Archive for May, 2010

Memorial Day

In honor of those men and women who’ve given their lives in defense of our country, I’d like to call on the Memorial Day remarks of Presidents past:

From Ronald Reagan in 1988:

Once each May, amid the quiet hills and rolling lanes and breeze-brushed trees of Arlington National Cemetery, far above the majestic Potomac and the monuments and memorials of our Nation’s Capital just beyond, the graves of America’s military dead are decorated with the beautiful flag that in life these brave souls followed and loved. This scene is repeated across our land and around the world, wherever our defenders rest. Let us hold it our sacred duty and our inestimable privilege on this day to decorate these graves ourselves — with a fervent prayer and a pledge of true allegiance to the cause of liberty, peace, and country for which America’s own have ever served and sacrificed.

Our pledge and our prayer this day are those of free men and free women who know that all we hold dear must constantly be built up, fostered, revered, and guarded vigilantly from those in every age who seek its destruction. We know, as have our Nation’s defenders down through the years, that there can never be peace without its essential elements of liberty, justice, and independence.

and previous to that, in 1982:

The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI’s of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way.

Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, “just the best darn kids in the world.” Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

And from President Clinton, in 1994:

Here at Arlington, row after row of headstones, aligned in silent formation, reminds us of the high cost of our freedom. Almost a quarter of a million Americans rest here alone, from every war since the Revolution. Among them are many names we know: General Pershing, Audie Murphy, General Marshall and so many others.

But far more numerous are the Americans whose names are not famous, whose lives were not legend, but whose deeds were the backbone that secured our nation’s liberty. Today we honor them. We honor them all as heroes — those who are buried here and those who are buried all around the nation and the world.

If you look at the headstones, they don’t tell you whether the people buried there are poor or rich. They make no distinction of race, or of age, or of condition. They simply stand, each of them, for one American. Each reminds us that we are descendants, whatever our differences, of a common creed — unbeatable when we are united, one nation under God.

No Comments

Can You Hear Us Now?

In 1994, there was the Contract for America.  Earlier this year, there was the Contract From America.  The first was top-down, the second, bottom-up.

In the spirit of the latter, and of the Tea Party movement, this morning the House Republican Leadership has launched a new “listening” site, America Speaking Out, designed to solicit and aggregate ideas directly from voters–most likely in advance of the House GOP’s new version of Contract for America, (which they expect to release around Labor Day, as in 1994).

Sensitive to the fact that the Republican Party owes the Tea Party, rather than the other way around, the site itself is very low-key.  Instead of hitting people over the head with the fact that the red-white-and-blue reminder that the Republican leadership is running this new site (although it includes all the appropriate disclaimers), the intent is clearly to create a site where people who have conservative and libertarian ideas can feel comfortable and contribute. In my estimation this simple, yet powerful, website has hit the mark in that regard (Twitter hashtag: #speakingout).

I’ve had a chance to tool around the site a little but, and it’s striving to be the of conservative political ideas.  Essentially, it’s entirely up to the public (with reporting and refereeing guardrails) to suggest, comment on, and vote on ideas, with the cream rising to the top.  The risks inherent in such a site are obvious, but it appears that the House Republicans are banking that over time, the adults will sieze control of the conversation, while the trolls and wingnuts will lose interest.  It’s an experiment worth watching.

There’s one essential difference between and, and it’s the cost of entry.  There’s no cost to vote, share, or comment on either, but on, the cost of entering a song is the cost of producing the song, which tends to weed out those who aren’t serious.  There’s no cost at all to coming up with ideas, and there’s a fine line between putting the wackos out at the curb and appearing to put your thumb too heavily on the scale.  This dynamic tends to exaggerate the risks of the trolls taking over the site.  One possible alternative might be to charge a small fee to submit an idea, and to reward the winners with cash.

Eventually, of course, the Party will be judged on whether it walks the walk once it is returned to the majority.  But right now it’s important that it listens sincerely while courting its natural, yet skeptical, allies who are providing the energy this election cycle–something House GOP Leadership clearly understands.

California Congressman, Kevin McCarthy, is leading the effort to produce the new contract and seems to have correctly decided that this year, top-down is a ticket out of, rather than back into, the majority.  I’m currently pursuing him for an interview and hope to gain a little more insight into the project, how it will maintain quality control, or whether it’s really intended to be as free-wheeling as it seems. I hope to have more for you here later this week, but for now be sure to check out the site.

No Comments

Has the AP or the Denver Post Read the New Texas Curriculum?

Probably no more than Janet Napolitano or Eric Holder has read the new Arizona SB1070.  Ann Althouse has described the Washington Post‘s dereliction of duty in its description of the Texas curriculum.  The AP articles are no better.

In two articles over the last two weeks, the AP has written the following (sometimes more than once) about the new Texas curriculum:

A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education gained a giant step forward Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.  (Emphasis added.  Nothing like setting the tone up front.)

Teachers in Texas will probably be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers — but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state.

Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than as “democratic.”

Students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir [will] be required learning (these last two are listed together, as though to imply an excessive interest in Israel; if only the AP applied the same standards to the UN)

Amend or water down the teaching of the civil rights movement, slavery (“amend” is a neutral term; here it’s used to mean “water-down”)

They also required that public school students in Texas evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty

Looking at the actual curriculum documents (elementary school, middle school, high school, and economics), here’s what they actually say about these issues:

Teachers in Texas will probably be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers — but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state.

Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than as “democratic.”  (In fact, we are a “constitutional republic,” and the term, “democratic” is all through the curriculum, as in, “democratic process.”)

Students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard. (In the context of a discussion of the Fed and the monetary system; assuming students can read a paper, they know that prices go up, which means that dollars buy less)

Economics. The student understands the role of the Federal Reserve System in establishing monetary policy. The student is expected to|

(A) explain the structure of the Federal Reserve System
(B) analyze the three basic tools used to implement U.S. monetary policy, including reserve requirements, the discount rate and the federal funds rate target, and open market operations
(C) explain how the actions of the Federal Reserve System affect the nation’s money supply; and
(D) analyze the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

Students [will] be required to explain the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global politics (wrong; this mis-states what’s required, and although one might argue that the actual requirement is biased, there’s nothing about the “impact on global politics,” just a discussion of the conflict in context)

explain how Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict

Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir [will] be required learning – this is in a section on important women in history, not tied to Israel, and in fact, does not require that the students learn about Golda Meir; she’s listed as one of a number of possible subjects of study

Culture. The student understands the roles of women, children, and families in different historical cultures. The student is expected to:

  • (A) describe the changing roles of women, children, and families during major eras of world history; and
  • (B) describe the major influences of women during major eras of world history such as Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Golda Meir.

Amend or water down the teaching of the civil rights movement,…  (if this is watered-down, how much time were they spending on it before?)

History. The student understands the impact of the American civil rights movement. The student is expected to:
(A) trace the historical development of the civil rights movement in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, including the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments;
(B) describe the roles of political organizations that promoted civil rights, including ones from African American, Chicano, American Indian, women’s, and other civil rights movements
;(C) identify the roles of significant leaders who supported various rights movements, including Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and Betty Friedan;
(D) analyze the effectiveness of the approach taken by some civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers versus the philosophically persuasive tone of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”;
(E) describe presidential actions and congressional votes to address minority rights in the United States, including desegregation of the armed forces, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965;
(F) describe the role of individuals such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox and groups, including the Congressional bloc of southern Democrats, that sought to maintain the status quo;
(G) evaluate changes and events in the United States that have resulted from the civil rights movement, including increased participation of minorities in the political process; and
(H) describe how litigation such as the landmark cases of Brown v. Board of Education, Mendez v. Westminster, Hernandez v. Texas, Edgewood I.S.D. v. Kirby, and Sweatt v. Painter played a role in protecting the rights of the minority during the civil rights movement.

…slavery (no, it’s in there, in both the state and national curriculum)

identify the causes of the Civil War, including sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery, and the effects of the Civil War, including Reconstruction and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution;

explain reasons for the involvement of Texas in the Civil War such as states’ rights, slavery, sectionalism, and tariffs;

(B) compare the effects of political, economic, and social factors on slaves and free blacks;
(C) analyze the impact of slavery on different sections of the United States

They also required that public school students in Texas evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty

analyze the human and physical factors that influence the power to control territory, create conflict/war, and impact international political relations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the control of resources

(D) explain the significance of the League of Nations and the United Nations

Describe the fundamental rights guaranteed by each amendment in the Bill of Rights, including freedom of religion, speech, and press; the right to assemble and petition the government; the right to keep and bear arms; the right to trial by jury; and the right to an attorney;

Compare the causes, characteristics, and consequences of the American and French revolutions, emphasizing the role of the Enlightenment, the Glorious Revolution, and religion;

Culture. The student understands the impact of religion on the American way of life. The student is expected to:

(A) trace the development of religious freedom in the United States;

(B) describe religious motivation for immigration and influence on social movements, including the impact of the first and second Great Awakenings; and

(C) analyze the impact of the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom on the American way of life. (Intermediate school)

No Comments

There’s Labor, and Then, There’s Labor

We all know that sitting and talking things through can give insight.  Usually doesn’t happen in a candidate interview, though.

Still, there I was at the table with a representative from the IBEW, and one from AFSCME.  (Others were there, too, but they’re not really germane.)  In the middle of answering a question, where I was describing how money making a round-trip through Denver didn’t really create jobs, I suddenly realized that AFSCME had no business being at the same table as the IBEW.

I know, I know, Solidarity Forever, and all that.  But the white-collar shakedown artist sitting there asking me about the Taxpayer Bill of Rights had about as much in common with Joe Hill as I do.  And in answering the question, it became clear to me that while we conservatives talk about the philosophical and practical implications of public employees unions being able to choose who sits across the table from them, they are just as vigorously taking bread out of the mouths of those electricians.

How long will it be before the private-sector unions, full of traditional, blue-collar employees, realize that their members’ futures are being endangered by the public sector employees’ guaranteed retirements, before the reluctance of Texas to bail out California is mirrored by a split within union ranks?  Look for it soon, as CalPERS and other public-sector retirement funds begin to throw their weight around on corporate boards, to the detriment of those companies’ ability to pay good wages, reduce hours, and create flexible working conditions.

No Comments

Colorado Needs Good Jobs…

…not subsidized “green energy jobs.”

Colorado needs to take advantage of its 300 days of sunshine and its good locations for wind energy.  But subsidizing these energies’ end markets – paying people to use them, or forcing electric companies to use them – is going to cost Colorado jobs in any number of ways.

Now, the model for President Obama’s Green Energy strategy, and for Governor Ritter’s “New Energy Economy” is admitting as much, privately (the original Spanish Government report is here).

In any industrialized economy, energy costs far outstrip labor costs, which makes employment much more vulnerable to increases in the price of electricity.  And wind and solar are exceptionally expensive to produce.  Which means that the jobs they create actually significantly reduce employment in those and other industries.

Colorado is lucky in its abundance of clean natural gas and clean coal.  While continuing to help along the research end of solar and wind, we should make full use of our coal and natural gas resources, to get our economy back to full employment.

No Comments

Backbone Business

We launched the Backbone Business subfranchise of Backbone Radio on Sunday night.  It’s an hour a month devoted to business, finance, and economic topics, from a mostly non-political standpoint.

The first installment was on financial derivatives, and we have it posted as streaming audio.

The schedule, in deference to the options markets, it the Sunday after the 3rd Friday of the month – kind of like the Tuesday after the first Monday of November – so our next show will be on June 20, and while the date would suggest something about astrology or astronomy, we’re probably going to talk about bubbles.

Take a listen, and tell me what you think.

No Comments

German Shorts

No, not liederhosen.

The German government has announced that it will ban short-selling of 10 major financial institutions, government debt, and CDSs on government debt.  It roughly parallels our three-week ban on short-selling about 800 financials in the fall of 2008, and is likely to be about as effective, pretty much like all short-selling bans throughout history.

It’s already had the effect of appearing more like panic than prudence, driving the Euro down over a penny against the Dollar today, since the announcement, and probably increasing short interest today in all three areas it seeks to shore up.

Short-sellers, as apparently has to be endlessly repeated, provide liquidity and more information to the market than the long side alone can provide.  The fact that this action will have to go to the options market for satisfaction is likely to increase transaction costs.  It may reduce naked short-selling, but it will also similarly increase transaction costs for those who are merely hedging, as well.

Similarly, it’s like to decrease the liquidity for Euro-zone government debt, raising interest rates; probably not the effect that the Germans are looking for here.  And remember, being short the CDS means being the counter-party for someone who’s looking to parcel out some of the risk, which takes even more liquidity off the table.

Good move, Germany.

No Comments

Destination Imagination

This evening, the Republican 1st Congressional District held its assembly over at Hill Middle School, placing Dr. Mike Fallon on the primary ballot as the presumptive nominee.  Given Rep. Diana DeGette’s long (many would say overly-long) tenure in her seat, some might be forgiven for thinking that the headline for this posting applies to him, but Mike brings confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and a winning personality to the campaign.

One of the most fun parts of the evening was the total lack of air conditioning, which at least contributed to people wanting to conclude business in an orderly fashion.  It also meant that the 8th-grade Destination Imagination team, selling cookies and water for their trip to the Global Finals in Tennessee in a couple of weeks were doing a brisk business in water.

Destination Imagination is an international program that sets out engineering and scientific challenges each year at the Elementary, Middle, and High School levels.  Hill’s 8th-grade team chose the robot challenge, and finished 2nd at States in April, so are preparing for their competition at globals.

It is, perhaps, an additional point of pride that Hill Middle School is an Arts & Sciences magnet school located in HD-6.

Have a safe trip, and good luck at Globals!

No Comments

Turnabout Is Fair Play?

The British electorate has turned decisively against Labour, but has failed to give the Tories a decisive majority in Parliament, meaning that the horse-trading can start.  The Liberal Democrats are clearly more ideologically aligned with Labour, and indeed, even as the returns were coming in last night, Labour spokesmen were talking about the current electoral system being “on its last legs,” and electoral reform being necessary. 

Of course, hung Parliaments in Britain are exceedingly rare, and the occurence of one in the last 40 years or so hardly means that the system is “on its last legs,” but the left rarely lets rules, or public attachment to them, get in the way of a good power grab.

What they have in mind is a continental-style proportional representation system, where parties would get seats based on the total popular vote.  Such as  system would make it almost impossible for either of the major parties to ever form an outright majority again, putting the LibDems – a distant third in both popular vote and seats under the current system – in the driver’s set in determining future governments.  It’s unlikely that the Tories would sell their political soul for such a deal, but Labour has made it clear that it’s willing to consider the proposal, or at least nudge Britain in that direction.  There would need be no popular referendum on the matter, and I’m not even sure that Lords would have to vote on it, or that a Labour-stacked Lord would stand in the way.

Still, it seems that as long as we’re playing with the future of the UK here, the Tories might have a card to play, as well.  Under pressure from the SNP, the Scottish National Party, Labour’s Tony Blair got Scotland a parliament of its own, and home rule after a fashion.  Labour has long dominated Scottish politics at the national level, and there was a time when the SNP looked as though it might become the major party there.  So it made sense for Labour to keep the SNP in the fold this way.

So perhaps the Tories could do the same thing with the SNP, offering greater autonomy for the Scottish Parliament, moving them in that direction.  As long ago as 1987 (I was there at the time), the Tories got more or less swept from Scotland, and people were raising questions about the moral authority of a Tory government to govern a Scotland where it didn’t have any seats.

Those questions about legitimacy could work in reverse, especially given an outright Tory majority in England and Wales combined.  Should Scotland, which already has its own Parliament, provide the working margin for a government that the rest of the country has decisively rejected?

In fact, on a Beeb interview last night, an SNP member suggested exactly that.  Just before he sent the presenter into an apoplectic fit by suggesting that they’d talk to the Tories, and might support a Tory government in return for “protection” or something like that, for Scottish interests.  That there was no such apoplexy regarding a similar “selling” of votes by the LD for Labour shows, again (sigh), the BBC’s bias, and that there might be a real threat there.

Of course, last night’s elections, with the SNP winning only 6 of 59 Scottish seats, point to the idea that what the Scots wants isn’t independence but a free ride on the productive part of the country.  If that’s the case, then such a deal would be totally about power politics and not about satisfying any particular part of the electorate.

Kind of like what Labour has in mind.

No Comments

DU – Futures in Communication

In the past, Prof. Christina Foust of DU’s Department of Communication Studies has been generous enough to invite me to address her class, as a blogger and also as a candidate, about communication techniques used in both roles.  Now the department is launching a new major, and has invited me to participate in their kickoff event, Futures in Communication.

Please join us and to discover career opportunities in Communication Studies. A panel of local professionals/communication graduates will discuss the various ways communication intersects with their respective careers and answer student questions. We also have representatives from local organizations to discuss ways that you can apply your degree to a rewarding career.  Please join us for opportunity to network with speakers, organizations, faculty, alumni and graduate students.

It’ll be this afternoon from 5-7pm in the Gottesfeld Room of the Ritchie Center Bell Tower.

I’m looking forward to talking to the students, and gratified to be able to be there as the department takes a huge step forward.

No Comments