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Joshua Sharf

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« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 28, 2007

And Here's the Roll Call

Here's the roll call.

Now, let's see who's up for re-election in '08. My guess is not many of the yeas...

Gutless Wonder

So with the Senate phone lines down this morning, thus ensuring that the coccoon is complete, I called Senator Salazar's local office to register my opinion, and to ask a question: Had the Senator conducted any Townhall-style meetings on the Immigration Bill since it was introduced to the Senate? The response was typical of Salazar's behavior on this bill. First, I was lied to: I was told that the bill was introduced in the Senate last year. Not this bill. This bill was created by a group of Senators in an unofficial committee this year. Then, I was told that the Senator had had "input" from "stakeholders," and was asked if that answered my question. Ah, yes, it said the answer was, "no," he hadn't really solicited public opinion on this specific bill. Then I asked who the "stakeholders" in question were.

I was hung up on.

It's symptomatic of what we used to call "Potomac Fever" that the stricken think "stakeholders" are spokesmen and self-appointed "community leaders," but it's a new, pathological mutation that they won't tell you who they are.

UPDATE: Someone, who thinks she's clever, points out that Dick Cheney doesn't want to reveal who his advisors are, either.

Well, ok. Except that I'd see your energy plan and raise you HillaryCare. And she wsan't even a government employee, or so she thought.

Now the executive, including the vice president, hasgenerally been accorded this sort of latitude for several reasons. First, their role is one of decision-making, whereas the legislative process involves much more consensus-building. This necessarily involves some level of private advice that should stay private. Secondly, any legislation they propose still has to go through the congressional process, which usually includes committee hearings and a fair chance at amendments.

This legislation included neither, being drafted in secret and then force-fed past the debate and amendment processes. The "stakeholders" in question were La Raza and LULAC. And refusing public comment, actively resenting public comment, and then refusing to discuss who helped draft this legislation, is all of a piece. No doubt Salazar will find time for townhall events, where he will either a) avoid putting immigration on the agenda, and ignore the issue yet again, or b) face public anger well after the event, and be complimented by sycophants for his "courage" in subjecting himself to that. The real courage would have been listening beforehand.

June 27, 2007

Self-Defeating Logic

Overheard on the bus: "And then the women [who wanted to impeach Bush] said that she was worried, because nobody was listening to her, and soon it would be 2008, and it would be too late."

Maybe she should take on someone who won't leave office when his term is over.

June 26, 2007

The Inevitable Americans

Perhaps this young letter writer was one of the audience of fifteen hundred well-informed students who crowded into the auditorium at the University of Colorado to give a thunderous standing ovation a little while ago to a handsome office of the United States Army who compounded a mass of half-truths, false inferences, equivocations, and palpable lies about the behavior of the unfortunate American prisoners of war in [country x] into as vicious an attack on our national character as Pravda could concoct. When one lone girl rose after the talk to point out what she thought was an obvious distortion of fact, this American audience, led by this American army officer, crushed her back into her seat with derisive laughter.

2007? Iraq? No, this was written by then-Associate Professor of Anthropology John Greenway in1963, and the war was in Korea.

The rot runs deep.

The book was The Inevitable Americans, and the professor was a liberal. The book was written to defend the US against these thugs, something that, had I given you the year beforehand, would have seemed bizarre and unnecessary. Here's what he had to say about the difference between Republicans and Democrats in 1963:

However, the basis of the conflict between the Republicans and the Democrats of the world is simple: the existing culture gave the Haves a major share at the feast and they are fat and content; the existing culture gave the Have Nots rather small potatoes, and they are hungry for a change, any change.

The Haves are, by definition, conservative, opposed to culture changes, fighting the change that the Have Nots want to have. One wonders what he would make of a world where the wealthiest give to the Democrats (indeed, of a state like Colorado where the wealthiest have bought the state for them), and whether he'd still see that those elites were essentially resistant to change.

This is as precise a definition of pre-Gompers class warfare as you were likely to get. The Republicans are Wall Street, the Democrats Main Street. But while he mentions Goldwater as, "sensible and simple," he has no idea that one year later, he'd lead the Main Street takeover of the Republicans.

Later, astonished by the radicalism that liberalism had wrought, he would carry a tire iron into his classroom to confront those radicals.

Tr. 2001, A Sage Odyssey

Respect the trail. That's what everyone says. Well, when you look at the topo map, and the thing looks pretty short (3 mi.) and pretty flat, what happens? You don't bring enough water, and you end up landing hard on both ankles and turning your thigh muscles into a trauma zone, that's what.

This then, is the trail to Lake Constantine in Colorado's Holy Cross Wilderness, a helluva a place for a nicejewishboy, and the lake itself a still-unattained goal.

Nice view, huh? That rock you see off to the left flattens out into a little shelf, and at one point, I mean little. There's a scene in Serenity where the pilot talks himself into confidence during a, ah, challenging landing, by repeating over and over, "I am a leaf on the wind." "I am an ant on a superhighway," works well here.

Just some of the view available to those not suffering from heat stroke.

Kids, Don't drink this! Even on an empty stomach, giardia is a very, very bad idea.

This actually is the trail at this point. The dog, of course, wants to get wet, since it's hot, and he's thirsty, and he's wearing a fur coat. Naturally, in a cruel irony, the point of crossing for people wearing shoes is to stay dry.

"Well if you had a pack mule along, why didn't you just ride him?" Very funny.

And here we are, down at the bottom. There's a "No Trespassing" sign on the house next to this viaduct. I assume they have a problem with people climbing on it or hiking to where it hits the side of the mountain to get cool perspective photos. They needn't have worried. All I wanted was to get back to Minturn and buy water, Gatorade, water, cranberry juice, water, and iced tea. And a power bar.

Signing Statement Statement

Do the Denver Post editorial writers even read the stuff they're commenting on?

A recent GAO report has them in high dudgeon about presidential signing statements, those usually-harmless-but-occasionally-informative comments on what a president thinks about the laws he's signing into being. Never mind that the legal portion of this discussion took place last year, with many liberals siding with the President.

More important is the Posts misleading report on what the GAO actually said.

"While the GAO studied only a small sample of provisions that Bush had objected to in signing statements in fiscal year 2006, it found that 30 percent of the time those provisions were not followed according to law." In fact, the GAO carefully selected 19 cases to cover a variety of different classes on objections. This is a sample so small as to be statistically meaningless.

"...those provisions were not followed according to law."In six cases, the law was not "executed as written," a completely different matter from "not followed according to law," since in the absence of a definitive court ruling, the Post cannot rightly claim that the law wasn't being followed. For example, the President is clearly under no obligation to enforce a provision contrary to the Constitution. And if he did, we'd certainly see a Post editorial about it. As soon as Dick Durban called a press conference to complain.

"House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., have wisely called for a more extensive review of bill provisions that Bush has objected to in these signing statements." Well, except that the GAO report was itself in response to a request from these two, a fact the Post conveniently omits. The GAO could have come back with a clean bill of health, and Conyers and Byrd would likely have interpreted the absence of evidence as anything but evidence of absence.

As important are two GAO comments the Post omits entirely:

  • "Although we found the agencies did not execute the provisions as enacted, we cannot conclude that agency noncompliance was the result of the President’s signing statements." (Emphasis added. Commentary superfluous.)
  • The GAO concludes that courts almost never cite signing statements as authoritative. This is similar to their spurning of legislative history as a source of authority, and indicates a willingness to overrule presidents on this sort of thing when they like.

    But this isn't really a converative vs. liberal issue, anyway, although the Post only seems to have problems with the current President exercising his judgment. As in the GAO report, it lumps together Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton, without mentioning that Clinton issued statements at a 50% greater clip than Reagan. Go to that UCSB link, and you'll find plenty of Clinton signing statements that challenge or interpret sections of the law in question.

    Stuart Buck has analyzed a 1986 memo by Samuel Alito defending the practice, and the Post seems not to have noticed Walter Dellinger's 1983 memo reaching the same conclusion for the Clinton Justice Department.

    In fact, the "constitutional mess" the Post worries about is inherent in Constitution itself, in the separation of powers, and thus has been going on since at least 1787. The Post would - at least for the duration of this presidency - make the executive the only branch without the power to interpret the Constitution, or laws according to it. This comes uncomfortably close to the fears address in Lincoln's First Inaugural:

    I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

    Dan Haley - a genuine good guy - is the new editorial page editor for the paper. He's conservative, which means this job must often make him feel like one of those travelers to distant lands who is captured, brought to the king, and made to serve out the rest of his life as court physician and chief advisor. You know, Joseph. Or The Last King of Scotland.

  • June 25, 2007

    Monday Evening Sunset

    This evening, after the thunderstorms, the sunset. Just as the sun was starting to set, the reflected sunlight bathed the entire landscape in this warm, dream-sequence gold. These pictures don't begin to capture it, but they're nice, anyway. As always, click on the thumbnails for the full experience.


    June 20, 2007

    The Municipal Maternal Instinct

    Councilman Doug Linkhart is thinking about your food. Specifically, trans-fats. Between this idea and Mayor Hicklenlooper's green initiative, I want to deep-fry some chicken on my engine manifold, while idling the Jeep in a premium downtown parking spot.

    On the basis of a poll conducted in his newsletter, he is considering introducing a bill to ban transfats in Denver restaurants. The poll came back 2-1 in favor, but he doesn't tell us who responded. This is exactly the kind of survey that's geared to get this sort of response, getting a disproportionate response from a self-selected group of activists. It's also an object lesson in how, once everything becomes the government's business, it's particularly dangerous to take your eyes off them, even for a moment, and that's just too exhausting for most people.

    June 18, 2007

    Sunday Jeeping

    So in honor of the U.S. Open, I took a trip down to Tincup Pass Sunday morning. As usual, click the thumbnail for a full-size view.

    This is why they call it Chalk Creek:

    The road takes you from Nathrop up a canyon to St. Elmo, advertised as a ghost-town like Hollywood would have built one:

    Only there's a general store and flea market open on weekends, which kinda kills the atmosphere:

    There are also a bunch of ghost cabins on a side street that look suspiciously well-maintained and lived-in, so I suspect there's less ghost here than meets the eye.

    Here, the dog can be seen retrieving a drink of water.

    The guidebook rates this a "3." Given that you get bounced around like a ragdoll, that makes me wonder what makes a "5". The pass itself was still blocked by snow, but the view was worth it.

    June 17, 2007


    Sauce For the Gander

    UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit Readers! Thanks for coming, and have a look around the rest of the place.

    By now, you've probably heard about the trial balloon Green Program that Mayor Hickenlooper has been spending his time on. Good to know that the next elections will run smoothly, the snow will be picked up efficiently, that traffic lights will be timed non-randomly, and that 8th Avenue between Speer and the viaduct won't need a 4WD vehicle to navigate. (The poor Prii that Mayor Hickenlooper wants to populate the streets of Denver with would be rattled apart on that stretch of road.)

    The Mayor wants to have insurance companies charge drivers with long commutes more for their insurance (they do already), to have those who use more natural gas to heat their homes pay more for the right (they do already), to give preferential parking to Prii, and to force new housing to be green.

    Ah, the Nanny State! So here are few suggestions that our elected officials should certainly be willing to go along with:

    1. There shall be no use of private jets for official travel when commercial service is available; this is a purely green idea.
    2. Reiumbursement for auto travel on official business for all city employees shall be based on the cost-per-mile of the highest-mileage car available on the market.
    3. There shall be no reimbursement for parking at DIA, or for mileage driven to DIA; employees will be reimbursed for the cost of using public transportation to get to and from the airport
    4. City government parking lots, used by city government workers, shall also set aside an increasing number of slots for hybrid and E-85 cars.
    5. Since timely maintenance saves gas, all elected official shall be required to report what cars are used in their households, and to maintain on file with the city up-to-date maintenance records
    6. Since driving uses less gas than idling, the city shall be required to conduct a comprehensive review of its traffic light timing, and to re-time the lights in the most efficient manner

    June 12, 2007

    Referendum C = Immigration

    President Bush is making exactly the same mistake with immigraiton as Governor Owens made when he supported Referendum C. By undercutting his own party on a major issue to partner with the opposition - which clearly sees this deal as a first, not a last, step, President Bush risks demoralizing his party, and robbing it of a signature, defining issue, just as Governor Owens did out here.

    And it's no good running against the bill once it passes. People very shortly accept the new reality, won't see any new, immediate, or dramatic changes in their lives, and won't be tempted to vote on this issue next year, after it's been fact for a year or so.

    However, if the bill can be defeated, killed, then it can still be a live campaign issue next year, one that poses the promise of recapturing many of the Reagan Democrats. In fact, the immigration bill probably has a better chance than Ref C did of helping Republicans, since it's much less popular and won't be put to a referendum. Should it pass, all this will be moot, but should it fail, it will provide a terrific issue for the Republican candidate to run on.

    We've seen this movie before. We can give it a different ending.

    June 11, 2007

    The Sopranos

    The meaning of a story is in its ending. That's why we don't like the deus ex machina, since it violates everything about the story up until that poiint. It's a cheap way out.

    The failure to provide an ending may be a gimmick that works once, as in "The Lady and the Tiger." But for the creators of a years-long series - which took a year off to go find itself, remember - to fail to provide an ending, is artistically a similar act of cowardice.

    New York Pictures

    OK, it's been a while, but there's news which sort of explains it.

    In the meantime, enjoy these pix, a little parting gift from my previous job.


    Power, Faith, and Fantasy

    Six Days of War

    An Army of Davids

    Learning to Read Midrash

    Size Matters

    Deals From Hell

    A War Like No Other


    A Civil War

    Supreme Command

    The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

    The Wisdom of Crowds

    Inventing Money

    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

    The Italians

    Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

    Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

    Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud