• comment on a post NCLB Blogging over 7 years ago

    Devils' advocate:

    Testing is reassurance for the uninformed. They may not understand the basis of the testing - but they figure that, if there's testing going on, the chances of their tax dollars going to waste is less than they would otherwise be.

    Plus - less testing is a return to doctor knows best: a reduction in accountability of professionals to the folks they serve.

    Plus - the NEA is a Democratic pet: teachers using their political influence to get an easier ride.

    Plus - what are they going to use all this freed-up time for? Civics? Lefty teachers indoctrinating kids with socialism and atheism!


    Tricky stuff.

  • comment on a post Conservation in the Farm Bill over 7 years ago

    The CRS produces good stuff - like this previewing the farm bill.

    But your stuff is just what the doctor ordered as pointing up and fleshing out areas of concern, but tailored for a lay audience that is aiming for an understanding of the legislative issues, rather than making a career change.

    Now, be it said, Peterson is miles ahead of the pack when it comes to online infomation on the markup process - a real Mr Open House. We've got the chairman's mark ten days before the full committee markup - where other committees give us zip.

    Whether that's a genuine interest in participation or an arrogance that he's going to get his way without the weapon of surprise, I don't know!

    However - it sounds like good news that Peterson is proposing to deep=freeze CSP, if it's Harkin's baby. His argument that, since USDA hasn't used the program fully, it might as well be cut, deserves a place in the Bureaucratic Sophistry Hall of Fame.

    What is Harkin's revenge going to be, I wonder?

    The other stuff seems full of devilish detail - the kind which escapes the uninitiated while thumbing hopefully through the paperwork.

    (One point is that, great though Peterson's benificence has been, info-wise, he hasn't supplied us with Ramseyer Rule-like texts of the effect of his chairman's mark on the US Code provisions which are being amended.

    Which, given that pretty much all of the farm bill amends existing legislation in ways often incomprehensible without reference to the target provisions, is something of a bummer.)

    I liked the piece you linked about the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems meeting: without wanting to be patronising (Too late. Ed.), the articulacy and persuasiveness of the folks you quote there really brings home the problems they're facing.

    And the cutting of a measly $2.5m for ATTRA would seem to me like pure spite. Hardly enough to keep the DOD in paperclips.  

    Surely the Dems can realistically do better? We're not talking huge sums, they don't have to face a weak on agriculture bogey - and it seems just the sort of thing where the Western populist, Schweitzer-type model of politics might be rolled out to good effect. Not to mention the coastal liberal consumer good, healthy food angle.

    My guess is that there is an unassailable majority in both houses for the status quo, and, if the leaderships were in a mood to be bold (which they seldom are!), they'd say that there was no percentage in being bold about the farm bill.

    But - that absolutely does not mean we should head for the beach and leave them to it with the farm bill! We're getting extended on-the-job training in legislative process from Uncle Sam free of charge, so that, the next time, we'll be a bit better prepared.

    And - who knows? Perhaps events may get out of control. Perhaps a Peterson-Harkin range war will break out. Wouldn't want to miss that!

  • Trying to do me out of a job? ;)

  • comment on a post Farm, Food and Biofuel Report over 7 years ago

    Be it said, in the nonspecialist lefty sphere, there's not a lot of juice in the farm bill, despite the meager efforts of yours truly and some others to get some interest going.

    So - great to see another viewpoint on the side of the righteous - or, at least, not on the side of obscene corporate welfare!

    It does occur to me that the amendments which the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (how un-American is that?!) as set out in this PDF are on the modest side.

    Which I'm sure has been carefully calibrated to give them a chance of getting through; but only points out the general helplessness of said side of the righteous in making headway against Big Ag.

    So far as I can see, what eventually gets enacted will be the result of civil war between the ag interests, rather than the prevailing of sanity. Which will probably mean it'll turn out to be a sharing of booty among the pirates.

    As long as the pirates are trying to cut each others' throats, we can dream.

  • To start with, you need to have R installed (download from here) with the pscl package installed.

    It worked fine for me under XP, and almost fine on my new machine cursed with Vista - Cliff Notes: you need to have your working directory somewhere other than in the R folder in Program Files. (That's my workaround, at least!)

    Let's suppose you want to spreadsheet the votes given in the current House (the 110th) on votes #590-596.

    You go to this page for a regularly updated file, H110.ord. This is in the format of rollcall info in earlier Congresses available at the Voteview site; unfortunately, the normal read function in R (read.table) balks at reading the ORD version. (Earlier years offer the info as a Stata file, which R can read with the foreign package.

    Hence the need for the pscl package. This reads the ORD file as part of a more complicated model that I've yet to work, and which we don't need, thank God!

    So - H110.ord is in your working directory.

    You then need to subset the rollcalls you're interested in; and then export the subset as a CSV file.

    That's fine up to a point; but the list of reps' names, parties and districts are all melded into one field.

    R comes to the rescue again; you paste the names into Notepad and save the file; you then read that file into R, and then straight away export the file as a CSV.

    Now, imported into a spreadsheet, we have names, parties and districts each in their own columns. Remove the superfluous brackets - and Bob's your uncle!

    R is command-line, and therefore utterly unforgiving. The code is this (each line a separate instruction actioned by the Enter key):

    house <- readKH("H110.ord")
    rc <- votes[ ,c(590:596)]
    write.csv(rc, "590-596test.csv")
    names <- read.table("590-596names.txt")
    write.csv(names, "590-596names.csv")

    After that, you can close R - no need to save the workspace.

    If it doesn't work, I'd be delighted if you'd let me know. Really.

  • were pretty much off the top of my head:

    First - viewed from the point of no return (and assuming for the sake of argument flawless execution), would the stunt add to or detract from Sixpack's impression of Cheney overstepping his bounds by a light-year or two?

    My answer: it would detract; it doesn't address Cheney's overstretch, but makes a rude gesture instead; it feeds a feeling of the Dems once again (after Iraq) talking bold words in circumstances where everyone knows they would never follow through; it looks petty and childish (which the various proposals on Iraq (like the Murtha Proviso) most certainly did not do), and lends Cheney a slight aura of statesmanship in comparison.

    Second - as of the point of no return, what were the chances of the Emanuel Amendment passing?

    My answer: can't tell, but the show of opposition (with the senior guys in there) suggests that either something vote-changing happened in the intervening period, or Rahmbo seriously miscounted. (He surely couldn't have be counting on GOP defections.)

    Third - as of said point, what was the estimate of the consequences of the Amendment failing to pass?

    My answer: again, can't tell, but surely a significant boost to House GOP morale was to be expected, as also another reference for those in the media eager to point to serial Dem leadership failures to meet expectations that they raised in 06. (There is a time-saving arc to be found in the GOP-controlled 80th that some may be toying with.)

    Now, I don't follow the polling, but I doubt whether the Cheney offensive has made much impact (and that most of any such impact will soon dissipate). I greatly doubt whether, succeed or fail, the Rahmbo counterattack would make much difference with Sixpack either.

    It's more an inside baseball thing for the geeks and pros. And, on balance, Rahmbo's was not the percentage play there. (Compared to the only alternative that occurs to me: propagandize against Cheney, but leave legislating out of it.)

  • comment on a post Beware: interlopers in House roll calls! over 7 years ago

  • It's true that H Res 78 provides for otherwise nonvoting members of the House to vote in the Committee of the Whole, and not in the House itself.

    But roll call votes on amendments generally take place in the CoW.

    My point was that allowing nonvoting members to vote in the CoW without changing the Clerk's roll call pages to reflect this - ie, that some votes included in the lists and in the final tallies, are not votes of Representatives - made the lives of those who analyze this data that little bit more difficult.

    No doubt there is some value in analyzing the CoW votes of nonvoting members - but separately!

  • Gotta book right now - but just to say, there ought to be a home somewhere in the lefty sphere for this sort of adult, technically involved, difficult discussion, where policy and legislative process meet.

    I'd hoped it might be here - now I'm not so sure.

  • I, too, don't get Roll Call.

    But I'd have thought that the likes of the NAM playing the role of union-buster would be good for the Dem leaderships - someone other than said leaderships for Dem activists to boo when they find EFCA going nowhere.

    The heavier the employers, the more plausible the leadership case that EFCA wasn't worth the effort this Congress.

    Bear in mind that these are blind quotes, though, and you have to wonder what the angle is: how much political capital would the employers be spending in opposing a bill that's going nowhere fast, with a party line vote nine votes short of cloture?

  • The practice of tacking on nongermane legislation to must-pass legislation is a well-established tactic. No opprobrium attaches, nor should attach - and I doubt whether Sixpack would get worked up over the practice, even if he gave the time to understand it.

    Relevant factors for Harry: there's evidently no appetite among at-risk GOP to go to bat for EFCA, and no reason to suppose Bush's veto threat is hollow; EFCA only juices the unions - it's a low-impact issue for the Sixpack, and the netroots are indifferent; any bill that (by some miracle) got tacked EFCA onto it is bound to be more important that EFCA for the Dem leadership to pass, and the implied threat of deadlock would therefore be hollow.

    Plus - the looming factor of floor time, and attention time: he has 08 hoopla next year, plus the farm and schools bills this year.

    Plus - another round or three or Iraq.

    It's not happening.

  • Absolutely agree that there's a heap of parsing to be done about what happened to get 19 GOP senators to support cloture on HR 6.

    I'm not sure that this is it, though.

    For one thing, we're ways away from the finishing line for HR 6. (The Guzzler's Friend J Dingell (amongst others) will be available to play defense when the bill returns to the House.) For another, the piece doesn't explain why exactly the intervention of Wonderjohn should have made the difference.

    My suspicion would be that the agreement on CAFE standards either already has a poison pill inside, or will get one inserted by the time HR 6 is enacted (assuming it is) or Detroit thinks the bill won't make it.

    (Why retreat on CAFE standards now? Because Detroit wants to throw a bone for some reason? Because GOP senators want to vote for it before they vote against it? (The later the bill dies, the less odium the GOP pick up, because the pre-Christmas session, even in the first year of a Congress, is usually a scrum.))

    With all these complications, my suspicions are naturally aroused by suggestions of a pat narrative as to how and why things happened as they did.

    (The math on cloture on the bill is particularly worthy of study: Harry has two votes to spare, with 19 GOP voting with him (the score was 62-32). Boxer would raise that to 63, Johnson to 64.

    Even so, the defection of five GOP out of 19 would lose the vote. And - you can bet that there'll be pretexts over and to spare for flip-flopping (there always are!))

  • Are here.

    (Just to tie things up.)

  • on a comment on What´s happened to ´Add Tags´ over 7 years ago

    You're quite right.

    Finally I find a reason why I need TU! Better go and harvest some mojo round the Obama/Clinton/Edwards Sux threads, I suppose...

  • I found after I'd managed to track it down(!!!).

    It was on the motion to recommit with instructions to the conference committee HR 2646 (107th), the bill that eventually went on to be the last farm bill passed.

    (There was no MTR on the bill during House floor action first go round, though one was allowed in the rule.)

    The vote was 172-251, R51:164, D121:85.

    What were those 85 Dems thinking? (They included Sanders, Rangel and Conyers, for instance.)

    And the 51 GOP on the side of righteousness, too.    

    Seriously wacky - on the face of it.

    (The suggested (or am I overinterpreting?) reason - old bulls of both parties circling the wagons against that common enemy, the bomb-thrower insurgent - is certainly plausible.)


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