Can it be just a week ago that we went to the polls? Our big challenge, those of us who identify as Democrats, will be in recognizing that we are diverse – Ned Lamonters and Joe Liebermaners – and in spending most of our energy finding common ground rather than thinking the worst of each other. And looking for good ideas.

JONATHAN LEVY’S GOOD IDEA

Jonathan Levy: ‘The Democrats should schedule a vote to explicitly reaffirm the right of the minority to filibuster. Possibly even strengthen it. I think it would send an important message – that Democrats’ principles remain constant, even when political advantage shifts. Since the measure probably would pass close to 100-0, it would also create an important precedent for when the Republicans take back the Senate, which will surely happen someday.’

CLARE DURST’S GOOD IDEA

Clare Durst: ‘A few years ago Rhode Island switched from the old lever machines to simple, collapsible voter booths, at which people mark paper ballots that are then fed into one OCR machine – face up, down, or backwards, it works no which way. The machine eats and counts the ballots or spits them out if there’s a mistake (like voting for too many school committee members), at which time the voter gets a second chance. At your urging, I registered myself as a poll worker (15-hour day) and observed this setup in action. It went extremely smoothly. The directions were clear, the poll lists easy to read and mark. We handled only about 100 voters an hour but there was never a line for more than five minutes. We had a special machine for visually impaired voters to use but none wanted to. This seems like such an easy solution, and such a cheap one, I don’t know why all states don’t use something like it!’

☞ Why, indeed? Support HR 550.

STEVE FORBES’ GOOD IDEA

Alaskanizing Iraq. It sure beats his flat tax – and as a long-time Forbes-family fan, it’s nice to have something good to say again. Steve writes:

Fact and Comment
Slick Solution
Steve Forbes, 11.13.06, 12:00 AM ET

In September Iraq’s political leaders agreed to post-pone until 2008 any moves to “carve up” the country into autonomous states. The principal reason for the delay was the ever divisive question of who would control the country’s immense oil wealth. Most of the oilfields fall in Kurdish and Shiite areas. The Sunnis are afraid that regional autonomy will mean they will be bereft of their share of the black gold.

This setback underscores the need for us to forcefully push the so-called Alaska solution. About a quarter of Alaska’s oil and gas royalties goes into an entity called the Permanent Fund, the assets of which are managed by investment professionals. About half the revenue stream is distributed to the state’s citizens each year; the remainder is reinvested. This year each qualified resident of Alaska is receiving $1,106.96 from the fund.

The only way that Iraq can hold together–absent an oppressive, mass-murdering regime à la Saddam Hussein’s–is by setting up Swiss-style autonomous regions. In Switzerland the German, French and Italian communities have lived peaceably side by side for more than seven centuries, while in the rest of Europe the three groups fought one another incessantly until the end of World War II. Switzerland is really 23 countries under one flag–that’s how many cantons (autonomous districts) there are in that mountainous country. Plans to use such a sensible approach in Iraq, though, always flounder on the oil question. An Alaska model would neatly and equitably deal with that: Every Iraqi living in the country would get a cut, regardless of where he or she resided.

The Alaska approach has two powerful advantages. Virtually the entire Iraqi population would have a stake in making sure insurgents didn’t disrupt oil production, and almost every Iraqi would have an incentive to have a bona fide address at which to collect the checks. This would be a great boon to security.

When the provisional government of Iraq was formed after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. approached its leaders about adopting an Alaska-like program in Iraq. But, as with politicians everywhere, this group was leery of the idea of not being in complete control of this source of money. They resisted the idea. Given the situation in Iraq today, however, we should push hard and persistently for the government to go the Alaska way. We should do so publicly so that the Iraqi people begin to understand what’s at stake.

Our patience with Iraq is not infinite. The Iraqi government’s recent statement that it won’t crack down on local militias, and its reluctance to clean out the multiplying death squads infesting its police forces, are the latest examples of a regime failing to acknowledge that we are not going to be there forever. Adopting an Alaska solution would immeasurably strengthen Iraq’s elected government–and enormously increase the odds of our eventually pulling out of Iraq with a sense of a mission accomplished.

☞ It may be too late for this now, I don’t know. But it might have been a great plan to go in with from the get-go. (If we had had a plan.)

 

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