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« January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

February 11, 2008

Super-Duper Delegates

It's all about delegates. It's always been about delegates. In 1948, Spencer Tracy ran for President. Now such a thing couldn't be repeated today, because Hollywood had him run as a Republican. You think things are in the hands of the party bossess today? Consider the following exchange:

Southern Politician: I can personally guarantee fifty-five delegates for Mr. Matthews.
Mrs Matthews (eagerly): And how many electoral votes is that?
Southern Politician: Oh, ma'am (chuckle), this is the Republican convention!

Look, it's not my fight, so at some level, the most senior Democrats in each state could pick a slate by fiat and I wouldn't care. But while, if I were an activist, I might relish the thought of finally ridding my party of this troublesome beast (and his beastess), I really can't see anything immoral about superdelegates voting their consciences.

For one thing, that's what they're there for, to keep the party from going off the rails. If they provide the margin for one candidate over another, victory in November would cover a multitude of sins. Of course, the superdelegates are hardly infallible. Created in 1980 to prevent another Kennedy insurgency, they helped choose Mondale over Hart in 1984. And as we all know, Minnesota still hasn't gone Republican since 1972.

Arguing some sort of moral obligation to abandon or endorse based on a separate vote smacks of changing the rules in the middle of the game. Now, I have to admit to a certain schadenfreude in watching this longtime Democratic pastime finally turn fratracidal. But again, it's hard to see why there's a moral obligation to abandon one's own best judgment, especially when exercising that judgment is considered a duty of the office-holder.

In fact, should the nomination not be decided by the convention, the superdelegates might well choose to "honor" "democracy" by seating the Florida and Michigan delegations, possibly pushing Ms. Hillary over the top, without ever actually having to endorse her.

One side point. On Backbone Radio last night, Mike Littwin made some comment about how Democrats in this state think that victory relies on not being too partisan. I don't think anyone's going to accuse Ken Salazar of not being partisan, not after the way he used the Attorney General's office to his party's advantage. But to argue that not taking sides in an intramural fight is somehow "less partisan" is kind of silly. Does anyone think that Bill Ritter is going to endoorse John McCain if Obama's the nominee?

Then again, let Mrs. Matthews have the last word: "You politicians have remained professionals only because the voters have remained amateurs."

February 7, 2008

Romney Drops Out

Mitt Romney just announced at CPAC that was suspending campaign operations, claiming that continuing to campaign would only increase the chances of a Democratic victory in the fall.

While we can't discount the reasoning entirely, politicians don't stop running for president unless they can't win. He almost certainly didn't like the polling data from the upcoming caucuses, which were widely seen as his chance to stabilize the ship. Implicit in his concession is a call for Republicans to suck it up and support McCain in the general election, although Huckabee and even Ron Paul will get some increased protest vote from here on in.

With McCain as the almost-certain nominee, we have the likelihood - for the second election in a row - of a sitting Democratic Senator, Zell Miller, now Joe Lieberman, addressing the Republican convention in support of its nominee.

(Colorado Media Matters notes whines that Lieberman is not, technically, a Democrat.)

CLARIFICATION: While Joe Lieberman is no longer technically registered with the Democratic Party, he is listed as an "Independent Democrat," and caucuses with the Democrats. If he chooses to run for re-election, it's a safe bet he'll do so as a Democrat.

Most people think of his as a Democrat, and most people will remember that he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President eight years ago. I'm sure the party, the networks, and the newspapers - properly mortified - will be at pains to point out he lost the primary, in advance of his speech.

FURTHER CLARIFICATION: Senator Lieberman was also permitted to retain his seniority by the Democratic caucus after his re-election, and serves as the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

This is truly a distinction without a difference, but it's good to know that Mr. Soros's money is going to good use.

February 6, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

You know, if the Democrats actually cared about the homeless as something other than a political bludgeon, they'd stop trying to create more of them.

Just as New York is phasing out a 60-year experiment in rent control, Democrats on the House Committee for Local Government are proposing to let local governments here try it. I know it's a basic principle of history that nobody ever learns anything, but really, people, nobody's memory is that short.

As with most populist measures, predicated on the notion that I can get the government to get someone else to pay my bills for me, this scheme would only prolong the pain. By keeping rents down, mortgages would have to decline more to reach the historic averages. And with more people selling, and fewer places for them to move into, well, they'd either have to move farther out, or find a bridge with indoor plumbing.

All together now: subsidies create surpluses, price controls create shortages. There's no shortage of gasoline, because the price floats. There is a shortage of gasoline at $1 a gallon. There's also a shortage of bread at 10 cents a loaf, and Maseratis at $5000. Rent controls create housing shortages, because developers aren't willing to build as many apartment complexes when they'll make less money on them. Rent controls reduce the return on such a project, and make other projects more attractive by comparison.

There's never a good time for this sort of intervention, but right now, what's driving it is the number of foreclosures, and thus the number of people involuntarily entering the rental market, driving up rents at the same time that housing prices fall. Now one way to measure how out of whack the housing market had gotten is to compare rents to mortgages. Nationally, mortgages were 43% higher than they should have been, given historical averages. So some combination of house price declines and rent increases is necessary to get the market back into whack.

The irony is that, as bad as things are here compared to 2006, they're not that bad compared to the rest of the country, contrary to what you might have read. The Wall Street Journal shows that Denver's housing inventory actually decreased 3.8% compared to last year, one of only two markets to show a decline. We have 5.7 months supply on hand, tied for fourth-best in the nation, and prices declined a modest 1.8% year-over-year (6th-best nationally, with the 3rd-lowest decline). Denver's 3.71% delinquency rate is below the national average of 3.98%.

All of which means that, while there might seem to be enough of a glut now to absorb any price controls, in fact, we're likely to start feeling that pain a lot sooner than we think.

Even the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Weissmann, admits that rent control is a "failed economic policy," but puts forth his measure as a nod to local zoning control. But every Democrat on the committee voted for it, save one (who's married to a landlord and developer, so she rightfully recused herself). Makes you wonder exactly what political forces pushed the House leadership to bring this thing to committee.

Progressively more intrusive. Progressively more expensive. Progressively more restrictive.

February 5, 2008

Caucus Night

A word to the wise know-it-alls who run the Denver Republican Party.

Organize. A little.

For one thing, please try to hold the caucuses in a place where there's some parking. Secondly, the Hillary! posters on the outside of the hall were cute, perhaps a reminder of why we were all there. Oh, we got a better turnout than we did two years ago - my precinct showed 8 voters, compared to 3 in 2006. But then, Denver Republicans are a somewhat, anyway.

But of the 8 people there, I was the only one who had gone through the process before, and I was the only one who even vaguely understood what the hell we were voting for, and only then because Dick Wadhams was on the show Sunday night explaining it. I'm still not sure I understand the multi-county vs. single-county State Representative and State Senate Assemblies.

There was absolutely no reason why someone didn't stand up on the stage and explain to the assembled the three-tiered Assembly system, and what the Presidential Preference Poll actually meant. The only reason was that the County party seemingly sent exactly one District official, who was clearly overworked.

You want to build the party? Use the caucuses as a chance to educate those who are there about this 19-Century process we continue to use. I have no objections to using it, but when you leave those who do bother to show up confused and unsure what they just voted for, you're guaranteeing they won't come back next time. By turning what should be an exercise in party-building into an exercise in frustration, the party missed yet another critical opportunity to engage what should be its most active supporters.

February 4, 2008

Super Bowl XLII: Hagler vs. Leonard

Well, that's what it was, wasn't it? Hagler vs. Leonard. Bad boy Bellichek Hagler, the heavy favorite, trying to cap a brilliant career, where he had defeated both Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns. For the fan darling and underdog New York Giants Sugar Ray Leonard, written off earlier in the year (having retired), it was as much about beating New England Hagler as it was about the belts.

And we all know how that one turned out....

February 3, 2008

Substitute for Achievement

Arlen Specter is the reason some people will vote for Ron Paul on Tuesday. Well, that and the belief that the Civil War was optional and that we turned lower Manhattan into a set for Capricorn One so that we could pay Halliburton to visit the apocalypse on Baghdad.

But today, Arlen Specter is the poster boy for the claim that, "Politicians need activity; it's their substitute for achievement." And that too often that activity comes at the expense of our liberty, time, and money, and at the expense of important things like the defense of the realm.

First of all, Specter is just wrong, wrong, wrong when he claims that football has an anti-trust exemption. It doesn't. Competing leagues come up from time to time, and the USFL won an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. (For damages of $1; tripled to $3; would that John Edwards had been the plaintiffs' attorney on that one. Maybe he could have used his cut to go Dutch at Goodwill with Mark Steyn on that coat.)

Secondly, any taping was a violation of a league rule, not a law. Sure, we all saw Joel Fleischman take down "Twenty-One," but that was actual fraud, misrepresentation of cheating as competition. This isn't the Black Sox or even Pete Rose putting down bets on the Reds. And nobody's claiming that the league fed the Rams' game plan to the Patriots or gave them a wiretap on Mike Martz's line to the booth. I don't recall Specter convening hearings when the NBA ref was found betting on games, although maybe someone in Congress did.

Specter claims that the public has the right to be sure that the games aren't being compromised by cheating. Oh, please. Someone ought to hog-tie him and use him for a fumble drill out at Redskins' Park and he'll see what cheating looks like.

Still, it's sad that Roger Goodell thinks that the fact that NFL discovered and investigated these rules violations on its own is any sort of help at all. The Army discovered and investigated the Abu Ghraib abuses itself. That didn't stop the New York Times and certain Soros-funded arms of the Clinton Campaign (or is it the other way around? Hard to know who you're campaigning against sometimes, as Obama might say.) from turning it into a bludgeon to undermine support for the war, the troops, and the administration, in some order of importance.

Good grief. Has the Senator no respect for our most important national holiday?

Time To Make The Coffee

I greatly admire Starbucks as a corporation. As a coffee, not so much. And I'm not sure we needed the coffee shop to replace the diner.

Mmmmmm. Dunkin' Donuts coffee, now available for your home. what brewing coffee is supposed to smell like. Life just keeps getting better.

Although I still have to drive to Colorado Springs to get whole bean.


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