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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Do It Jesse
While I think it would be terrible if Democrats lost control of the Senate during the lame-duck session of Congress, there's something about Gov. Ventura's attitude that I admire. After seeing Sen. Wellstone's funeral turn into a Democratic campaign rally, the Independent Ventura was so appalled by the display that he threatened to appoint an Independent to fill the days from November 12 when the lame-duck session begins, to Inauguration day.
Ventura is right to be horrified by the performance put on by Wellstone's friend Rick Kahn. Kahn called upon the funeral audience, including several Republican senators, to help make sure Democrats win the seat for the late senator's legacy. This was a disgraceful move by Kahn and others who transformed the funeral into a free air time get-out-the-vote rally. With that sort of display, Democrats do not deserve to have one of their own replace the late senator's seat. It would be a noble move by Ventura to keep the interim replacement void of political biases and appoint an Independent. It would teach the Democrats to think first of the value of life before the campaigning resumes. Democrats could use a harsh lesson like that.
However, the implications of Ventura's appointment of a "neutral" replacement would throw the entire Senate into a tailspin. With a formerly Democratic senate seat being filled by an Independent senator, the balance of power in that house would be thrown back into a dead tie. With such a tie, Republicans could use the lame-duck session to rush dozens of judicial nominations through that have been blocked by Sen. Leahy and the Democratic leadership who have controlled the docket since Sen. Jeffords left the GOP and shifted Senate control to the Democrats. Depending on the outcome of senate races nationwide, Republicans may want to get those nominations through while they have the chance if Democrats retain control, or conversely, Democrats would want to delay those nominations till Inauguration if Republicans manage to retake the Senate.
Therefore, Ventura's disgust at the behavior at Wellstone's funeral could play a tremendous part in the ensuing months in the U.S. Senate. While the actions were certainly not worth condoning, the repercussions of such a move by the flamboyant governor could cause dangerous ripple effects in the halls of federal government. Ventura wants to appoint a regular "John Q. Citizen" to fill Wellstone's shoes for the interim session. It is a move that should make every democrat smile, but a regretful day for the Democrats as a party, for their own political giddiness will cost them dearly in the end.
The Israeli government coalition disintegrated today. Is this really a good thing for the Labor party? I don't see how it could be. Labor stood up for itself and backed out of a government that sought to expand the budget for West Bank settlements. This in itself was a great moral stance for Labor to take, but in the process of removing itself from the governing coalition, it surrendered control of the Israeli government to the will of Sharon's Likud party and, now, to Israel's usually unheard and subjegated religious orthodox parties of the far right.
Defense minister and Labor party leader, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, seems to have made this move in hopes of increasing his own political capital, but in the course of doing so he may have damaged Israel's short term chances for peace. By removing Labor from the governing coalition, the balance of power shifts from a broad coalition of the two most powerful and most centrist parties, to a center much further to the political right. This move gives religious orthodox parties which usually have little power in the government a real grip on the reigns of power because the Likud coalition will be held together by mere threads. With Labor's withdrawl, Sharon's government will be forced to listen to the voices from the right. This will do nothing productive for the peace process and will likely destroy any chance for a reasoned opinion to take control of any arguments within the conference rooms of power. Frighteningly enough, Sharon's Likud party will become the voice of the left within Israeli government. This should be a frightening prospect for anyone who hopes for peace in the region.
In all likelihood however, Sharon's coalition will be too weak to perform and new elections will have to be called to form a new government. Unfortunately for Labor, they would likely lose out on this one too. While Labor may reenter any new coalition government after fresh elections, pollsters have estimated that Likud would overtake Labor's plurality of seats in the Knesset. While Labor currently holds a narrow advantage over Likud in the Knesset, it is likely that new elections would result in a Likud sweep and would effectively undermine Labor's already precarious position of power within the Israeli government.
Either way, the overall costs of Labor's exit from the coalition seem to greatly outweigh the costs of putting up with right wing sympathy for new settlements. In the end it seems that Labor will lose either way, and as a dangerous consequence, so will the people of Israel.