disapproves of the performance of both houses of Congress as bodies, but just as overwhelmingly approves of their own Representatives and Senators. Congress has actually managed to score an approval rating below that of the toxic unpopularity of the President, but the upcoming election is expected to just barely buck the trend we see here:
Why Are Sitting Members of Congress Almost Always Reelected?(Citizens for United States Direct Initiatives)
In November of 1998, 401 of the 435 sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives sought reelection. Of those 401, all but six were reelected. In other words, incumbents seeking reelection to the House had a better than 98% success rate. U.S. Senators seeking reelection were only slightly less fortunate--slightly less than 90% of the Senate incumbents who sought reelection in 1996 held on to their seats.
What is it about sitting members of Congress that makes them so hard to beat? Are incumbents just better candidates (on average) or is the deck somehow stacked against challengers?
For years, political scientists have researched and written about the "incumbent advantage" in congressional elections. In an attempt to explain the overwhelming success of members of Congress seeking reelection, researchers have identified several factors which make sitting members of Congress hard to beat. These factors include:
- The "Perks" of Office
Each member of Congress has a office budget allotment which provides enough money to hire a sizable staff both in Washington, D.C. and back home in their states or districts...
Sitting members of Congress are on the job full-time--that is what they are paid to do. In fact, many of the things a candidate would do to win an election, such as meeting and talking with voters, attending special events, appearing on television or radio talk shows, etc., are part of the job description of a member of Congress...
Sitting members of Congress are almost universally recognized in their districts. Having waged at least one previous campaign, and a successful one at that, and then serving in Congress for two years (House members) or six years (Senators) makes a sitting member of Congress something of a household name among his or her constituents...
- Campaign Organization
As noted, every sitting member of Congress has run at least one successful election campaign for the seat he or she holds. This means, among other things, that a sitting House member or Senator has invaluable experience with creating and managing a campaign organization. It also means that incumbents generally have an effective volunteer organization in place and ready go when it is time to campaign.
By far the most widely recognized and probably the most significant advantage enjoyed by sitting members of Congress is the large amounts of campaign contributions they are able to raise, especially in comparison to those who run against them...
As you can see from the graph, TPTB are overwhelmingly NOT supporting the 'unproven' (read: have not yet demonstrated their corruptibility) challengers. In the Senate the incumbents have a massive advantage of more than 2:1, in the House it's nearly 4:1!! It's a battle between The Incredible Hulk and Casper Milquetoast. But a factor that isn't discussed above is that many voters sense what's going on, and it's turning them off from participation.
Why the Re-election of Incumbents Year After Year Is a Threat to Democracy
-By Thomas Patterson
Mr. Patterson is the Bradlee Professor of Government & the Press at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The article is derived from his recently published book, The Vanishing Voter (Knopf, 2002).Synopsis: Professor Patterson laments the decline of voter participation (threat to democracy!) brought about by this enormous incumbent advantage. The simple fact is, too many voters have twigged to the fact that their opinions are not being heard, their input isn't likely to affect any outcomes.
Only about three dozen of the 435 House seats were actually in play in 2002. In nearly twice that many districts, there was literally no competition: the weaker major party did not bother even to nominate a candidate. And in several hundred other districts, the competition was so one-sided that the result was known even before the campaign began. As was the case in 2000, the victors in House races won by an average margin of more than two to one.I suppose you could continue to refer to this state of affairs as a democracy, but I'm afraid you would be fooling yourself. And that doesn't even take into account the primary process, where money seems to determine that candidates from both parties tend to be of the same stripe and serve the same agenda. Every time I look at these sad truths I find it very hard to see even a glimmer of a solution, an effective response. But despair is not an option, so they say. What always comes to mind is this quote from JFK:
U.S. House races are less competitive-and by a wide margin-than those of any other freely elected national legislative body in the world. The "sweeping" Republican victory in 2002 included a pickup of only a half-dozen House seats. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a gain of 30-50 House seats was the norm. The Democrats gained 75 seats in the 1890 election and lost 116 seats in 1894.
When members of Congress in the 1960s voted to greatly enlarge their personal staffs, they argued that the additional personnel were needed in order to offset the executive branch's domination of policy information. However, an estimated 50 percent and more of congressional staff resources are devoted to public relations, constituency service, and other activities that serve primarily to keep House members in office.
Not since John Connally in 1980 has the candidate who has raised the most money before the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire lost a nominating race.
Competition is the lifeblood of democratic elections and, when it dries up, participation suffers. There are many reasons why electoral participation has declined, but one of them surely is that citizens in too many places now have no real chance to influence the outcome.
Not that I'm advocating armed revolution or anything. Just saying, they seem to have made the peaceful revolution of the ballot box a thing of the past."A Government that makes peaceful revolution impossible,
makes armed revolution inevitable."
-- John F. Kennedy --
Elections, Parochialism, Incumbency, Corruption