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Joshua Sharf

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June 30, 2008

Of Initiatives Referred and Unreferred

Tonight, Andrew Romanoff and Ken Gordon will be hosting volunteer parties for their Tabor-to-Unions initiative. Sen. Gordon apparently suppressed an urge to write an email detailing the many problems with the political system:

It's annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause The inconvenience--having to get a majority If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause There are other ways of establishing authority

and went with something more positive and a little less dyspeptic.

In any event, these are the same folks who are pushing a series of referred measures to severely limit the initiative process here - now that they think they've got a permanent majority in the legislature. Every Democrat on the stage at the CHUN forum voiced this view - opposed to the initiative process on principle, but they'd make an exception in this case. Even my Republican opponent chimed in with the view that the initiative process was flawed - that's what legislatures are for.

And Lois Court noted that, "Representative government is a terrific idea - we should try it sometime," an line echoed in Romanoff's email announcement of the meetings. Nobody has yet asked her what she thinks of recent State Supreme Court rulings, I suppose.

This is a conscious power-grab on the part of the Democrats - they want to remove constraints on how much they can spend, and remove your ability to check that spending through initiatives. I don't think either will pass, but the fact that they're trying tells you a lot about their theories of power.

June 29, 2008

First Thursday Redux

BUMPED. Welcome Backbone Listeners!

Rima was apparently at the State GOP Convention, where they were using candidate speeches to fill some extra time. When they ran out of time to fill, she hadn't yet spoken, but they had to move on. Naturally, it was a conspiracy not only against her, but against, well..

First Thursday Breakfast

"everything called legal immigrant, everything called Arab American, and everything called Muslim." And not only the State party, including Bob Schaffer, but the national party. Wow, they must really be taking her seriously.

This was recorded at the Macaroni Grill, at the last Denver County Republican First Thursday Breakfast, on June 5.

UPDATE: The embedded sound file was evidently causing problems with some older browsers, so I've replaced it with a link to the sound file.

Prince Caspian

Saw Prince Caspian last night, largely on the strength of having liked The Lion, the WItch, and the Wardrobe, and the warm feelings of the book from my childhood. I can't say I was particularly impressed.

It was a faithful filming of the book, almost scene-by-scene. But scene-by-scene filimings seem to drain the movie of any tension. There's no sense of forward motion in the plot, no rhythmic create-and-release of dramatic tension in the events. The characters seem at the mercy of events, unable to actually effect change, and eventually reduced to waiting for Aslan to show up and help. I realize that this is the great lesson of the film - that we don't control events, and that faith is necessary for God to help up. But as useful as it may be for Apologetics for Children, that dynamic doesn't make for compelling movie-making.

There's also no real character development, with only Prince Caspian having a major moral decision towards the end of the film. The Pevensie children are already fully-formed from the first film, and only Peter and Susan are really engaging. The bad guys are stock characters, although patterning them after the early modern Spanish is inspired.

The great strength of the Lord of the Rings and the third Harry Potter film was that they were movies, not screen-captures of the books. Apparently, the Harry Potter franchise couldn't withstand the complaints from small children about missing this or that scene, and went back to treating the books as screenplays.

If they really are planning to film all seven Narnia books, I hope they find a way to break out of this trap.

June 27, 2008

Keep It In a Major Key

In the Broadway show, The Scarlet Pimpernel, the hero, Percy, inspires his crew the Bounders with a song celebrating the importance of their mission, and the joy they should take in pursuing it. It's all about the danger they face, and the courage they'll need to face it.

By contrast, the villain, Chauvelin sings about his mission. But instead of taking joy in his work, it's a grim business, he knows it. It's about survival of the fittest, which he intends to be. And it's about bitterness and pitilessness, and he compares himself to a "Falcon in the Dive."

Percy's song is in a major key. Chauvelin sings in a minor key. And that's all you need to know about the two characters.

You take on a challenge, and you need to be Percy. You need to attack the problem with joy and pleasure and not give in to your darker impulses. You need to keep it in a major key.

UPDATE: It has been suggested that I have slighted approximately half the musical key wheel with this post.

Look, I'm Jewish. Minor key is the soundtrack of my life. Almost every Jewish tune worth singing is in a minor key. A minor key can add solemnity, urgency, sadness, maybe some humility, sir knight. A little bitter to go with the sweet. There's a whole range of serious emotions available to the minor that the major just can't approach.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between bittersweet and bitter is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.

June 26, 2008


The Supreme Court today ruled on the Heller case. (Key quotes here.)

The Court reaffirmed that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual, not a collective right, and has been pointed out, the textual basis for this is as close to metaphysical certainty as words will allow. In doing so, it struck down bans on handguns, and made it clear that individuals may have access to these weapons in their homes for personal defense. To that extent, this was an important win for the human right of self-defense, even if the immediate effects will be minimal. (Why that right ends at your front door is another question, but let's be grateful for small favors.)

Here's what my friend Dave Kopel had to say about it:

The Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Second Amendment, and striking down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and the ban on the use of any firearm for self-defense in the home, is solidly reasoned. Although the case leaves ample room for moderate gun control laws, the case casts doubt on the continuing validity of a variety of other gun prohibitions.

I'm much less sanguine than he is about the inevitable regulator rulings. The Kennedy case earlier this week showed that, in the words of Mark Levin, the Court sees itself sitting as an ongoing Constitutional Convention (a notion first popularized by Woodrow Wilson). We will find it making case-by-case judgments about the wisdom of this restriction or that. My guess is that the majority got as broad protection as it could in this case, and that we're liable to see Justice Kennedy supporting all sorts of regulations that have the potential to do for gun rights what McCain-Feingold did for political speech.

Identity Delegates

There's a reason identity politics is a terrible idea:

Colorado's delegation to the Democratic National Convention has one man too many and must make changes to replace him with a woman, the national party revealed Wednesday.

The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee found the Centennial State — and eight others — out of compliance with the national party's requirement that delegates represent an equitable number of minorities, genders and other communities among delegations and standing committees.

So why not by, say, income distribution? (Can't find enough poor people.) Or religion? (Don't want Muslims on the same stage as Obama.) Or educational level? (Yes, professor.)

The possibilities are mindless. Really.

June 25, 2008

Broadway Babies Say Goodnight

Today, the 121st anniversary of the birth of George Abbott, is as apt a time as any to post the review of Mark Steyn's history of Broadway and the Broadway Musical, Broadway Babies Say Goodnight.

The Broadway musical didn't really evolve from European opera so much as take a century-long detour from it. In fact, I'd argue that it replayed the evolution of opera, taking about 100 years to cover the territory that opera covered in several centuries. But it's still distinctively American, relying on stories of common, everyday people rather than the mistaken identity of royals of various middle-Europeans principalities. The beat of Viennese operetta was 3/4. The beat of Broadway is 4/4.

The story is one of every-tightening connection between the song and the book, until the book, for all intents and purposes becomes the song. At first, the Broadway musical was little more than a straight play with Tin Pan Alley-type songs stuffed in at intervals.

Over time, the songs started to be more scene-specific. Consider the Student Prince. Written in the mid-20s, it still has a Tin Pan Alley feel to it, but the songs are in character. And yet, "Deep in My Heart, Dear," and "Serenade" would fit right into Desert Song, another Romberg show.

The big change occurred in 1927, with Show Boat. Kern & Hammerstein changed the nature of the show. The songs now not only reflect the feelings of the characters, but actually advance the plot and give broader commentary. Even "After the Ball," is used to effect: it was a huge, huge hit for decades, and it was used to evoke an earlier age. It completely changed the game, but it wasn't really matched again until Hammerstein got his second immortal writing partner.

The apex of this kind of musical came with My Fair Lady. The songs are all character- and scene-specific. They all advance the plot, and they all are seamlessly integrated with the book. But the book still carries the lion's share of the plot. The acting matters as much as the singing, and the dialogue is sparkling.

And's almost as though they ran out of things to to say. The form would change again with the blockbuster musical, but also with what's called the "sung-though" musical. Think Scarlet Pimpernel. The singing barely stops, mostly just to let the actors catch their breaths. All the plot movement is done through song, and even the dialogue is mostly sung, a la operatic recitative. We've come full-circle, back to opera.

Likewise, the relationship between words and music has changed over time. The Tin Pan Alley music was usually little more than a vehicle for a story. Even by the time of the Student Prince, the songs might stand on their own, but the words and the music fit together. Now, Cole Porter songs sound like Cole Porter songs because the music is almost incidental to the words.

But by the mid- and late-50s, the words and music fit together so perfectly that you can't imagine the words going to any other notes. Or any other words, going with those notes. The words are clever, the rhymes inventive and lyrical in their own right. If you miss what the singer is saying, you miss about half the story.

Now, listen to just about any song from Pimpernel. Do you really care about the words? No, it's the music that sets the mood. And just as nobody cares who Mozart's librettists were, nobody really cares who's writing the words for Andrew Lloyd Weber, at least not since Tim Rice left.

In fact, nobody really seems to care much about Broadway now, anyway. The shows are expensive to produce, so the number of new shows each year is pitiful. The genre seems played out, even if new, original musicals like Curtains evoke the older-style musical rather than the sung-through pseudo-opera. The new ideas are all in Hollywood, and now Broadway, incapable of producing stars of its own, borrows them from TV and the movies.

If the first half of the book chronicles the rise of Broadway's music, the second tells the tale of this slow, painful decline. Perhaps the saddest comment he makes, is that if they really wanted to reproduce Sunset Boulevard in a musical, the Norma Desmond should be a fading Broadway diva, forced to act in current musicals.

Steyn's erudition about the musical theater shows in his analysis of songs, rhyme schemes, play structure. He's an endless wealth of anecdotes and analysis.

It's just a shame that all the grist for his mill is old.

We're #3!

The Milken Institute has released its 2008 State Science and Technology rankings, and Colorado ranked #3, behind Massachussetts and (gasp!) Maryland. And it's not as though this is a sudden leap, the result of the magnanimous and enlightened policies of Gov. Ritter. No, Colorado ranked 3rd in 2004, and 2nd in 2002.

The study is designed to measure the intangibles such as education, R&D spending, and capital formation, that contribute to a successful high-tech economy.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone asking for more of your money for the teachers' unions, for instance. The notion that, without additional massive government investments in schools or in economically marginal technologies, we're all going to be reduced to carbon-neutral sheep-herding in a few years, seems a little far-fetched, eh?

For the record, this event didn't go entirely un-noticed by the local media. The Rocky actually assigned a local reporter to write up the report:

"The state is creating high-quality jobs. And it's well-positioned to create high-quality, high-paying jobs in the future," said Ross DeVol, director of regional economics at the Milken Institute, the economic think tank that issued the report.

The state benefited, in particular, from its high concentration of scientists and engineers as well as its educated work force.


DeVol said Colorado stands in a relatively unique position because it placed among the top five states in all five categories.

"Across a very broad spectrum, Colorado does very well," DeVol said.

The Post, by contrast, buried the news in an AP wire story that doesn't mention Colorado until the 5th paragraph.

Milken breaks the five major categories down into 77 subcategories, and with three studies' worth of data available, it would be interesting to see what categories and subcategories appear to be leading or trailing indicators.

Also telling - and disheartening - is the extent to which even entrepreneurs have internalized the notion that the state government is the place to go for direct funding:

"It's amazing. Colorado has such an amazingly entrepreneurial spirit, but there's a lack of direct funding from within the state," said CEO Jon Nordmark, referring both to direct state funding and private funding sources.

He noted the governor's strategic focus on four industry clusters, in particular: bioscience, energy, tourism and aerospace.

Nordmark contended Ritter's administration had "selectively chosen" a few industries to zero in on, adding that "they completely ignored" software and Internet companies.

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer didn't dispute the governor's focus on those areas. He said high-tech "is an undergirder - or overarching umbrella - for all four of those sectors."

Leaving aside Evan Dreyer's metaphorical confusion - high-tech is either an undergirder or an overarcher - the point here is that when the government takes on the role of picking winners, the losers will spend time and money lobbying it rather than producing more...stuff.

June 24, 2008

"The Cure" in Arizona

It turns out that there's more than one way to go in health care reform. While the lefties promote statist solutions such as single-payer health care and minimum-coverage mandates, others are forming organizations based on individual rights, personal freedom, and free-market reforms.

Consider the initiative to amend the Arizona constitution to preserve our basic rights to spend our money and make our health care choices for ourselves. It's called Freedom of Choice in Health Care, and their website details their philosophy.

What's key here is that they're willing to make the case not only on a pragmatic, free-market basis, but also on a Constitutional one:

From our right to free speech in the First Amendment, to our right to bear arms in the Second, to our overwhelming approval of the importance of property rights, in Arizona, we believe that acting to protect our liberty is not just an option, it is an obligation.

It's an inspirational group, and it deserves your support.

Vouchers Work, We're Moderately Certain

Striking a blow for vouchers and against the statistical illiteracy of the MSM, Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice takes on the latest voucher-appraisal data from the DOE over at Pajamas Media. Turns out that the good reporters over at the Washington Post need remedial statistical education:

So the study shows that the voucher students did better. It just isn’t able to say with a high level of certainty that the vouchers are the reason they did better.

Adding insult to injury, the results just barely missed the conventional cutoff for reporting results with high confidence. The standard procedure is to report results if they are 95 percent certain. The results in this study were 91 percent certain. And this is the second year in a row the D.C. results have come close to the cutoff without reaching it.

Eventually, enough 91%-certain results can be aggregated to get over the magic 95% threshold, but the fact is that 95% is arbitrary, leaving a 5% uncertainty. People take flyers on educational systems that have a far less than 91% recommendation going for them, after all.

While the blog's not all about the campaign, in this case, I'll point out that there's actually a candidate in District 6 who understands this...

June 22, 2008

A Local Champion for Muslim Freedom

Today, before I start walking the district, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. She's a local Muslim woman, and a tireless and articulate exile and a budding champion for her people, who are living under tyranny imposed by religious differences. She's been active in reaching out to secular, Christian, and Jewish Americans, building alliances and seeking help for her people's stymied attempts to throw off their oppression. She speaks at local universities. And her op-eds have been published in local newspapers.

Her name is Ana Sami, and she's the American daughter of Iranian exiles. (Oh, please, you didn't really think I meant...I mean, come on.)

Miss Sami first contacted me when she saw my postings about local Shiite Imam-without-portfolio Ibrahim Kazerooni. We've had a coffee a few times, chatting about Iran's troubles under Ahmedine-nut-job, as she calls him, and the Iranian peoples' efforts to do something about him and his murderous regime.

And for the record, for those of you who think that being a Muslim means hostility to Israel think again. Look, it's not her top priority, naturally, but people like the former Mufti of Jerusalem are not, as she puts it, her best friends. I've detected nothing but sympathy for Israel, an attitude reflective of most of the Iranian people, as far as I've ever been able to detect. I suspect that she also understands that a strong Israel and a strong Iran will be better-positioned to confront common enemies, of which they have many.

Ana's recently graduated from the Colorado School of Mines, where she had a letter to the editor published, deriding Columbia University for giving the Mad Mullahs' sock puppet a platform, and detailing Ahmedinejad's personal achievements before rising to power:

Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) stated evidence that Ahmadinejad is known in Iran as "the man of a thousand bullets" because he was the one to fire the last blow, or 'tir-khalas,' to political prisoners who were executed by way of a firing squad. Former political prisoners such as 58-year-old Laya Roshan gave a press conference in Paris on September 26th of this year in which she testified that she met Ahmadinejad in 1982 while in the torture chamber of Iran's notorious Evin prison. Roshan was a dentist who was arrested and taken to Evin prison under the charges of assisting opponents of the regime. As she painfully recalls the vivid memories she has of Ahmadinejad, she also revealed an experience in which she witnessed his torture of a female prisoner when he "held her arm and dragged her on the ground and took her to the torture chamber. The prisoner was returned two hours later with broken teeth, torn lips and blue face." Roshan plans to press charges against Ahmadinejad.

Ana's also been the featured commentator at DU on Epitaph, a documentary on the ruinous effects on women of Iran's regime. The regime seems hell-bent on pushing the country into penury, and more and more women are turning to prostitution to support themselves. We've seen the sort of thing in the aftermath of wars, and in chronically poverty-stricken countries. But Iran was a westernized, cosmopolitan country when these butchers took over.

And she wrote for the Denver Post about the courage of a man put to death by the regime in a public execution:

The price these victims pay for their bravery is the same, and all hangings are equally as disturbing and unjustified. However, the smile that gleamed over Majid's face as he strained to wave goodbye while handcuffed was indeed victorious, and the message was clear: "I defeated you, I am not frightened, and I am honored to die; hanging me will no longer repel resistance."

While Majid's courage is remarkable in the face of such torment and brutality, we can be sure that there will be other fearless Iranian youths ready to give their lives, until that proud smile gives way to the much awaited dawn of change.

On a personal note, when I told Ana about my race, she was very happy I was running, and to tell the truth, she's been very helpful in explaining both the Iranian situation, and some of the dynamics of the local Muslim community.

Hopefully, like all of us fighting this battle, it'll be over soon for her, and she move on to other pursuits.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Rima was apparently at the State GOP Convention, where they were using candidate speeches to fill some extra time. When they ran out of time to fill, she hadn't yet spoken, but they had to move on. Naturally, it was a conspiracy not only against her, but against, well..

First Thursday Breakfast

"everything called legal immigrant, everything called Arab American, and everything called Muslim." And not only the State party, including Bob Schaffer, but the national party. Wow, they must really be taking her seriously.

This was recorded at the Macaroni Grill, at the last Denver County Republican First Thursday Breakfast, on June 5.

UPDATE: The embedded sound file was evidently causing problems with some older browsers, so I've replaced it with a link to the sound file.

June 21, 2008

Thursday Night At the J-GOP

Thursday night at the Jewish Republicans, we heard from Ted Kohler, the latest in three generations of Jews to serve in the US military. His grandfather was in the US Army, and his father served in the Vietnam-era US Navy. Ted himself was wounded when his tank ran over and set off a sarin-gas IED. Since his injuries haven't responded as well as the doctors would have liked, he was given an honorable medical discharge.

Ted gave a brief, military-style briefing, listing the positives and negatives of such battlefield components as the IP, the IA, the US Military, its equipment, and support. While he mentioned a number of items that any milblogger-reader would know about, such as the military's high morale and re-enlistment rate, and the growing importance of the UAV, he also emphasize a number of items that haven't gotten as much attention. For instance, Ted pointed out that the US has been increasingly effective in countering the IED as a weapon.

But one thing stuck out. He notes that the enemy was quick to exploit our "humanity and our rules of engagement." This draws attention to the basic difference between us, and the enemy we are fighting, and it's a distinction that the morally blinkered among us would like the morally lazy among us to ignore.

I asked him about the popularity of milbloggers. He said that while many of the troops, tired from a day of actually fighting of the war, didn't necessarily go home to read about it, he did, and he singled out both Michael Yon and a new milblog I hadn't heard of, Battlefield Tourist. Take a look at both.

June 19, 2008

Defiance Preview

I was informed only last night of a showing, this night, of a new movie from Paramount, Defiance, based on Jewish partisans fighting in the forests of Europe in WWII. Apparently, the film is currently only slated for release in the NY/NJ area. However, this evening, at the Westminster Theaters off of the Boulder Turnpike, there will be a screening of the film to gauge interest.

You can see the trailer here:

I haven't seen the movie, so I can only speculate about the direction it takes, but hey, that's what bloggers do, right?

The fact is, this sort of thing is both important, and difficult to pull off. Some of the conflicts within the group would seem to be obvious - those who don't want to fight, for instance -, and it's hard work to keep those storylines from being predictable.

At the same time, we today are used to the notion that Jewish blood isn't cheap, in large part thanks to Israel's success and survival. There was a time when that wasn't so, and a film that honors without sentimentalizing those who worked to change that literally dreadful state of affairs can serve a real purpose.

Email Gene Levy ( for information and for a pass.

UPDATE: I've corrected Gene's email address.

Bob Schaffer & CNMI - The End of the Beginning

Ross Kaminsky has been doing yeoman work, debunking the local Big Blue Spin Machine (tm - SchafferVUdall) and it's opening salvo aimed at of the Bob Schaffer's greatest assets: his reputation for probity.

The Denver Post's Michael Riley published two articles on Bob's visit to the Northern Marianas while he was in the US House, and they're superb exemplars of the detail and homework that has made the MSM what it is today.

Today, Ross serves up the last of the April 10th article au brochette:

Schaffer can truthfully claim to have been instrumental in getting a sweatshop closed down. What can Akaka, or any other Democrat opponents of the CNMI say they've done other than wreck the islands' economy for their own political benefit? Unfortunately since the mainstream media has the same underhanded motivations as did the Democrats and their union puppet-masters, they are incapable of reporting the story of Schaffer in the CNMI as the good deed that it was.

I would suggest that the MSM's motivations are perhaps less underhanded and more blinkered. They're not capable of reporting the story correctly not because they're conspiring to push a storyline they know to be untrue, but because they're incapable of imagining it to be untrue.

Read the rest, and then go help out Bob.

June 18, 2008

Cyd Charisse, RIP

For fans of Hollywood musicals, the number of truly great dancers is short. Cyd Charisse, who passed away yesterday at age 87, would have to be on everyone's list. She's probably best-remembered for her extended "Broadway Melody" number in Singin' In The Rain, but that was her first major break, and not major role in the picture. She did headline in The Band Wagon and Silk Stockings.

Here, she and Fred Astaire, in The Band Wagon, dance one of the most achingly beautiful scenes in movie history.

With Apologies to Warner Wolf

If you had the Lakers and 38....YOU LOST!

Before the game, I couldn't believe the line was 4 1/2. I thought the Celtics might blow out the Lakers by, say 10 or 15 points. But good grief. This wasn't just bad. This was Redskins-Broncos bad. This was Yankees-Cubs bad.

Yes, the Celtics scored 131 points, impressive in itself. But they scored those points off of turnovers, rebounds, offensive rebounds, and defense, defense, defense.

And the scary thing is that the Celtics could end up winning 3 or 4 more titles before this thing is over. Unless the Lakers can dig up a big man who knows how to play defense - and perhaps Andrew Bynum's return will do that for them - the Celtics have nobody even close.

Now, with the Red Saux, the Patriots, and the Celtics all playing at the championship level for years on end, it's time that we recognize what we already knew - Boston is the new New York.

June 17, 2008

CHUN Candidates' Forum Post-Mortem

A good time was had by all. We had a crowd of about 50, but probably 10 of those were directly related to candidates, and it seems as though everyone was there for District 6. Apparently the organizers were disappointed that nobody was sticking around for District 8.

As for the organizers, they did a very nice job, and I want to thank them for their efforts. They had both water and Coca-Cola (the sore throat's elixir of youth) available, kept the proceedings moving, rotated our responses fairly. The timekeepers were polite but insistent on their time limits. I might have preferred 1:30 reponses rather than 1:00, especially when the question is about health care. But with five of us up there, anything else would have been unfair to the audience.

I operated under the assumption that most of those present were Democrats, so while I did make a nod to party affiliation, and the fact that the party needs to regain its branding, I did have a job to engage the Dems rather than my primary opponent.

For instance, it was telling that the Dems all support Romanoff's proposal to ditch TABOR in favor of the teachers' unions. Of course, it was also telling that, now in control of the legislature, they have a sudden disdain for the initiative process. An initiative process that was put in place, as a check on the legislature, by their namesakes, the "Progressives." And they all expressed the absolute need to fully fund and finish FasTracks. I may be mistaken, but I believe that was also in response to my own, ah, skepticism of large, sprawling, inflexible capital spending.

As for my opponent, at times it sounded as though I was the only Republican on the platform.

  • In response to a question about vocational education, she expressed sympathy for state funding of post-high school vocational training. (There are already many private schools doing this sort of thing, and companies will pay for the skills and pay for the training.)
  • She also expressed opposition to the ballot initiatives, not out of hostility to their goals, but out of fear that they were bypassing the legislature.
  • She stated that, "right-to-work" appears to be "hard on the middle-class," despite plenty of studies showing that labor benefits from a free labor market.
  • She claimed that subprime lending was "predatory" and contributed to the "devastation of our economy." This is a populist statement that ignores the fact that the government created the subprime market in the first place.

    For someone who claims to be about smaller, smarter government, we've got four statements here that support exactly the opposite.

    In the end, it was a terrific way to start the Candidate Forum Season. We got to draw some distinctions, and we got to lay out the themes of our campaigns.

    Again, my strength is in answering questions rather than the set-piece intros, but sooner or later, the two-minute egg-timer stump speech is a must.

  • June 16, 2008

    Health Care...and What To Do About It

    Finally, the long-awaited Health Care plank is up! And to save you the click:

    Health care in the United States is among the best in the world, but practically nobody likes the system. Our private insurance system is incomprehensible. Our public systems - accounting for fully half of healthcare spending - are expensive, restrictive, inefficient and unfair.

    As a result of IRS rules, dating from WWII wage-and-price controls, exempting employer-paid insurance from income tax, many people even make job decisions based on the availability of health insurance.

    Some have used this discontent to push for even greater government interference in the system. Calls for mandates, single-payer insurance, even socialized medicine, have become commonplace. The Governor's 208 Commission was stacked with members pre-disposed to further state intervention. The Commission rejected the one free-market proposal presented to it.

    In addition, insurance is expensive because we're over-insured. If we bought car insurance like we buy health insurance, we'd have coverage for oil changes, and all have special truck-bed insurance, even for our sub-compacts. Typical health insurance cover routine needs that, for the most part, we could easily afford. And we are required to buy services that we will likely never use.

    The government is simply not capable of determining what insurance best fits each of us. We are.

    And for these services, we're not spending our own money. We see absolutely no monetary benefit from making smart consumerist choices in our health care. Therefore, there is no incentive for us to save money. Thanks to services like WebMD, we are increasingly consumerist when it comes to our treatment; there is no good reason why we can't adopt similar consumerist attitudes when it comes to payment.

    The problems with our health care system stem not from too many market forces, but from too little. The solutions to our health care lie in re-introducing market forces.

    Health Savings Accounts, combined with high-deductible catastophic insurance, provide the most efficient, most affordable combination of coverages.

    While Medicare and prescription drug reform will have to wait for Federal action, there is much we can do at the state level to make insurance and care more afforable for our citizens.

    We can:

    • Change Colorado's Medicaid to more closely resemble HSAs, along the lines of South Carolina's reform;
    • Encourage the use of Health Savings Accounts;
    • Allow Coloradoans to buy out-of-state health insurance plans to encourage competition;
    • Remove restrictions on walk-in clinics to allow Target, Costco, Wal-Mart to provide affordable basic medical care;
    • Require hospitals and clinics to make outcome data available for informed consumer comparison.

    June 15, 2008

    Oh. My. God.

    Good grief. Just when you think Rocco Mediate is going to pull one out for the old guys - like Niklaus at the Masters in 1986 - Tiger rims in a long putt to force a playoff. Rocco played a solid, steady game all day. Tiger was, characteristically, all over the course, and saved this birdie from the left rough and the right rough.

    So now, I have to follow this thing from work tomorrow. And now, I have no idea whom I'm rooting for.

    June 12, 2008

    Wonkfest 2008

    So yesterday was Issue Day. (One issue was whether or not anyone would challenge the petitions, which they did not. Another procedural hurdle passed.)

    The other issues were presented at the Independence Institute Candidate Briefing. Along with a 3-ring binder, suitable for masonry work, we got a day's worth of briefings on various topics of interest to state and local candidates. This included a slightly incoherent discussion of education by the RMA's own Ben DeGrow, previously seen schlepping Diet Coke out of the conference room into the office area.

    It's this kind of a day that makes me think it might be more fun to work there than to run for office, a calculation that Caldera apparently made years ago. These folks cover the waterfront, and just about every session had some tidbit suitable for candidate consumption.

    The briefings were at a variety of different levels, but it'd be fair to say that they assumed a certain familiarity with the principles behind them. For instance, when Lin noted that it's philosophically incoherent to refer to health care as a, "right," because it's a product, it assumes an understanding of 1) scare resources, 2) what Rights are in the Constitution, and 3) the qualitative differences between the two.

    The group was mostly Republicans, although there were a few capital-L Libertarians. This isn't really the time to be sniping at them, what with the Republican coalition ready to shake itself to bits along that fault line, bringing down itself, the party, and the Republic in one fell swoop (no, not really). But it's interesting to note where their attention lay, and how they differed from some of the Republicans.

    One fellow, during Jessica Peck Corry's discussion of higher ed, couldn't resist carping that Constitutional education should begin at the White House. (Jessica pulled double-duty, by the way, trying to cram property rights and higher ed into 30 minutes total. Good luck with that.) For the budget, he seemed mostly concerned with the cost of prisons, although that's probably actually a proxy issue for the number tenants.

    Another fellow, in an after-hours education/school choice website tour, pointed out that parents don't actually have to have their children inoculated. Perhaps his slogan should be: A Childhood Without Mumps is Like a Day Without Orange Juice! On the other hand, he had a valid point about electronic toll roads, and the toll-collection systems being able to track your movements. Personally, I do find that a little creepy myself.

    For my own race, Lois and Liz probably understand the budgeting process fairly well, and I'm not so sure about Josh Hanfling. But they also fell back last night on...questionable...numbers like "49th in education funding," and "800,000 Coloradoans without access to health care," both of which are demonstrably untrue. They may go over well with the CHUN crown on Monday, but the election is all about the debate, and yesterday's briefing is designed to make that a hell of a lot more fun.

    Rossputin Takes the Foot Off the Throat

    As part of their 2008 smear campaign against Bob Schaffer, the Four Horsemen and their acolytes planned a "Foot On the Throat" effort, to so damage Bob's public image that he could never recover. As part of that effort, the Denver Post ran a series of articles detailing Bob's supposed misdeeds concerning a fact-finding mission to the Northern Marianas. In his brief stay there, Bob uncovered more facts than the Post did in several weeks worth of front-page "reporting."

    Now, Ross Kaminsky has taken it upon himself to do some real reporting, not only about the trips, but also about the motivations and techniques of those behind trumping up the story. He'll be running a projected 8-post series on the non-story, and given Ross's thoroughness, it'll be a must-read for anyone who wants to be able to discuss this matter intelligently.

    The first installment is here.

    I've never made any secret of my admiration for Bob, and in the interests of full disclosure, I'll mention that both Ross and Bob have endorsed my campaign. Readers of this blog are clearly more than capable of adjusting for the lay of the land in my recommendation of the series, and of judging Ross's efforts on their own merits.

    June 11, 2008

    Crestmoor Homeowners

    The first of the real candidate appearances this evening, and a reminder of how hard it is to fill three minutes intelligently. I used to do it all the time at the Hall, but I'm a bit rusty, and honestly, it showed. Admittedly, I did something that none of the Democrat candidates for the office did - I tried to tailor the remarks to the audience. (Rima was a no-show.) Josh H., Liz, and Lois all gave what sounded like pretty well-worn stump speeches, but didn't really display any understanding of the district or of the precincts.

    Still, when I practice, I'm a pretty good public speaker, and over time, that'll come to the fore. I'll have another shot facing the liberals up at the CHUN forum next Monday.

    June 5, 2008

    Officially Sufficient!

    I just received word from the Secretary of State's office that I have an official "Letter of Sufficiency." According to the letter, of the 910 signatures we turned in (apparently there were some issues that kept about 50 of the 958 we turned in from being admitted), 707 were sound, and we needed 605.

    This means that there will be a primary and that my name will be on the ballot.

    Once again, a huge thanks to the volunteers who did all the real work, and let's gird ourselves for the 10 weeks until Primary Day.


    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