Major Tremors

For the first time since 1920, voters in New York’s 9th Congressional District elected a Republican to Congress today.  Once counting has ended, it looks like the GOP nominee will win 53-47%. Pretty impressive considering registered Democrats number  almost 196,000 while there are only 62,000 Republicans and 85,000 independents . This is Anthony Weiner’s district – he averaged 70+% when he had a challenger. It was Chuck Schumer’s district before that.

Since 1857, the GOP has held the seat in its various incarnations a total of 9 out of the past 154 years. They won’t hold it for long, though. This makes the decision about the two seats New York legislators must eliminate due to the 2010 census a lot easier.

If You Read Only One Thing . . .

about religion this year, make it this.  Whatever your religion is, or isn’t.

That got me going, “Where on earth is this coming from?” Here’s the answer.  Much more here.

I wish I had come across this 30 years ago, but it didn’t exist then.

Also, as I read on, it’s probably too politically liberal for me (86 percent Democrat).  If only it were as freethinking politically as it is religiously.

Palin Nailin’ It

She—or at least her speechwriter—just went up in my estimation.  (There she goes again, reminding me of Obama circa 2004.  Words, words, words.)

She made three interlocking points. First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).

These ideas hit the nail right on the head—diagnostically.  But is there a cure?  Can anyone we send to Washington buck these trends? Is there any way to mobilize the power of the little guy?  When big fund-raising has to pay big media to get a well-groomed version of the rough-hewn message across on a mass scale?

Benignant Belgium?

Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom.   

Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent.

Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny?

Because Belgium doesn’t have a government.

Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy.

It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.

– John Lanchester: The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway