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May 31, 2006
Pre-Emptive Election Strike
What is it with Democrats and voting equipment? They seem reflexively opposed to any technology where they can't stick a pencil lead under the clerk's fingernails to, ah, prevent undercounts. Or where the dials can't be, you know, nudged up a little bit before opening.
Now, a Denver law firm is suing nine county clerks over the choice of voting machines for this fall's elections. Because of HAVA and ADA, the number of voting machines out there to choose from is severely limited. (ADA, for instance, requires that the voter can't be given any assistance in voting whatsoever, aside from maybe tilting the machine for him. This in a state where party operatives take bulk delivery of absentee ballots for their Alzheimer's-afflicted nursing home residents.)
The lawyers say they represent a "diverse nonpartisan group of Colorado voters seeking to protect the integrity and purity of elections." The legal action seeks to block the purchase or use of Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, and Hart InterCivic touch-screen computerized voting systems. The lawyers say the systems have a well-documented history of problems with security, reliability, verifiability, and disability access.
Named defendants in the complaint include Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis and the boards of county commissioners of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer and Weld counties.
The Colorado suit is being supported by Voter Action, a nonprofit that provides legal, research, and logistical support for grassroots efforts surrounding elections. Voter Action is supporting similar efforts in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states.
Sure, they're non-partisan. Voter Action is non-partisan like Jim Jeffords is non-partisan. Here's the bio for Lowell Finley:
Lowell Finley, Esq., Berkeley, California. Mr. Finley has practiced election law for over 20 years. He is one of the few attorneys in the nation with experience litigating electronic voting issues, having successfully sued Diebold Election Systems, Inc. in a California False Claims Act case that resulted in a $2.6 million settlement. Past cases include blocking newly-elected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from soliciting or using special interest campaign contributions to repay an illegal $4 million personal loan; representation of the California Assembly in redistricting cases before the California and United States Supreme Courts; winning ballot access for Chinese-American candidates in San Francisco and successfully suing an Orange County, California candidate for hiring uniformed security guards to intimidate Hispanic voters at the polls. Mr. Finley is a founding member and past president (1992) of the California Political Attorneys Association.
And for John Boyd, their legal advisor:
John Boyd, Esq., Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Hollander, Goldberg & Cline, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Boyd has been practicing civil rights litigation, first amendment litigation, constitutional law and election law in Albuquerque for over 25 years. Mr. Boyd represented the Democratic Party of New Mexico in the “voter i.d.” litigation that preceded the 2004 election and has participated on behalf of Democrats in redistricting litigation. He has handled a number of cases as a cooperating attorney with the ACLU. He and his partner, Nancy Hollander, are currently representing the Santa Fe-based Uniao Do Vegetal in its free exercise of religion law suit which is now pending before the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Finley contributed - albeit not very heavily - during the 2004 election cycle to both John Kerry and MoveOn.org. Mr. Boyd contributed to the Senate Campaign of Jeff Bingaman, one of the more liberal Senators going, and $2000 indirectly to the Kerry campaign. (It's unclear as to whether this is the same John Boyd who contributed to Republican Nancy Wilson's campaign in 1998, but six years is enough time to change your mind.) His partner Nancy Hollander also contributed to Bingaman's campaign. Altogether, employyees of Freedman, et. al. contributed almost $17000 since 2002 to various Democratic PACs, candidates, and party organizations, $0 to Republicans.
Likewise, employees of Wheeler Trigg Kennedy, who specialize in corporate shakedowns, have collectively contributed $5200 to Democrats, $1000 to Republicans, all in the 2004 election cycle. This include $3000 from the case's lead attorney, Paul Hultin, $500 of which went to the Kerry 2004 "If It's Close In Ohio, We Can Cheat," fund.
I'm all in favor of double-entry bookkeeping when it comes to electronic voting machines, too, but remember that these are the same people who think that asking for ID amounts to voter intimidation. I suspect this is an ongoing effort to deligitimize elections in general, throwing more and more of them into the courts on a very selective basis.
CORRECTION: I have been reliably informed that the firm does not specialize in suing firms, but rather in defending them. I clearly jumped the gun in misinterpreting the information on their website.
Ron Ziegler Lives! In Private Industry!
I'm beginning to reconsider the idea that business and government are all that different, at least when it comes to PR. Given the way some of these quarterly earnings conference calls go, the next President should think about hiring some CEO or CFO as his press secretary.
Two examples. One company saw sales dip for one segment in Q1, but net income for that segment fell to almost 0; well out of proportion to previous quarters. The CEO and CFO were asked three times in three different ways what happened, and each time said the problem was a capacity shortage. Not only doesn't this answer the question, but when someone asked where the sales went - were they lost or pushed off into the future? - the CFO replied, "neither."
On another call, the company basically refused to offer earnings guidance for the next quarter, aside from an EBITDA projection. Worse yet, this was a company that had undergone a massive restructuring, and was filing its first public quarterlies in more than a year. They repeatedly refused to talk about what other hidden restructuring costs might be lurking during the next year, before they finally put the whole thing behind them.
Investors showed their confidence in management by driving the stock off a cliff during the call. I can't imagine it does much for management's anti-perspirant to see the stock plunging through new low after new low every time they open their mouths to avoid a question.
Conference calls aren't a waste of time. But imagine how much time of their own these guys waste trying to anticipate and block all approaches to key piece of information.
May 30, 2006
More Reading For The Insta-Daughter
Inspired by Glenn Reynolds's search for reading material for his daughter, I managed to dig up Harry Reid's Journey, Harry Reid, Inc., and Harry Reid's Think Tank (Search Inside the Book here, here and here).
Happy Reading, Miss Reynolds!
Carnival of the Capitalists
Working Solo hosts this week's Carnival of the Capitalists from Australia. In the original English!
May 29, 2006
The Sot-Weed Non-Factor
The good folks over at Powerline have decided to stir up a little Summer fun with a poll on the greatest American novel of all time. I'm already in the tank for The Great Gatsby, but go over to PowerLine News and cast your own vote.
Gatsby is a short, but firm refutation of the author's own claim that American doesn't allow second acts in life. Tom and Daisy as proto-Clintons, trailing wreckage that they leave others to clean up. Jay's reach exceeding his grasp. And of course, the ash heap that would become the site of the Greatest World's Fair Ever Staged.
But, you can vote for John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor, if you've heard of it.
UPDATE: In the meantime, the comments section is open for alternative selections. Atlas Shrugged seems not to be literature, but what about Advise and Consent? Ben Hur? Lie Down In Darkness? Even Babbit or Call of the Wild.
I'm sure that I, a mere physics and math major, couldn't possibly have exhausted the possibilities.
UPDATE: I've added an "UPDATE" to the update above, since I didn't make it clear that I was responding to the Powerline Guys' assessment of Miss Rand.
That's an interesting question, though. And the King's position comes from the facts that the book 1) is fiction, 2) tells a story (not always the same thing), and 3) has been tremendously influential. The fact that Ayn Rand's philosophy is defective doesn't necessarily mean that her literature is.
Revenue Bonds Follies
Apparently, companies charged with estimate traffic flows on toll roads - the rates of return that price the roads' funding bonds in the market - have been cooking the books the make their government clients happy. The governments, apparently not understanding how the municipal bond markets work, figured the underwriters would adjust the numbers downward. But that's the underwriters' job. Their job is to price the bonds (frequently on competitive bid), based on the information they're given by the state and its contractors. Bad information in this case leads to low interest rates, defaults, and general taxpayer and bondholder unhappiness.
If this happened in private business, there's be perp-walks, frog-marches, howls of indignation, calls for the banning of bonds as unsafe investments, tsk-tsking about the inherent corruption of multinational corporations, and legislation making CEOs and CFOs personally responsible for the accuracy of the assessment.
Which is all you need to know about how governments treat themselves, as opposed to how they treat business.
In fact, though, there is a perfectly good free-market solution to the problem, one that will kick in soon enough. Most revenue bonds carry bond insurance. The insurers take on the responsibility to pay both interest and debt, should the bonds default. If estimators keep cooking the books to make bonds look better than they are, then the value of having insurance (to the investors) will rise; municipalities that don't have insurance will have to pay higher interest rates; and those that do have insurance will find their insurance premiums rising. In short, because nobody trusts what they're investing in or insuring, municipalities will have to bear an uncertainty premium along with the real rates of return their projects justify.
Another alternative would be to have the underwriting syndicates pay for their own studies, although since they also have an incentive to sell the bonds at the best price, it's hard to see where this helps the investor.
Then, there will be an incentive for the projecting companies to be right, not just popular. A company that finds itself right more often than its competitors will be giving the bond underwriters, investors, and insurance companies something to hang their hats on. Even if the company tends to make conservative estimates, the knowledge that they know what they're doing will reduce or eliminate the uncertainty premium described above.
Sure beats another federal agency.
Annual Lacrosse Posting
Once a year or so, usually on or just after Memorial Day, I write something about lacrosse. This year, Virginia's in the championship game against upstart UMass. Apparently, Virginia's offense this year is to Div I lacrosse what Magic & Bird were to the college basketball game in 1979: resurrecting passing. They pass often and they pass hard, and they've got four or five guys who can shoot, which makes being anywhere near the crease on defense eligible for extra combat pay. UMass's defense has been terrific in the tournament, though, and they've been beating good teams, so a win this year is far from a given.
I was sorry (heh, no, really) to see Hopkins get knocked out in the quarterfinals. The natural order of things is for Virginia, Hopkins, North Carolina, and either Cornell or Maryland to be playing in the Final Four. Then again, if I'm drawing the Natural Order of Things from the 70s and early 80s, Virginia usually lost the championship game in overtime, so maybe a little Syracue or Princeton now and then isn't a bad thing.
I also see where the University of Denver made the tournament this year, promptly losing in the first round. Still, it's a start. Colorado is hotspot of lacrosse in a desert of football football football, and this year, CSU beat CU for the A Level club-level championship. Club sports aren't eligible to participate in the varsity tournament, which is why the Colorado schools don't play the eastern schools during the year. We'll see if CU or CSU see DU's move into the tournament as challenge to go varsity.
This comes on the heels of the Colorado Mammoth winning the indoor lacrosse championship, which is to real lacrosse what Arena football is to real football, Japanese baseball is to real baseball, or soccer is to real sports. So it's good and logical that the professional outdoor lacrosse league has finally expanded here to Denver. Of course, half the team is from Hopkins, which says that it's easier for Virginia grads to get real jobs, I suppose.
Now, if we could only get them to play some of their games on Sundays...
May 28, 2006
Let Ahmedinejad Come
Come to the World Cup, in Germany. Where Holocaust denial is a crime.
And then arrest him, and make sure that he's given every full time-consuming measure of due process.
The Iranians like extra-territoriality? Good, we'll give them some extra-territoriality.
That should give him plenty of time to consider "negotiations."
Lincoln on Immigration
Friday's Claremont luncheon lecture by Cal State San Bernadino professor Ed Erler on immigration got me thinking about the Founders. Now it turns out that the Constitutional debate didn't really have much to do with immigration, except for the fear that Congress would try to restrict European immigration.
But by Lincoln's time, the overwhelming tide of German immigration was scaring some people. Lincoln himself seems to have favored a policy of encouraging immigration - to help fill up the continent - but also held in contempt those immigrants who abused the system. He addressed immigration in both of his last two State of the Union addresses. Here's the first, given on December 8, 1863:
There is reason to believe that many persons born in foreign countries, who have declared their intention to become citizens, or who have been fully naturalized, have evaded the military duty required of them by denying the fact, and thereby throwing upon the government the burden of proof. It has been found difficult or impracticable to obtain this proof from the wayt of guides to the proper sources of information. [Lincoln then goes on to suggest an administrative solution to the problem of keeping track of who's in the country]
There is also reason to believe that foreigners frequently become citizens of the United States for the sole purpose of evading duties imposed by the laws of their native countries, to which, on becoming naturalized here, they at once repair, and though never returning to the United States, they still claim the interposition of this government as citizens. Many altercations and great prejudices have heretofore arisen out of this abuse. It might be advisable to fix a limit, beyond which no Citizen of the United States residing abroad may claim the interposition of the government.
The right of suffrage has often been assumed and exercised by aliens, under pretences of naturalization, which they have disavowed when drafted into the military service. I submit the expediency of such an amendment of the law as will make the fact of voting an estoppel against any plea of exemption from military service, or other civil obligation, on the ground of alienage.
In other words: if you're here, you're liable to military service. You have no business coming here and gaining citizenship just so you don't have to do military service in your own country. If you like living there so much, we're not going to waste our time and money protecting you from the government that you obviously are loyal to. And since retinal scans are some time in the future, we may not be able to stop you from voting, but then you're declaring where your community lies, and you'll be expected to serve it.
And here's the second, given on December 6, 1864. Apparently, the terms "immigrant" and "emigrant" were used more or less interchangeably. Remember that this speech was given after the fall of Atlanta, and during the time of the static lines outside Petersburg. The Union was on the verge of wrapping up the war, and Lincoln was already looking past its end.
...A liberal disposition towards this great national policy is manifested by most of the European States, and ought to be reciprocated on our part by giving the immigrants effective national protection. I regard our emigrants as one of the principal replenishing streams which are appointed by Providence to repair the ravages of internal war, and its wastes of national strength and health. All that is necessary is to secure the flow of that stream in its present fullness, and to that end the government must, in evey way, make it manifest that it neither needs nor designs to impose involuntary military service upon those who come from other lands to cast their lot in our country.
The fact that Lincoln justified his open immigration policy by the need to recover manpower and energy after the war suggests that he at least understood that any immigration policy needs to be tailored to the country's needs of the moment.
Jacques Barzun on German-Americans
Germans in America, that is. We forget that before there were Mexicans, there were Germans. The great immigration threat from Benjamin Franklin's time until late in the 19th Century came from Germans, who were largely responsible for settling the midwest in force. Much of the discussion about immigration policy was driven by the nature of German immigration. In fact, today, there are more Americans of German descent than of any other nationality.
Barzun, in his affectionate mid-century discussion of American society, culture, and the American role in the world, God's Country and Mine, writes:
Our popular culture Germanic? Yes. It is not merely that at Christmas time we all eat Pfeffernusse and sing "Heilige Nacht," nor that our GIs in the last war found ever country queer except Germany....
One could go on forever; our appalling academic jargon bears a deep and dangerous likeness to its German counterpart; our sentimentality about children and weddings and Christmas trees; our taste in and for music; our love of taking hikes in groupsm singing as we go; our passion for dumplings and starchy messes generally, coupled with our instinct for putting sweet things alongside badly cooked meats and ill-treated vegetables - all that and our chosen forms of cleanliness (every people is clean in different ways about different things) show how far a characteristic culture has spread from the three or four centers where Germans first settled.
I had never thought about this before, but it has the ring of truth for his time, although by the 70s many of these cultural preferences were already passing from scene, driven out by natural cultural change and, at least in the case of food, the nascent Health Fascists.
While Barzun plays it down a little, it's clear that the influx of Germans, to be German-Americans, who published German-language newspapers as late as WWI, essentially took over American popular culture. But because of effective assimilation and instruction in civic duty, we have so far not fallen prey to the catastrophic European "isms."
Barzun himself was a naturalized American, having come here from France as a student at Columbia in the 20s, gained citizenship in the 30s, eventually rising to be dean at Columbia. He was considered one of the century's great public intellectuals, and published a massive survey of Western culture as recently as 2000, at age 93.
His star has dimmed somewhat over the last couple of decades, probably because he devoted time to university administration as much as writing, and because his writing was all over the map. His best-known work is probably the frequently-updated Modern Researcher. He published on race, William James, European and American history, Leftism, Romanticism, and of course, academia.
May 26, 2006
Assembly Notes & Aftermath
Next time, someone needs to write a religious exemption clause into the rules. Unless I can't avoid it, I really try to keep religious issues from becoming someone else's problem. This time, there wasn't much choice.
It started with the ID requirement. Staying at a hotel a mile away from the Arena, well outside the Colorado Springs eruv, I couldn't carry my license to the hall. I called the County Chairman. I called the state party. No dice. I spoke to the communications director, who suggested that I might, "bend the rules." I suggested that they weren't mine to bend, and that she might consider taking her own advice. Eventually, Clay kindly offered to drive my id over to the convention hall.
Ah, but that was only the beginning. When I got there, I was surprised to find hundreds, thousands of Republican party activists and delegates dressed like - Democrats. T-shirts, shorts, jeans. I generally figure that important civic duties demand dressing the part, but I was politely informed that, in general, only candidates wore suits. I'll remember that, lest next time, someone try to nominate me for something, and I end up having to whisper the speech into ear of someone who can use a microphone on Saturdays.
The actual check-in wasn't too bad. An ID. A name. They found my Certified Credential (tm), and off I went into the gaping maw of the political furnace.
The thing was held at the World Arena, Colorado Springs's answer to, well, the DC Armory, maybe the Capital Centre. The whole top level, usually dominated by soft drink vendors, was dominated by soft drink vendors, petition-hawkers, sticker stickerers, and groups handing out new free newspapers. (Cost Control Hint: you're reading this online.)
This year, in order to make sure that they could find all the alternates, they had actual assigned seating. I think that's the first time they've done that. Organizational Hint #1: If you're going to use assigned seats, use the row and section numbers that the space already has. Otherwise, you end up printing maps flipping sections 4 and 6 and confusing everyone. Hint #2: If you aren't going to take advantage of inherited experience, don't let one of the campaigns set up their own poles with their own numbers on them.
I arrived in the hall just in time for "The National Anthem: The Dance Mix." Now I know we're the Party of Patriotism, and that up in Greeley, they were probably singing the Internationale and medleys of old Grange Songs to pictures of Big Bill Heyward, featuring a special satellite feed of Hugo Chavez. But that's no reason to play someone's American Idol audition tape (what, a live singer wasn't in the budget?).
So after we finally got settled, it was the parade of elected officials nominating other elected officials for different elected offices. I particularly liked John Suthers's bloc of time. His daughter accused him of not knowing the words to any songs written after 1975 (I've got him beat by about 20 years), and then Suthers's wife showed up in a pant-suit that, well, Suthers probably knew the lyrics to. Mothballs are a wonderful thing. Also, memo to Bob Beauprez: pumping your arms once is energizing; doing it twice looks like you're shooting your cuffs.
There was a certain amount of back-and-forth between the Holzman and Beauprez campaigns, with the Beauprez people re-enacting the Charge of the Light Brigade into their opponents' confetti cannons.
And then, on to the voting.
Actually, on to the waiting. You've heard plenty about the certification process (and the certifiable delegates it produced). The people who had it worst were the alternates. As a Certified Delegate (tm), I could wander about at will, confident that when Denver was finally called, Shabbat might be over. Poor Ben, who did get to vote, more or less sat rooted to his spot so his hog-caller of an assistant to the County Chairman could be sure to find him.
Every once in a while, someone from the Credentials Committee would come out and tell us that Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead.
Fortunately, I was able to pass the time amiably with a few of the several hundred LPR members and graduates who were there. I counted at least 16 class members, which is a quarter of the current class, and who knows how many alumni. At least a couple of them thought it was funny when I feigned surprise that the governor wasn't in Greeley with his new friends, and pointed out that he was wearing an appropriately purple tie.
That was until I realized that not having signed the register on the way in might be a problem. That is, I might get to the ballot station, only to be told that my ID and my Certified Credential (tm) weren't enough. I hurried back to the credentialing station, and looked for someone to sign the register in my name. Eventually: "Oh, sure, I can sign for you. I understand completely. My name's Gabriel Schwartz." *Sigh*. Oy. You see, I can't have another Jew sign for me on Shabbat, because then I'm encouraging another Jew to break Shabbat. Non-Jews have no such obligation, although the rules about asking them to do things are kind of tricky. Eventually, we got someone to sign, with a little notation that it wasn't actually me, which is why the handwriting wouldn't match.
And then, back to the waiting.
Eventually, they called Denver, Larimer, and El Paso counties. Organization Note #3, #4, #5: don't put lines for three of the most delegate-laden counties at the same end of the hall, with the only way out being the way you came. How we managed to get the lines to move without actually passing delegates over our heads to the back of the line remains a mystery of physics.
Ah, the front of the line. The Promised Land. I can see my ballot from here. Organization Note #6: If you're going to make delegates sign again to receive their ballots, please have a religious exception next time. When I suggested that, having seen the ID and the Certified Credential (tm), she could just go ahead and sign my name and nobody would know or care, the El Paso County election official started looking around like a terrorist who had just been assured by President Logan that everything was under control and that Jack Bauer would soon be "taken care of." So, while the delegates streamed around me getting their ballots, voting, and leaving behind a convention full of memories, I stood there waiting for further permission.
One of my LPR class members helped me vote, and then another delegate, with whom I served as an election judge, agreed to drive my ID back to the hotel. When you've been shomer Shabbat for 15 years, you forget that it's a weekly occurrence completely unlike anything that someone who's not Jewish would ever experience.
Most of the time, "I can't do x," is enough, and as long as you're not jerking people around, they're very willing to help out. So here's a thanks to Clay, Ben, Phyllis, Denise, Carolyn, and the unnamed party officials who made sure that the signatures got where they were needed. And kudos to Geoff Blue for being the one non-Jew I've ever met who knew what an eruv was.
(Here's the on-one-foot explanation: on Shabbat, we're not allow to do "work." "Work" in this case, means anything that was done in the construction of the Temple. There are 39 categories of work, and the relevant ones last week were carrying and writing.)
So that's it. And you can guess what I'll be putting down on the party's Convention Survey form.
If Atlas Shrugged Were About Oil...
...it would look like this.
Clear Peak Colorado, a committee that backs Democratic candidates for the state legislature, plans to launch a series of automated phone calls to voters this weekend.
"As you pay record prices for gas this holiday weekend, remember that some of your hard-earned money is paying for partisan politics," the caller says.
The calls claim that Republicans are using oil-and-gas industry money to pay for attacks on Democrats.
"The Republicans have let big oil off the hook for cleaner air and tougher drilling standards. The high gas prices go from your pocket to the Republicans and back to the pump again," the call says.
Talk about the grease calling the oil black. Someone needs to make calls to parents describing how Democrats are using state funds to attack Republicans over schools. Of course, that would take a Republican leadership with the onions to take on the teachers' unions and the lefty non-profits bellying up to the Ref C trough.
Never mind that it's excessive and poorly-designed clean-air regulation, along with bizarre drilling standards that are at least partly responsible for $2.64 gas to begin with. Federal clean-air regulation mandates that several dozen mixes of fuel be sold, balkanizing the refining and transportation process, preventing plants from substituting for each other when they go offline, and creating semi-annual switchover price spikes. Combine that with decades-old offshore drilling restrictions, and you're doing a masterful job of vertically integrating your supply-chain strangulation.
Not that the Post isn't sympathetic:
Already this year, Owens vetoed House Bill 1309, which would have let the state adopt tougher clean-air standards.
"Already!" The legislature has adjourned, and won't be back until there's a new governor, but the Post wants you to think that Owens is ready to run a drilling rig through the middle of the state capitol, and put a refinery in City Park,
providing employment displacing the homeless there.
Thereafter follows a list of Trailhead donors who exhale dangerous carbon dioxide greenhouse gases. Including Pete Coors who has had run-ins in the past with state officials over air pollution. Coors, the Post may not remember, actually ran for Senate as a Republican two years ago, at the, ah, suggestion of Owens and Benson. So naturally he's contributing to a Republican party-building 527 because of air pollution.
Bad politics. Bad journalism. Bad economics. The triple threat.
I'm From The Democrats And I'm Here To Help You
When you're enemies are standing on a ledge, preparing to commit suicide, don't interfere. You might even give them a little push. It's better still if you can get a crowd to start chanting, "Jump, Jump, Jump!"
Marc Holtzman's campaign submitted 21,000 signatures yesterday to petition onto the August 8 primary ballot. Him, and his New Best Friend, Democratic campaign attorney Mark Grueskin:
"I don't like it when party bosses tell people not to run," Grueskin said. "It rubs me the wrong way."
Really? That must be why he represented the teachers' unions in their fight to use forcibly-extracted union dues to violate Colorado campaign law. Because after all, we wouldn't want to tell people what to do. (Ben's all over this.)
What really rubs him the wrong way are the words, "Governor Beauprez."
Grueskin has a history of helping sides in Republican intra-party battles (see here for 2004's edition; we know how the elections turned out that year).
Between one side sounding like Democrats, and the other actually hiring them, this is starting to look like the northern Italians inviting in Napoleon to help settle things down.
May 25, 2006
State Party Registration Changing
Dan Haley, in the Denver Post a few weeks ago, noticed a shift in the party registration patterns, but buried the lead for the sake of a clever and misleading dig at Republicans:
Where have all the Republicans gone? Their once commanding voter registration edge in Colorado has slipped a bit over the past two years as this red state continues to show streaks of purple.
Of course, the real story is either major party but rather, neither major party:
The rest of Haley's story eventually gets there. But Colorado has always voted purple. Tim Wirth. Gary Hart. Roy Romer. Dick "Duty to Die" Lamm. The aggregate Republican vote for the state legislaure has been slipping for a decade, but has certainly accelerated under the late-term stewardship of Bill "Purple Tie" Owens.
By the way, what's with the hump in the middle of the registration numbers? Certainly there were voter registration drives just before the '04 elections. The decline was a purge of dead and expat voters that had lingered on past their time. Hundreds of thousands of voters.
A statewide voter registration database is still in the works, running years behind schedule. In the meantime, out of state deaths and moves aren't reported back to our Secretary of State.
But Ken Gordon's not worried about voter fraud.
Amazing What a Little Profit Motive Can Do
The rebuilt Seven World Trade Center opened for business on Tuesday. City Journal's Nicole Gelinas celebrates:
Seven World Trade Center officially opens its doors May 23 after an efficient two years of design and construction. Seven is a stunning piece of work. Just as important, it’s the first tangible evidence that lower Manhattan will triumph over 9/11, both architecturally and economically. Who built Seven? Not Governor Pataki or Mayor Bloomberg, but private-sector developer Larry Silverstein, who completed the 52-story tower while the pols dithered over 16 still-scarred acres across the street.
Silverstein could build Seven so quickly—replacing the office building of the same name he owned before 9/11—because it’s adjacent to the World Trade Center site, not part of it. Thus, Silverstein’s lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bistate entity that owns Ground Zero, doesn’t govern the site. Free from the government “direction” that has overseen Ground Zero redevelopment, Silverstein did what he does best: he built.
The city hasn't even started on the WTC replacement, and several ofther nearby buildings that it's responsible for continue to literally sit and mold.
Naturally, the politicians, bureaucrats, and self-styled guardians of the "public interest" don't like being made to look like the petty, squabbling, egotistical busybodies that they are:
By finishing Seven, Silverstein has replaced with hope the dread that infused lower Manhattan after 9/11. Yet pols and the press condemn him—because he’s in the private, not the public, sector.
When negotiations over a revised lease at Ground Zero broke down temporarily in March, Port Authority chief Charles Gargano called Silverstein “greedy.” Pataki said Silverstein had “betrayed the public trust.” The New York Times published an editorial called “Greed vs. Good at Ground Zero,” castigating Silverstein for failing to “think beyond the . . . bottom line here.”
Silverstein quickly built Seven World Trade Center on private land even as politicians argued for years over what to build at the adjacent World Trade Center Site, which is owned by the Port Authority.
Gargano and Pataki should be ashamed of their slander of Silverstein, who has been nothing but patient as they and Mayor Bloomberg have turned Ground Zero into a political swamp. As for the Times: of course Silverstein must think of the bottom line. If he doesn’t earn money, he can’t build more buildings like Seven. That’s how the private sector works. The Times fails to explain why it is bad for New York that Silverstein actually wants what goes up at Ground Zero to succeed.
Seems to me that the Times wasn't beyond a little real estate greed of its own when it wanted a new headquarters at Times Square a few years ago. Then again, the way their income statement looks, maybe they really don't understand the profit motive.
May 24, 2006
Local Economy Booming: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit
In addition to its monthly national survey, the Institute for Supply Management publishes a series of local and regional reports as well. Denver's manufacturing sector is lucky enough to be included in the list, and April's report explains why state tax revenues are going through the roof, and would have solved the budget problem on their own, without a need for Ref C. (It's a terrible thing when a governor loses faith in his own state.)
Now, it's worth remembering that the local reports often cover either only manufacturing or services, which narrows the base even further. As a result, these reports tend to be more volatile than the national survey. And yet.
Looks, it's not all three-martini lunches and Tyco Analyst Days parties. The cycle is starting to hit some self-limiting factors, such as price increases in a time when nobody seems to have pricing power, a labor shortage, increasing lead times, and suppliers who can't seem to get copper or components onto the trains fast enough. But those are good problems to have. They're somewhat manageable, and are problems of prosperity.
In fact, even the Raw Materials story isn't all glooomy. Raw Materials inventories are rising, even as prices and lead times rise, and supplier performance deteriorates. if managers are complaining they can't find tungsten, maybe it's because they're hoarding the stuff.
The time to worry is when these guys are blowing dust off their inventory and their LIFO reserve starts to rival their equity.
These surveys were only published today. Let's see if the local papers bother to pick this up. After all, you'd think that business sections that have space for the Annual Tucler Hart Adams We're All Going to be in Hoovervilles This Time Next Year While The Bank Directors Use Our Those Vacant Unsold Homes For Their Dogs, might be available to cover a survey with national juice.
May 23, 2006
Marc Holtzman had a chance to run a campaign of ideas, as he said, and that in order to get taken seriously, he believed he had to play tougher than I would have, or than I thought was necessary. Trying to paint Bob Beauprez as a liberal in Republican clothing was always a mistake.
(That Beauprez's campaign, and some 527s supposedly on his side, have responded by making banking sound like a crime and trying to play guilt-by-association, rather than winning by taking the high road, is well beside the point. Bob Beauprez is no liberal. Could a softie on immigration get Tom Tancredo's endorsement? Really. And now, by standing up to the purple-tie-wearing Owens on the issue of the Ref C overage, Beauprez is showing some of the real spine he'll need to win the general and to govern effectively.)
There was a case to be made - that Beauprez, by blessing Ref C with faint condemnation, by backing Roy Blunt in the first round of the House leadership contest, by taking full advantage of earmarks and pork, is more like Romney than Reagan. It might not have stuck, but there was a case there.
In the process of making that case, Holtzman could have done what he did manage to do - force the Beauprez camp to talk about issues they'd rather have avoided. And he could have done so far less destructively than he has.
Let's leave aside the process issues for the moment. I do think it's poor form to make a big deal of the Assembly, and then, after having the argument in the press, insult the delegates and claim the process was meaningless and rigged against you. ("No, my dog didn't bite you, and anyway, that's not my dog.") Holtzman has had six months to make his case to the party activists, and he couldn't pull 30% in a two-man race. I do not see any reason to think he can win a primary that, if anything, is weighted more heavily to the regulars than the caucus process is. Remember, activists scare the regulars a little bit.
So now, Bob Martinez has asked. Now, 31 Republicans, legislators and candidates have asked.
What they don't understand is that when a man is running against a party establishment, and is in it this deep, there's almost nothing that that establishment can do or say that's persuasive to him. He needs to hear it from close friends and people who've been with him the whole way, not people who were suspicious of him from the start. (This means close friends, not Jewish bloggers who've been sympathetic to the idea of his candidacy.) Ending a campaign before every last option is played out is tremendously difficult; it feels like a personal failure, compounded by a personal failure of nerve.
But if Marc Holtzman wants to play Ronald Reagan's role in 1976, to introduce conservative ideas back into the party discourse, and to be a player in 2010, he should step aside, salvage the many relationships he has within the party, and do the hard work of organizing conservatives within the party over the next four years. Those people exist, and they're hungry for a legislative majority and a Republican governor.
Coming to them as the spoiler who cost them both is a complete non-starter.
Coming to them as a guy who can offer them ideas, hard work, and a pipeline to conservative voters is another matter altogether.
Obstructed View From a Height
Just as I'm getting used to a view, where I can actually see past the next block, this. Yes, this.
Built here, relative to me.
Salazar Gets One Right
No, the other Salazar. John Salazar of the 3rd Congressional district. He voted to lift the decades-old ban on offshore drilling in all but a few places. (Naturally DeGette got it wrong, preferring instead to take my money to pay for someone else's heating.)
Gee, now there's a novel idea. Responding to supply-and-demand issues by increasing supply. Maybe it has something to do with the energy poll results from his Congressional website.
Of course, there's this, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
Congressman Salazar remains committed to protecting the environment which is why he opposed the “energy bill” devised by the Bush Administration and oil companies that put profits first and threatens natural preserves and Alaskan wildlife. Rather than promoting oil drilling into our precious lands, Congressman Salazar is a leading proponent for renewable energy sources.
So if Salazar is for drilling elsewhere, but opposes it close to home, what does that say about him? Moreover, if that's what the DCCC chooses to emphasize, what does that say about their energy "policy?"
(Hat Tip: ShopFloor.org, now comforably Blogrolled.)
Carnival of the Capitalists
Integrative Stream is hosting this week's festivities. Go there. Learn about business and economics. Then go call your Congressman and ask him what he did this week to make the economy freer.
May 22, 2006
John Howard at the White House
In a story that rated Page 4 coverage by the Washington Post, President Bush welcomed Australian Prime Minister John Howard to the White House for state dinner. I'll leave the discussion of Peter Baker's, um, "report," to my Newsbusters entry. For the moment, thought, it's worth quoting the redoubtable Mr. Howard, with emphasis added:
We remain a steadfast ally of the United States in the war against terror. I've made that clear on every occasion I've spoken here in the United States. The war against terror will go on for a long time; I think we have to accept that. Progress is being made. The challenge remains very, very strong and there needs to be a continued commitment. And we admire and respect the leadership given by you and by the United States in that war. And it's a war that confronts us all. Those who imagine that somehow or other you can escape it by rolling yourself into a little ball and going over in the corner and hoping that you're not going to be noticed are doomed to be very, very uncomfortably disappointed.
We did have an opportunity to talk extensively about some of the challenges in our immediate region. And I spoke about the situation in East Timor and the Solomon Islands, and the importance of the role of Indonesia. The symbolism and also the practical consequence of Indonesia being the largest Islamic country in the world, and, therefore, the success and prosperity of moderate Islamic leadership in that country is itself a very important factor in the long-term success of the fight against terrorism, because the fight against terrorism is not only a military and physical one, it is also an intellectual one. And it's a question of providing within the Islamic world a successful democratic model as an alternative to the fanaticism of those who would have seemly invoked the sanction of Islam to justify what they seek to do.
Can I finally say that the many ties that bind Australia and the United States, as I said on the lawn earlier today, and none are more important, of course, than the shared values and the beliefs that both of our countries have that the spread of democracy around the world is an important goal and an important responsibility. It's been a privilege for our two peoples to enjoy democracy in an uninterrupted fashion for so long, that we tend to take it for granted. And we forget its liberating impact on those who taste and experience it for the first time. And both of our societies have a responsibility in expanding the opportunities for democracy, and that, of course, lies very much at the heart of much of what our two societies do.
The domestic press then proceeded to ask questions about immigration and the NSA.
Thanks to reader Danny Reichwald for point this out to me.
May 21, 2006
Clay and Ben have already posted on the day's events at the State Assembly. I'll have a somewhat, er, unique perspective up on Sunday.
The quick hits:
- I was surprised, given the crowd reaction, that Holtzman polled almost 30%.
- The voting rules, adopted in reaction to a badly mangled 2004 Assembly, went overboard
- 1 & 2 may have been connected; Beauprez delegates, believing the matter in hand, may have been more willing to walk away from a 3-hour credentialing process
- The LPR owns this thing
- There's no way that the Holtzman campaign can credibly claim they were cheated, at least not to anyone there
- There are a surprising number of Republicans willing to help a guy with a yarmulke keep Shabbat
I'll expand on this, and then we'll also have a chance to grill both campaigns tomorrow night.
May 19, 2006
Bank Card Fraud
I recently had my bank card number stolen. (I'm not the only one.) A duplicate card was used in Georgia, where I haven't been in months. According to Wells Fargo, it's likely that the thieves used a machine to capture my card information at the point of sale, and create a new card.
The card's been canceled, the money's back on the way into the account, and everything's fine, except for the stores that got ripped off, or their insurance companies, or their policy-holders, or else someone's attorneys. But the fact is, there's almost nothing I could have done to prevent this.
I'm planning on filing a report with the Denver police, but it's possible that the card could have been ripped off anywhere I've been. If the crooks were patient enough to wait six months between theft and use, it could even have been in Atlanta. Still, there's a decent chance of catching the guys who used the card. The only disappointment being that they're almost certainly part of a bigger criminal operation, and that we'll never touch the ringleaders.
Maybe they'll let me drive the van from the courthouse to prison.
Ken Gordon's Strange Math
The Democrats want to amend the Constitution without having to amend it. In support of that proposition, another strange claim by Ken Gordon during our interview was that, "if John Kerry had gotten 60,000 more votes in Ohio," he would have been elected while losing the popular vote.
I guess they figure if they keep repeating this, it'll stick. The Ohio margin was 120,000 votes, not 60,000. Sixty thousand people would have had to change their votes, which is a very different thing. If 60,000 people had voted differently in Ohio, they surely would have done so elsewhere, probably making the question moot. And if New Hampshire, which was both smaller and more closely-run than Ohio, had gone the other way, Ohio wouldn't have mattered.
Look, almost every Presidential election is like this. Take a look at the map for 1976. Jimmy Carter won the national popular vote by 2 points. He won 297 electoral votes. So a swing of 29 electoral votes would have swung the election to Ford. Carter won Ohio by 11,000 votes, and Alabama (yes, that Alabama) by 15,000. So by cherry-picking 13,000 votes in those two states, Ford would have won the election while losing the popular vote.
Funny how 1976 never gets mentioned. Maybe if Ford had tried to sue his way back into office...
Colorado's Governor (and Candidates)...
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/208wtmca.asp?pg=2...could learn something from Missouri:
... Medicaid spending was hard to ignore. It covered 16 percent of Missourians and took up 31 percent of the state budget. Blunt decided to investigate the program, deny benefits to those who were ineligible, and tighten the qualifications. He knew he'd be attacked, but the assault was worse than expected. It lasted for most of 2005. "He had his butt kicked over Medicaid," Feather says. Medicaid's share of the state budget, however, has shrunk to 29 percent.
By not flinching, Blunt made himself something of a hero to Missouri Republicans. They tend to gush. "I always come back to the word courage when I think of Matt Blunt," says Dan Mehan, the president of the Missouri chamber of commerce. "He's taken some positions that require a lot of guts," says Mike Gibbons, majority leader in the state senate.
Read the whole thing. Then ask yourself what the hell Bill Owens thinks he's doing.
May 18, 2006
The Inmates Take Over The Asylum
John Andrews, titular head of Backbone Radio, will be leaving Krista Kafer & me in charge on Sunday night. We'll be interviewing Tom Tillapaugh, the President of the National Association of Street Schools, schools aimed at at-risk youth.
State Representative Dave Schultheis, Chairman of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado will join us to talk about how the party can win through this fall, and what issues it will have to join to do so.
Saturday is the state Republican Assembly, as the nominating convention calls itself, and we'll have John Marshall from the Beauprez campaign, and Marc Holtzman from - guess where? - the Holtzman campaign. No pushing, gentlemen.
The last hour is all Life all the time, as we hear from Connie Pratt of Colorado Right to Life, and Carl Lundblad of the Christian Legal Society's new Law of Life Project.
You can hear the whole thing on 710 KNUS, or via their streaming audio.
More Historical Echoes
There's not a better popular history of the run-up to the Civil War than Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury.
In it, he describes the considerable pro-Union sentiment that existed in the South, even as its political leaders, having engineered secession, prepared to defend it via the Confederacy. The North, including Lincoln, continued to delude itself that these pro-Union Southerners wouldn't let it come to blows. But when it came to blows, even Unionists in Virginia and North Carolina, states that hadn't formally seceded yet, sided with the secessionists.
One of the arguments against attacking Iran is the presence of considerable pro-Western, pro-Democracy, pro-American sentiment. The fear is that war would alienate these people, and that fear may well be correct.
But in order to justify doing nothing, that fear has to be coupled with the hope that those people will organize and defeat the mullahs.
During the election, and indeed, until his inauguration, Lincoln made the mistake of not talking about slavery, on the grounds that whatever he said would be twisted by malicious editors. (Hmmm.) But they simply repeated their claims that he would immediately push for universal emancipations, demoralizing Unionists and animating secessionists.
This administration has seemingly been unwilling to aid the Iranian opposition for fear of making them look like tools of the United States. This has had the effect of demoralizing them, animating the mullahs, and hasn't stopped the mullahs from waging war on their own population to stay in power, anyway.
Look, I take second place to nobody in my desire to see the mullahs doing a collective Mussolini impersonation in the public square. But it's not going to happen on its own.
An intern for the Holtzman campaign, Laura Mendenhall, tried to block a Beauprez staffer, Jory Taylor, from videotaping the event. That outraged the Beauprez campaign, which says it routinely tapes such forums.
"They were shoving him out of the way," said John Marshall, a spokesman for Beauprez. "They totally accosted him. This is just junior high school stuff. It's disappointing and juvenile and not befitting a campaign for the highest office in Colorado."
A spokesman for Holtzman said Mendenhall had made "a rookie mistake" and gotten carried away. "She's very protective of Marc," said Jesse Mallory.
Mallory said the Holtzman campaign apologized for the incident.
"We're sorry the girls in our campaign beat up the boys in their campaign," he said.
That's a very funny line, although there's probably some group out there representing roller derby participants asking for an apology because, after all, why shouldn't girls beat up boys?
Still, it seems that the Holtzman campaign has lost its cool - collectively or individually - before, and that they're making a lot of these rookie mistakes. The press is a little forgiving because, well, it's Republicans beating up other Republicans, and while that may make for good copy, there's no point in taking sides in the other guys' fight. The nominee isn't going to get the same breaks when it's Bill Ritter up there bloviating about photographers.
And notice something else. The debate was supposed to be about returning Ref C dollars that the Ref C campaign said it didn't need but has now discovered that if the state doesn't keep, we're all going to find ourselves leaving for a better life in northern Mexico.
The only substantive ink on the proposal went to Ritter.
So while the Beauprez campaign is helping the Holtzman campaign make headlines with tactics, the Democrats get to make their case. Sure, the reporter could have demoted the scuffle to a line or two, and written a story about the issue, but this was so much more fun, and why give him the excuse?
Nice going, guys.
May 17, 2006
Labrador Saves Drowning Boy
When some half-breed called a "labradoodle" does this, you'll know what side of the family it care from.
The Senate Approves The Fence
Hugh Hewitt reports that the Senate has voted to construct 370 miles of fence along the border with Mexico.
Maria Cantwell must be feeling pretty chipper about her chances, because she's just handed Mike McGavick a campaign issue. While Canadians aren't rafting down to the Grand Coulee Dam looking for work, the Millenium Bomber was caught at the Washington State border in late 1999. Likewise Bob Menendez and Tom Kean in New Jersey.
Lieberman, facing a primary challenge, had to vote to the left on this one.
Am I the only one who sees a parallel between the Goths on the Eastern Frontier and the current Mexican immigrant population? They claim to want to be American (as the Goths wanted to be “Roman”), but aren’t making much of an effort to assimilate, nor are they being encouraged to. I don’t think they’re going to burn down Washington or anything, but since we’re clearly not going to ship them back, we clearly need to cut their lines back to Mexico and get them and their kids assimilated, pronto.
Carnival of the Capitalists
A little late, but this week's CotC is up, over at The Virtual Handshake. (Hugh would probably say that for anyone you really wanted to meet, you'd give a real handshake.)
If You Don't Elect Them, They Can't Cheat
On Sunday, I had the chance to interview Democratic State Senator Ken Gordon, who's running for Secretary of State - chief elections officer - this fall. A couple of things stood out.
First, on the subject of illegals registering to vote, Gordon didn't seem particularly concerned about being pro-active, and stated that only once a threat was seen, should we bother to do anything about it. Secondly, on the subject of vote fraud, he seemed willing to support the notion of ID - contrary to what was implied in this article.
(Gordon's article also pooh-poohs concerns about people voting in more than one place, even though this was a concern at a the time in at least one (or two) specific races. Colorado also has a substantial number of people with second homes in New Mexico or Arizona, potentially replicating the problem of Florida acting as New York's sixth borough in more ways than one. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask him about this problem.)
Fortunately, Gordon's tacit support of Common Cause came to naught fairly decisively.
What really struck me was a seeming lack of familiarity with the issues. On illegals voting, he stated that requiring proof of citizenship would have a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics. Possibly on Hispanics, but only on those who aren't citizens. In fact, a driver's license would work well in this state. Colorado requires not only another state's driver's license when moving here, but also a full social security number or proof of rejection when applying for a social security number. That's not foolproof, but it's a system that would require the cooperation of a large number of people for an extended period of time to game.
More importantly, despite his support for IDs to vote, he seemed unaware that merely providing that last four digits of a social security number was enough to constitute ID. With no current statewide vote database, there's almost no way for the clerks to effectively check them. Moreover, someone could show up at the county clerk's office, on Election Day, and with emergency registration, provide their locker combination, be registered, and then turn around and vote on a machine. Not provisionally. On a machine. Because the county clerk's office in Denver will be a vote center.
I managed to find out the current holes in the system through a 30-minute conversation with Denver election officials, and a little digging on the web. You'd think that someone who wanted to be responsble for the integrity of elections could be bothered to know at least as much.
You can listen to the interview through the links below. The first segment is basically John quizzing Gordon about the just-finished legislative session. The second segment we get started on vote fraud. The third segment continues on vote fraud, but also has Gordon getting a little testy over his attempts to circumvent the Constitution.
One of our neighbors has a couple of small dogs who like to have long, erudite evening conversations with Sage. Discussing the latest Animal Planet downloads from iTunes, I'm sure.
The problem is, those other dogs live on the othe side of the fence opposite one of the new lilacs, and Sage, in his eagerness to get the news, had knocked over one of the taller plants. The leaves had already started to look a little peaked, and as any mullah will tell you, you can only go to the Hidden Well so many times. I just discovered this Sunday, and had to re-set the plant with new potting soil and watering. The good news is that the leaves have pretty much recovered, indicating photosynthetic happiness; apparently these really are fairly hardy.
With the lilacs getting established, it's time to finish off that little sidewalk edge towards the front of the back yard. It's mostly shade, and beyond the reach of the soak hose. It's also immediately opposite the house, so I want ground cover rather than a large plant that will impede progress. This and this should do the trick.
I've already got a small spreading of Bishop's Weed, which is living up to its name. It's got some sort of Darwinian advantage over the other, natural weeds, and has slowly been shoving them aside. The only reason I don't use it, is that I'd like some color and a little variety, rather than one big green-and-white carpet there. It'll be a cheap and effective alternative, though, if the Plumbago acts like it sounds.
May 16, 2006
The President And Immigration II
Another quick hit here.
This represents a massive failure of leadership on the President's part. He could have faced down both Vincente Fox - who has no vote - and Tom Tancredo, who does. Instead, he's left the door open for the Democrats to paint the issue as one of living standards, make businesses the bad guys, and then to combine the issue with protectionism.
At this point, the Democratic party stands for economic populism of the most destructive kind - raise taxes, control gas prices, slap tariffs on China, prevent existing energy alternatives, and increase entitlements. The President is at risk of giving them the room to sell border security on protectionist lines, opening up debates that should have been settled in the 1970s.
The President on Immigration
We can only hope that it's a shrewd strategy to rescue Congressional Republicans by giving them room to run to the President's right.
May 15, 2006
European Union foreign ministers will propose a "bold package" of incentives to Iran, possibly including security guarantees, if Teheran accepts international oversight of its civilian nuclear program to make sure it is not used to produce weapons, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday.
Among the incentives being discussed are France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and an option on a "substantial fraction" of greater London.
Said Solana, "We believe that the future of the continent is a small price to pay for the right to pretend that we are not being threatened with nuclear extinction."
Iranian President Ahmedinejad replied in the negative. "The voices in the well have told me to reject this offer. Why should we pretend to be under UN supervision, when we will already have the territory of which they speak in but a few short years? It is a typical Westen negotiating ploy, trying to re-sell the same goods over and over for more and more concessions."
A woman who identified herself as German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared, "I am here today, wearing this burka, as a symbol of what Europe can become, if only we have the will to accept this wise and far-sighted policy."
The Tricorder Is In Prototype
Found, while researching a company (not this one) for a report:
Ahura's FirstDefender is the only light-weight, rugged handheld instrument for the immediate identification of unknown solids, liquids and mixtures even through the walls of their containers.
Another thought: how long before Jack Bauer has one of these in his Little Bag of Tricks?
Mr. Bush's Reply
Mr. President Ahmedinejad,
President George W. Bush
May 13, 2006
The silly season is upon us, and we'll be interviewing candidates and analysts aplenty on the upcoming elections. Both Republican gubernatorial campaigns will have representatives, Bob Beauprez and Lola Spradley will join us. Tne Man Who Would Be Secretary of State will explain what he'll do about potential vote fraud, and why he thinks the Constitution is a bad idea. Or, at least parts of it. We'll also take another look at the race to succeed Joel Hefley down in the Springs.
And Hugh Hewitt, he of Painting the Map Red, will join us to explain why we can't can't can't let Colorado go Blue this fall. Governor Owens's efforts notwithstanding.
May 12, 2006
Qwest For a Defense
The Denver Post reports that among Joe Nacchio's other problems, he was the first Qwest CEO to refuse to help the NSA analyze phone records in the pursuit & deconstruction of terrorist networks. Even as,
"This is a case where (Qwest) showed some independence and courage," said Phil Weiser, a University of Colorado law professor who specializes in telecommunications issues.
In 2002 he chaired the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of industry executives who advised President Bush. He also chaired the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, an advisory panel on emergency communications networks and homeland security to the Federal Communications Commission.
Powerline has already noted that Qwest's independence and courage ended where its business relationships began:
As a general rule, Qwest does not release customer account information to unaffiliated third parties without your permission unless we have a business relationship with those companies where the disclosure is appropriate."
At the same time, the Post, assuming incorrectly that the rest of the country is as outraged as its newsroom is at these shocking, five-month-old revelations, claims that:
The news report casts Nacchio in a more positive light than he has received since departing the company amid an accounting scandal and falling stock price in mid-2002.
His fight with the NSA could improve Nacchio's image in Denver, where his own lawyers concede he is "reviled." They are seeking a change of venue for his trial.
Note the assumption that this relevation is "positive." Also note that apparent the DenPo didn't get a chance to read the WaPo before going to press:
The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.
A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.
Also, I can't find this disclaimer at the bottom of any other overnight polls the WaPo has done:
The practical difficulties of doing a survey in a single night represents another potential source of error.
Qwest: We Put The "W" in Qwality
May 11, 2006
In addition to getting up at 5:00, working at a brokerage requires a Series 7 license. So, after the regular workday, I'm back in school, taking the equivalent of 4 credit hours stuffed into two weeks of evenings. Makes for a very long day. I actually wrote this during the options class. Options, I know. Options, I already trade.
The course is taught by one Reed Nakazono, who seems to be something of a legend in Denver financial circles. Reed teaches the best Series 7 cram course in the area, and he does it by teaching to the test. No, I mean to the test. High school teachers with CSAP evaluations coming up should be so lucky. Reed's been doing this for a living for almost a quarter of a century. He used to actually sit for the exam until NASD, recognizing industrial espionage when they saw it, revoked his license. [The NASD is a jealous god, carefully monitoring the proper use of their licenses.] Now, he debriefs as many students as he can, often as they walk out of the test.
Reed's been doing this long enough that it's clear he's slightly bored by the whole thing, but he's still got a good sense of humor. He can stand in front of an options grid he created, oh, 20 years ago, and point to the chart over his shoulder without even looking at it. If the NASD ever finally gets fed up and raids the place, he'll have another career as a TV weatherman.
Every city probably has a Reed Nakazono. New York, Chicago, LA probably have a dozen, teaching to and defeating the test. Seen one way, if undermines an exam intended to protect the public. Seen another way, it undermines the Guild Hall.
As for the test itself, it seems to be oddly weighted in both space and time. Stocks get all the press, but the test favors the process of underwriting and trading municipal bonds. They also have questions about "bearer bonds," which haven't been issued for years, but apparently used to operate like letters of transit signed by General Weygand, only without the piano. I'm sure there must be films noir where the husband and the femme fatale can only raise the money to get to Brazil by getting the bearer bonds out of the unsuspecting wife's safe deposit box, or war pictures where the feds have to foil a German plot to hijack a train carrying bearer bonds. They get the bonds, only to see that all the coupons have already been clipped.
The exam also resembles nothing so much as a vocabulary test. Even without street slang, or Street Slang, there are still four different ways to describe a zero-coupon bond. And of course, the inevitable trick questions about options that expire on a day they can't be traded.
Evidently, the test has also drastically reduced the amount of calculation over the years. Now, why do you suppose that is?
UPDATE: The Great One himself has commented on the post, with two corrections to it. In the first case, I simply misunderstood; apparently they won't let him sit for the exam any more, but have not revoked his license. In the other case, I was unclear. When I wrote that Reed debriefed students...as they walk out of the exam, I had in mind that they called him with whatever questions they could recall, not that he stood outside like an exit pollster. Clearly what I wrote lends itself more to his interpretation than to mine.
Because of Qwest's non-cooperation on the little matter of not getting us killed, I'm going to start looking around for other local phone service. Frankly, given cell phone rates, I'm not ever sure why we still have a land line.
May 10, 2006
AP and Reuters: It's Israel's Fault
In an ironic twist of Sophoclean proportions, an Israeli company has cut off - get this - gasoline supplies to the Iranian-funded Palestinian territories for non-payment of bills:
An end to fuel supplies could cripple hospitals, halt food deliveries and keep people home from work - a devastating scenario for an economy already ravaged by Israeli and international sanctions.
Right. The "economy" has been "ravaged" by Israeli sanctions. It's nothing whatever to do with the fact that Arafat and his friends - and that includes the current President, the Holocaust-denying, walking Hamas assassination target, Mahmoud Abbas - have spent the last fifteen years shipping everything that's not nailed down (and if they can pry it loose, it's not nailed down) out of the country. Which, as of the last AP report, was the reason that Hamas got elected in the first place, not their hostility to Israel, if you remember.
In Nablus, a line of taxi drivers said they had stopped working because they had no fuel. One driver, Mahmoud Tourabi, said he would try to drive to a nearby Jewish settlement in hopes of filling his tank.
``They may kill me there, so I will be the martyr of the gas,'' he quipped.
Oh, that Mahmoud! What a card! Why hasn't he quit his day job yet? But seriously folks, when was the last time you heard of an Israeli crowd torching Arab cars?
Asaf Shariv, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Israel would ``absolutely not'' bail out the Palestinians in this case. Dor has threatened to cut off supplies twice before this year - only to be paid at the last minute by the Palestinians.
This will be important in a moment, as we examine the Reuters-fueled Washington Post version of events:
The fuel shortage, caused by a cash liquidity crunch, threatened to worsen an economic crisis that began when Western countries froze aid and cut most diplomatic ties after the Islamic militant group Hamas came to power in March.
So this has happened before. The crisis didn't just suddenly descend from the skies. What Reuters stringer Mohammed Assadi (now there's a surprise!) forgets is that while the current - er, liquidity crunch - is a result of sanctions, there's a gigantic difference between a government solvency crisis and an economic mess. Governments all over the US, including the one in Washington (and no, I don't mean the one Formerly Known as Marion Barry's Glorious Patronage and Coke Machine) shut down all the time over budget disputes, and it doesn't bring the economy to its knees.
The real problem here, the reason that taxi-driver Mahmoud is contemplating suicide by buying gas from Jews, is that the Palestinian Authority has no business being the fuel supplier for whatever remains of the "private" economy in a state consciously patterned after Stalin. It only does this so they get a couple of more chances to skim the scum off the top of the barrel on the way to the pumps.
Naturally, no Reuters piece would be complete without a discussion of how Hamas's intentions are good, please don't let them be misunderstood:
Hamas, winner of a January parliamentary election, is formally sworn to destroy Israel although it has largely abided by a truce for over a year.
Oh, those pesky formalities. It's not as though every paragraph in the Hamas charter refers to Israel's destruction, or anything like that, as though Hamas's entire reason for being were the takover of everything between the Jordan and the Med.
Aside from that. I suppose that the sentence is accurate, if by "largely," you mean "except for the daily cross-border Kassam rocket attacks, and the daily dispatching of suicide bombers to the Green Line like a game of 'Red Rover,' which, incidentally, many of the would-be martyrs are young enough to be playing during recess."
Ironic for Reuters, then, that as the US and Israel buckle to international pressure to fund Hamas's recruiting activities, no doubt to prevent them from becoming radicalized from their association with Iran, that:
Hamas's political chief in exile, Khaled Mashaal, while on a visit to Qatar on Wednesday, asked "Hamas supporters throughout the world, as well as Arab states, to send weapons, fighters and money to the Palestinian Authority."
And to think that in our day, it was only "lawyers, guns, and money."
Small Companies and Sarbox
The GAO has, at the request of Sen. Olympia Snowe and Rep. Michael Enzi, produced a report analyzing the disproportionate effects of Sarbanes-Oxley on small businesses. Unfortunately, both the report (and the WaPo article summarizing it) downplay the effects of SarbOx on small companies trying to go, or stay, public.
They acknowledgeboth that the companies themselves cite increased costs as a reason for going private, and that administrative costs tend to hit small IPOs disproportionately hard. And yet, the report searches for alternate explanations, such as the consolidation of the accounting industry and the acceptability of only the Big Four as auditors for IPOs.
As a result, issues unrelated to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, such as market and liquidity issues and the benefits of being private, are also major reasons for companies going private. From 1999 to 2004, more companies cited market and liquidity issues than the indirect costs associated with maintaining their public company status.
But look at the numbers:
The "benefits of being private" are cited less and less frequently, while the number of small companies that just can't afford multiply-redundant accounting costs is shooting through the roof. And if you're looking for the effects of a law passed in 02, using the average from 1999-2004 is a complete non-sequitur.
As for not going public in the first place, it's clear that the 404 reporting requirements are a significant barrier to entry, something the report admits:
While the act does not impose new requirements on privately held companies, companies choosing to go public realistically must spend additional time and funds in order to demonstrate their ability to comply with the act, section 404 in particular, to attract investors....
Companies with smaller reported revenues now make up a smaller share of the IPO market. The number of IPOs by companies with revenues of $25 million or less decreased substantially, from 70 percent of all IPOs in 1999 to about 48 percent in 2004 and 31 percent during the first two quarters of 2005. Venture capitalists told us that, on average, a private company had to demonstrate at least 6 quarters of profitability before it could go public and hire an auditor to carry it through the IPO process. According to the venture capitalists, an increasing number of small and mid-sized private companies have been pursuing mergers and acquisitions as a means of growing without going through the IPO process, which now typically costs more than a merger or acquisition.
M&A is perfectly legitimate activity, of course. Indeed, this is exactly the sort of M&A activity that is more likely to succeed, since it typically involves cash, management continuity, earnouts, less publicity, and therefore more honest valuations and less winner's curse risk from competitive bidding.
But the market there is much less liquid, and all of us are still richer than any of us, even if any of us is Exxon or Microsoft. Those deals typically net less than an IPO, and don't subject the firm to the large-scale, Wisdom-of-Crowds scrutiny that the open market does. They typically leave the company less free to pursue its own course, and create all sorts of potential corporate culture issues that an IPO doesn't. They limit growth.
In fact, one issue the report doesn't address is the extent to which smaller public companies' cash flows and valuations are depressed as a result of accounting costs, leaving them more likely to be takeover targets than long-term competitors to older, larger firms.
Fortunately, Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Tom Feeney are proposing to exempt small companies from the 404 reporting requirement. Presumably, the market will give us some indication of just how much it values those extra layers of accounting.
May 9, 2006
Local Papers & Graffiti
Both the News and the Post have run articles about Denver's growing graffiti problem in recent weeks. As more of us subscribe to the "Broken Windows" theory (even as fewer of us subscribe to the papers themselves), this is a very bad sign indeed. Graffiti can either be a gang-tagging or individual ego-gratification, but in either case, it's a leading indicator of very public trouble.
Neither article bothered to mention Denver's Police graffiti hotline, part of Denver Partners Against Graffiti, where you can call to report graffiti and have it painted over. I've called in the past, and spoken to the cop who interprets the stuff before they obliterate it. In the case of gang members marking their territory, getting a good look at the tags before they're painted over can help track gang movements and ambitions.
(This reminds me of a Victor Borge joke that got him put on the last boat to America.
Q: What's the difference between a Nazi and a dog?
A: A dog lifts his leg to relieve himself.
Gang members seem to have the same, er, problem.)
Here's the number: 720-865-STOP(7867). Use it.
May 8, 2006
Walt and Mearsheimer In Europe
Apparently, the "Jewish lobby" has undue influence even in countries that aren't particularly sympathetic to Israel:
CHRIS DAVIES, the leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs (Members of European Parliament), resigned under pressure last night after attacking the “influence of the Jewish lobby” in politics during an intemperate exchange of e-mails.
Mr Davies’s outburst came in an increasingly aggressive exchange of e-mails with the reader of a Jewish newspaper, who wrote to the MEP objecting to criticisms that he made of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians after visiting the Palestinian Authority with a group of MEPs.
In his original criticism, to which the reader objected, Mr Davies accused Israel of “posing as a victim” while pursuing “racist policies of apartheid”.
A reader of the Jewish News, which published his comments, sent Mr Davies a letter via e-mail accusing him of belittling the humiliation, torture and murder of Jews in the Holocaust and asking why liberals attacked Israel but supported Muslim extremists who were homophobic, misogynistic and intolerant of other religions.
The reader, a woman who asked to remain anonymous, sent a second e-mail calling the MEP a disgrace for not having the decency to reply properly to her letter as an elected representative. Within an hour, Mr Davies e-mailed back that he answered to the electorate, saying: “I shall tell them that I intend to speak out against this oppression at every opportunity, and I shall denounce the influence of the Jewish lobby that seems to have far too great a say over the political decision-making process in many countries.”
Mr Davies issued a partial apology when Zeddy Lawrence, the Editor of Jewish News complained on the reader’s behalf, saying that her e-mail arrived at the same time as a number of other abusive e-mails so that after a while he stopped reading their contents in detail. He offered to apologise if the reader disagreed with the policies of the Israeli Government.(emphasis added -ed.)
Now, he'll have plenty of time to read those emails in detail.
If Carter-appointee Judge Harry T. Edwards has his way, soon terrorists will have another surveillance-free avenue of communication:
A federal appeals court on Friday challenged the Federal Communications Commission's rules making it easier for law-enforcement authorities to wiretap Internet phone calls. One judge called the government's arguments "gobbledygook."
Judge Edwards appeared skeptical over the FCC's decision to require that providers of Internet phone service and broadband services ensure their equipment can accommodate police wiretaps under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. The rules go into effect in May 2007.
Critics said the FCC rules are too broad and inconsistent with Congress's intent in passing the 1994 surveillance law, which excluded categories of companies described as information services.
At issue is VOIP, which, given Vonage's "Don't Try This At Home" ad campaign, is particularly appropriate. The FCC has probably over-reached in trying to subject all broadband traffic to the 1994 law, but case law frequently develops by analogy. Senate Democrats (and a couple of Republicans, as well) seem bound and determined to grandstand over terrorist's rights to disposable cell-phones. Now, unless Judges Sentelle and Brown are willing to stand up to Edwards, whole new vistas of ineffective, out-of-date warranting procedures will open up to people trying to kill us.
May 7, 2006
I flew out of Denver last Thursday evening. It's now clear that United 93 isn't too early but perhaps, like almost every other effort by this legally and psychologically hamstrung country in defending itself, tragically too late.
Airport Homeland Security had 10 people on duty at 12:00 midnight, possibly 4 of whom were working. It's taken less than 5 years for HS to devolve into a petty, turf-grabbing, bureaucratic nightmare staffed by unmotivated time-stamping paycheck-cashers, performing mind-numbing yet time-consuming perfunctory tasks designed to keep up the eternal appareance of vigilance, which as we know, is the price of coffee at 12:30 in the morning.
It's almost enough to make me want to go to work for ICE so I can start asking these guys for their work papers and entry visas.
I know I've seen this idea before, but maybe they should be made passengers on randomly-selected flights, just to test out their handiwork.
May 4, 2006
The USPS - Timely As Ever
When large-scale email first got started, and fax machines had been around for a while, and FedEx and UPS were making large-scale nuisances of themselves from the Postal Service's point of view, some forgotten wag on NPR had a brilliant idea.
Make the postage stamp last forever.
You'd buy a stamp, and it would guarantee you delivery of a letter forever, like a little callable zero-coupon bond that you would redeem for whatever it was selling for that week. The Postal Service would have gotten a huge revenue injection that it could have used for modernization and technology, and they wouldn't have to keep reprinting "A" and 2-cent stamps every time they needed to raise the price.
Too bad they waited until today to actually float the idea. In the meantime, everything has conspired to reduce the idea from a serious business plan to a cute, labor-saving device.
For one thing, revenue from unsorted first-class mail has dropped faster than a Nolan Ryan sinker. According to official USPS financial reports, in 2000, Single-Piece flat letters and cards, and nonautomated presort First-Class, the kind you use one stamp for, accounted for 37% of Post Office revenue, or just under $24 billion out of about $64.5 billion.
Today, first class letters (postcards aren't deemed worthy of inclusion) account for $20 billion out of just under $70 billion, or 28% of revenue. Worse, such items used to accout for 29% of volume, and now are only 21%. The actual number of First Class letters handled has dropped by 20% in absolute terms.
Remember, this doesn't include metered mail from businesses, which probably comprise something like 50% of first class mail, and which wouldn't be eligible for the Forever Postage.
Worse, while the P.O. still has a reputation for outrunning its postage revenues, in fact, over the last 10 years or so, first class, first-ounce postage has been pretty consistently running behind the CPI. See below. The first chart is first class postage and the CPI normalized to the CPI's birth on 1/1/1947. Postage rates start out running away from, say, eggs, but over the last few years, percentage-wise, the CPI has started to catch up:
Here's the same data presented differently. It's the annualized percentage difference in increase between the CPI and postage rates. The magenta line is for the time period between rate increases, while the blue line is the cumulative difference since 1958, when rates first went to 4 cents. When the magenta line is below 0, postal rates lag the CPI; that corresponds to the blue line declining:
(The annualized difference is calculated this way. Say it's been 5 years since the last rate increase. In that time, the CPI has gone up 5% total, while the proposed rate increase is from 20 cents to 22 cents, or 10%. We start with 1.10 / 1.05, and then figure out what rate, compounded annually for 5 years, would get you there.)
This means that in 1994, with memories of the drastic hikes of the 70s and early 80s still fresh in people's minds, you could have made a case that you'd save money in the long run by buying a stamp and letting it moulder in your desk drawer for 20 years, through moves, floods, fires, rain, hail, sleet, snow, and dark of night. Now, with the cost of postage not even matching the CPI, much less a decent rate of return on any sane investment, you're better off buying that roll of stamps at Costco every year or so.
Or, you could just send an email.
UPDATE: It also occurs to me that there's no announced plan for what to do with whatever revenue boost does come from this idea. Either they haven't thought about that, or they're just not thinking in those terms.
May 3, 2006
Experiments in Sleep Deprivation
So, what do you do when you're on the World's Most Uncomfortable CPAP Machine for sleep apnea, have "sleep gates" at, like, 12:00 midnight, Restless Leg Syndrome, daily office meetings at 6:30 AM (because your brokerage works on market hours), a need to wake up at 5:00 AM, and a tendency to do so at 3:30? And, a subconscious that can't understand why, if you're getting up in 90 minutes anyway, you can't just go read the paper online?
Well, you could just suffer from non-sleep until you wrap your Jeep around a light pole, or end up like Lt. Dunbar. Or, you could ask your doctor for a sleeping pill! Unless, of course, one of them is out of town, and the other seems to keep losing your phone number.
For the moment, it's Unisom all the way, but that's a very temporary solution.
On the other hand, the auto-coupon generator spat out a free 7-day trial for Ambien, which, judging by this, should be renamed Ambulent.
Hugh just pointed out to a caller that Moussaoui, like at least one other famous criminal, will continue to come up for parole every three years, absorbing our attention for the brief time it takes to send him back to the clink.
I guess that means that we've pinned the Sirhan Rap on him.
Yom HaAtzmaut Sameach
Israel is 58 today. Amazingly, roughly three generations into its existence, Israel's neighbors still publish maps with the borders airbrushed out.
Yom HaAtzmaut, or Independence Day, is reckoned according to the Hebrew calendar, as are all holidays in Israel. And yet, everyday life, business, and government appointments are all on the English calendar. It's a bifurcated personality that almost all Jews live with.
I'm not sure if they still do this, but when I was there, silly string and little plastic hammers, good for bopping your neighbor over the head, were the celebratory items of choice.
I notice this year where what had been called the 1948 "War of Independence" is now being referred to as the "War of Liberation." This doesn't strike me as a very good change. The war came after the British had left, granting notional independence to both Jewish and Arab states. Since Israel didn't gain independence from Arab rule, the War of Liberation would have had to be against Britain. Exodus aside, the real fighting was after Independence, against the Arabs, and I'd prefer to see the emphasis on that.
On the other hand, with the existential threats posed by Hizbollah on the north, the Palestinians on the east and southwest, and the Iranians from less-and-less-far-away, perhaps a reminder that the alternative to liberation is slavery isn't a bad thing.
May 2, 2006
The Rocky Mountain News has a fine editorial this morning about the intra-party mess that Beauprez is making of the primary:
Colorado law says no person may "knowingly" make a false statement "designed to affect the vote" for anyone running for public office.
We have a somewhat different take on this matter.
If Holtzman wants to employ someone who lies to the press in such brazen fashion, that's his business. Journalists will adjust their reports depending on whether they feel they can trust anything he now says. For some, the answer will be no.
But as for there being an obligation to fire Leggitt, that's nonsense. The Colorado law is - or at least should be - unconstitutional. You can't outlaw false campaign rhetoric, intentional or not. Indeed, we can hardly think of anything more destructive to free speech than inviting courts to rule on political truthfulness and honesty.
Then this, on the "substantive" complaint:
Holtzman appeared in a TV ad attacking Ref C, a 2005 issue campaign in which there were no contribution limits. But those ads did not mention he was running for governor. Why shouldn't a candidate enjoy the same free-speech rights to support or oppose a statewide referendum as any other citizen - whether or not it elevates his public profile?
It's bad enough these laws are on the books. It's worse when a Republican betrays party principle and uses them for their intended purpose - to squelch political opposition.
Denver Rally Pix
I'm going to post most of these without too much comment. The crowd was in a good mood, although once again, there were lots and lots and lots of Mexican flags to go along with the American ones. No chants really got going, although there were sporadic attempts at both, "Si se puede," and "U-S-A."
The signs contained more than a touch of arrogance, combining the right to criminal activity with the right to vote, and mixing up civil rights with human rights, but despite the May Day timing, few if any signs were calling for illegals to price themselves out of the market: (Although, it is worth pointing out that while Mexicans looking for jobs aren't terrorists, they also aren't the ones leaving Korans and prayer rugs on cross-border property.)
In fact, the only socialist, anti-war signs were carried by white men and women. I wonder if the press will cover the distinctive paucity of the Angry White Sign?
May 1, 2006
View From a Height
Yes, the 25th floor of the appropriately-nicknamed Cash Register Building.
As always, click to enlarge:
The north looks out on part of old Denver, in particular the Five Points area. In the distance, you can even see grain elevators:
The northeast is an older residential area, that's also undergoing some gentrification and rebuilding:
Immediately to the northeast is the original El Jebel Shrine building; it fell into terrible disrepair, and has now been taken over by the city as an events and arts center of some kind:
I used to work in that building partially blocking the left; the company's still there, and I could probably pin down my old boss's office and spook him by posting pictures. But I won't.
I've also got a clear view down 18th Street:
When I get a chance, I'll try to track down a vintage picture to compare. From time to time, I'll also try to pick out some particularly interesting building and zoom in on it. For now, though, it's nice to have an office with a window and a door for the first time in 10 years.
Rally in Denver
I met up with Michael Sandoval, aka El Presidente of Slapstick Politics, and we chatted and took pictures of some of the better signs.
The latest accessory for Mexicans who proclaim, "We Are America," but can't bring themselves to give up their flag? Just put both flags together!
Despite the sponsorship by the Wobblies and other socialists, the attitude was fairly upbeat, with only a few signs decrying the exploitation of the masses. My guess is that they won't be any more successful radicalizing this group of immigrants than they were 100 years ago.
Pix on the way this evening.
Growth Is Good
The Institute for Supply Management's monthly survey holds little but good news this month. The overall index is up to 57.3; anything over 50 indicates expansion, and the index has been over 50 for almost three years now.
Even the bad news isn't really bad. Inventories are growing for the first time in a while, but only barely, and the index has been sitting within a point or two of neutral for months. Customer inventories are also shrinking. At first, one might think that customers will have to adjust, creating inflationary pressure. Except that this trend has persisted for five years without producing inflation. Any price pressure will almost certainly be cyclical.
We'll see how much attention the MSM pays to all this.
Bernard Lewis - Sage
Don't miss this morning's tribute to Bernard Lewis from Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal. I have almost every book that Lewis has written, and have read almost all of them. The clarity of his thinking comes through in the clarity of his writing, unlike the muddled, self-serving tracts by critics such as Edward Said.
It was vintage Lewis--reading the sources, in this case a marginal Arabic newspaper published out of London, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in February of 1998--to come across a declaration of war on the United States by a self-designated holy warrior he had "never heard of," Osama bin Laden. In one of those essays that reveal the historian's eye for things that matter, "A License to Kill," Mr. Lewis would render into sublime English prose the declaration of bin Laden and would give it its exegesis. The historian might have never heard of bin Laden, but the terrorist from Arabia practically walks out of the pages of Mr. Lewis's own histories.
In the American academy, he may be swimming against the currents of postmodernism and postcolonial history; he has given up his membership in the Middle East Studies Association, of which he had been a founding member. But countless Arab and Iranian and Turkish readers recognize their tormented civilization in what he has written. They know that he has not come to the material of their history driven by bad faith, or by a desire for dominion. They take him at his word, a man of the Anglo-Saxon world, convinced that the ways of the West today carry with them the hopes of other civilizations. In one of his many splendid books, "Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery," he gave voice to both his fears and to his faith. "It may be that Western culture will indeed go: The lack of conviction of many of those who should be its defenders and the passionate intensity of its accusers may well join to complete its destruction. But if it does go, the men and women of all the continents will thereby be impoverished and endangered."
Beauprez v. Holtzman
Am I the only one who notices the multiple ironies in a conservative Republican, ah, encouraging, cough, other conservative Republicans to attack a third conservative Republican using campaign finance laws none of us likes, over his opposition to taxes that, nominally at least, we all opposed?
I'm not the biggest Dick Leggitt fan in the world. But Beauprez has done nothing but confirm his image as someone willing to fight on the politics, but not on the ideas. The fact is, he's tried to short-circuit things at every level, to his and the party's detriment. If he had simply fought a stand-up fight on the issues, he would almost certainly have won the primary vote, regardless of what happened at convention in a few weeks.
Instead, he send out emails with taglines like this:
Prior to his arrival in Colorado, Marc Holtzman was an international financier where, according to his campaign, he "made millions off investments in Eastern Europe."
I know that farmers don't much like bankers, except when they happen to be bankers, but this sounds more appropriate for today's May Day festivities than for an intramural battle among people who know something about how wealth gets created.
The final irony is that in fighting this way, Beauprez is helping to re-open the Schaffer-Coors wounds from two years ago, and to make the primary fight as damaging as he and his supporters predicted when they asked for our support at the outset.
Carnival of the Capitalists
What better way to celebrate May Day than to read about business?
Power, Faith, and Fantasy
Six Days of War
An Army of Davids
Learning to Read Midrash
Deals From Hell
A War Like No Other
A Civil War
The (Mis)Behavior of Markets
The Wisdom of Crowds
When Genius Failed
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude
How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?
Good to Great
Built to Last
Financial Fine Print
The Day the Universe Changed
The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East
The Case for Democracy
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory
Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures
Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud