The Democracy Index: An Interview With Law Professor Heather Gerken

PhotobucketThe topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.


On January 1, 2007, Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken  published a widely read article in the LegalTimes entitled, "How Does Your State Rank on The Democracy Index." Gerken argued that just as the Environmental Performance Index ("EPI") shamed countries such as Belgium to upgrade their environmental practices, a "Democracy Index" would embarrass state and localities into reforming their electoral administration through competition.

Since Bush vs. Gore in 2000, the debate about electoral reform has been dominated by anecdotes and overheated abstractions. Liberals like me have long suspected that states such as Ohio and Florida were deliberately disenfranchising minority voters sympathetic to Democratic candidates. Conservatives complained that voter fraud and urban political machines were allowing ineligible voters to cast ballots at the expense of Republican candidates. With her article, Gerken contended that a Democracy Index would replace a debate dominated by shouting with data driven arguments instead:

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CA-10 Special Election?

The increased likelihood of global nuclear annihilation aside, this could be fabulous news for congress:

Word is that Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on strategic forces and a staunch superdelegate for presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, is in line for a top post at the State Department, most likely for the undersecretary for arms control and nonproliferation slot.

California's 10th Congressional District was specifically redistricted following the 2000 census for a progressive. While Tauscher quit the Blue Dogs two years ago in preparation for an expected primary, she is still chair of the DLC's New Democrat Coalition (run from her congressional office). Right now, CA-10 is wasted on a major obstacle to Barack Obama's agenda and sound economic policy. With six BART stations in district, a Special Election in the 10th could allow progressives from across the Bay Area to ensure we have a better Democrat.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists would probably have to move the Doomsday Clock a minute or two, but it would be almost impossible for the district to elect a worse representative. Odds are the district could get a good progressive who would be an asset to Obama and a partner for progress.

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US denounces Israeli demolitions

Al Jazeera, the highly respected Arab media newspaper, which now has an English version, reported this news on Hillary Clinton's trip to Israel. Contrary to any notions that Hillary would mollify previous statements about the inevitability of two states, she continued the attack on Israel's human rights abuses.

What could be next? This statement came at a time when Israel just reported a plan to massively increase the building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israel Committee Against House Demolition, founded by the peace activist and former Israeli professor, Jeff Halper, has documented the demolition of over 18,000 Palestinian homes since 1948, and has attempted to stop the continuing destruction of homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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The Clinton and Netanyahu Relationship

A brief history for those who are interested:

According to The Washington Institute of Near East Policy in 1998:

"Ever since Benjamin Netanyahu's narrow May, 1996, election as prime minister, relations between Washington and Jerusalem have soured. Whereas Bill Clinton and the late Yitzhak Rabin had an unusually warm friendship, ties between Clinton and Netanyahu started out cool and went downhill from there."

"Some reasons are simple, such as the fact that each supported the other's political opponent, with Clinton campaigning for Labor's Shimon Peres and Netanyahu building close ties with congressional Republicans. They also disagree on policy, with Clinton keen to press on with the Oslo Accords as Rabin's legacy while Netanyahu believes that Oslo spells danger for the Jewish state. And given their remarkable similarity in personal strengths and weaknesses, the clashes might even be traced to that law of physics: "likes repel."

As it has been pointed out today, a reporter had to ask for Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton to shake hands, being this her first trip as Secretary of State. I found this odd in the fact it is well known that the Clintons and Netanyahu have strained relations stemming from their first encounters of the late 1990's.

The true test will now be how Hillary Clinton will manage Netanyahu and restarting talks with Israel and Hamas. The points of the negotiations will be that of stopping Israeals attacks into the Gaza strip and bringing Hamas to the table. The tensions are still there, but it is Hillary now and not Bill.

How will talks transpire now that a Clinton is in charge of foreign policy in a post-Bush world?

The history should be known because it may protend on how Netanyahu will treat the Secretary of State, but then again, who will be in charge of the new Israeli government?

Your thoughts?

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Secretary of State Clinton Addresses Gaza Conference

Hillary Clinton attended the Gaza Reconstruction Conference today, along with Special Envoy Mitchell and officials from 80 countries and international organizations.  The meeting focused not only on a plan to repair the damage from the 3 week attack by Israel, but also a plan to rebuild the Gaza economy and lift the Israeli blockade.  Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has proposed the US backed Palestinian Authority control and distribute the $5.3 billion that was pledged today.  This is a point of contention with many Palestinians, as Hamas has control of Gaza and also won the majority of seats in the recent election.

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