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August 31, 2008
Gustav Is Swedish For Katrina
As the press gets ready to remind everyone, in a suitably timely fashion, how badly Bush and the Republicans botched the Hurricane Katrina response, it's worth remembering what they got wrong - which was pretty much everything.
Fool me once...
August 29, 2008
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the opening (as opposed to the establishment) of the US Air Force Academy.
Labor Day 2008
It's not often I link to the AFL-CIO website from here. The thuggishness that characterizes so much of the labor movement, both in union and partisan politics, makes them no heroes of mine. A movement that has been a victim both of its success and its arrogance has seen members stay away in droves. As a result, labor leaders have resorted to ever-greater government props and coercion to keep their movement from collapsing into rubble.
So I'd like to recall a personal hero of mine, Samuel Gompers:
First, he advocated craft or trades unionism, which restricted union membership to wage earners and grouped workers into locals based on their trade or craft identification. This approach contrasted with the effort of many in the Knights of Labor to organize general, community-based organizations open to wage earners as well as others, including employers. It also contrasted sharply with the "one big union" philosophy of the Industrial Workers of the World.
Second, Gompers believed in a pure-and-simple unionism that focused primarily on economic rather than political reform as the best way of securing workers' rights and welfare. Gompers's faith in legislative reform was dashed in the 1880s after the New York Supreme Court overturned two laws regulating tenement production of cigars that he had helped pass. Gompers saw that what the state gave, it could also take away. But what workers secured through their own economic power in the marketplace, no one could take away.
Third, when political action was necessary, as Gompers increasingly came to believe in his later years, he urged labor to follow a course of "political nonpartisanship." He argued that the best way of enhancing the political leverage of labor was to articulate an independent political agenda, seek the endorsement of existing political parties for the agenda and mobilize members to vote for those supporting labor's agenda.
It's worth seeing how badly the current AFL-CIO, SEIU, and NEA have betrayed every part of this vision. Of course, it's almost impossible not to be political when over half your membership is on the government payroll.
Gompers's unwillingness to transform his unions into tools of the Wobblies and international socialism also earned the enduring hatred of Emma Goldman. Judge a man by his enemies.
Happy Labor Day!
August 24, 2008
The Al Qaeda Fan Club Slithers By
During the pro-troops rally this morning at the Pioneer Memorial, look what slithered by.
The theme of the day:
The irony escapes them:
Yes we can!
Of course. We're just the same as them:
A fine sentiment:
Except for those who use kids as bombs:
The answer to our prayers:
John Andrews, call your office:
Finally, the real agenda. Good to see such honesty at last:
August 20, 2008
What luck! Today is the 135th birthday of the eminent Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen. In Europe, he designed very old-world-looking museums, homes, and railway stations. He also did the town hall of Lahti, Estonia, probably because the Estonians were the only other folks who could understand the language. Sadly, they "preserved" this legacy with an annex (we all know how well those turn out), and then tried to restore the original, "in spirit, though not in style."
OK, so far, nice use of brick work, some clever allusions to history, on the whole, a pleasant use of space.
Then he comes to America, and this, this, and this. Not only is it as though crossing the Atlantic turned him into a completely different designer, but the guy's buildings are on historic registers all over the country.
And you can see why. After all, getting the water to tilt that way at Crankbrook must have taken engineering forward decades all by itself. And capturing the spirit of the moment; that church is Minnesota just doesn't look complete without, say, a windswept Hume Cronyn as pastor, standing in the doorway, peering out severly at the gathering storm.
Needless to say, his more famous son (also born on this day), had somewhat different ideas.
Looking at their architecture, you can see how each was a product of his time and place, but also of the materials available to him. What you can't even imagine with brick, you can effortless create with steel and poured concrete.
Curiously, they also both liked to design chairs, which together with buildings, perhaps indicates a measure of control more appropriate to Germans that to Finns.
Dem Convention Demos Worth Attending
There will be at least two rallies worth being at during the upcoming Democratic
Circus Convention. First, the American Victory Coalition will be hosting a rally at Pioneer Monument Park in support of our troops. It'll take place on Sunday from 10-2. Brian Ivers, Steve Ward, and my good friend Neil Dobro will be among the speakers there.
Then, Neil will be at it again on Monday at a rally at the Pepsi Center urging a united Jerusalem, and no creation of a Palestinian terror state.
Yours Truly will be speaking at the Sunday Rally. Strictly speaking, it's not a campaign event, since there are a number of 501(c)3s participating, and we have to keep it non-partisan. But it'll still be a heckuva lot of fun.
August 19, 2008
Hospital Transparency; It's Not Just For Gowns Any More
If expanded markets in health care are going to work, then we need informed consumers. I can spend hours looking for the best tour package, comparing hotels, finding what airline will save me $10 on a seat if I walk down the ramp backwards flapping my arms. But if I had to pick which hospital to direct the ambulance to when I have my coronary bypass, I would probably have said, "Rose, Jeeves."
Markets only work if parties have real information to base their decisions on. Without feeling sorry for insurance companies, it's possible to admit that part of their premium comes from asymmetrical information: applicants lie. Likewise, it's tremendously difficult to act like health care consumers because we don't have the information that we have when we're buying vacations or melons.
Now, comes a Colorado company, HealthGrades, which seeks to provide just that information to health care consumers - outcomes for hospitals, comparisons for physicians and nursing homes. This is exactly the kind of company that, if allowed to pursue its business, can help change the world.
Right now, the revenue model seems a bit...muddled. It appears to be a combination of selling reports and selling Google ads. I'm sure they've done much more market research than I have, which is none, but it seems a bit steep to ask a consumer to pay for this sort of report, when they're already putting up money up front for an HSA and its deductibles. On the face of it, it seems that the best bet would be to seel licenses to insurance companies, who could then market access to the information as part of an HSA.
And note that the only government action required is to get out of the way.
Bureaucracies & The Laws They Hate
Exhibit A of how bureaucracies exist to perpetuate their own power, and how large companies use regulation to entrench their own positions.
HB1227 was supposed to require existing cab companies to prove that new entrants would harm the public interest (although one would assume that one or the other going out of business would prove the point far better). But the PUC has already ruled - bizarrely - that a company needs to hire an attorney for its approval hearing.
The Rocky has it right: "An entrepreneur shouldn't need much more than a safe vehicle, clean driving record and a hefty policy of liability insurance to start hauling fares. Indeed, Castle Rock wondered why a corporation owned and operated by one person could not be represented by its owner before the PUC."
But bureaucracies must justify their existence, and existing companies are far better poised to work rules - any rules - to their advantage. What's astonishing is that a bill with clear language could be overturned by a regulatory agency chartered and created by the legislature.
The average citizen already finds himself subject to dozens of governmental layers. Does anyone really think that one created for single-payer health insurance would be any different?
August 13, 2008
The Morning After
Well, of course, you can always go read what the campaign has to say.
By now you know that the result was 71% - 29% in our favor. You also know that Lois Court won over on the Dem side against Liz Adams and Josh Hanfling, 44-38-18, respectively. What was interesting was that the preponderance of the vote was early (in our case, about 1800 of 2500 total votes were cast early). We won 75% (yes 75%) of game-day voters, but it barely nudged the overall percentage.
The early mail-in results were reported as 70% of precincts reporting, which meant, in this case, 70% of the vote. (The precincts apparently called in the number of votes cast, but Election Division had to count the paper ballots back at HQ.) So we had mathematically clinched by the time the first couple of precincts came in. And yet, the habit of watching the percentages, and watching them move, is so ingrained that it overrode the hard numbers.
A side note about the East Side Kosher Deli, which did a terrific job catering the event, with veggies, a chicken-finger variety pack, all sorts of beverages, and delightful crescent rolls.
Afterwards, Mark, his kids, and I went down to the Election Division to watch the process and the count. It was painfully slow. The central counting of paper ballots has some virtues - accuracy and a permanent records, mostly - but speed isn't one of them. The boxes have to come in, be correlated with the precinct, leftover ballots accounted for, etc. Then they're entered into the system, and finally counted. There's a whole conflict-resolution-escalation process in the event that the hyper-sensitive scanner spits them out.
The whole experience was a bit like going on a factory tour for Tillamook cheese. Yes, you get to watch it from a safe distance, and it all looks good. But if someone's systematically poisoning the product, you'd have no way of spotting it. I don't think anyone's doing that, but it just means that the only way to make the process truly transparent is to also make it truly invasive.
To their credit, at 11:00 at night, Alton Dillard, Stephanie O'Malley, Michael Scarpello, and Tom Mann were alert, friendly, and informative. I had probably been up longer than they, but still, to be that chipper that late just isn't natural. A particular thanks to Alton, who was ultra-responsive to requests for data over the course of the primary. I know, he was only doing his job. But there's doing your job, and then there's Doing Your Job.
Now, we have to start studying the numbers for the general. This is gonna be fun.
August 12, 2008
And oh the expectation
The sublime anticipation
He must feel about Election Day to come
Yikes. Out of my hands now. It's all about the voters - those who have voted and those who haven't - and the most I can do is to take a tour of the precincts, maybe make a couple of calls. But mostly, it's a day of preparation rather than activity. Shave & a Haircut. Two Bits. Shine shoes. Pick up the two suits and 14 ties that are over at the dry cleaners.
Oh, and get up at 5:00 to be on a 6:00 AM conference call for a code launch here at work.
Fasten your seatbelts.
August 9, 2008
"Public Good"'s Just Other Words For Nothin' Left To Choose - III
Proponents of Single-Payer health care have attempted to recast health care from a product into a "public good." In fact, the term, "public good" has a very specific meaning in economics. While certain elements of health care may meet the definition, most - and the most interesting for public policy - do not.
In order to be a public good, an item has to 1) be non-rival, i.e., if I take some, it doesn't mean any less for you, and 2) non-excludable, i.e., effectively, you can't keep me from taking as much as I want. Air is a good example (despite the appealing military term, "oxygen thief").
Almost no medical services meet these requirements. There is no reasonable way that a hospital room, or the attention of the nurses assigned to that floor, can be either non-rival or non-excludable. Even if you pack patients in as though hospitals were tenements, there's still a limit. And I had darned well better know who's in each room, otherwise delivering care of any kind is going to be a pretty dicey proposition.
One could make a case that routine medicines such as aspirin and penicillin might, as well as most common vaccines. Even in those cases, however, one assumes need. While we can all breathe as much as we like, if all of us were to wander through hospital dispensaries gathering up handfuls of band-aids and anti-inflammatories, the stocks wouldn't last very long.
So someone saying that health care is a "public good," either doesn't understand the term - indicating a level of economic illiteracy and muddled thinking typical of so much of what passes for health care debate - or they do know, in which case their proposals have devastating implications.
August 7, 2008
"Public Good"'s Just Other Words - II
The great appeal of Single Payer is its simplicity. Like the man said:
Your friends, they don't like you very much anymore. You force them to make too many decisions. With me, only one decision: do what I say.
The more extreme versions of Single Payer would even outlaw spending in supplemental insurance, under the delusion that health care should be completely independent of income or wealth. (For instance, the AARP has a sign on Colorado Blvd. claiming that it's time for "universal coverage and financial security for everyone." As though the two were the same, and either achievable.)
Despite pretensions to morality, this is in fact a deeply immoral vision of health care. It says that it's perfectly ok to spend your money to protect yourself from a home invader, but not from cancer or heart disease or a broken leg.
The notion derives directly from the definition (and abuse) of the concept of a "public good," but that's for another post.
(Not) Lost in Translation II
Rima Barakat Sinclair also found time to opine on Iraq during her candidacy. In the past, at the Big Tent Event on April 10, and at a subsequent Colorado Federation of Republican Women's meeting, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair has expressed admiration for the salutory effects of the regime change on Iraq's women, and the opportunities they now enjoy. She also - at a Colorado Jewish Republicans meeting in June of 2008 - expressed gratitude for the service and good works of an injured Iraqi veteran who spoke there.
However, in the chat session with Al-Arab Al-Yawm, she responded quite differently to a question from an Iraqi expatriate who had returned to the Middle East. Here's his question:
Ms. Rima ... Being an Iraqi I would like to ask you questions that have been so long in the minds of Iraqis for more than five years. Being an American, and in the vicinity of (American political kitchen) I returned to the region convinced that the US desired a return of Iraqi rights, which are still waiting, hoping for the dream of freedom. How is it that America & Britain are unable to find a solution to Iraq's security crisis, economically and socially? Was it the scheme of the freedom promised by the Iraqis that the price of the blood of thousands and thousands widowed and orphaned thousands and displaced millions? Did the U.S. administration expect the events that took place in Iraq? Are things, in a nutshell, in Iraq as expected and planned by the U.S. government, or was what has happened and is happening in Iraq not an unthinkable shock when I returned preparing to enter Iraq? If the purpose of the occupation of Iraq was to find weapons of mass destruction (across continents), then where can't America eliminate the weapons of mass destruction that kill Iraqis daily, in numbers increasing with the growing militia sources, and the processing of enough simple weapons to destroy dozens of Iraqis?
And here's her answer:
When reality contradicts propaganda and theory, logic gives you an honest answer. You have found the answer to your question yourself. What happened and is happening in Iraq does not constitute a surprise. In 1994, Dick Cheney, George Bush's current Vice-President, predicted the expected consequences for Iraq if U.S. troops entered the country. What was said then is achieved today, knowing that Mr. Cheney is still one of the foremost supporters of starting a war against Iraq. He is today also one of the most zealous advocates of waging war against Iran under the same slogan, "weapons of mass destruction" and "protecting Israel."
This amazing video shows that in 1994, Dick Cheney understood the consequences of invading Iraq: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BEsZMvrq-I.
And here, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair provides a transcript in mixed Arabic and English.
No attempt to defend the invasion. No attempt to defend America's performance. An outright attack on the integrity of a sitting Vice President in a foreign newspaper. Tell-tale quotes around "weapons of mass destruction" when obliquely referring to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
In other parts of the chat session, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair is quite fulsome in her praise of America's protection of free speech and civil liberties. The Constitution completely and correctly protects Mrs. Barakat Sinclair's rights as a citizen. I leave it to the reader to judge the use she's putting them to, and her fitness for office.
August 6, 2008
(Not) Lost In Translation
More from Rima Barakat Sinclair's big adventure, the email chat session with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Yawm . The following is a translation of one of her answers to a question from a reader, and consists entirely of her own words:
We are aware that the Arab media influence on Western society is limited, and we also know that the Arab issues are not fairly covered in the western media. There are many Arab American organizations that provide activities aimed at the definition of truth and justice the Palestinian cause.
The source of activities in non-Arab countries, which were founded some 20 years ago, has remained limited within the point of view and vision of the founding members of those organizations. Most have focused their efforts in Washington DC, leaving their influence on public opinion and American media deflated.
There are several factors affecting the ability of Arabs to launch publicity campaigns to explain the issue and win the American people to their side. One of them was the lack of interest by Arab tycoons or companies in producing films or television program available for worldwide sale. This is the reverse of the actions taken by a number of wealthy Jewish supporters of Zionism like Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch. So media campaigns advocating for Arabs or Muslims in America are limited to the efforts of individuals or small enterprises that suffer most from financial difficulties and limited distribution.
The reality of a Western media hostile to Arab and Islamic issues will not change as long as Arabs are only waiting for the West to see the "right," one day, without developing an integrated effort to deliver their message. A dialogue of religions is needed, and part of the Divine message is that the powerful should have compassion for the weak.
Ideally, morality starts with tolerance of others and self-understanding. If people applied this principle in their own lives, it would solve many of their problems. What applies to individuals applies to relations between nations. But reality dictates that the strong decide what is "right." It is the duty of the victim to remind the strong that he didn't consider the effects of his unjust abuse. Therefore, it remains important that one talk with a strong knowledge of his thinking and point of view. This does not mean forgetting or abandoning the right.
The Saudi Madrid initiative has received wide and positive media coverage, especially by the one rabbi invited to the conference. And since Saudi Arabia began and will continue this initiative, it is preferable to encourage religious scholars and Islamic institutions to study and support such initiatives, instead of having the positive reaction only or participating in conferences organized to discuss Islam by non-Muslims.
Well, at least it isn't the weird paranoid theories about McCain and Obama conspiring to turn Jordan into a holding cell for Palestinians.
Note also the purpose of the interfaith activity. Some of us have been called some pretty nasty names for bringing this up. Some of us are owed an apology. None of us expects one.
On the other hand, it does have that bit in it about the Jews running the media. It might be a little more convincing if she had found some actual Jews. Maxwell, yes, but Murdoch & Black, no.
You know, one time I was in Johnstown, Pa., site of the flood, for work. I took the afternoon off and went to a local very minor league baseball game. Of course, I was wearing the yarmulke. So two guys come down, sit on either side of me, and say, "You're not from around here, are you?"
Frequently, those words, directed towards someone wearing a yarmulke are quickly followed by, "and would you please go back." In this case, it turned out to be a couple of local yiddin who worked sports for the local radio station and newspaper. They wanted to let me know about the minyan.
"So," I said, "it's true. We really do control the media."
Back then, it was funny.
UPDATE: The newspaper has been named, and it has been made clear that all the indented comments are Mrs. Barakat Sinclair's own.
August 4, 2008
Campaign Details Nobody Ever Tells You About
For instance, strangers asking how they should vote on ballot issues and other candidates. They're not the local Republican equivalents of Obamatons, but people really want to know what you think.
So, for the record:
Denver Question 100: NO. It's a good idea, taking away the vehicles from illegal aliens. But there doesn't seem to be an out for someone who loans his car to a friend, where that friend has let his license lapse or has a problem. Most people don't go poking around their friends' driving records. This contigency won't happen often, at least not innocently, but there's no reason not to close this loophole and resubmit.
Denver Question 1A: NO. At first glance, this appears to be an attempt to substantially reduce citizens' rights to put questions on the ballot. I know we're all a little frustrated about the number of issues showing up on the ballot, and I know the government is particularly frustrated at having itself second-guessed by the people it works for. Too bad. Explain to me what problem this is supposed to solve, and I'll think about supporting it next year.
CD-1: George Lilly. George has been quietly and personally supportive of my campaign without openly taking sides. And when I had the chance to see him and Mr. Crain side by side in the HD-6 forum, he came across as the more solid of the two. Now George is a completely committed Ron Paul guy, so know what you're getting, but know it's much better than the alternative.
"Public Good"'s Just Other Words For Nothin' Left to Choose
With apologies to Mr. Kristofferson.
Proponents of a single-payer health care system here in Colorado have taken to referring to health care as a "public good." In theory, this means that everyone is entitled to the service. In practice, it means that choice in the system - from insurance to actual health care, will disappear virtually overnight.
Advocates of Single-Payer compare medical services to police and fire protection. Indeed, as a humane society, we're not simply going to allow people to die in the street, which is why we fund ambulance services to go along with the hook-and-ladder. By analogizing these to a generalized "right" to health care, the single-payers wearing the checkered sportcoats are hoping that you won't notice that the creampuff they're trying to sell you is up on blocks and has no engine.
We have a police force because we have laws, and someone has to enforce them. We have a public fire department in part, because fires have a tendency to spread, and because private companies had have a tendency to have the crassus of manners.
And we still supplement police forces with security services and fire departments with sprinkler systems.
There are issues that could be qualified as public health problems. But these tend to be epidemiological in nature, the sort of thing where, if you get sick, then I and a thousand of my closest friends get sick. Or let's all agree to get our kids vaccinated against the mumps. The obvious power of these arguments is the main reason for mislabeling things like eating, drinking, and smoking as "epidemics," rather than genetics or self-control.
The implications of misclassifying normal health care as a "public good" are a dramatic and inevitable loss of freedom. If the government is responsible for paying for your health care, then it can also ban transfats, ban fast food restaurants (from neighborhood apparently too benighted to take care of themselves), and John Edwards can plausibly claim that citizens should be legally required to get annual physicals.
The food sold at restaurants becomes a "public good." There's no logical reason why the food sold at your local grocery shouldn't be subject to the same scrutiny. We'll just be expected to be grateful when it isn't.
August 1, 2008
Rima Campaigning in the Foreign Press
The following appeared in Watan, an Arabic-langauge American Newspaper, describing an email interview that Mrs. Barakat Sinclair gave with the Al-Arab Al-Yawm Newspaper in Jordan. It is a quick translation of the article, but for all that, it's a translation by a friend of mine, who is a native Arabic speaker, and is fully correct in its substance.
According to Rima Barakat Sinclair, a candidate for the state House of Representatives in the American state of Colorado, Jordan would be transformed into being a substitute nation for the Palestinians sometime in the next few years.
The idea of Jordan being a substitute homeland for the Palestinians isn't a new idea. It is said that McCain will declare Jordan as a Palestinian state, and that Obama will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is proof of the warming of public opinion's support for the Israeli position in American politics. It is also proof of a disgraceful lack of support for the honorable and united Arab positions. This has been known to many people.
Talk about Jordan as a substitute homeland has been growing every day. The neocons, and especially Elliott Abrams, the "nation builder," has called for quite a while for a substitute homeland in order to relieve the problem of the presence of the Palestinians in Palestine.
At the present, Jordan is going through difficult time. The prices of food, oil, and diesel are much higher than in past. The people are hungry and afraid of a dark future, and pressure on them grows like throwing kerosine on top of gasoline. All of the tribes, the Syrians, the Sharkas, Armenians, Palestinians, need to be watchful, and not to allow this conspiracy to happen. History shows that any attempt to pass the Zionist designs were preceded by attempts to take away from the citizens the hope for a generous and respectable life. It is followed by a game of blame between one segment of the people to another, and worse than that also happened.
In my personal opinion, if things remain the same, Jordan will be transformed into being the substitute nation for the Palestinians in the coming few years. Support for this idea has been expressed in the American Congress.
The gift that keeps on giving. I'm not going to waste time on the equivalent of arguing that the Royal family aren't the humanoid form of alien space lizards.
The point is, either Mrs. Barakat Sinclair's fevered imagination honestly believes this stuff, or she's pandering to the culture of paranoid conspiracy theories that frolics in the petri dish of Arab society over there, by attacking both major party candidates and the body politic.
I realize that, post-Clinton, it's de rigeur for national Democratic candidates and office-holders to slight the US on foreign soil. I hadn't realized that it was now acceptable for candidates for state office to campaign overseas.
She is, quite obviously, using her status as a candidate to enchance her credibility within the Arab world.
Mrs. Barakat Sinclair clearly sees herself as a representative from the Arab world to the US, and from the US to the Arab world. May I suggest that each could do better.
Power, Faith, and Fantasy
Six Days of War
An Army of Davids
Learning to Read Midrash
Deals From Hell
A War Like No Other
A Civil War
The (Mis)Behavior of Markets
The Wisdom of Crowds
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
Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory
Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures
Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud