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Joshua Sharf

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« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

November 30, 2008

He's Not Black

Unless the one-drop rule still applies, our president-elect is not black.

We call him that -- he calls himself that -- because we use dated language and logic. After more than 300 years and much difficult history, we hew to the old racist rule: Part-black is all black. Fifty percent equals a hundred. There's no in-between.

Naturally, when Rush Limbaugh says this, he's a racist. I tried it at dinner one evening, and all I got was silence and an eventual, "no comment," from the one Democrat present.

I'm sure it will also come as a surprise to the NAACP, the SCLC, and Donna Brazile.

November 29, 2008

Blog Talk Radio

We'll be visiting with Todd Bensman of the San Antonio Express-News. Todd is the author of the series, "Breaching America," about the vulnerability of our southern border to threats from the Middle East. He's also followed the growing Iranian presence in Central America, and other facets of the connection between border security and national security.

Every Tuesday Night at 9! Archives are Forever.

November 28, 2008

Newspaper Finance - II

The Balance Sheet

Put simply, American newspaper companies have too much debt, and have been fooling themsevles about how much equity they have. When they went through that period of consolidation a few years back, the surviving (so far) companies vastly overpaid for the properties they bought, thinking that either they could turn them around or that the names would translate into sales. Then they borrowed agains these "assets," and have thus robbed themselves of whatever flexibility they had.

Here are the assets of the seven companies we've been looking at so far:

The bars represent the total assets. The blue represents something called, "Goodwill," the red, everything else. Goodwill is, roughly speaking, the vigorish that you pay for a company. Essentially, according to accounting rules, you're not allowed to pay more for something than it's worth. What you pay for it is what it's worth. So if you pay $4 million for a company whose net assets are valued at $3 million, after the buyout you put down the extra $1 million as an asset called, "Goodwill." It can generously be interpreted as extra cash you think the property should generate over time.

But it's a guess, an estimation, and can also serve as a slush line item to hide the fact that you just overpaid by 50% for a name that isn't generating any ad revenue any more, but that People Trust. It used to be that Goodwill was amortized over a period of time. Now, it has to be re-examined as often as necessary, and written down as appropriate.

Let's take a look at what's going to happen, as accountants realize that if the New York Times can't sell ad space, neither will the Podunk Press they sunk $2.5 extra large into five years ago, and that all the Goodwill in the world isn't going to change the fact that Iowans are getting their news from here and their local advertising from here.

The other rule here, so basic it's been known since the Italian Renaissance as the Accounting Rule is that Assets = Liabilities + Equity. If I write down an asset, I also need to subtract a like amount from either liabilities or equity. Since Goodwill isn't exactly a loan, likely it'll come out of equity. Here are the Owners' Equity lines from these companies, before and after Goodwill is subtracted:

That's right, boys and girls. Four of these Titans of Type go from having positive equity to negative equity, meaning they owe more than their companies are worth. And this is a completely defensible assessment. Given the current market, and the likelihood of how these will develop, you can't sell that Goodwill on the open market, because people apparently have resorted to paying what things are worth.

Now all of these companies have some long-term debt, although the Washington Post company seems to have made an effort to pay its down to minimal levels. Typically, I don't want debt-to-equity to be more than about 1. I know, there was a time not so very long ago when investors liked leverage. Because after all, we'd always be able to refinance that, wouldn't we? But I was never comfortable with huge debt-equity ratios.

Naturally, the D-E are calculating including Goodwill. Here's what happens when you subtract the Goodwill from the equity, and recalculate:

Not much fun. Of course, four of them go from positive to negative, including USA Today, which looked safe. The Journal newspapers only edge up to 1.30, and the NY Times - whoa, there, Pinch! - run up from a safe-looking 0.75 to almost 3.2. Only the Washington Post manages to stay sober.

These companies have been fooling themselves about the state of their balance sheets, believing that they had better balance than they did, because they were counting on revenues that will never materialize.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Debt's ok if you can pay it. Well, as we'll see next time, that's a problem, too.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

It is now confirmed that the Islamic terrorists who attacked Mumbai on Thursday butchered all of their hostages in the Jewish center, including Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka. Whether they did this before Indian security stormed the building isn't known, but there's no reason to think the attackers were planning to keep them alive.

As Powerline reader Barry Shaw points out:

From the start British and American coverage concentrated on the hotels with stress of the targeting of British and Americans. The Jewish target was ignored until day two and day three. The two luxury hotels were selected by the terrorists because they are occupied by tourists. People who escaped from the hotels claimed that the terrorists asked for British and Americans. However, they were selected because they were foreigners.

Nariman House was selected by the terrorists because the Chabad building was a specific Jewish target that also included Israelis. Let me make this clear. Chabad House was the only target chosen by the terrorists in Mumbai because of its specific character - Jewish and Israeli. Hostages in Chabad House were killed because they were Jewish and Israeli.

Yet this terror venue was largely ignored by most of the Western media until the final day.

In a longer piece assessing Pakistan's role over the years, over at her PajamasMedia gig, the Rocky's Bridget Johnson doesn't miss the point:

Out of the longstanding tussle for Kashmir, Pakistan unleashed the evil likely responsible for storming through the streets of Mumbai, breaking into hospitals to shoot patients, spewing gunfire on train commuters, and attacking any location where Westerners and Jews may be -- after all, why should the jihad stop at India?

The media's mischaracterization of the nature of the enemy serious colors our perception of this war. I was on the phone yesterday with a relative, conveying Thanksgiving best wishes, when the subject of the attack on the Nariman House came up. This person, Jewish, politically aware, usually centrist but who voted for McCain largely on security issues, said that it wasn't as though the terrorists' attack on the Nariman House had anything to do with their being Jewish. That the attack was just because they were western. This person ought to have known better, but because most people don't notice things that aren't pointed out, I had to work to convince them otherwise.

As for the Indians storming the buildings, I suspect the lives of the hostages were forfeit, anyway. If ever in the unfortunate situation of being in a building seized by Islamist terrorists, it would make sense, therefore, to act accordingly.

November 27, 2008

But Don't Call Them Anti-Semitic, or Anything

It's not just westerners:

From the NYT:

The Chabad-Lubavitch center, the local outpost of a global group that promotes Judaism, is located in Nariman House, one of the buildings that has been attacked in Mumbai.

The whereabouts of Rabbi Gavriel, who runs the center, and his wife, Rivka, remain "unknown," according to the group.

And the Moderate Voice is also following the story.

Just remember, to these barbarians, Jews anywhere, anytime, are fair game.

November 25, 2008

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Michelle Malkin read this, her own composition from Thanksgiving 2001, at the Independence Institute Founders Dinner a couple of weeks ago.

Dear Heavenly Father,

As we gather for this Thanksgiving dinner, we count our blessings, one by one, and as the list of good things which thou hast given us grows longer and longer, we realize how little appreciation we have expressed for this thy bounty:

For redwoods, white plains, and the wild blue yonder, for Yellowstone and brownstones, for evergreen trees and orange groves, for little pink houses and purple mountain majesties, for every divinely painted acre of this sweet land of liberty, we give thee praise.

For Idaho potatoes and Texas toast, for Washington apples and Hawaiian pineapples, for Iowa corn and Maryland crab cakes, for Ohio cherries and Florida strawberries, for Philly cheese steaks and New York cheesecakes, for Maine lobster and Mississippi mud pie, for every home-cooked meal and home-grown harvest, we give thee praise.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, we thank you this day for Northern Lights and Southern hospitality, for weekends in New England, for moonlight over Miami, for California dreaming, for a New York state of mind, for Okies and Aggies, for Motown and O-town, for Silicon Valley and the Shenandoah Valley, for the San Fernando Valley and Valley Forge, for Bunker Hill and the Black Hills, for the Grand Canyon and the Rio Grande, for Pebble Beach and the Jersey shore.

For American ingenuity and American enterprise, for American-made and American-born, for Americans abroad and Americans at heart, we give thee praise.

For the NYPD and the NYFD, for the MDs and EMTs, for Army rangers, for Navy Seals, for Air Force cadets, for Marine Corps reserves, and for all who serve, we thank them, and we thank you, O God, our creator and redeemer.

For "Let's roll," for "We're going up," for "What should I tell the captain?" for "You're going to be alright, brother," for "Take care of the kids," for "I love you, honey," for "We will not fail," for "United we stand," and for "Never forget," we offer eternal thanks.

For Psalm 23, for Ecclesiastes 3, for "How Great Thou Art," for "Morning Has Broken," for "Amazing Grace," and for "Be Not Afraid," we give thee praise.

For "E Pluribus Unum" and "Semper Fidelis," for "God Bless America" and "In God We Trust," for "We the people" and "Of the people, by the people, for the people," for "Don't tread on me," for "Give me liberty or give me death," for "These are the times that try men's souls," for "the land of the free and the home of the brave," we give thee praise.

For iron will, for steely resolve, for mettle tested and time-worn, for uncommon valor that never sleeps, for steady hands, sturdy legs, broad shoulders, and level heads, for stiff upper lips, for blood, sweat, and tears, for conquering our fears, and for unbending courage in the face of the unknown, we give thee praise.

O Father, we come to thee on this national day to join with heart and voice all the people of our blessed land to honor and thank thee. We ask you, Lord, as our forefathers did in times of strife, "to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all blessings: independence and peace."

For precious life itself in this great nation -- under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all -- we thank thee, O Father.


Blog Talk Radio

Every Tuesday night at 9!

Tonight, I'll be joined by Michael "Slapstick" Sandoval, Randy "Night Twister" Ketner, and Ben "I'm here to educate you" DeGrow, as we bat around the week's news, and interview Michael Kerr, of Red County. It's not just Orange County any more!

What Was That About the Oil Industry

Governor Ritter and too many legislators have been counting on the oil and gas industry to protect us against a recession. Note that these are the same people who argue against shale oil on the basis of Black Sunday a few decades ago.

Here comes the bad news your mother warned you about:

Energy companies are slashing operating budgets as Colorado's once-booming oil and gas industry struggles with plummeting commodity prices, a tight credit market and an uncertain regulatory environment.

Hiring freezes have been implemented in an industry that just six months ago struggled to fill open positions. The effects of the cutbacks are trickling to other companies, such as law firms that provide service to oil and gas operators.

News flash: it ain't just the law firms. It's trucking companies, hotels, housing, construction, pipeline companies, metalworking, logging, and everything else upstream from the hole in the ground. It's not just severance taxes, guys.

They'll base the budget on a cyclical industry, but won't allow it to grow to take advantage of the upturns.

November 24, 2008

Colorado Cash Crunch

Or, the recession hits home.

PERA is finally coming to grips with the fact that it's made promises it can't keep, and it looking for ways to either promise less or require more. So far, nobody's talking about raising taxes or cutting services to meet these obligations. It's a remarkably mature attitude, and one wonders how much of it will survive first contact with actual numbers, and the governor's unionization of employees. Still, the fact that PERA isn't overtly asking for a bailout - yet - is a hopeful sign.

Maybe that's because nobody really believes the governor's budget numbers except the governor. He continues to provide us with non-sequiturs:

Ritter has told legislators that Colorado's economy should survive the downturn better than other states' because the flourishing alternative-energy and oil industries have led to more than two years of job growth - although that string ended in September, and the jobless rate increased to 5.7 percent in October, the highest level in more than four years.

I don't see anyone proposing a severance tax on wind.

More to the point, oil isn't exactly booming right now, and those expensive alternative energy jobs may or may not last with continued subsidies, which come from taxes. Which are kind of running low right now.

Sales tax revenues are expected to dip 3 percent this year from 2007 and corporate income-tax money is predicted to remain flat. But the office forecasts growth of 6.1 percent for sales taxes, 5.1 percent for individual income taxes and 3.9 percent for corporate income taxes next year.

Barring inflation, which will hit costs just as much as revenues, these numbers are wildly optimistic. There's no way the economy grows at these real rates in 2009. But, not to worry:

Even if energy money to the state declines, there won't be a big impact on the budget, according to members of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee. Severance tax revenues go to one-time expenses like park development and local projects. So if oil and gas payments drop, they won't take down standing areas of government, said Sen.-elect Al White, R-Hayden.

And, if revenue projections are way off, legislators say they can hold down spending to keep things in check. Bills featuring new programs that aren't self-sustaining will have a hard time getting out of committees, said House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville.

Uh-huh. On one hand, the robust oil and new energy economy will save us. On the other hand, if they don't well, it won't really affect the general fund, anyway. But we were told during the campaign that the TABOR spending limits were, "insane." Yes, one candidate for HD-6 actually called them, "insane."

Watch out. These revenue numbers are really going to drive her nuts.

The Devil is in the Details

So you're comforted by Bill Richardson, Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton(!), and the rest of the Clinton Administration?

Just remember, it's the non-coms who are the backbone of any good military. Look at who's vetting the lower-tier officials, the ones who'll actually implement policy by making the rubber-meets-the-road decisions. The decisions that will fly below the radar, will require too much explanation for the MSM to bother with, and that cabinet-level heads would have to defend in a non-Obama administration.

  • Cruz Reynoso, who was the first Latino to serve on the California Supreme Court. Not bad, except that he was also the first Latino to be recalled by their citizens of that state after practicing judicial nullification on their capital punishment laws
  • Spencer Overton, who seems to have a problem - or perhaps no problem at all - with voter fraud.
  • Pamela Gilbert, a Naderite, unsafe with any portfolio
  • Bill Corr, who's basically responsible for my supervisor getting a ticket from the company security jv-cop in the parking lot the other day for smoking out on the sidewalk, something like 150 yards from the entrance. Seriousy.
  • Xavier de Souza Briggs, who's a big fan of "housing mobility." Insert your own school-voucher-subprime-mortgage joke here.

But of course, read the whole thing.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Countrywide's Senator Nowhere to Be Found

The Washington Post managed to write an entire article about Countrywide's regulators at the Office of Thrift Supervision without once mentioning the name of Sen. Christopher Dodd. The Connecticut senator claimed he received his sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide without his knowledge, under a plan specifically designed for policy-makers and VIPs.

The Post similarly seems shocked, shocked, to find that a regulatory agency became an advocate, rather than a regulator. We're still waiting for such shock to register concerning the FEC, the FCC, the NLRB, or indeed, the entire Department of Labor.

Moshav Motorola

Among the tactics used by the End the Israel crowd are economic and academic blackmail against companies that do business with the Jewish state. Two companies in particular were named, Caterpillar and Motorola. (I didn't get a chance to ask whether Caterpillar had earned a reprieve because one of its construction bulldozers was used in the Jerusalem terror attack a few months ago.)

Motorola, on the other hand, seems to have committed the sin of supplying the IDF with communications equipment. So when I went to go purchase my bluetooth earpiece and my cable modem yesterday, it was Motorola all the way.

The earpiece is a dream - I barely notice it's there, the sound is clear, and gosh darn, people can hear me. Not to mention that I look like that security guy from Empire Strikes Back, only with hair. I'll be checking the cable modem this evening when I get home.

In any event, Motorola costs a little more, but keep it in mind when you're buying electronics. And maybe send the company an email or a letter to let them know why.

November 21, 2008

Culture Clash

Politicians don't understand businessmen. And businessmen don't understand politicians. Each certainly fails to understand the game that the other is playing, and why they're playing it. It results in consistently unequal negotiations, where one side ends up getting scalped by the other.

Businessmen are in it to make money, but the entrepreneurs are also in it to build, to create, to do cool things. Politicians are in it to help people, but they're also in it to control, to exercise power, to dispense favors. For most of history, politicians had the upper hand, because wealth was tied up with the crown and with aristocracy, which was tied up with the government. Only in very rare instances - fleetinglly in industrializing England and France, and more durably in 19th and early 20th century America - was business able to run its own show.

It depends on whose turf they're playing on. Earlier this year, the academics and bureaucrats over at the Fed got snookered into heavily subsidizing JP Morgan's buyout of Bear Stearns. Morgan had to put up $1 billion, in return for which the Fed bought $26 billion or so of bad debt. The pressure was on, a deal had to be reached, we were told, and the government gave in.

Similarly here in Denver, aviation moguls have repeatedly played the Denver and Colorado governments over DIA. United Airlines got preferential treatment concerning gates, which prevented the expansion of Frontier and kept UA on life support, all the while shutting out new competition like Southwest and keeping fares high and choice low for Denver flyers. Later, Boeing led the governor and the mayor on a merry chase, playing them off against Chicago and Dallas for the right to host their new headquarters. And let's not even get started about Coors Field and Mile High II.

But it works the other way, too, and historically, it's been far more common. We got to build DIA, but the concession stands had minority and women set-asides. For some reason - can't for the life of me figure out how - Wilma Webb ended up with one of those set-asides.

And now, the Big 2.5 were on Capitol Hill rattling their tin cups, asking for our money to stay afloat. The price of this was to be a government oversight board of some kind. They they can't run a railroad, they seem to have problems running a bank, they sure as hell can't run a school system, they gave up trying to run the airlines, but they want an oversight board for auto manufacturers.

Then there are the health insurers who seem willing to sign the death warrant for their own industry:

Wall Street Journal: On Wednesday, the insurance industry's Washington trade group issued a statement saying it could accept new rules requiring companies to cover sick people, as well as healthy ones, as long as all Americans were required to have insurance, with subsidies for those who need them. The declaration by America's Health Insurance Plans is a switch from the industry's long-time opposition to rules that bar the common practice of weeding out customers who are likely to rack up too many bills.


National Review: Still, [Daschle] is unlikely to abandon the contention that decisions regarding what should or should not be available as a universal benefit to all Americans should be decided by an independent body of experts and wise men, not the marketplace or the political process. A powerful, unaccountable über-regulator of health care would be exactly what proponents of market-based health care dread.

Having demonized insurers for making money on their product, the government would simply rig the rules so that its "non-profit" share of the health insurance market steadily grew.

There's a chilling line from Atlas Shrugged, where the increasingly meddlesome bureaucrats tell the Midshipmen of Industry, "You wouldn't want us to tell you how to run your businesses now, would you?"


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

The Oldest Hatred, The Newest Slander

You'd think that after, oh, 3300 years, there wouldn't be much new for the anti-Semites to say.

You'd be wrong.

The meme started by History's Greatest Monster, that Ariel Sharon is Jan Smuts with a kipah, has gotten new traction from a group called, "End the Occupation." You might remember. It was in all the papers. Which is why pretty much everyone Jewish who had even looked at the Carter Center from the parking lot walked out of the place in early 2007.(It's a measure of how poorly the Republicans did in 2006 that even Carter couldn't get them re-elected.)

So now, along comes Diana Buttu, and her presentation, taking the ball and running with it. Bringing her Separate Is Not Equal Travelling Road Show and Snake Oil Pharmacy to Boulder on Monday, she showed how effective an unopposed and disingenuous attorney can be when presenting her case.

If repetition is the soul of propaganda, then her main themes were:

1) The Ideology of Superiority
2) There are no "Israeli Arabs," only "Palestinian Citizens of Israel"
3) We are all "privileged."

These are powerful ideas taken together. She refers repeatedly to, "theological underpinnings" of, "apartheid," which can only mean the concept of chosenness. I have been told, but cannot confirm, that she has made that connection explicitly in previous Tour Stops.

She repeated the phrase, "ideology of superiority" at least 11 times. By repeating that theme over and over, it not only demonizes Israel and Israelis, it also deligitimizes anything that Jews might do to defend themselves.

Her reference to "Palestinian Citizens of Israel" makes it easy to identify where she thinks their loyalty ought to lie. Can you say, "Fifth Column?" I knew you could. Never mind that every time rumors surface about turning over eastern Jerusalem start circulating, Jerusalemite Arabs vote with their resident applications concerning which government they prefer. Again, it's intended to deligitimize Israel's control over the Galil and other Arab-majority areas.

As for 3), "privileges" are a left-wing buzz-word of the first order. Just remember that you can be "privileges" and not even know it. And privileges, unlike rights, can and need to be revoked.

The Q&A was more distinguished for the questions Ms, Buttu didn't answer than for those she did. Among those:

  • What solutions do you propose?
  • Do you support a 1-state or a 2-state solution?
  • What can Israel do to defend itself? (The good reverend, accompanying Ms. Buttu as her warm-up act, implied that surrender would be a good start.)
  • What about the Egyptian and Jordanian occupations of Palestine-outside-the-Green-Line?

These, of course, are the tough questions, the ones that might prove embarassing to one of her many constituencies.

Interestingly, among those most-targeted constituencies would be American blacks, those for whom a comparison to apartheid might resonate. All of three showed up.

I'm working on uploading the video of her presentation. It's truly chilling, but forewarned is forearmed.

UPDATE: I'm reminded that Bridget Johnson over at the RMN was there was well.

November 19, 2008

Opening Night

Last night saw the debut of the RMA's Blog Talk Radio show. Michael "Best Destiny" Alcorn, Randy "Night Twister" Ketner, and I had a great time introducing ourselves, the show, and interviewing Seeme Hasan of Muslims for America. Even if we didn't agree with everything she had to say - in particular as regards CAIR - we think it was a valuable interview.

We had 46 live listeners, and as of right now, we've had 69 listeners to the archive, either streaming or download. Not bad for opening night.

Remember, Tuesday nights at 9:00!

Those Darned Websites

Well, if I'm going to hit the House Republicans for not maintaining their website, I want to give them credit when they do. But remember, it takes at least two data points to make a trend.

(The Dems announced their own committee assignments, and District 6 will be represented on State, Veterans, & Military, and on Judiciary.)

Let's also note the contrast between the Senate Republicans and the Senate Democrats.

Royalty, Indeed

Royalty and aristocracy were expert and exercising arbitrary power, disconnected from any sort of economic or social reality. The whole argument over shale oil exploration out west smacks of this. But while the Bush Administration has bolloxed its handling of the problem, the Colorado Democrats' response is just plain irresponsible.

One of the main obstructions to shale oil development was the lack of a regulatory regime, and a major part of that regime was the royalty rate that companies would have to pay for their leases. The Administration has proposed a rate that starts at 5% and climbs to 12.5%.

Now, the Democrats are half-right when they say:

"A rate of 12 percent might be too high, but it also may end up being too low," [director of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources Harris] Sherman said.

"Setting a royalty rate without knowing the cost of production makes no sense."

The half- part is that it's not the cost of production at issue, but the profit margin.

But then, how can Salazar know that, "it [is] a 'pittance' that would short Colorado by billions of dollars?"

[Sen.] Salazar's brother, Democratic Rep. John Salazar, was also critical, saying water, energy and the impact of shale development on Colorado towns remain unresolved.

Harris Sherman, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said it was "irresponsible" to move ahead before officials have a better idea of which technologies will work and what the likely impact will be on towns, air, water and land.

No kidding. Because Sen. Salazar and Governor Ritter have done everything in their power to prevent even experimental exploration and production on the land here.

Their complaining about putting the cart before the horse would be funny if they weren't trying to force you back into using them.

In the meantime, the Post not only ignores that irony, but also lets their complaints about water usage go unchallenged. We currently let about 1 million acre-feet of water leave the state, or about 22% of our supply in a normal year. And Colorado's oil shale actually traps considerable amounts of water that could be captured during the oil recovery process. Ignoring these facts reinforces the image of western Colorado as a bone-dry wasteland, except for peach orchards.

November 18, 2008

Aspen's "New" Ideas

Aspen's a charming little town, now starting to overflow its banks and pour down the Roaring Fork Valley towards Glenwood Springs. I like to get up there about once a year for a Shabbat, if I can. The town's wealthy. Really, really wealthy. Like Prince Bandar wealthy. But there are still some affordable hotels in town, for around $100 a night, even during The Season.

One of these is Aspen Meadows Resort, home of the Aspen Institute, where the self-congratulatory intelligentsia gather from time to time to congratulate themselves on, well, being intelligent, I suppose. (It's also the home of much bad architecture and pseudo-public art, which will be the subject of merciless mocking mirth over on the main site sometime soon.)

The library - in the reception building actually named for Prince Bandar - for some reason contains no books by Ibn Warraq or Bernard Lewis. It's not as though there's no room for the reality-based community there at all. Advise and Consent and Fail-Safe are there, so I suppose hard-edged realism has a place, and that place is in 50-year-old novels.

Mostly, we get the world as It should be, and could be, if everyone were as intelligent as us. Er, we. So there's Capitalism, Communism, and Coexistence. Two copies in fact, just in case the whole coexistence part turns out to be harder than you thought. There's Perestroika, from the same region of the camp, and Wesley Clark's Winning Modern Wars, from a general determined to lose them. I guess it's a matter of defining your terms. (Prince Bandar seems ok with that.)

Since dissent is patriotic, P.J. O'Rourke does get an entry - Give War a Chance, but only because it's next to the shockingly prescient End of Iraq.

And there's Plan B 2.0, by Lester Brown. Which I guess it what you need if you've been wrong often enough.

Maybe that's supposed to be the library's real inspiration.

November 17, 2008

Progress, Now...Not so Much

About a week ago, I blogged about the improvement that the state Republicans had shown in the state House of Representatives races. That's the good news.

The bad news is in the state Senate. Aside from the probable loss of Lori Clapp's seat, the aggregate vote also took a turn for the worse, and for many of the same reasons the Republicans did better in the House.

In 2004, the Republicans lost 51% - 47.3%, and by an aggregate vote of 35,000 votes. This time, in the same set of seats (ignoring the special race in District 16), we lost 56-44, and by about 129,000 votes. Of that improvement, about 48,000 came from Democrats competing in seats that were uncontested in 2004. And remember, 2004 was the year the Dems took over the legislature as a whole.

District 8 showed improvement, but was a hold, and District 19 showed significant improvement, but we still failed to wrest it away.

Combining this with the data from the House races, it's a fair bet that the results taken together are a result of more tactical spending on the part of CoDA and the Four Horsemen. Realizing that the House didn't show much chance or need for gains, whereas the Senate could be put out of reach for the vital redistricting year of 2010, that's where the "progressives" put their money.

I haven't looked ahead to the 2010 calendar, but I'm guessing that barring a major change in the landscape, the Senate now probably is out of reach, and redistricting will probably focus on that body more than any other.

BTR Guests

The RMA is pleased to announced that we've confirmed that Seeme Hasan will join us for our first show, this Tuesday at 9:00 PM. Mrs. Hasan is the recipient of the Independence Institute's D'Evylyn Award, and the founder of Muslims for America.

Newspapers - The Financial Crisis - I

A lot of pixels have been spilt over the financial crisis that newspapers are now facing. Some of it has been triumphalist, some of it more in sadness than in anger (or joy).

Now, as Ecclesiastes says, there's, "a time to destroy, a time to gloat." OK, I made that part up. But the fact is that while new media may create the buzz, most issues are still ultimately validated by appearing in the MSM. Their brand-name appeal still carries a lot of weight, as demonstrated by their post-2004 counterattack against blogs. And the fact that their corrections sections pages compete only with their apologists ombudsmen in after-the-fact self-justification hasn't yet succeeded in destroying that brand-name.

So the financial condition of newspapers should still be of interest to us all. (They are, it would seem, at least of passing interest to their publishers. Although not of enough interest for the publishers to pay for the conference themselves. "The summit conference was enabled by a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation and funded by API's J. Montgomery Curtis Memorial Seminar Fund.")

Some of the gloating has come from talk radio and the right, on the assumption that the MSM's credibility gap is causing its financial difficulties. Maybe. But as one of the participants put it, "'We don't have a crisis of audience. We have a crisis of revenue' in monetizing that traffic."

Over the course of a series of articles, I'm going to look at the industry's financials, learning and revising as I go, trying to understand and explain what's happening to the newspaper industry, and why it's producing stock charts that look like the pre-Fed Bear Stearns:

Worst Bailout Excuse Yet

On Friday, driving to Aspen for the weekend, I happened to hear Lou from Littleton (a host, not a caller, on KOA, who's actually from Detroit), argue for the automakers' bailout. His case? That attendance at the Lions games was so bad that the NFL was considering lifting its blackout policy there.

So instead of spending $25 billion to keep the UAW afloat for a few more years, how about the Lions just lower the ticket prices? Oh, right. Probably because then they wouldn't be able to put that quality product on the field that the people of Detroit have come to expect over the last 50 years.

November 16, 2008

Now They Tell Us

The Denver Post comes out against card check this morning:

If Obama or congressional Democrats now put a card-check bill high on their agenda, they will risk a "Ritter moment" that would damage their relations with moderates and the business community. That's what happened to Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007 when a bill gutting long-standing rules limiting "union shops" in the Colorado Peace Act hurtled through the legislature with little public input.

Ritter rightly vetoed that bill, but the move angered his labor supporters. Later that year, the governor tried to make amends by granting limited collective-bargaining rights to state employees. That move, in turn, alienated much of the business community. This year's wholly avoidable fights over a right-to- work initiative and four anti-business initiatives that labor later withdrew all followed.

The Colorado squabbles weren't worth it. Whatever benefits labor might have gained by disrupting a decades-long accord with business were far outweighed by the disruption these duels caused.

This, coming from a paper whose editorial page never mentioned card check as an issue, and whose campaign coverage rarely mentioned it at all. From an editorial page that repeatedly blamed business for instigating this year's ballot initiatives fight,

Now that Right to Work is safely dead and buried, and now that their candidate - candidates, if one includes Mark Udall - are safely elected, they tell us that it would be in the Democrats' best interests not to reward their largest, most organized constituency.

Forgive me for doubting their sincerity.

November 15, 2008

So, What Did Johnson Do?

Well, in the course of creating the Great Society, that's never so great it can't be made greater by a little more of your money, here's the list of legislation (be afraid; be very afraid):

College FacilitiesClean Air
Vocational EducationIndian Vocational TrainingManpower Training
Inter-American Development BankKennedy Cultural CenterTax Reduction
Presidential TransitionFederal Airport AidFarm Program
Chamizal ConventionPesticide ControlsInternational Development Association
Civil Rights Act of 1964Compobello International ParkUrban Mass Transit
Water Resources ResearchFederal HighwayCivil Service Pay Raise
War on PovertyCriminal JusticeTruth in Securities
Medicine Bow National ForestOzark Scenic RiverwayAdministrative Conference
Fort Bowie Historic SiteFood StampHousing Act
Interest EqualizationWilderness AreasNurse Training
Revenues for RecreationFire Island National SeashoreLibrary Services
Federal Employee Health Benefits
MedicareAid to EducationHigher Education
Four Year Farm ProgramDepartment of HUDHousing Act
Social Security IncreaseVoting RightsFair Immigration Law
Older AmericansHeart, Cancer, StrokeLaw Enforcement Assistance
National Crime CommissionDrug ControlsMental Health Facilities
Health ProfessionsMedical LibrariesVocational Rehabilitation
Anti-Poverty ProgramArts & HumanitiesAid to Appalachia
Highway BeautyClean AirWater Pollution Control
High Speed TransitManpower TrainingPresidential Diability
Child HealthRegional DevelopmentAid to Small Business
Weather PredictingMilitaty Pay IncreaseGI Health Insurance
Community Health ServicesWater Resources CouncilWater Desalting
Assateague Nat'l SeashoreWhiskeytown Nat'l Rec. AreaDelaware Water Gap Rec. Area
Juvenile Delinquency ControlArms ControlStrengthening UN Charter
Int'l Coffee AgreementRetirement for Public Servants
Food for IndiaChild NutritionDept. of Transportation
Truth in PackagingModel CitiesRent Supplements
Teachers CorpsAsian Development BankClean Rivers
Food for FreedomChild SafetyNarcotics Rehab
Traffic SafetyHighway SafetyMine Safety
Int'l EducationBail ReformTire Safety
New GI BillMinimum Wage IncreaseUrban Mass Transit
Civil Procedure ReformFederal Highway AidMilitary Medicare
Public Health Reorg.Cape LookoutWater Research
Guadalupe Nat'l ParkBicentennialFish-Wildlife Preservation
Water for PeaceAnti-Inflation ProgramScientific Knowledge Exchg.
Cultural Materials Exchg.Foreign Investors TaxParcel Post Reform
Civil Service Pay RaiseStockpile SalesParticipation Cert.
Protection for SavingsFlexible Interest RatesFreedom of Information
Education ProfessionsEducation ActAir Pollution Control
Partnership for HealthSocial Security IncreasesAge Discrimination
Wholesome MeatFlammable FabricsUrban Research
Public BroadcastingOuter Space TreatyModern DC Gov't
Vietnam Vets BenefitsFederal Judicial CenterCivilian Postal Pay
Deaf-Blind CenterCollege Work StudySummer Youth Programs
Food StampsRail Strike SettlementSelective Service
Urban FellowshipsConsular TreatySafety at Sea Treaty
Narcotics TreatyAnti-RacketeeringProduct Safety
Small Business AidInter-American Bank
Fair HousingIndian Bill of RightsSafe Streets
Wholesome PoultryFood for PeaceCommodity Exchange Rules
Grain StandardsSchool BreakfastsBank Protection
Defense ProductionCorporate TakeoversExport Program
Gold Cover RemovalTruth in LendingAircraft Noise Abatement
Auto Insurance StudyNew Narcotics BureauGas Pipeline Safety
Fire SafetySea Grant CollegesDC School Board
Tax SurchargeBetter HousingInt'l Monetary Reform
Int'l Grains TreatyOil Revenues for RecreationVirgin Islands Election
San Rafael WildernessSan Gabriel WildernessFair Federal Juries
Candidate ProtectionJuvenile Deliquency ProtectionGuaranteed Student Loans
DC Visitors CenterFHA-VA Interest RateHealth Manpower
Eisenhower CollegeGun ControlsAid to Handicapped Children
Redwoods ParkFlaming Gorge Rec. AreaBiscayne Park
Heart, Cancer, & StrokeHazardous Radiation Protect'nCol. River Reclamation
Scenic RiversScenic TrailsNat'l Water Comm.
Federal MagistratesVocational EducationVeterans Pension Increase
North Cascades ParkInt'l Coffee AgreementIntergovernmental Manpower
Dangerous Drugs ControlMilitary Justice Code

Look at this list. A couple of things like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act are positive goods. Some are tolerable, like Clean Air and clothes that won't turn into a funeral pyre make some sense, but why isn't the latter just part of consumer product safety? People want to point to FDR as walking all over the Constitution, and they've got a point, but it's LBJ who really took the ball and ran with it.

(The "anti-inflation" program is particularly touching.) Look at how the real monsters - Medicare, Medicaid (which isn't listed, and is probably under one of those Social Security expansions) are hidden in there. Look at how careful Johnson was to take care of the bureaucrats, increasing their pay, their benefits, and their pensions. Look at how much of a failure just about everything on the list has been. The multiple health initiatives haven't solved anything, but we'll be asked to pony up for more of the same. The education initiatives were passed - and continue to spend money - because of the same arguments we're hearing now. (Listing the DC School Board as an achievement must be some kind of a cruel joke. The one about Modern DC government is actually pretty funny.) There are four or five vocational education programs, but we're now calling for more. Look at how much is repetitive, and how much was done without waiting to see the results of prior experiments.

I doubt there's a single line-item here that's been repealed, but they're bankrupting the country 40 years later. They haven't solved a single problem, but the answer, naturally, is more of the same.

We've Been Here Before...and After

Republicans seem to be consoling themselves that Barack Obama may be Jimmy Carter II. Given the control that the Dems are likely to have steal these next two years, and given the ambitious nature of both the Congressional Democrats and President-Elect Obama's desire to, in his words, "fundamentally change America," I think he's much more likely to turn into Lyndon Johnson II.

Ronald Reagan's iconic speech, "A Time for Choosing," delivered on October 27, 1964, touched on themes just as relevant 44 years later:

Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down: [up] man's old -- old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they've been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, "The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says, "The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state." Or, "Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century." Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as "our moral teacher and our leader," and he says he is "hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document." He must "be freed," so that he "can do for us" what he knows "is best." And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government."

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government" -- this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Making us just like every other centrally-guided economy on the face of the earth, centralizing our personal liberty away to a central government who'll decide how much of it we'll be trusted with, isn't "progressive" at all.

So what did Johnson do? Well, see the next post.

November 14, 2008

Can It Be As Painless As This?

I'm sure there are a lot more features I'm not using, not using properly, or actively misusing. In other words (Bill Safire's, actually), I'm almost certainly committing blog nonfeasance, malfeasance, and misfeasance.

Still, can it actually be this easy to upgrade from one version of MT to the next?

November 13, 2008

Grass Growing Through the Cracks

This is another reason why we should just go ahead and let GM, Ford, and Chrysler take their natural course towards bankruptcy.

The car industry is certainly in trouble, but these ambitious little companies intend to buck the trend. Some have arisen to take advantage of low labor costs in China or Eastern Europe. Some are determined to be the company that revolutionizes transportation by reinventing the automobile with some new technology or alternative fuel. History makes it plain that most of these companies are bound to fail without leaving behind much evidence that they ever existed—Bricklin and DeLorean come to mind. But radical change often comes from people who dream audaciously and act boldly. Here are ten new car companies that may (or may not) change the world.

Putting the big 2.5 into receivership isn't the physical equivalent of dynamiting their physical plant. These companies will eventually want some of that capacity, or can use some of it to build their own plants. Parts suppliers will retool to for these fellows. (In the shorter term, they'll retool for locally-built Toyota, Honda, and BMW plants, too.)

Bailing out Detroit will do little more than make you and me make good on un-fulfillable promises made by GM and Ford and Chrysler. If I wanted to do that, I could have bought GM or Ford stock any time I wanted.

I remember when the steel industry was collapsing, giving us the term, "the rust belt." It was the end of US steel. It turned out not even to be the end of US Steel. First came Nucor, and now Nucor is facing competition from even-more-mini mills at the margin.

For a while in the mid-90s, I was commuting each week from Fairfax to Johnston, Pa. (It was sort of the Monkey's Paw version of, "I'd like a job with travel.") The mill there had closed down years ago, and was clearly not going to re-open, but people kept on talking about "when the mill re-opens." I'm sure, though, that some went south to go work for Nucor.

Gun For Sale. Only Used Once


A group of community activists has raised $1,000 to buy guns from owners to cut down gun violence in Denver.

"We are saying, 'Put the guns down, and stop burying our babies,' " said Alvertis Simmons, president of the Denver Million Family March Organization.

The group will pay $50 per gun at an anti-violence and gun buyback rally set for noon on Dec. 6 at the Martin Luther King Memorial in Denver's City Park.

The guns will be turned over to police, said Denver police spokeswoman Sharon Hahn.

"Anybody can bring an illegal gun in at any time. Any time that illegal weapons are taken off the street, we are pleased," she added.

Right. This only works if the value of the gun to the criminal is less than $50. That's net profits minus the cost of the gun (cap ex), plus the intangible that in his world, it's also probably just a cost of doing business, i.e., staying alive.

In other news, the citizens of Rome continue to negotiate with Alaric concerning the terms of the upcoming sack.

Spot the Difference

The Colorado House Republicans

The Colorado House Democrats

It's not just about getting elected, it's also about governing.

November 12, 2008

Pause for Maintenence

I have decided that I really, really, really need to upgrade this blog to MT 4.2, or whatever version they're on now. Despite the screams of, "Don't!", I hear coming from Jonathan, the likes of which are usually directed at horror movie characters who have clearly never seen a horror movie, I persist in my madness.

Tomorrow night is the Independence Institute dinner, and Friday is Shabbat, and I'll be in Aspen for the weekend, and then Sunday evening is Backbone Radio, after which Monday has its own set of terrors, and Tuesday a BTR radio show. So if not now, when?

Wish me luck.

RMA Radio

With the end of the campaign, and the success of the Blog Talk Radio show we did there, the RMA has decided to take to the netwaves and continue the show as Rocky Mountain Alliance Radio, also on Blog Talk Radio. We'll be on Tuesday nights at 9:00 PM (to start), and of course, the archived shows will be available for download or streaming any time thereafter.

Our first show will feature Randy Ketner (a.k.a. the Night Twister), and Michael Alcorn from Best Destiny.

No "Fairness Doctrine" here!

PERA-lous Territory

Moral Hazards, everywhere you look. Arnold Kling has been all over that terrible idea, the proposed auto bailout.

A big reason that the auto industry is in trouble financially is that many of its current and past workers have retirement benefits (including medical care) that are defined benefits. That is, the benefits are promised regardless of whether enough money was contributed to provide for them.

And why is this a problem?

This refers to companies with defined-benefit pension plans, which are plans that promise to pay specific benefits, even if the funds in the plans lose money. The companies think that it is onerous that they should be expected to actually have to take steps to keep their promises. Instead, they want to go on as if everything is fine, and leave somebody else to pick up the tab if it isn't.

And who are the tab-picker-uppers? Naturally, the taxpayers, under the Pension Benefit Guarantee system.

Everyone who promises defined benefits thinks that somebody else needs to help them keep their promises. That somebody else is you and me.

First GM, and then PERA, which is less arguable, because those pushing this little piece of socialism will then claim that you and I made the promises to the government employees.

In fact, it's almost as though they're pushing to help GM in order to clear the way for a PERA bailout.

November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day

November 10, 2008


Mysterious votes for Al Franken - with little to no adjustment in other races - continue to appear in the Minnesota Senate race. Whomever Gov. Ritter selects to be our new Secretary of State, the press (uh-huh) and the pubic should closely question him about what he'd do to prevent this sort of thing happening in a close election here in Colorado.

Ken Gordon, Our Next Secretary of State?

Back in 2006, John Andrews and I interviewed State Sen. Ken Gordon, who was then running for Secretary of State, and I blogged about the interview at the time. With the election of Mike Coffman to Congress from the other District 6, his views on the proper role of the office are worth reviisitng, since he's liable to be appointed to the position by Gov. Ritter.

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

And now for something completely different.

November 9, 2008

Denver, and Statewide Strategy

As part of its rebuilding, retrenching, and strategy to win back one branch of the legislature and/or the governorship in 2010, the Republicans will be tempted to redirect resources from Denver to other areas. This would be a mistake.

I ran in Denver because I live here. Running somewhere else isn't possible for me, because I need to live near a shul, and all the shuls are here in District 6. So wearing me out isn't the issue. I have no choice.

Abandoning Denver is the first step to abandoning Westminster, Arvada, and Arapahoe (which isn't safe now, either). It's thinking tactically rather than strategically, and that all the good tactics in the world won't help a rebuild tarnished brand. We want to change the map, not just build walls here and there, and I think to do that, we need to think big. If we abandon Denver, we leave the other party free to do the same thing.

Look at District 6. We managed to get almost 33% - up significantly - and turn out nearly 12,000 votes for our side in a year when the tide was running the wrong way. We did this with a party where barely 1/4 of the precincts had active precinct committeepeople, where we had to spend time reconnecting with Republicans who hadn't been visited, mailed, or otherwise contacted by a local candidate in almost a decade.

There is still a lot of upside to our party here, while I think the Dems have mostly maxed out. When the Denver Return Book comes in, in a week or so, I want to see how the national, state, and local candidates, and ballot initiatives ran, relative to each other, here in Dist. 6. But let's assume for the moment that we all ran in lock-step. If we can even get this district back to 55-45 on a voting basis, that would be important statewide. Had we had 55-45 this year, it would have meant about a 9000 swing; tell me the Amendment 46 people wouldn't have killed for that. Our registration is marginal if we only include actives, but if we include all voters, the numbers are better. So by reaching inactive voters, something we didn't focus on this year, we improve our chances significantly.

Howard Dean - curse him - figured out that the Dems needed to find a way to be competitive in the South, even if that meant finding horses for courses, and tempering the national agenda. Nudge the country to the left over time, and they'll get what they want. We need to do the same thing, nationally in the northeast, and locally, here in Denver, Boulder County (which as a county, is actually less blue than Denver). We can start nudging the state and country back to the right.

The Missiles of November

Even if Obama doesn't understand the Cuban Missile Crisis, Medvedev seems to.

November 8, 2008

Progress, Now...More Progress - State House of Reps

So as a numbers guy, I'd be very helpful in redistricting, if, indeed, we ever get a voice in redistricting. Until then, I'll have to satisfy myself with chewing over the results as they are.

A couple of interesting points. Gerrymandering apparently works, although it may have reached the limits of its effectiveness here in Colorado. The Republicans picked up 6 percentage points on the Dems from 2006, going from 55-45 to 52-48 aggregate vote statewide. Yet they picked up only one seat in the voting, going from 39-26 to 38-27. (This will be reported as a two-seat gain, because nominal Republican Debbie Stafford switched parties in the middle of the session, and her safe Republican seat reverted to form on Tuesday.)

Where did the gains come from? Some of it was the increased voter turnout on both sides. A presidential election year is likely to result in more voters, and if the same number of "new" voters shows up on each side, the percentage difference will narrow.

But in this case, the raw difference in votes also narrowed considerably. In 2006, the Democrats won the aggregate vote total 792,600 - 647,355, by 145,245. In 2008, they won 999,377 - 922,627, by 76,750. So the count narrowed by about 70,000 votes, despite unprecedented GOTV efforts on the state Democratic side.

(The newspapers haven't reported the vote totals in the several uncontested districts, so I just guessed based on surrounding districts and assumed a slightly lower turnout. if I'm off, I'm not off by much more than 10,000 votes net, but we'll know in a few weeks as the Secretary of State certifies the results.)

About 41,000 of this can be attributed to the presence of GOP state house candidates in Denver, in districts where none had run in 2006. These were unlikely to result in additional seats, but may have had an effect in GOTV efforts in the statewide totals for other ballot items, such as president, senator, and the various referenda and amendments. All of these numbers are accurate, as by definition, none of the races where Denver Republicans ran in 2008 was uncontested.)

The problem here is that the rising ride only floated a couple of boats. HD-30 and HD-55 changed hands to Republicans, and HD-56 tightened to a point where is might be contested next time, assuming that there's no concerted effort to "educate the idiots" in that district. Let's plan on filing CORA requests on communications between Rep. Scanlan and the Powers that Be on the left early and often.

As for possible pickups next time, there were only 3 seats that were Democrat wins, that also were under 10% difference in vote. All three get better for the Dems, HD-17, HD-27, and HD-38. This was almost certainly strategic on the Democrats' part, and it'll be interesting to see the 527 expenditures in those races. But it means that even if the Republicans manage to close the gap to 50-50 in the vote, they'll still be down 35-30 in the legislature, with some serious changes in at least three other districts. There are five such seats held by Republicans going into the new session.

All of which suggests that while Gerrymandering has worked decisively in the Democrats' favor, its usefulness in extending their gains is probably coming to an end. There just isn't that much more low-hanging fruit to be plucked off by CoDA by shifting voters around.

The bad news is that, barring a major upheaval in the political landscape by 2010, they won't have to.

November 7, 2008

Well, This is Certainly Frustrating

I'm trying to run some comparative numbers from 2 years ago. When I go to the Denver Elections Division website and click on the Returns from the 2006 general election, I get a file named for November 7, 2006, but which contains the information from November 6, 2007.

Yes, I have.

November 6, 2008

Preview of Coming Attractions

Here in Colorado, I'd look for an emboldened Democratic legislature and governor. The margins of victory were larger in the Senate race than in 2004, despite a more liberal, less appealing Democrat, and a more seasoned, more articulate Republican. Salazar had to run as a centrist to win in 2004; Udall felt no such constraints. Combine that confidence with a security that the federal government won't be interfering from the right.

The Power-Perpetuating-Power folks must also be feeling their oats. While the unions couldn't stop Amendment 54, they were able to extort enough money from business to get them to defeat 47 and 49 for them. This was without card check. Like all good extortion rackets, expect the price to go up, until they get to the point where they don't even need to ask.

While raising taxes is beyond the constitution, appropriating everything that's expected to come in, and then crying poor, is a great way to get the citizenry to raise taxes on themselves. PERA's newfound shortfall may be an excellent excuse right there.

At this point, the left probably doesn't feel that it has anything to fear, either from above or below. So look for more regulation, higher "fees," and less and less personal freedom.

Progressively more expensive. Progressively more intrusive. Progressively more restricive.

Not Center-Left Yet

One of Mark Steyn's recurring themes is that while a center-right country may elect a liberal government, it may not stay a center-right country very long after having done so. Melanie Phillips today provides a blueprint of how this happens:

promotes only “negative liberties,” or freedom from something rather than positive rights to something. Well, through human-rights legislation Britain has exchanged its historic concept of “negative” liberty — everything is permitted unless it is actively prohibited — for the ‘positive’ European idea that only what is codified is to be permitted.

As a result, freedom has shrunk to what ideology permits. Equality legislation has cemented a “victim culture” under which the interests of all groups deemed to be powerless (black people, women, gays ) trump those deemed to be powerful (white people, men, Christians). Since this doctrine holds that the “powerless” can do no wrong while the “powerful” can do no right, injustice is thus institutionalized, and anyone who queries the preferential treatment afforded such groups is vilified as a racist or bigot.

All this constitutes a profoundly illiberal culture in which no dissent is permitted, group is set against group and intimidation is the order of the day. And this also happens to be the culture of ACORN, of the radical groups funded by the Annenberg Challenge and Woods Fund, and the ‘educational’ or criminal justice ideas of William Ayers, endorsed by Barack Obama.

We saw the same dynamic in Canada after more than a decade of Liberal rule there. Countering this will be tricky:

The challenge for conservatives on both sides of the pond is to find a way of conserving the essential values of Western Civilization and defend them against the onslaught being mounted against them both from within and from without — but to do so in a way that is generous and big-hearted rather than narrow and sectarian, and embraces rather than repels.

Thinking tactically, the trick of political coalition-building is to find people who not only agree with you, but are willing to vote that way. Part of that is finding social values that people share broadly, but that seem to be threatened. And usually, broad-shared social values are strong enough that they never seem to be threatened. The left's rush to impose same-sex marriage through litigation may well be such an issue.

Herein lies an example of both the opportunities and risks inherent in a system that allows for citizen initiatives. It allows us to defeat certain bad ideas (Amendment 59, Amendment 58), and to pass certain good ones (California's Proposition 8). But it can also handicap our efforts to form coalitions for broader governance by eliminating the horse-trading that coalitions require.

And thinking more broadly, it's also true that such cultural confidence will necessarily result in a strong national defense and an active support of western civilization abroad. Too many conservatives, in the aftermath of this defeat, will leap to try to offload responsibility for these things to other countries or international organizations. Let's hope that a revival of Reagan-style conservatism doesn't become an excuse for Taft-style isolationism. Cultural confidence should bolster, not undermine, our role in the world.

November 5, 2008


John Derbyshire is upset at Rep. Peter King.

Now, Derbyshire's right that King usually can be counted upon to say something foolish. But in this case, he's got a point. Usually one party has been national, while the other party has been sectional. This almost always bodes well for the national party, for obvious arithmetical reasons.

As for Rep. King, he's proposing the northeast as the mirror-image of what happened to the Dems in the South, something I've been concerned about for a while. It wasn't until the Dems were almost completely run out of everything south of the Mason-Dixon line, except for Maryland & DC, that they started finding horses for courses. The leadership is now solidly liberal-left and likely to remain so, while the more moderate-types elected so are junior and likely to vote the party line set by that leadership.

Why are we worried about replicating that? We remember Rockefeller, and we worry about our leadership's ability to resist pressures to move to the left. Such pressures only reinforce the Dems' leadership, rather than undermine it.

Amendment 46

I have to admit, I didn't deliberately follow the campaign for Amendment 46 all that closely. So maybe, that's actually a good thing when you're trying to examine why something so good came so close to success, but not close enough. Because then you're letting your distance do the filtering for you.

Jessica Corry is a terrific gal, one of the smartest and savviest political-types I know. The last thing I want to do is Wednesday-morning quarterback her efforts. What follows are impressions, not criticism. Anyone with inside knowledge of the reasons certain things were done, and others weren't is heartily invited to hit the comment key.

There are a number of good arguments for doing away with racial preferences.

1) We derive our rights by virtue of being human, not by virtue of being male or female, or by belonging to a government-defined ethnic group.
2) Preferences are unfair
3) Preferences cost money to administer, and cost money in lost productivity and efficiency
4) Preference programs are open to abuse
5) Preferences assume the worst of our fellow citizens - that they can't be trusted not to be racist

One of the more effective arguments against 46 was the slanderous radio ads portraying Ward Connerly as a pocket-lining money-grubber that managed to demonize the issue by association with the advocate. That, combined with a lingering sense that preferences are a small price to pay to set things aright, to correct a much bigger unfairness.

The arguments in favor are of varying degrees of effectiveness, and varying degrees of principle. Personally, in my campaign, I focused on 5), and to some extent on 1). It feels more principled and more like the high road. It pushes the ideas of liberty and equality more openly. But it may well be that 3) and 4) would have been more effective.

For 4), note that Wilma Webb somehow ended up with an affirmative action set-aside for a DIA concession store. Now everyone likes Wellington Webb personally, and he wields a great deal of power, even now. But if they're going to go full Roman on Connerly anyway, you may as well push back. There must be hundreds of examples of this sort of thing statewide. If they can be brought out without violating anyone's privacy, pick the 3 or 4 worst and turn them into poster children for the sort of cronyism and nepotism that always accompanies government giveaways.

Number 3) is a little tougher, but we can get creative. Aside from the direct administrative cost of these programs, there must be ways of measuring the cost of higher dropout rates to the colleges and the individuals, the cost of lower efficiency through lower-qualified employees, and so on. Take that number, divide it by the average cost of employing a full-time entry-level worker, and ask whether it's better to waste the money or to employ these people.

As I said, this isn't to second-guess. I'm just trying to figure out how to get this thing passed the next time.

Initiatives and What They Mean

I believe that we can draw a few conclusions - some comforting, none radical - from the voter

1) There's a fiscally conservative core in the state that understands their own finances
2) There's a way of putting roadblocks into one party's plans of using power to perpetuate power
3) Simpler is better
4) Candidates are easier to demonize than ideas

1) There's a fiscally conservative core in the state that understands their own finances

Amendments 51, 58, and 59, which would all have raised taxes, all failed. Every last one. And they weren't even close. I expected 51 would pass, and while I opposed it, I wouldn't have been crushed by losing on that one. But they all failed. Amendment 50 passed, but because it's a completely voluntary tax on people who are bad at math, it confirms the thesis.

2) There's a way of putting roadblocks into one party's plans to use power to perpetuate power

Amendment 59 and Referendum O were attempts to expand government and limit the people's ability to check that expansion. They both failed. Amendment 54, which will prevent public employee unions from donating directly to candidates, passed. (What's kind of weird about 54 was that I saw no advertising in favor of it, the usual 47-49-54 trio linked in opposiition, plenty of advertising in favor of 49, and yet 49 failed badly and 54 passed.)

3) Simpler is better

So why did 47 and 49 fail? And what about 52? Well, 47 was target of non-stop abuse, financed in part by political blackmail. I'm just not sure that many people understood 49, or saw the need to get involved. I think there's probably some perception that union members are ok with Dues-and-Political-Activism withholding, don't see where anyone's being hurt by it. 52 was a neat idea, but as I found in my own race, vulnerable to the accusation that it would sap money from environmental projects. This was nonsense, of course, but it should have been addressed pro-actively.

I also think the over-complexity of 59 is one reason it failed. You wanna save money? Fine, save money. Why do you need to rewrite the entire budgeting process to do that?

The ones that passed were simpler: unions can't buy candidates; let gamblers pay for community colleges.

4) Candidates and business are easier to demonize than ideas

Pace Bob Schaffer. Even as many of his positions on ballot initiatives were being adopted statewide, he was going down to a not-so-close defeat.

So, what about 46? Where does that apparently-narrowly-defeated amendment fit into this? That's another post.

Bob Schaffer

Last night, after the speeches, after the cameras had left, after the reporters had filed their stories, Bob Schaffer stuck around, talking to supporters, party members, and party-goers.

Bob's unwavering belief in - and advocacy of - the unique animating principles of American life are an inspiration. He's always understood that while winning is the sine qua non of politics, winning on the opponent's terms is as good as losing. He was a friend to my own campaign at its very beginning, breaking protocol to endorse me in the primary. It was an infectious declaration of confidence.

I first met Bob Schaffer through the Leadership Program of the Rockies. On the very first day of the program, he recited by heart, in his own voice, the next-to-last paragraph of Patrick Henry's famous speech to the House of Burgesses:

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest.

Bob is truly a centered man, a poiltician who has not let politics displace from his life that which is truly important. There are no more honorable men in public life than Bob, and I expect we haven't heard the last of him.


While the losses by Bob Schaffer and John McCain are disappointing, we appear to have fared much better on a number of statewide ballot initiatives. Amendments 47 and 49 are going down to defeat at the hands of union-extorted money.

But Amendment 54 appears to have squeaked by 52-48, and it may well be the most efficacious of the three, limiting certain campaign contributions from unions and vendors of sole-sourch serivces to the government.

Amendment 59, which would have gutted TABOR, is failing by a comfortable margin. Outgoing Speaker Romanoff completely sold out to this effort, but the artificially-induced budget squeeze will have to be resolved some other way.

Amendment 58, which would have hiked energy taxes going into a recession, likewise is headed for the ignominious defeat it deseves.

Referendum O, which would have severely limited the ability of citizens to act as a check on their own legislature's excesses, is going to down to defeat as well.

And finally, Amendment 46, which would eliminate all affirmative action from state actors, is failing very narrowly with 80% of the preincts counted. There is still about 20% of the vote to count, and Yes is behind by a little under 20,000 votes. That number has slipped from over 24,00 just a few mnutes ago.

In Other Election News

Those of you following my race here in HD-6 by now know that I was defeated in the general election. The text of my concession is or will soon be up over on the campaign site.

But I wanted to mention a couple of other races around the country that I was following. In Cleveland, Josh Mandel trounced his Democratic challenger. Mandel won his seat in 2006, in a heavily Democrat district by walking, walking, walking. This year, when the marine reservist was recalled to active duty in Iraq, his opponent tried to capitalize by claiming he went AWOL on the citizens of his district. He also claimed that Jewis in the district voted for Mandel because of his Jewish name. Mandel, who had been worried about his re-election, cruised to a 71-29 victory.

And my friend Zudhi Jasser's amendment to the Arizona state constitution, preserving patient choice, appears to have very narrowly failed. That's too bad, but perhaps there will be a recount.

November 4, 2008

So You Say You Support Our Troops

A judge has ordered Virginia to preserve late-arriving military ballots pending a decision on counting them. These are ballots that are late getting back because they were late being sent out.

And they had better be counted.

I was speaking with a very-Democratic relative of mine who lives in Florida, who had nothing but praise for Republican Governor Charlie Crist, for agreeing to keep the polls open later in order to accomodate the Christmas rush. How is this any different?

November 3, 2008

Pollsters as Research Analysts

Over at Jim Geraghty's Campaign Spot at National Review Online, his mentor, alias Obi Wan, has this to say about the turnout models the pollsters are using, turnout models which very heavily favor Democrats:

Look, the real drama to this election is being provided not by the candidates but the polling community. By which I mean the decision they made to stake out — as Campaign Spot has noted — a remarkably bold position, that the Democratic Party turnout is not only going to exceed a recent historic advantage of 4 percent but go to 6.5 percent (Rasmussen) to 8 percent in many polls to even 12 percent in one.

I keep looking for the justification for this. Not easy to find. Rather like the academics' one-time belief in the Aristotlean spheres and an earth-centered universe, it just seems to be a pretty good working theory — some sort of way to make sense of observable phenomena and keep all the smart people talking agreeably and pleasantly among themselves.

This is remarkably similar to what happens when stock analysts all use multipels to value companies. Investors make decisions based on these valuations. In a rising market, the tendency is to push up the price of the lowest-valued stock. Also, sell-side analysts have an incentive to find reasons to raise their price targets. Once a security becomes, "fairly priced," the stock won't appreciate very quickly, and investors will be looking for new values to invest in.

It's only when the analysts, who have been looking mostly at each other, start looking at actual underlying value, and realize that they've effectively priced in the next century's and a half's worth of earnings, that the price falls. Quickly.

I would submit that there's an excellent chance that the models the analysts are using are over-pricing Obama. If the correction comes, of course, it'll come all at once.


And now for something completely different, and completely a-political. This exchange, from an NPR podcast called, "Radio Lab," which examines big-picture questions of philosophy and science. It features Jad Abumrad, and long-time science and economics correspondent Robert Krulwich, and they're talking about how organization emerges in an ant colony, when there's no leader, and all the ands are really, really stupid. Krulwich is talking with ant expert Deborah Gordon.

Gordon: The instructions aren't anywhere. The instructions come out of the way that the colony lives and behaves.

Krulwich: That's hard.

Gordon: It is hard. If you had one ant on its own, you couldn't take it apart and find the substance that would make it behave in a certain way.

Krulwich: But you see how hard that is! I want to know where, where, where do we find that rule? It's not in any individual ant, you see it when all the ants get together, but where is it?

Gordon: Well, where is the thought in your brain? Is it in the neuron? Does each neuron have a little piece of the thought? If you took your neuron out and lay it on the table, could you see the little tiny bit of the thought that's in that neuron? No. It's not in the neuron. It's in the way the neurons interact with each other.

Abumrad: Think about a Seurat painting, the one where they're all on the banks of the Seine River? If you look at it up close, all you see is dots. You pull back, and the picture emerges, with all the ladies and their parasols. But the question with these systems is, the big question, is whether there is a Seurat to make the dots, to paint the picture, or whether the picture just materializes on its own.

Krulwich; Well, you know that I have an opinion about this, and that it's not a "science-y" opinion. I think it's not just fascinating that there are these hidden patterns and hidden rules. I think it's kind of holy, and there's no scientific evidence because there's no science behind this. I think that when you look at the way ants work, or the way a Seurat painting emerges before your eyes, you're looking at an author.

Abumrad: See, when you say that, all the air just gets let out of the balloon for me. It's like, the magic is gone.

Krulwich: Really?

Abumrad: Yeah, I think so.

Krulwich: See what you're left with then: everything you see when you wake up in the morning, as beautiful as it is, and we all agree that it is beautiful, is empty of purpose. Is that ok with you?

Abumrad: Yeah. In a way, it makes is even more mysterious to be alive.

That, right there, I think, is the difference between the scientific mindset of Krulwich, and that of materialism, scientism, exemplified by Abumrad, which sees God not merely as superluous, but as an aesthetic blight.

November 2, 2008

My Dinner with Gloria

Gloria Steinem was in Denver this evening, at a house party designed to get Jews excited about carrying the Obama-message to their friends.

So was I.

While Ms. Steinem proposed to talk about, "the issues," in reality, the one issue on which she appears to actually be qualified to comment is abortion, but it wasn't the issue I was interested in discussing. She had opened her remarks commenting on how wonderful it would be if we could raise "just one generation without violence, since we now know that it is violence in the home that leads to violence in the streets and violence between nations."

Leaving aside the dubious proposition that all the world's wars are a result of corporal punishment, I asked the following: given the crowd assembled, Israel would certainly rank high among its concerns. And yet, it is not the Israelis who train their children to be suicide bombers, dress them up in little uniforms with genocidal slogans printed on their bandanas. It is, instead, Hamas in Gaza and the PLO in the West Bank that does such things. Why then has there been no clear statement of a moral difference between the two sides, not simply an attempt to draw lines this way or that way on a map, to split differences that don't even exist?

"You mean you don't hear that coming from the two candidates?"

"No, I mean I don't hear it from one candidate." Especially given that that one candidate has surrounded himself with people who feel quite comfortable talking to Hamas, including Rashid Khalidi." Because of time, I failed to mention Zbignew Brezezinski, Samantha Power, and others who have quite clearly been hostile to Israel.

Ms. Steinem read a number of supposedly strong pro-Israel quotes. Including the following, "...Israel's greatest security will come from peace." Of course, this reverses the formula exactly. In fact, Israel's peace will follow from its security. The difference is telling.

A friend of mine asked about the LA Times's suppression of a videotape of Obama toasting Mr. Khalidi. Ms. Stieinen professed ignorance of the tape. You know, I actually think it's possible that she lives in a such a bubble, and that the media has so thoroughly ignored this story, that she really might not know about the tape. To her credit, she promised to talk to the Times editors and get back to me, but I doubt she'll learn anything.

Afterwards, I also brought to Ms. Steinem up the fact that Obama hadn't been present for one version of the Iran sanctions bill, but had written a letter saying he would have voted against it. He then claimed in a speech in Israel, credit that "my committee, the Banking Committee," on which he doesn't serve, had passed an Iran sanctions bill. "That," I said, "is why I don't trust him."

"Well," retorted Ms. Steinem, "I don't trust McCain because he's the original go-to-country clubs white male Republican who sits around telling anti-woman and anti-semitic jokes."

Yes. I asked about an instance where Sen. Obama had at least left serious doubt, through his public policy statements, about how seriously he takes a nuclear Iran. And Ms. Steinem responded with an unsubstantiated, and unverifiable ad hominem attack on Sen. McCain.

You may draw your own conclusions.

PERA-lous Waters

In case you needed another reason to vote for someone who's got a financial, rather than a political, background, you got one this week.

The largest pension fund for state and local public employees lost $10 billion in market value through mid-October, raising the specter of higher contribution rates or lower benefits in coming years if markets don't improve rapidly.

Colorado PERA, which covers 413,000 employees and retirees, saw its assets plummet from $41 billion at the beginning of the year to $31 billion on Oct. 15. That drop was not as severe as some market benchmarks, but it comes on top of a long-term underfunding problem that the Public Employees' Retirement Association had hoped to make up in part through investment gains.

PERA officials have tried to reassure state and local employees that their current benefits are not at risk and that the pension has plenty of cash to weather month-to-month market fluctuations. They said they have no current plans to ask the PERA board or the legislature for changes in contributions or benefits, but the legislature did adjust those levels in 2006 for long-term solvency.

PERA's formula for a 30-year return to full funding depends on an average annual gain of 8.5 percent from its investments.

"Obviously we've got a bit of a bigger hole now," said PERA executive director Meredith Williams.

Gee, ya think? 8.5% Isn't an unreasonable number; the average stock market rise has been 8% over the last 90 years. But they're also invested in bonds, real estate, and overseas markets, and alternative investments.

Some of the T-bond investments - intended not for bond appreciation but for steady income - will have to be rolled over in the next year or two. They'll yield a lot less, which will also have to be made up. Now maybe there's a way of selling off the higher-yielding bonds now, but only if you see higher yields in which to invest.

PERA's going to have a hard time meeting all the promises it's made. Heaven help us if we start making more.

November 1, 2008

Final Thoughts on Baseball

I didn't have a chance to see much baseball this year. I was otherwise occupied for most of the year. But usually, there's just nothing like post-season baseball.

This year, there wasn't much point. Aside from the Red Sox-Rays Game 7, there was almost no drama. And baseball's ownership is rapidly relegatinig its sport's biggest moments to irrelevance, obscurity, and ridicule. Their biggest games are virtually unwatchable - taking place too late in the day and too late at night.

In the past few years, we have seen a tied All-Star Game, the first postponed game in World Series history, and the last World Series Game 7 was 6 years ago, the longest drought of a decisive winner-take-all game since 1913-1923. The games start late by Mountain time standards. I had to think - hard - to remember who the Phillies beat in the divisional playoffs. And they re-scheduled the World Series so a potential Game 7 wouldn't have to go up against a regular season NFL game on a Sunday night.

If they don't shorten the schedule and shorten the games, they're going to turn MLB into the NHL, and it'll happen sooner than we think.


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