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Joshua Sharf

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April 28, 2008

Genetic Testing

Today, Congress takes up a bill to prevent the use of genetic testing by businesses and insurance companies in hiring and insuring decisions. I can understand why fellow free-market conservatives would oppose such a bill, but in the end, I believe it's a wise move.

Some conservatives argue that the decision to use such information is a private matter, and to a large degree, they're right. Private insurance is private, and after all, why shouldn't employers and insurers have access to the best information available concerning the likely trajectory of their prospective employees' careers and health?

But the implications, given the world that we live in, of mandatory genetic testing - and make no mistake, it would soon become mandatory - for hiring and insurance are too troubling.

1) Basic fairness

As one caller to Bill Bennett's show put it this morning, I can choose whether or not I smoke, but I can't choose my parents. As conservatives, we believe in effort and measuring outputs. The widespread use of genetic testing measures inputs, and creates the possibility of another victim class, something we surely don't need. It also gives HR people another irrelevant piece of data to screen by, which appears to be the thing they're best at.

2) The Black Swan effect.

In his tremendous book, The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb notes the tendency of people to overrate the risks they can define, and to underrate the risks that are more diffuse. For example, when asked whether they'd rather pay for life insurance against their plane going down in a terrorist attack, or pay the same amount for insurance against the plane going down for any reason, people routinely pick the first more often than the second. This choice is clearly irrational, but it's how the mind works.

The same caller noted that you can have all the tests you want for cancer, but still can't account for someone getting hit by a truck. "Well, there's no test for that," barked the host, apparently not comprehending that that was the point.

What may work in large numbers for actuaries is unlikely to matter much in a hiring decision between two candidates, and focusing on information that we have, without understanding that it's swamped by all the information we don't have, may lead to worse, rather than better decisions. It's in many ways analagous to Modern Portfolio Theory, which makes all sorts of nonsensical assumptions about price movements, in order to reach beautiful and dangerously misleading mathematics.

3) Refusal to enter clinical trials for fear the information will end up in the hands of insurers;

Some will argue that insurers, aware that better drugs are to their benefit, will not misuse such information. But of course, better druges aren't necessarily to the companies' benefit. Whatever the actuarial results, competition will tend to force premiums down over time, regardless of conditions.

More importantly, there's Bastiat's Seen-and-Unseen. The insurance companies can, for the benefit of their boards and shareholders, point to concrete benefits from specific individuals they've denied coverage or increased premiums for. The benefits to them from better treatments are diffuse and distant.

Of course, one might also argue that this danger would lead the drug companies to guard genetic testing results like classified information, which might be comforting if the government didn't leak like a sieve.

MORE THOUGHTS: In theory, government would be well out of all of these arenas. It wouldn't regulate insurance as heavily as it does. It wouldn't distort the health insurance industry the way it does. It certainly wouldn't go around telling private individuals whom they could and couldn't hire.

And there's always the risk of frivolous class-action lawsuits lawyer-driven shakedowns, possibly on the basis of the very statistical anomalies the law is trying to read out of the system. For instance, it might happen that a plant shuts down in a part of the country where a certain gene, by virture of early settlement by a particular ethnic group, is prevalent. "Disparate Impact" might well be brought spuriously into play in such a case. I have to admit, I haven't studied the legislation closely enough to know what the legal standards will be for bringing suit.

Still, I think these things make it close, rather than tipping the scales the other way.

April 25, 2008


It's 1971, and the world's going mad. And ABC buys a film from a kid named Spielberg called, "Duel."

It's an odd little movie about a guy (Dennis Weaver) driving home through the southern California mountains from a business trip. He passes a semi, which ticks off the semi driver, who then spends the rest of the movie trying to kill Mr. Weaver by running him off the road, running him over, pushing him in front of a train, etc. He won't let go until McCloud finds a way to push back, in deadly fashion.

(Even at this early stage, the film shows the master's touch, building up tension, and then releasing it at a higher level each time, until the final, climactic showdown. When Carey Loftin, a stuntman not an actor, playing the truck driver, asked Steven Spielberg what his motivation was for tormenting the car's driver, Spielberg told him, "You're a dirty, rotten, no-good son of a bitch." Loftin replied, "Kid, you hired the right man.")

The tagline on one of Duel's posters: "When the headlights of a truck become the eyes of a psychopath." A lot of Obama supporters probably feel that way about Hillary right about now.

April 24, 2008

The Great Passover Margarine Debacle

World Ends: Religious Minorities Hardest Hit.

OK, not really.

According to the Wall Street Journal, large swaths of cotton fields have been replanted with corn, whose prices have been driven as high as an elephant's eye by subsidies reaching clear up to the sky. Ethanol subsidies, for a product that's fuel-inefficient and which nobody is burning. As a result, kosher for Passover margarine, which is made from cottonseed oil, has run out here in Denver and was being rationed in NY, where angry mobs of Jewish women were threatening to burn down the grocery stores.

Now, just about nothing on Passover beats matzah with margarine. And I finally managed to track down what I have reason to believe is one of three remaining blocks of the stuff here in Denver. (No, I'm not going to share.)

This isn't an example of special pleading. I've thought government-funded corn-based ethanol was a dumb idea for over a year now, which may even make me late to the party as far as that's concerned.

It's just an example of how lousy policy hits home.

April 23, 2008

Prominent. Heh.

So, according to Westword, I'm a "prominent Colorado blogger."

Indeed, the most prominent Colorado blogger-turned-candidate other than Bane is Republican Joshua Sharf, who aspires to serve as a state representative in the 6th District. (Sharf authors a blog called "View From a Height" and has contributed to the Denver Post's site, home of the so-called Gang of Four, in addition to co-hosting a KNUS talk show with former state senator John Andrews.)

The article is actually about Jason Bane, co-founder of Colorado Pols who's now running for office as a Democrat in Jefferson County. They link RockyMountainRight, conservative blog and friend of this blog and my campaign. But instead of linking to the story about Bane, they just link to the blog. (I haven't researched the accusations about Bane, so I have no position on their truthfulness or relevance, just for the record.)

C'mon, Westword. Link to the blog posting in question instead of making people search. You should be "progressive" enough to know how that works.

The Unions and 2008

Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania last night 55-45. But what was interesting was the change in union support from previous contests. In Nevada, the two essentially tied, but the powerful Las Vegas-based service unions supported Obama. In Pennsylvania, the more heavily industrial unions supported Clinton, and she crushingly won union households 59-41.

But in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, home of the Steelers, union households comprised only 31% of the vote in the Democratic primary. That's it. That includes the public employees, which are both more unionized and more Democrat than private employees. What's more, of that 31%, only 19% were actual union members, while 12% were non-union voters in a union household.

(Interestingly, Clinton won actual union members 57-43, but won the non-union cohabitants 61-39. Naturally, I have no idea what this means. This may be because men are more likely to be union members, but women are more likely to vote for Hillary.)

Of course, Obama won the black vote 89-11. And while Hillary won those without college degrees 58-42, the "education gap" manifested itself again, with Obama winning college graduates 51-49. (Hat tip:

In 1968, Teddy White warned that the Democrats might well become the party of northern unions, southern blacks, and college campuses. In the past, these groups have tended to vote at least somewhat in synch, although the union vote has never matched the Democrat predilection of its leaders for campaign donations.

It may well be that the decline in private-sector union membership has hit a natural bottom, and can't really decline much farther. On the other hand, a severe economic crisis of the sort the Democrats appear determined to bring about could form the basis for renewed interest in unions as a means of soaking the supposedly deep pockets of companies verging on bankruptcy. In the meantime, the mutual disenchantment of blacks and unions, and the contempt of college campuses for both, are making the Democrat coalition look awfully shaky this year.

April 22, 2008

The Unions and '68

Indirectly, the unions helped elect Nixon. Oh, sure, they spent $10,000,000 or more in 1968 dollars to elect Humphrey, and did turn around Michigan and a couple of other northern states. But what they did in Chicago was brutal.

Everyone blames Daley for the police and the situation in Grant Park. In fact, White makes it clear that the police acted properly over the first three days of the convention. The real brutality only occurred after the convention, when they stormed the 15th floor of the hotel, and took out their frustrations on the McCarthy kids, who had had nothing whatever to do with the SDS-organized mayhem outside. That wasn't shown on TV.

A telephone strike meant that the video from outside couldn't be transmitted live for broadcast; a taxi strike, coupled with Mayor Daley's refusal to let the TV trucks park on the sidewalk outside the convention hall, meant that the tape couldn't even be transported reliably.

Today, the riot would have been televised live, and the nomination and acceptance would have been televised later. As it transpired, Humphrey's acceptance speech was broadcast at the same time as the riot videotape, helping to give the impression that Humphrey was being installed as nominee by bayonets and tear gas.

And the unions were the reason for that.

Dems and ballot initiative voters, take note.

More Thoughts On 1968

One other incident, right at the end of the campaign, shows some of the differences between 1968 and 2008.

One of Nixon's fundraisers was an Asian lady who took her role as "insider" a little too seriously. Apparently believing that she was somehow empowered to speak for the campaign, she set about sabotaging the Paris peace talks by claiming Nixon wasn't going to be bound by the outcome.

There is no evidence that Nixon was anything other than horrified to find this out, and not just for the political implications. Both parties - with the exception of Eugene McCarthy, who didn't really want the job - tended to avoid outright criticism of the war or the President, and to avoid anything that could interfere with the conduct of foreign policy up to the election.

Humphrey found out about this mischievous Nixon fundraiser - and sat on the information. He believed that Nixon couldn't have countenanced this behavior, and that it would be unfair to use it against him. Meanwhile, the Nixon camp knew it had no plausible or persuasive response should Humphrey choose to go public.

Compare that Al Gore's behavior in 2000, panting to get news of an ancient DUI, leaked to him by a partisan judge in Maine, to the press before the weekend news cycle.

Humphrey had labored in Johnson's shadow, unwilling to publicly criticize the war or the negotiations until October of 1968. To the extent that there's a parallel in 2008, John McCain has at least avoided that trap, supporting the effort while making clear his differences with the administration on its conduct in Iraq.

Contemplate '68

So in my copious free time, I've been reading Teddy White's The Making of the Presdient 1968. 1968 has always seemed to me a bit mysterious as well as a bit of a turning point itself. How did Nixon get the nomination when he was only one of a list of names in 1967? How did Humphrey win without entering any primaries? Why did Romney lose in 1968, while 2008? And given the evident political parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, what lessons can we draw 40 years after the fact?

White wrote a series of these books, the most interesting being 1960 amd 1968, as they were actually in doubt. By 1968, having established a reputation for trustworthiness, White had unprecedented access to the inner circles of all the campaigns. Their trust in White's probity was well-placed. And while White was clearly a liberal, he was no leftist, and was eminently fair to all the candidates.

The election was framed by two things: Vietnam and violence. The Dems tried to portray "law and order" as a racist issue, and in George Wallace's hands it was. But student violence and radical violence had competed with racial violence since 1965. While some nostalgic for "action" may want to "Recreate '68" here in Denver, there's no atmosphere of violence from which to draw, making their success in that wanton endeavor fairly unlikely. The violence in the streets in Chicago was of Tom Hayden's and Rap Brown's making, not Eugene McCarthy's. Republicans expecting mayhem-filled streets here this summer, take note.

A couple of things stand out in comparison to 2008. We may complain about the length of the primary season, but in fact, the campaign was just as long then as it is now. Nixon was planning in December 1966 for the 1968 race, and he pretty much knew who his opposition would be: Reagan, Rockefeller, Romney, and Charles Percy of Illinois. (I had forgotten about Percy, but then, who hasn't?) The difference was that much more of the race was in the hands of power-brokers, much less in the hands of regulars. So much more took place behind the scenes.

Even then, Romney knew by January that he was done for, after the famous "brainwashing" statement, which showed him to be naive in foreign policy. Simply keeping his mouth shut would have been enough. Americans in time of war will tolerate silence on foreign policy if it means not undermining the present administration. They won't tolerate naivite. Take note, Barack.

Mitt reprised some of the mistakes of his father, George. While never having a gaffe of "brainwashing" proportions, he still appeared to see the political campaign as a marketing campaign, which is something different. George, too, had tried to use polls to wrap up delegates in 1967, as Mitt had used them to create an Iowa-New Hampshire strategy. In both cases, a candidate with more apparent weight ended up looking more attractive.

Parallels between McCain and Nixon can only go so far, however. Nixon had campaigned tirelessly in 1966 for Republican congressional and senate candidates, building a base of support and favors owed that came back to him in 1968. McCain poked his finger in the party's eye at just about every turn over the last few years, showing constancy mostly on the war.

They both, however, have campaigned as centrists. Liberals and consevatives will both scoff at this description of Nixon, but in fact, in 1968, he needed to chart a course between the Scylla of a liberal Rockefeller, and the Charybdis of a conservative Reagan. Rockefeller and Reagan apparently came to an understanding that if together they could get enough delegates to deny Nixon the nomination, they would then fight it out on the convention floor between themselves.

In the end, failure spelled the end for Rockefeller. Having lost twice, he ended up as Tom Dewey without the nominations. For Reagan, it was probably a blessing. With Goldwater's shellacking in 1964, another conservative loss in 1968 could have devastated the movement.

Nixon's centrism brings us to the other misunderstood - and deliberately distorted - aspect of Nixon's 1968 campaign, the "Southern Strategy." Reporters of the day and Democrats ever since have assumed that this was a racist strategy aimed at denying Johnson and then Humprehy the south. In fact, the south had been lost to the mainline Democrats even in 1964, and the threat to Nixon's carrying those states wasn't Hubert Humphrey but the overtly racist George Wallace.

Nixon determined not to out-Wallace Wallace, to run a non-racist campaign to deny Walalce the border states. He campaigned as the sane unifier in the border states, sending the message that a vote for Wallace, however cathartic, was a vote for Humphrey. It worked, but it was neither racist nor an appeal to latent racism, as today's lefty revisionists would have it.

The Democratic meltdown at the Presidential level in the South was so complete that it led White to extend the trend into the future, projecting a Democratic party that would become captive to the blacks in the south, the unions in the north, and the campus radicals elsewhere. Democrats, take note.

That Humphrey almost came back to win the election, losing by fewer than 500,000 votes nationwide was a testament to the power of Vietnam as an issue. When news of an apparent breakthrough in Paris became public, people felt they no longer needed Nixon, and almost handed Humphrey the election. Harris actuall had Humphrey up 43-40 going into the weekend.

By Monday, however, it was apparent that the breakthough was illusory, and the public swung back to Nixon. Had the election been held only a few weeks later, Nixon would likely have won by millions. Had it been held only a few days earlier, he would have lost. With the motivation for the breakthrough coming from Andrei Gromyko, it's hard to escape entirely the conclusion that this was an attempt by the Russians to manipulate the US elections to their advantage.

April 18, 2008

Chag Kasher v'Sameach

Happy Passover to our Jewish readers, and Chag Kasher v'Sameach.

Tonight, as every week, begins the Jewish Sabbath, but Saturday night begins the holiday of Pesach, commemorating the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, and the beginning of their journey to take possession of their homeland.

The blog will be dark for the next three days, but somehow, I suspect the world will go on just fine.

See you Monday evening.

April 16, 2008

Read My Lips...

..No New Taxes.

This morning, I signed both the Americans for Tax Reform Tax Pledge, and the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Pledge. I'm not big on too many of these pledges in general. They tend to be somewhat absolutist documents that seem more designed to trap politicians than to actually promote a particular agenda. But the no-tax stand is so central to the Republican branding, and so critical in achieving the goal of limited government, that it makes sense both as politics and policy.

It's interesting to note the differences between the pledges. The ATR pledge is a simple statement not to raise taxes. It has the advantage of being simple, fitting in well with Grover Norquist's goal of restoring the Republican brand as the low-tax party.

The CUT pledge reads more like a platform than a principle, dealing with the nuts and bolts of what it means not to raise taxes: making choices. Of course, it also has the disadvantage of making you think about the implications of not bleeding every last dime out of the citizenry.

April 15, 2008

Frederic Bastiat, NFL GM

What does the NFL draft have to do with Frederic Bastiat?

Bastiat might have liked George Allen, senator and governor very much. His father, George Allen, Mr. "The Future Is Now," not so much. George Allen pere decided to trade away the team's draft for the next century in order to turn the Redskins into the Ramskins, and bring his Over-the-Hill Gang to Washington. Almost immediatley they got to a Super Bowl. They were much-beloved, these Redskins of my youth. But the team didn't win another playoff game until the Super Bowl year of 1982.

Years later, the Minnesota Vikings were to make the same mistake, trading away their first and second round draft picks for three years, for the rights to one running back, Herschel Walker.

Why do teams do this?

Bastiat would have understood. He spent a career arguing that economic policies that are popular in the short term are almost ruinous in the long term. And that what makes such catastrophe possible is the difference between the seen and the unseen.
You can always point to the guy who gets laid off when someone moves a manufacturing operation to Asia because of NAFTA. (Yes, oh humorless ones, that's a joke.) But with rare exceptions, you can't point to the guy who has a job because his boss is spending half as much on office supplies as he used to.

George Allen was the perfect football administration for DC. He could immediately point to the Super Bowl appearance, and to the terrific players he had brought with him. And nobody could point with certainty to the talent the Redskins didn't draft, because B.K. (before Kiper) nobody could say with certainty where they would have picked, and who would have been available.

The Over-the-Hill Gang was seen; the players who went to Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Oakland were unseen. Except on some very big Sundays in January.

David Sirota, Barack Obama in his current incarnation, Hillary Clinton trying to catch up with them, are George Allen. They'll trade the unseen for the seen, and make people happy for the moment. The free-traders are the dynasty-builders. They'll trade the seen, with the assurance that the unseen will materialize.

April 13, 2008

Steyn - As Only Steyn Can Be

One of the arguments for hate crimes legislation is that it will deter hate crimes. But of course, this is absurd on the face of it. The drunken gang that's headed out the door to go string up some gay student in Wyoming isn't going to stop at the door and say to themselves, like the cows in a Far Side cartoon, "Hey guys, you know, this is a hate crime..."

The goal here is that minority groups can claim special protections under the law. And the problem is that all groups aren't created equal. Jews think that they'll get protection from Nazis and Islamists, and end up being told to bug off, because the other groups push harder.

In 2002, a brick was thrown through the window of the CU Hillel House, and its sukkah had a swastika painted on it. Nope, the Boulder police, doing their best Lt. Frank Drebbin impersonation, decided that this wasn't a hate crime, nothing to see here, please move along.

On July 4, 2002, an Egyptian living in Los Angeles walked up to the El Al counter at LAX and started plugging bullets into everything in sight. Turns out he had some rather provocative Islamist literature hanging around his apartment and on his front door. Nope, wouldn't want to call this an act of terrorism or anything. Probably upset his family couldn't get a direct flight to Tel Aviv from Cairo.

Just recently in Brooklyn, an orthodox Rabbi had his yarmulke snatched off his head by a group of "youths" shouting "Allah hu-Akhbar." He chased after the gang, and one of them ended up in the middle of the street where a passing car administered its own form of rough justice. New York's finest didn't see anything odd here, just some kids who probably didn't know what "Allah hu-Akhbar" meant. This is the same mentality that would find the violation of Clean Air Colorado regulations the most offensive thing about a cross-burning.

In fact, hate crime laws are unnecessary. I've got as much to fear from someone who beats me up for my wallet as from someone who beats me up for my religion. If there are groups promoting this sort of violence, then there are already conspiracy and RICO laws on the books. And if there's a Moseley hanging around with a full-fledged political movement behind him, a little thing like a hate-crime law won't stop him. Like disarmament treaties, they only work where they're not needed.

But don't just listen to me. Watch Mark Steyn make the case, as only he can.

And then look at who's speaking in favor of the federalization of thought crimes.

Another Run at '31

The Democrats are now in the process of repeating all of the mistakes of the Great Depression.

Pushing for a war on inflation, seeking to increase uncertainty in the housing market, allowing a $2 Trillion tax increase in three years, threatening to go full Smoot-Hawley, and now pushing for artificially inflated wages and artificial - and extremely temporary - job security.

The UFCW Local 7 has introduced a whole raft of ballot initiatives for this fall. While they're the political equivalent of an F- economic grounds, their underlying political agenda is unmistakable.

First, the economics. Ben Bernanke's been taking a beating recently, and on some counts, he deserves it. But this is a scholar of the Great Depression. I'm probably one of the bloggers you'll see who's actually read any of his scholarly papers on the Depression. Bernanke notices two great contributing factors to the Depression: the US's late abandonment of the gold standard, and the stickiness of wages.

One of the dirty little secrets of the Great Depression is that if you had a job, it wasn't so bad. That's because wages often staid at pre-crash levels, even as more of them were being paid by soup kitchens. Why were wages sticky? That is, why, instead of lowering wages, did companies keep them high, even to the point of failure? Because Herbert Hoover wanted it that way, believing that high prices meant prosperity.

These labor initiatives: no firings without specific cause, forcing small business to pay for health insurance, and forcing businesses to match the inflation rate, are the economic equivalent of begging for unemployment. Sure, if you've got a job it's not too bad. But try getting one when the cost of hiring keeps going up relative to everything else.

The cynic will say that this is all part of the plan. Well, it is. First, the unions have seen their membership drop off the edge of a cliff. The majority of their membership is now comprised of public employees, and people are beginning to question the propriety of paying taxes to support a naked political agenda. The unions need to prove that they still have some political muscle.

Another, little-mentioned aspect of their initiatives is that it would let anyone bring suit for alleged corporate wrongdoing. Historically, you actually have to have been hurt in order to have standing in a civil suit. This obvious sop to the other Great Democrat Constituency, the trial lawyers, would be another avenue for corporate shake-down artists to raise the cost of doing business, and to fund their own personal and political cash flow needs from the hard work of others.

Inflation-indexed wages will have yet another perverse effect. Such a rule would act as a subsidy to inflation, both promoting and limiting the incentive to fight it. Which means that pensioners, retirees, and those on fixed incomes will find their own savings stolen from them. Which will become an excuse for another big tax increase to fund those generous retirement programs we've rashly promised our teachers and other public servants.

Today's economy is more inter-connected, more diversified, more entrepreneurial, and more resilient than in was in 1930, which probably means that we'll end up looking more like Japan in 1990 than the US in 1930. But that doesn't mean that the damage to hopes, dreams, and security won't be real.

April 12, 2008

Talk About Fairy Tales

It's symptomatic of Rima's integrity gap that she needs to invent things nobody has said in order to discredit references to her own well-documented history.

This morning, at a Republican Women's meeting, my opponent claimed that, "within a day," I was calling her a "terrorist," a "terrorist sympathizer," and, "anti-semitic."

Well, one out of three ain't bad.

This is typical Rima in all her, making up stuff in order to play the victim. Of course, she can't prove that anyone has called her a terrorist or anti-semitic. Because nobody has. All I've done is to compile and quote her own record of activism and over-the-top anti-Israel statements back at her.

April 11, 2008

Like Riding a Bicycle

Here at Cricket, they're run out of office space, so they've put the contract developers in a pit. Well, a conference room, really. We're very lucky in that it has a phone. One phone, kind of like in Brazil. Although we're being paid by the hour, the focus now is on bug fixes - and there are many bugs - so it's a bit like piecework. When the roof started to buckle last week, it was almost DTC's own Triangle Shirt Waist Fire.

Anyway, privacy's unheard-of, and concentration's at a premium, so I've borrowed the gold-plated Backbone Radio noise-cancelling headphones and have started listening to Yahoo! Music. The Big Band station mostly, for now. A lot of the songs are new to me, but most aren't, and it's surprising how many of the lyrics I still remember.

I tried listening to the Vocal Standards, thinking "Great American Song Book," but I needed the coffee just to stay awake. For some reason, in about 1947, the music world forgot about the backbeat, and everything turned into "How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?" and Perry Como and the Four This and the Four Those. It's enough to make you wonder if Sinatra really lost his voice or if he was just holding out for better material.

I'm tellin' ya, I'm 90 years old, just remarkably well-preserved.

UPDATE: So naturally, they play Jo Stafford's version of "I'll Be Seeing You," my one and only Song of the Week. Which I guess makes it the Song of the Blog.

April 10, 2008

Letters From Home

Jim, over at Thinking Right, has started another Letters From Home campaign, this one targeted for our sailors aboard the USS Russell, DDG-59.

Hearing how much their efforts are appreciated is a real morale boost for these guys and gals serving so far from home, so send your letters to

Lookism Reaches New Lows

According to WTOP:

At the city animal shelter in Rogers, Ark., big, black dogs almost always make up the bulk of the animals put to sleep each month. Last month, 13 of the 14 dogs killed by the city were large and black - mostly Labs, shepherd mixes, pit bull mixes and Rottweillers, said Rhonda Dibasilio, manager of the city Animal Services Department.

Labs. Labs? Labs!?

What in the hell is the matter with these people? Don't worry, Sage. Dad still loves you, as long as he can pay the mortgage.

The Big Tent Groans Under the Snow

Tonight, the J-Goppers are having their Big Tent meeting, in association with:

  • Colorado Black Republican Forum
  • National Asian Indian Republican Association
  • Jewish Republicans of Colorado
  • Log Cabin Republicans
  • Republican National Hispanic Assembly
  • Member groups from the Colorado Federation of Republican Women (CFRW)

It'll be at:

Mr. Panda Chinese Buffet
2852 South Havana Street
(Across from Lithia Cherry Creek Dodge)
(Look for the large American Flag!)

Dick Wadhams, now running Bob Schaffer's campaign, will be there, as will I, and the non-identity-identity candidate, Rima Barakat Sinclair.

Naturally, there will be about 5 inches of snow on the ground. Ah, Springtime in the Rockies...

April 9, 2008

Hijinks in HD-6

Apparently, a substantial number of Rima's "supporters" at last night's Republican HD-6 meeting claimed to be Democrats who are supporting Josh Hanfling in the general.

Either these people were telling the truth, and were interfering in the other party's primary process, or they actually were Rima Republicans trying to disguise their numbers. Either case would be par for the course.

Rudderless Rockefeller

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller on John McCain:

He's a fighter pilot. He flies at 35,000 feet and drops laser-guided bombs, missiles. He was long gone when they hit. What happened down there, he doesn't know.

That's unkind, because that's fighting for your nation and that's honorable. But you sort of have to care what goes on in the lives of people. ... and he never gets into those subjects.

Not many people know this, but George McGovern flew bombers over Europe in WWII, and was the main subject in Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue. He often spoke of the painful memory of having to drop a bomb at noontime, which ended up hitting a farmhouse where the family was likely eating lunch. He knew it was necessary to get rid of the armed bomb, but he was always disturbed by where it hit.

Later, a member of the family called into a radio show McGovern was appearing on, to let him know that the family had heard the bomb coming and escaped the house just before it hit.

I wonder what Rockefeller would have to say about that.

House District 6 Kickoff

Last night was the House District 6 Kickoff, with appearance by candidates for US House District 1, Colorado Senate District 35, and by my opponent and me.

During my presentation, I spent the time discussing the principles I hold and the things that - current administration, Referendum C or not - ought to hold us together as Republicans. I'll have a copy of the prepared text, which the actual speech more or less followed - up at the site today.

The speech and Q&A went well, very well; so well that afterwards, Rima Herself decided to stand up and address something I hadn't raised at all: her dubious record. She'd like to run away from this stuff.

Frankly, even without it, I'd be a better candidate than she is. Certainly a more Republican one.

April 3, 2008

Deadline Push

One of the thrills about working in a building with a roof under renovation is that thing constantly sounds as though it's going to come crashing down on you. Today, that could have happened.

I went off to a portrait shoot for the campaign, and came back to an evacuation. Apparently, a structural beam started to buckle, and they ordered everyone out.

You know, we're on a tight deadline on this project, but that's a hell of a way to get an extension.

Keep Those Cards And Letters Coming

I cannot tell you how gratifying it is that people are inquiring as to where you may send campaign contributions, and we have finally set up a campaign committee, "Citizens For Joshua Sharf." The address is:

Citizens For Joshua Sharf
c/o Treasurer Mark Makowitz
PO Box 24926
Denver, CO 80224

In a state house race, even a little goes a long way, so thanks to everyone who sees fit to drop a few bucks in the mail.

April 2, 2008

They Say There's No Such Thing... bad publicity. From this morning's Rocky:

Congressional candidate Mike Coffman's campaign on Tuesday informed Sinclair they were going to return her campaign donations because of an interview she gave where she called Israel "an occupier."

Which is like saying that some Democrats are upset about a church meeting where Jeremiah Wright wore a suit. It's technically true, but it misses the point.

Here's the transcript. "Occupiers," is the least of it. "Baby-killers," "Saddam Hussein," better describe the tenor of the piece.

There is also video of the interview. The whole thing's worth watching, but the real fun starts around 2:30 or so.

You want proof? This is Barakat's record. The original post that started it all, link-filled with references to her activities is here.

I don't blame Lynn Bartels for not wanting to get into the tall grass of the Israel-Palestinian dispute. She's a political reporter, not on the foreign desk. But there is much, much more to Barakat's activities than one arguable statement in one interview.

I can be reached at

April 1, 2008

Politicker CO Picks Up, Er, The Check

Jeremy Pelzer, at, a new non-partisan political blog owned by the New York Observer, has picked up the story of Mike Coffman's campaign returning Rima Barakat Sinclair's check. It's a just-the-facts-ma'am piece, but it's worth reading, anyway. He also links to the video.

Economics As Latecomer

Over at EconLog, Arnold Kling replies to a post by Tyler Cowen asking why the development of economics came so late in western intellectual history:

My view is that historically there was a universal propensity for plunder and coercion. It could be that only in the late stages of the British empire, around the time that Adam Smith was writing, that people really began to be accustomed to market economic activity.

In that case, it would not be surprising that economics itself developed late. Conversely, the fact that there was no Greek or Roman Adam Smith is consistent with my view that the Greeks and the Romans did not really have modern market economies.

I'd go in a slightly different direction here; rather than only understanding plunder, production wasn't understood at all.

There wasn't, as near as I can tell, a concept of money beyond currency. Kings would routinely re-issue debased coinage, inflating their way out of debt. When Spain decided to plunder the Americans for gold and silver, mostly what they did was create a global inflation of historic proportions. The problem, of course, is that all they did was create more money chasing the same goods.

I've been listening to the High Middle Ages CDs from the Teaching Company as well, and Prof. Daileader makes a point that towns really did constitute a market. So much so that guils felt it necessary to regulate trade in order to prevent "unfair" competition. Like advertising of any kind. Artisans worked on demand, rather than keeping regular hours. So while the Town was criticized by the Church and the Country for being mean and materialistic, it was such a heavily regulated market so as to be quite unfree. It even benefited from the urban advantage of specialization. Yet it certainly wasn't based on plunder.

But production was severely limited, often by factors outside the control of the producer. Farmers were stuck with the local weather, and villages would starve while villages only a few miles away would have crops rotting. Artisans couldn't scale up before industrialiization, so their production was essentially limited by time, and only variable in a very limited sense. The European population might have doubled between 1000 and 1300, but that amounts to about a 0.3% change each year - so of course business would look like a zero-sum game. Especially since innovation wasn't seen as changing and improving markets so much as undercutting your competition.

Some of these misconceptions persist, especially in the minds of Democrats and rent-seeking businessmen. But for the most part, the conditions had changed by 1776. Progress was obvious within one's lifetime. Production was scalable. Guilds were losing their power, and money was much better-understood.


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