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Joshua Sharf

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« June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

July 31, 2008

How a Campaign is (and isn't) Like a Startup

As a result of the campaign, I've been invited to chat with the local IDEA Cafe, basically a support group for aspiring and recovering entrepreneurs. Since it's a decidedly non-political group, I'll be talking about process, rather than policy. Basically, a campaign is a startup, and the campaign and entrepreneurs probably have a lot to learn from each other.

How so?

Well, for one thing, you had better have done your research before you start running. Your product is a combination of positions and proposals. (To some extent, your product is also your positioning relative to other candidates, but more about that later.) If you think you're going to have time to do research and refine the product once the campaign is underway, good luck with that, as they say. Part of a campaign is working on and refining message, but the basic product, and the principles underlying it, had better be settled before you start to run.

Probably the piece of the campaign that people are most familiar with is the marketing aspect - segmenting the market, and then trying to position yourself into (and your opponent out of) favor with those juicy segments. Here's where your brand - i.e. party - can either help or hurt. Trying to get yourself in front of as many voters as possible also matters, and there are free forums and so-called earned media that are less available to entrepreneurs, by virtue of the process.

And then, there's funding. Like any good enterprise, a campaign needs to show the prospect of a return on an investor's money in order to raise funds. And like any good pie of investors, the target group can be divided into more and less risk-averse. The great risk-takers will help fund the petition drive. But many folks won't contribute until you're past the primary.

Here again, the value in funding a candidate can vary from race to race. An investor in a candidate in a safe district might be seen as looking for access once the person's elected. A contributor in a close race is looking to boost that party's prospects for control. A candidate in a more difficult district can still raise money by broadening the theater: after all, votes in his district count towards state totals on things like ballot initiatives and Senate and Presidential races. And every candidate can sell the longer-term, multi-cycle business of fighting the battle of ideas in the trenches.

And then there's the Exit Strategy. Campaigns usually have a series of well-defined exit strategies; they're called, "elections." Although, if you think of the operation in terms of a political career, and not just one campaign cycle, then it more closely resembles and ongoing operation. The problem is that way, way too many candidates and politicians do exactly that...

Exit Strategy - Election

July 30, 2008

Profiles 'n' Courage

I like Project VoteSmart. A lot. I've liked them ever since I discovered the, as a Gopher site, 14 years ago in the 1994 election cycle. They keep track of voting ratings by lobbying and interest groups, which means that Tom Daschle can't be a liberal in Washington and a conservative at home. Nor, one hopes, can Mark Udall.

They ask candidates to fill out both a profile, which ought to be relatively harmless, and a Political Courage Test, which is largely vanilla for state candidates, but covers the waterfront on issues. You're allowed to leave up to 30% of the test blank and still qualify as having completed it.

Now I can see why candidates might consider this sort of thing a trap. Even though you're given a chance to 'splain yourself, stark multiple-choice answers, or checkboxes, and the kinds of things candidates abhor. And yet, when asked by the Denver Post whether or not they'd fill out the test, every one of 'em said, "yes." Presumably, they've thought long and hard about their positions, and are prepared to defend them.

So far, of all the Republicans, "Republicans", and Democrats who are running for House District 6 here in Colorado, one has.

July 25, 2008

Courting Trouble

Last night, I'm leaving a brochure on the door of an apprently unoccupied home, when I hear fron across the street, a voice call out, "Yeah, you'll find lots of Democratic (sic) houses on this street."

You talking' to me? You must be talkin' to me, 'cause I don---. Oh. Wait. And there's Lois Court, walking the same precinct. Well, "walking," loosely used. Because whereas I tend to park the car and use it as a base, Lois apparently fires up the gas-guzzling greenhouse-gas-belching Jeep Grand Cherokee of hers evey half-block or so.

"Hey, Joshua!" (What, you're reporting a private conversation between candidates on the blog? Any conversation that takes place across the street at Wagnerian voice levels that start the neighborhood dogs barking stretches the definition of, "private.")

Me: "Hey, Lois!"
She: "I was worried until I realized we weren't hitting the same houses."
Me: "No, not yet, anyway."
She: "No, not ever!"
Me: "..."
She: "Looks like it's going to be me and you running against each other in the fall!"
Me: "You think so?" (I have no idea how to handicap their race, and for all I know, she says that to all the Republicans. In any event, whenever anyone tells me I've got the primary locked up, I gently ask them what the Patriots' record was last year.)
She: "Yeah, it'll be fun. We'll get a chance to really mix it up."
Me: "Well, that is, if you'll debate me."
She: "Oh, I'll debate you. Nobody will come, but I'll debate you."

Nobody will come? Oh Lois, that's just wishful thinking on your part. Anyway, you're on record now as agreeing to a debate. You sure you want to do that?

Later, she offered to let me sign the SAFE Initiative, but twice refused a friendly wager on whether or not it would pass. You know, that's just the kind of thing political futures markets like to know about....

Oh, the Fall's going to be fun indeed.

You Can Even Eat The Dishes

So Kelle Chu, the wife of one of my co-workers, has a talent for designing cakes:

This goes well beyond cake decorating, and into architecture. In another life, she puts together floats for the Rose Parade.

They're not kosher (the cakes; no idea about the floats), but I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance involved in biting into a sweet taco with cheese and salsa.

July 24, 2008

Breakin' the Cartel

Windsor Gardens is a nice retirement condo community out on the east end of the District. The buildings there are closed, you can't go door-to-door, you can't leave literature, and you have to get permission from the office to put up notices on the bulletin boards.

The Democrats are very organized, with reps in every building. The Republicans haven't had an event in years.

So naturally, after Burt Walker spent weeks getting the event put together, and volunteers spent a number of evenings calling as many Republicans as they could, after the Republican Club was r-established, and volunteers put flyers in every building, I got a call the day before the event.

Blocked Caller ID
Me: Hello?
She: Who is this?
Me: Who is this?
Brief, petulant pause
She: I'm (name withheld), and I'm a Democrat over at Windsor Gardens. I'm trying to reach the Joshua Sharf campaign.
Me: Well, I'm Joshua Sharf
She: Nothing like going to the top.
Me (mildly sincerely): Well, I hope we haven't done anything to upset you.
She: (A long explanation of how she found flyers(!) on the bulletin board(!), and how we must have broken the rules to get them there.
Me: No, we've been very careful about following the rules. Why don't I give you Burt's phone number?
She: Thank you. Now, could I come to this event?
Me: ...
She (defensively): I wouldn't be disruptive or anything.

I leave it to the reader to understand why she would assume that I might believe that a Democrat might disrupt a Republican event.

Me: Certainly, it's open to everyone.
She: Oh, ok.

Basically, the woman called up to try to intimidate me, and to put me on notice that the Democrats wouldn't suffer dissent lightly. Oh I know that. Can't tell you how many people won't put up yard signs, citing relations with their neighbors. Don't think the Democrats have such concerns.

Look, these guys are the A team, the majors. They've had Windsor Gardens to themselves for so long they probably think that the Democrat party holds all the mortgages. A simple event, drawing about 50 people to Centerpoint, paralleling a similar event the night before, was enough to draw their ire and their fire.

Just more evidence that Hugh Hewitt was right.

Iconography He Can Believe In

From this in morning's Denver Post about how, for a ticket to his convention acceptance speech, Barack will make you work.

July 21, 2008

Cooling on Warming

The wall surrounding global warming is beginning to crumble, and not a moment too soon. The American Physical Society noting that:

There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. Since the correctness or fallacy of that conclusion has immense implications for public policy and for the future of the biosphere, we thought it appropriate to present a debate within the pages of P&S concerning that conclusion.

The APS declaration confers immediate cerdibility on global warming skepticism, and should act as an immediate brake on the rush to devote tens of trillions of dollars to fixing a problem we may not even be causing. It should also signal governments that they should no longer be one-sided in their grant policies, but should be funding skeptical research along with accepted dogma. We still can't pinpoint the causes of climate change, and grants aimed at finding that out, in accordance with actual scientific methdology, would be money well spent.

Likewise, David Evans who, "wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector," now writes that there really is no hard evidence that man-made carbon dioide caused the now-ceased warming:

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"


There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None. There is plenty of evidence that global warming has occurred, and theory suggests that carbon emissions should raise temperatures (though by how much is hotly disputed) but there are no observations by anyone that implicate carbon emissions as a significant cause of the recent global warming.

Though he is, I think, too sanguine about the political effects of being wrong:

The Labor Government is about to deliberately wreck the economy in order to reduce carbon emissions. If the reasons later turn out to be bogus, the electorate is not going to re-elect a Labor government for a long time. When it comes to light that the carbon scare was known to be bogus in 2008, the ALP is going to be regarded as criminally negligent or ideologically stupid for not having seen through it. And if the Liberals support the general thrust of their actions, they will be seen likewise.

Possible, but the great political strength of the modern environmental movement has been the casting of the movement in religious terms, complete with dogma, doctrine, priests, absolution, detailed regulation of personal behavior, and even indulgences. Pair that with the well-known benefits of hiding the costs while pointing directly at the benefits, and you have a movement that might well be able to survive even economic catastrophe, if left to metastasize any longer.

The wall of media silence concerning our ignorance of the causes of climate change is starting to come apart thanks to the presence of scientists committed to the scientific method. Whether they outnumber those committed to research grants from an intransigent federal bureaucracy, and whether science-by-science is enough to overcome science-by-press-conference, are yet to be seen.

(Hat Tip: Powerline)


So Obama has relocated his German speech - delivered in English, of course - from the Brandenburg Gate to here.

The Victory Column is a famous sight in Berlin, Germany. Designed by Heinrich Strack after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war, by the time it was inaugurated on 2 September 1873 Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870/1871), giving the statue a new purpose.

Yes, much more appropriate, dontcha think? Why do I suspect that our German friends maybe are haffing a tiny, leetle joke at ze expense of Herr Obama?

July 17, 2008


Yes, it's been a little busy around here, and the blogging has suffered. And will continue to, at least for a day or so.

In the meantime, check out the new branding on the YouTube site.

Funny the things you notice when you're walking. The other evening I walked past the Knight Fundamental Academy, which didn't even seem to have any stables. Not the kind of place you'd think would be big enough to teach the basics of swords, lances, and horses. Turns out it's a magnet school:

Our school was begun in 1982 with a Back-to-Basic's approach to learning. Our student’s curriculum is based on Math, Reading , Writing, Spelling, Composition, Grammar,Science, Discipline, and Citizenship. While our students thrive in a teacher-based learning environment we enrich the curriculum with Music, Art, Computer, Library/Research and daily physical Education/dance.

Apparently, they're not so hot on punctuation and capitalization. Apostrophes, commas, and capitals are 6th-grade subjects. Indeed, looking at that list, it makes one wonder what the non-magnet schools are teaching. On second thought, I really may not want to know.

July 10, 2008

Thoughts on Iran Imminentizing the Eschaton

There was a reason by 8th grade English teacher introduced us to this man's humor - the lyrics. Rhyming "sturgeons" with "detergeons" ("Pollution") is simply brilliant.

In Their Own Words

Tuesday night, the HD-6 Republican party hosted a candidate forum. The CD-1 candidates and Bob Lane, candidate for the State Senate, provided the undercard. My opponent and I provided the main event. The rest of the videos from that performance are on the way, but for the moment, here's my opening statement, and both of our closing comments.

There's a little bit of ambient noise, and the video could have been shot from the MindEraser at Elitch's, but, hey, it's not like we're NBC here...

July 8, 2008

Quick Hits

In advance of tonight's candidate forum, a couple of quick hits.

On the way into work yesterday, I heard a PSA, featuring Gov. Ritter, about his, "New Energy Economy." All about the beauty and cheapness of wind and solar? Maybe a little bone about nuclear? No, instead he went on for 30 seconds of my otherwise valuable time telling me to unplug electronics when I leave the house. Because there's always time to reset the TV, DVD, cable box, laptop, printer, and clock when you get home.

This isn't the New Energy Economy. It's the No Energy Economy in the land of the permanent crisis. Someone get that man a cardigan and a faux fireplace.


Then, after walking a precinct, I was headed back to the car when the local precinct-ress I was walking with said hello to a neighbor. The neighbor volunteered that she was a "big Obama supporter," and naturally, I asked why.

"His honesty."

I resisted the temptation to ask exactly what it was he had been honest about.


And this morning, I see where the G8 has agreed to cut greenhouse emissions. The G8, and Europe in particular, and great at making these promises. Keeping them is another matter, where the US, the rapacious, enviro-hating, pave-the-world US, has actually come the closest to hitting its Kyoto targets.


And finally, this morning, I happened to wake up early, and caught a little bit of a sports talk show reminiscing about old ball parks. The old ball park I remember was Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. It was one of the earlier multi-purpose parks, but because it was older than the 1960s cookie-cutters, it still had a little charm to it. It was open at one end, which made field goal kicking a challenge at times. And it was a neighborhood park, with local houses clearly visible over the center-field fence.

I saw my first MLB game there - Reggie Jackson's debut as an Oriole. But my most vivid memory was from a game just after college. The Mariners were in town, and I had seats along the right field line. And there were Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey, Jr., teammates, hanging out during BP, enjoying the moment.


See you this evening.

July 4, 2008

July 4, 1863

As we all celebrate the events of July 4, 1776, it's also worth considering the events of another July 4, 87 years later.

On July 1, 1863, things were looking grim for the Union. Southern armies had invaded the north and were tooling around western Pennsylvania. In the west, Vicksburg, the key to the Mississippi, still held out, and Union armies had made brilliant maneuvers but little actual progess. If the South could win a victory at Gettysburg, it might still hold Vicksburg. And if, at the end of the week it held both, it might be able to claim that it had made a nation.

As it happened, at the end of the week, it held neither. On July 3, the moments just before Pickett's Charge were to be known as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. I had the pleasure of touring the Gettysburg battlefield on July 4 about 15 years ago. To stare out across that expanse that those troops covered, in the midday heat, is to see that they never had a chance.

One day later, July 4, Vicksburg would surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, who would go on to enjoy some further military and political success back east.

On July 7, 1863, a crowd gathered outside the White House to serenade President Lincoln. Here is is response:

Fellow-citizens: I am very glad indeed to see you to-night, and yet I will not say I that you for this call, but I do most sincerely thank Almight God for the occasion on which you have been called. How long ago is it? - eight odd years - since on the Fourth of July for the first time in the history of the world a nation by its representatives, assembled and declared as a self-evident truth that "all men are created equal." That was the birthday of the United States of America. Since then the Fourth of July has had several peculiar recognitions. The two most distinguished men in the framing and support of the Declaration were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams - the one having penned it and the other sustained it the most forcibly in debate - the only two of the fifty-five who sustained it being elected President of the United States. Precisely fifty years after they put their hands to the paper it pleased Almight God to take both from the stage of action. This was indeed an extraordinary and remarkable event in our history.

Another President, five years after, was called from this stage of existence on the same day and month of the year; and now, on this last Fourth of July just passed, when we have a gigantic Rebellion, at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men were created equal, we have the surrender of a most powerful position and army on that very day, and not only so, but in a succession of battles in Pennsylvania, near to us, through three days, so rapidly fought that they might be called one great battle on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of the month of July; and on the 4th the cohorts of those who opposed the declaration that all men are created equal, "turned tail," and run...

This after Lincoln's disappointment in Meade's failure to chase and destroy Lee's army. The war would go on for almost two more years.

It's also worth looking at Lincoln's letter to Grant, dated July 13, 1863. Grant had audaciously run the river below Vicksburg's batteries overlooking the river, crossed the river, marched through the outlying swamps, and laid siege to the town.

My dear General,

I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did - march the troops, across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Guld, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

Yours very truly

Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Harry Reid, take note.

July 3, 2008

The Once and Future King

You probably already know about the Sword in the Stone. But don't be fooled. The rest of T.H. White's Once and Future King is decidedly not a children's book. It's classic mid-century internationlist liberalism, also an exploration of how private foibles can affect public life, and a textured discussion of the motives of the personalities involved in one of our great mythic tragedies.

The post-Sword business is split up into three books which focus on 1) "Queen of Air and Darkness," about the Orkneys and Arthur's original sin that produces Mordred, 2) "The Ill-Made Knight," about Lancelot, particularly Lancelot and Guinever, and 3) "Candle in the Wind," about a childish, publicity-seeking princess. Well, actually "Candle in the Wind" is about the climactic, tragic, confrontation with Mordred.

What makes White's telling so compelling is the way he invests the characters with motivation and humanity, and because he weaves his tale over the course of decades as one coherent story, not simply a collection of events that takes 25 years to happen. Lancelot's not merely the greatest knight, he's the greatest knight because he's spent his life training to be merely worthy of upholding an impossibly high standard. And when we see Guinevere and Lancelot together, just before their downfall, it's as a couple entering middle age, whom we've seen spend a lifetime deepening their love from youthful passion.

The political story - and this is White's real purpose - is likewise developed over decades. The younger generation of knights is restless because they've never known any king other than Arthur. And Arthur's increasingly desperate and sophisticated efforts to channel evil into something constructive follow, loosely, the path of western civilization as a whole. White is desperate himself to find an answer, but his answer - with the hindsight of over 60 years - is ultimately unsatisfying.

White was writing during some of the darkest days of WWII, and was thinking not only about the horrors of war, but also about its fundamental causes, and how to avert future ones. But he was also a typical mid-century liberal. Mordred is, in The Once and Future King, a stand-in for Hitler. As such, he must be fought. By the time White published the Book of Merlyn in 1958, Mordred was Stalin, and need be accomodated. And the ultimate answer, naturally, is to subsume national ambition to the UN. Of the three approaches, only the first - confrontation with evil - proved to be effective.

White never realized that the answer to his problem had already been discovered. Sure, we needed to establish the rule of law, but Arthur did that and found his kingdom unable to survive its logical inconsistencies. While Arthur was able to tolerate the deception of his wife and friend, the law couldn't tolerate their subversion. The problem was the fusion of the personal and the state. Depersonalize the state, and those particular inconsistencies disappear.

And so we're left with a strange disconnect: we care deeply about the characters and mourn for their losses, and we mourn for Arthur's failure as king. But we don't really mourn all that much for the idea, because by the end of the book, we're not so sure we understand or like the idea at all.


Over at the phenomenal Paleo-Future, we find this, from Our Friend the Atom:

The coal and oil resources of our planet are dwindling, yet we need more and more power. The atomic Genie offers us an almost endless source of energy. For the growth of our civilization, therefore, our first wish shall be for: POWER!

This was published in 1956.

But even if you do disagree, and believe that we're only a few corn stalks away from going back to horse-carts and coal-fired steam engines, go take a look at the site. It's fascinating. Yes, I've already told Lileks about it.


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