Archive for September, 2012

Polls You Won’t See On the MSM

The absurd over-sampling of Democrats has been one of the MSM’s favorite tools during the campaign, no doubt believing that they can resurrect the “inevitability” meme of other campaigns in the service of Obama’s re-election.  As Pat Caddell has pointed out, not only are they commissioning polls that seem to produce the desired result, they’re spending a lot of time and effort trumpeting the ones that support their favored narrative.  So in the interests of balance, here is some evidence that things are moving in Romney’s direction.

First, in Virginia, two new likely-voter polls have Obama up by 2, not by the larger margins earlier reported.

And in Pennsylvania, a new poll commissioned by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has Obama up by 2, not by the double-digits or high single-digits that we’ve seen recently.  If true, this would be a shocking result, and one that would call into question Pennsylvania’s status as a safe Obama state.

Now in the interests of fairness, we should point out that the internals of this one are more favorable to Republicans that voter registration numbers would suggest.  The poll has 50% Dems, and 43% Republicans, which, according to the latest voter registration numbers from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, significantly over-sample Republicans.  Actual voters registration is 50% Dem, 37% Rep, 7% Independent, and 6% Other, so the poll essentially ends up assigning all the Other to the Republican category.  Since the “Other” contains Libertarians, Greens, Constitution Party, and others, it’s probably more reasonable to assign that 50-50 in a two-race, which would put Obama up by 5 rather than 2.

That said, assuming this isn’t the R-leaning outlier we’ve all been waiting for, a significant result.   If combined with the Virginia polls, suggests that either the campaign may be moving back to the status quo ante the conventions, and means that contrary to our doomsayers and their cheerleaders, this isn’t over yet by a long shot.

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Q3 and QE3

The Democrats-with-a-byline who populate the MSM are no doubt going to point with glee at the performance of the markets over the last quarter.  A good Q3 in an election year usually means re-election for a sitting president, and with the Dow Industrials up 6.6%, the S&P 500 up 8.4%, and the NASDAQ gaining 9.4%, the champagne will be out at the Tiffany Network tonight.  (Maybe Jay-Z and Beyonce have some left over for them.)

But perhaps we ought to look at some other indicators, as well.  Since QE3, the third, unlimited round of the Fed’s pump-priming inflationary stimulus, was announced on September 13th, the markets are down.  The Dow is off 0.5%, the S&P off 1.3%, and the NASDAQ has also given back 1.3%.  These are shorter-term moves, to be sure, but they also mean that the little boost from the QE3 announcement has faded, and the grim reality of a stagnant job market, collapsing durable goods orders, rising foreclosures, and downward revisions in company guidance as a result of rising costs.  All the money printing in the world can’t actually reverse business fundamentals.

It’s also worth looking at the Dow Transportation Index over the same period.  Over the last quarter, that index is down 3.4%, and down 5.8% since the QE3 announcement.  Clearly, the truckers and trains aren’t feeling the love.  This is important as an indicator in its own right – road and rail are expecting to have less stuff to move, and their fuel and personnel costs are rising.

But it’s also a contra-indicator according to classic Dow Theory, which says that you only get a confirmation of a market move if both the Transports and the Industrials move in the same direction.  That’s because a lot of what rail moves is related to industrial production.  Three months of divergence, in Dow Theory, is roughly an eternity.  I don’t know if it’s unprecedented, but it’s a very long time.  Sooner or later, one or the other will have to move in the other direction. (It’s possible that they both will, in which case we’ll have the same problem for a while longer, just different winners and losers.)

The political effect may well be real and enduring (although a pretty good Q3 in 2010 wasn’t enough to save Nancy Pelosi’s sorry hide).  People may look at a good quarter for their 401(k)s and their pension plans (although the government employees were probably voting for their subsidizer, anyway), and conclude that the worst is over.  That would be both a financial and an electoral mistake.

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Still catching up from the New England trip.  Today was the Ceremonial Marking of the Maps.  It’s something I enjoy doing tremendously, marking out the routes that we took.  I usually end up doing it twice – once on the large US map, and once on the individual AAA maps.  If you like driving, the roads you’ve driven are sort of an archive unto themselves.  2001: the Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon coast.  1997, and then 1999 again: The Loneliest Road in America across Nevada.  2011: A helluva lot of Nebraska.  2012: The Grand Tour of New England.  You can’t really get to know a place by driving through it once, which it why great photographers often make a career out of one state.  But you can get a little sense of the lay of the land, see what you missed, and plan the next trip.

As for the photographs, I’m still working on those.  Posted a bunch of them to Facebook, but a two-week excursion into the Far Northeast deserves a section on The Site, not just a Facebook album.  Of course, you could say the same thing about Nebraska.

In the meantime, maybe someone needs to get the working press a map to what happened in Benghazi, and then perhaps they can politely ask for their manhood back from whatever jar Jay Carney is keeping it in.  I realize that what we used to affectionately call the MSM thinks that this time, they really show us who’s boss.  They thought they had done that during Katrina, when they finally got their revenge for being thwarted in the 2004 election.  (You remember 2004, don’t you?  The year that the Tiffany Network teamed up with 42nd Street to foist a false-document hoax on the public to unseat a sitting President?)  It must be tiring for them, having to do this over and over again.

I have a very old friend, a White House reporter for a newspaper you’ve probably heard of.  He wrote a piece a few days after the September 11 attacks this year, parroting the administration line about the whole thing being, as Mark Steyn put it, film criticism that got out of hand.  I wrote him a brief email, asking him how he could write this as fact, when it was clear, even then, that at a minimum, the attack in Libya didn’t have anything to do with the video, and that the video’s connection to the rest of what was going on was word-of-mouth and tenuous at best.  He replied that “the intel guys didn’t have indications of premeditation.”  Um, the intel guys were lying to you, my friend.  Now that is a story in its own right.  Count on it to be written sometime after January 21, 2017.

But just in case anyone in the briefing room wants to turn in their claim check on the family jewels, Bill Hobbs has helpfully put together a road map of the administration’s handling of this year’s September 11:

Fact: The Obama administration required our ambassador in Libya to be “protected” by “security” people who had no bullets in their guns.

Fact: The Obama administration was forewarned of the possibility of a terrorist attack against the U.S. in Libya days before 9/11/12. Fact: The Obama administration made zero changes to the security measures taken to protect our ambassador and defend our embassy and consulate.

Fact: the terrorist attack the Obama administration was warned was likely did in fact happen.

Fact: Our ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Fact: For two weeks, the Obama administration continued to insist that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was a spontaneous riot of a mob angry about a YouTube video – when it KNEW that American intelligence services had determined within 24 hours that the attack was clearly a pre-planned, sophisticated terrorist attack.

Fact: Obama went to sleep the night of the attack while the ambassador was missing – and a four-hour terrorist assault was underway.

Fact: The morning after the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/01, attack, Obama went to Las Vegas to campaign.

Fact: There NEVER WAS an angry mob rioting outside the Benghazi consulate.

Fact: The Obama administration sent our UN Ambassador onto FIVE different news programs last Sunday to lie and claim the attack on the embassy was an out of control mob – when the administration already knew it was a terrorist attack.

Fact: While the Obama administration claims the attack is “under investigation,” 16 days after the attack, FBI agents have not even gone to Benghazi.

Fact: The most significant piece of information found at the scene of the attack – Ambassador Stevens’ diary – was found by a CNN news crew.

Fact: Entries in that diary strongly suggest that Stevens had been warned he was the target of an impending attack.

Fact: The Obama administration, confronted with the contents of Stevens’ diary, chose instead to talk about whether CNN violated journalistic ethics by reporting from the diary.

Fact: In his UN speech yesterday, Obama continued to pretend that outrage over a YouTube video is what caused the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans at the Benghazi consulate

As much as I would like to have the luxury of this just being about media bias, there’s an election coming up, and the primary victims of journalistic malfeasance are going to be the voters, who will be confronted at some point with the fact that their government is taking them for fools, who probably already know that, but will never actually have that knowledge confirmed by so much as an editorial in their newspapers.  Somewhere down the line, the official story will change from “riots over a video,” to “terrorist attack,” and by then it will already be old news, so the change will go unnoticed, and Oceania will always have been at war with East Asia.  Which is what happens when an administration can conduct neither defense nor diplomacy.

It can’t do it because its thinking is a muddle, and its moral compass always seems to be operating near Iron Mountain.

As usual, it is left to Benjamin Netanyahu to provide both a conscience and clarity.  That bomb chart with the red line was simply brilliant, mostly because it was brilliant in its simplicity.  Naturally, the wags have been all over it, using the bomb’s blank interior as a canvas.  Here’s my favorite:

Anything that simplifies can be mocked. But it will mostly be mocked in Israel, where an open society can always make fun of its leaders, and nobody actually can afford to take the threat lightly. Netanyahu’s a big boy with a thick skin, and can take such lampooning easily, knowing he reached his target audience with clarity, two things Obama seems incapable of.

When we were kids, we used to try to make up different planets, and then game out world conquest.  But at one point, a friend of mine, I think the same one who’s the White House correspondent, said that they new maps were superfluous, because earth already had so many strategic choke points and such interesting terrain.  Right now, we’re worried about Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz.  But consider what happens when the Suez Canal is no longer a sure thing, and the Mediterranean coast of Africa starts bristling with anti-ship missiles with the names of our carriers on them.

These are deeply serious times, and we have a deeply unserious administration governing, and a deeply unserious press not covering them, but covering for them.


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Similarities and Differences

Music helps with the writing.  Especially Bach.  Ahhhhh, Bach.  So I like to put on the Rhapsody playlist and let it run.  It means I can’t give it the attention it deserves, so it’s mostly just background.  Until this jumped out:

Why?  Because I’d recognize it anywhere.  From here:

This Mendelssohn piece has been one of my favorites since I heard it, almost 30 years ago.  Now, up until Mendelssohn’s day, performers played new pieces, not old ones.  There might be a few fan favorites that hung on, as appetizers for the new stuff, but by and large, people didn’t go to concerts to hear covers.  Mendelssohn organized the first retrospective – a concert of Bach.  So he obviously thought a lot of the old master.  So much so that he apparently didn’t mind quoting this fairly obscure passage in what would go on to be a blockbuster hit capable of moving people 200 years later.

Then, there are the Canadians who are apparently insecure about their independence from Britain, at least insecure enough to think that the rest of the world can’t tell the difference between them.

I can promise that even benighted Americans, who can barely tell the difference among non-English-speaking foreigners, never mind muster the Henry Higgins-like skills necessary to distinguish among the various Southern Hemispheric English-speakers, can figure out the difference between Brits and Canadians.  Working at home, I like to have the TV on for background noise, and for a while, one of the cable channels was running “Wind At My Back.”  It’s the sort of anodyne, inoffensive production you get from most BBC government-funded “art.”  Only in this case is was the CBC, and I never once thought it was set in Kent.  (Canadian TV is a lot closer to home, but never gets the same play here as British stuff, probably because PBS doesn’t have a long-term player development contract with it.  Maybe they only license the French stuff for export.)

It’s only a space-sharing arrangement, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t be replicated with other Anglospheric countries, and even extended to routine administrative matters, without compromising sovereignty.  You want to build up a new and improved Commonwealth, it’s going to start with little things like that.

Which leads me to Revolution.

If you’re of a certain age, and grew up at any point during the Cold War, you imbibed your share of dystopian futuristic science fiction.  A lot of it was crap, like “The Day After,” produced mostly to remind everyone of how big a risk they had taken by electing Reagan in 1980, and how they would soon have a chance to fix that and avoid the end of the world.  It came out right around the same time as the “Weinberger for President: Let’s Get It Over With” bumper stickers, with little mushroom clouds.  Nobody would confuse it with “Threads,” an even more hopeless vision, but one that for all that stuck with me long enough to give me nightmares.  It was British, of course.  The basic thesis of all of these was the in the aftermath of a nuclear war, civilization was doomed and you were pretty much better off saving the effort and using the first bullet on yourself.  Which isn’t nearly as interesting as a world where life goes on, is it?

And a few years ago, I interviewed One Second After author William Forstchen on the air.  It’s about the after-effects of an EMP attack on the United States.  My sister had gotten me the book as a present, and my immediate reaction was that I was delighted to have gotten the book, and really sorry to have read it.  One commentator on NPR ridiculed the idea of an EMP attack (“What, they get a nuclear bomb and they’re going to use it to turn off our lights?”), but it was clear he hadn’t really thought about where he got his tapwater from.  The book thinks through the consequences, and they’re not, really not, pretty.

A quick search shows that the publicists have been hard at work, and the show did get some advance reviews after the carpet bombing we got during the Olympics.  There’s every incentive, though, for the MSM to ignore or downplay or even ridicule the notion now, because scaring people now works against their preferred candidate, not in his favor.  Of course, it doesn’t have to come from an attack.  It’s possible that a massive solar storm could do the same thing, and we’ll never know what that commentator has to say then, because he won’t be broadcasting it.

They won’t be broadcasting Revolution, either, which is probably a blessing.

Look, the biggest problems after an EMP-led outage are going to be food, food, food, and water.  We’ll lose a lot of people who are dependent on the easy distribution of drugs and medicine, but for those left, there’s just no getting around the fact that once the trains stop running, there’s just not going to be a lot of food coming from the farmland into the cities.  And if the EMP also takes out the major farm equipment, then it’s really Welcome to 1850, because the farmers are going to back to that level of technology, too.

It makes the whole premise of one of the main characters completely implausible.  There’s just no way that 15 years after “The lights go out,” as the euphemism has it, a chubby ex-Google programmer with no identifiable practical skills is still around.

The show also tips its hand in the first 15 minutes.  Just like the theme of the original Battlestar Galactica was the quest to find Earth, this one’s going to be about whether or not one of the main characters can use the information stored on a thumb drive to “turn the lights back on.”  Too much happens, and there’s not enough build-up for any of the reveals to have any payoff.  The main character is looking through an old stash of postcards of major cities, and one of them is of Wrigley Field.  Voila!  One segment later, she and her compadres are walking past a dilapidated Wrigley Field where the outfield vines have clearly gotten well out of hand.  We have no idea how far they are from Chicago, they barely pack anything for this life-threatening excursion, there’s no sense of adventure in the journey, so there’s no emotional payoff when they finally get there.

Doing it this way makes it too easy for the writers to pop up some convenient obstacle when they need it.

I know Firefly got cancelled, but  I still think that it and Babylon 5 did it right.  Set up the world, skip the history lesson, and use the first season to tell basic stories about what life in that world is like.  Save the long-arc stuff until you’ve got the characters and the universe established.  (Yes, I know Serenity used the same conceit of a history lesson to kids, but that was a movie, where you have to establish what’s going on immediately, or have the audience spend the whole time trying to put the pieces together and follow the storyline at the same time.)    Tell interesting stories each week, while giving us some sense of what to expect.  That approach also means you have to sketch out the world in advance, and really do your homework.

Too bad they didn’t have time for that.

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June 1998 Video of Obama on Political Coalitions and the Working Poor

The Daily Caller has posted the unedited audio of then-State Senator Barack Obama at a Loyola College forum, where he discusses the importance of uniting the working poor with welfare recipients as a political coalition.

Turns out this wasn’t a one-off, or a cool idea that occurred to him in the middle of the forum, but something he had been thinking about for a while.  Here’s C-SPAN video of him at a Brookings Institute forum on the State of the Cities four months earlier, on June 14, 1998:

Why is this problematic?  Traditionally, the working poor haven’t identified with welfare recipients, but with the middle class, just as the middle class tends to identify with the rich.  They tend to see themselves as hopeful and upwardly-mobile.  By getting the working poor to see themselves as having more in common with recent welfare recipients, Obama is hoping to get them to believe that they need/want/are entitled to government help that they might not have sought otherwise, and to form a voting bloc in favor of expanded government redistribution.


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The Summer Game in Fall

The Saturday night movie was “Trouble With the Curve,” the latest Clint Eastwood offering.  A rom-com with professional complications and a baseball backdrop.  You can’t screw up baseball – the owners have proven that, try as they might – but you can make a predictable, formulaic rom-com, and that’s what they’ve done here.  It’s not exactly paint-by-numbers, but they’re not painting the corners, either.  The characters are, for the most part, barely one-dimensional and overplayed, at that.  Even the final, dramatic showdown between pitcher and catcher misses an obvious trick.

The movie aspires to be a sort of anti-“Moneyball,” with Clint playing an aging scout who thinks his eyes and ears can tell him stuff that the kids’ computers can’t.  That baseball is cruel and unfair won’t be news to fans.  But that it compounds the normal cruelty of high school athletes may come as a surprise to some.  The games are what they are, but the action for the scouts isn’t in the results, but the process.  The reason you need scouts for high school is that any major league prospect is going to so outclass his competition that the results at that level don’t suffice to distinguish between prospects and true star power.  But remember, in “Moneyball,” the whiz kids weren’t using SABRmetrics to scout high schoolers, but under-valued major- and minor-leaguers.  So the portrait of baseball resembles an Escher drawing – the details are right, but they’re placed in a world that doesn’t exist.

Clint and Amy Adams as his daughter turn in nice performances, as does Justin Timberlake, and while neither of the two younger actors has the resume of Eastwood, they can hold their own on the screen with him.  Eastwood is smart enough to know that actors bring their body of work with them to whatever new roles they play, and some skillful use of some footage of a younger Clint helps allude to the outside-the-rules Eastwood that we all remember.

Two, maybe two-and-a-half stars.  As usual, the real game is better.

Especially when your childhood team is finally playing meaningful ball in September.  In this case, that’s the Orioles.  September 2007 was magical here, and I was working a block away from Coors Field.  I got to see a couple of Rockies wins during that stretch, saw the play-in game against the Padres, and saw the two NLCS wins against Arizona, including the clincher that sent them to the Series.  But there’s nothing quite like seeing the team you rooted for as a kid go to the playoffs.

I subscribe to the radio broadcats at something like $15/year, and Joe Angel is back doing the games after a purgatory in Yankeeland.  In fact, even as I write this, I’m listening to the Orioles broadcast, and watching the Yankees play the A’s on TV.  Would that it were the other way around, but TBS seems to have some sort of contract that requires them to show Yankees games.

On the rare occasions that the Orioles have been on television it’s been fun to see Camden Yards full again,and the ads for local brands that I had forgotten about, like High’s Ice Cream.  Camden Yards was the first of the retro ballparks, and still one of the best, with the warehouse in right field, and the Bromoseltzer Tower in past center.  It replaced one of the other trendsetter parks, Memorial Stadium, which doubled for the Colts, and really long-time Orioles fans watched a lot of games there.

So one thing that’s been a little disheartening is the crowd cheers.  In Memorial Stadium, there was a guy name “Wild” Bill Hagy who used to lead a cheer from Section 34, spelling out “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” with his body as the crowd shouted out the letters.  There’s even a blog named for it.  Now, it’s basically the same soundtrack as here in Colorado, so it’s probably the same soundtrack as most parks these days.  I know “franchise” implies a certain uniformity of product, but I don’t think that means that the experience has to be the same at every ballpark.  You want to think there’s something different about your team, that just because the players are interchangeable these days, doesn’t mean the teams are.

You like to think that the team’s success is the payoff for all those old fans who’ve suffered through 15 years of losing seasons, and then you realize that by definition, there just aren’t that many who will stay interested through that kind of a spell.  And when you talk about a cheer they haven’t used in 20 years, you sound like the guy 20 years ago who was reminiscing about how hard it was to pick up the ball against the white shirts in center field in Memorial Stadium.

But you know, who cares?  O-R-I-O-L-E-S!

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Forward! To The 1870s!

A lot’s been made in the last few days about the new Obama campaign “flag,” which replaces the 50 stars with the Obama campaign symbol.  (After all, who need 50 stars when you can get by with The One?)  As a counterpoint, some on the left have taken to posting Lincoln campaign flags, and a few of my friends on the left haven’t been above calling conservatives names over their outrage.  It turns out it wasn’t just Lincoln who did this – it was a fairly common, almost standard campaign motif from about 1840 to William McKinley.  I’ve collected a slideshow (although those of you reading this in email will need to go to the site to see it):

Then, starting in the very late 1800s, around about the same time that we started to take our place on the world stage, our attitude about the flag started to change as well.  In 1898, the poem, “Hats Off!” was published.  It was still current as late as the 1960s, when it was being republished in a book I read as a kid.  The Pledge of Allegiance was published in 1892, as well.  (Ironically, Francis Bellamy was  a Christian socialist, but nowadays it’s the “right-wingers” who open meetings with it.  It was written in the days when American socialism was more nationalist, and less Internationale, I suppose.  Good thing they dropped the salute, though.)  And in 1924, the Code of Conduct for the Flag was finally enacted, about a generation after the flag’s started to become a more venerated symbol.  By that time, of course, putting your picture on the flag had long gone out of fashion.

Does this mean that the Obama campaign flag is much ado about nothing?  I don’t think so.  I was never outraged by the appropriation of the flag, but I did consider it to be just another example of the creepy cult of personality that Obama seems way too comfortable with, and which is completely inappropriate for a sitting president of a democratic republic.  Harsanyi missed this year’s DNC logo, a stylized Obama campaign “O.”  I looked back at convention logos of both parties from 1980 onward, and didn’t see anything remotely like that for either party.  He also didn’t mention the other weird stuff, like making an “O” with your hands in 2008, and the Obama Campaign Wedding Registry.

We’ve lionized presidents before, but usually after they’ve left office.  Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, and Reagan come to mind.  Three of them died in office, three led us through decisive moments in major struggles.  (JFK’s persists to this day.  I was looking at a poster of presidential portraits in DAT this morning, and while almost all were the official presidential portrait, Kennedy’s was of his standing with his hand on his desk, head bowed, in a golden haze, which struck me as a little over-the-top.  Fifty years on, that sort of thing isn’t doing anything to encourage serious appraisals of his time in office, is it?)  But I can’t remember anything like this for a living President, and Obama’s the eighth one I’ve been conscious of.

Certainly the way that Obama did this is different from what came before.  In some ways, the redesign does more violence to the flag than the portraits did.  The Obama “O” is a paler shade of blue, cyan really.  And the previous presidents and campaigns at least kept the stars there, rather than replacing them entirely.  But I’m sure that if he had put his portrait, or a stylized, dark blue monochrome of the Sheperd Fairey poster there, and kept the stars, it would still have been weird.  It’s not just about the design elements.

My friend State Senator Shawn Mitchell put his finger on it when he said that campaign symbols, indeed any political symbols, are created in a particular time and a particular environment.  In the 1870s, people were used to seeing this sort of thing.  Now they’re not.

The claim that this is just reviving an old tradition of flag redesign doesn’t ring true, not in today’s context.   A lot’s changed since the late 19th Century, and how we think about the flag is only part of it.  Maybe it was more acceptable when the Republic was younger.  Maybe there was a recognition that the presidency was itself, in some way, a national symbol, and that in the days before the federal government has usurped so much of the states’ powers, there was less danger in any one individual who occupied the office.

So how about a deal.  We’ll stop complaining about Obama “desecrating” the flag, if they’ll pare back the Federal Government to the scope it had in 1876.


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Referendum Confusion

I’ve been posting recently on the proposed mill levy and debt increase for Jefferson County called 3A/3B.  Denver Public Schools has similar measures on the ballot, also called 3A/3B.  My post the other day about the accumulating debt burden on Denver School District voters was interpreted by some to be about the JeffCo measure.

That’s ok!  The identical naming makes it easy.  If you’re in Denver or Jefferson County, vote against 3A/3B!


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Denver Schools Back For More

Whenever the schools teachers unions come back for more, they always want you to forget how much they’ve taken in the past.  This year, Denver Public School are proposing both a tax hike, and a debt issue.  We’ll look at the tax hike another day.  What many people don’t realize is that DPS has been borrowing like they had the Fed at the other end of the line (which they sort of did).  Over the last 10 years, the bonded debt per capita has almost doubled, and the proposed $466 million increase would, I estimate, raise it almost another $700 per person.

That alone doesn’t tell us much, though, about our ability to pay this debt.  The debt is funded through a mill levy on personal property, and is therefore limited based on the total assessed property value in the district.

So to consider how affordable and wise additional debt is, we should look at the ratio of Debt/Assessed Value – in effect, how mortgaged is your property for this debt?

But unless someone annually rolls their property tax into their mortgage, though, they have to pay it out of current income or savings.  Which means that it’s also important to consider the debt as a percentage of total personal income.  The charts below show how those ratios have risen over the last ten years, with the dashed line estimating how the additional $466 million would increase these ratios:

Both ratios have risen, and would rise dramatically on passage of 3B.  Note, though, that the burden on income is rising faster as a percentage basis (vs itself) than the burden on assessed value.  The property tax is a regressive tax.  While it’s nominally paid by the property owner, they really pass it on their renters, so the burden rests on the entire city.  This chart shows that while the debt burden for the school district has been rising as a function of assessed value, it’s been rising even faster in terms of people’s ability to pay.

The DPS and the CEA will always argue that they need the marginal increase.  What they won’t tell you is how these marginal increases add up over time.

Note on data sources: The Denver Public Schools, like all Colorado Public School districts, is required to file a Comprehensive Annual Finance Report.  It gives the Net Debt for the school district, and also calculates the per capita, and the other ratios.  But it only had that data through 2008.  While the BEA calculates total personal income at the county level, its latest data was for 2010.  The BLS publishes a total wages number at the county level, though, and had numbers through 2011.  The ratio of the DPS’s reported total personal income for the county to the BEA number was 1.24, with a standard deviation of 0.02, so I decided to use the BEA numbers multiplied by 1.24 for 2002-2011.  With current reports showing wages in Denver declining slightly, and employment static, I plugged in the 2011 number for 2012.

For the 2012 Assessed Valuation, I used the 2011 Assessed Valuation plus 10%, which is about what the Case-Schiller is showing for the Denver area.

For population, I used the official Census estimates for Denver, and then added 16,000 to the 2011 estimate for 2012.  These differ somewhat from the population numbers used by DPS.

For the total debt, I simply added the $466 million requested to the latest 2011 Net Debt reported by DPS.

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Iran’s Latin American Bases

Israel Radio reported a couple of weeks ago that Iran and Hezbollah had established a base inside of Nicaragua, near the border with Honduras.  (Naturally, this has received zero attention from the American press, with the exception of Investor’s Business Daily.)  This is apparently an extension of Iran’s presence in Venezuela.  Obama’s claims notwithstanding, Hugo Chavez seems determined to prove himself a menace to the US.   And those who claimed that our old nemesis Danny Ortega, had turned over a new leaf, have been deceiving themselves.  (Many of us cheered the old Marxist’s fall from power; P.J. O’Rourke’s chapter on the Nicaraguan elections in Holidays in Hell is priceless.)

It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Hezbollah isn’t using a Latin American training facility to prepare for operations against Israel.  They have most of Lebanon at their disposal for that sort of thing.  The options for operations here in the Americas are multiple.  There’s a growing Muslim community in South America, portions of which could presumably be incited against US diplomatic facilities.  The operatives could directly target Mexican natural gas pipelines, or, given the porousness of the US-Mexican border, be bound for targets here in the US.  Also, given Hezbollah’s involvement with  the Latin American drug cartels, they could be training to help reinforce those efforts, or to provide additional training to those cartels in their fights against the Mexican and/or US military.

In fact, Iran’s presence in Nicaragua is not a new development.  Todd Bensman had been covering this story as far back as October of 2007, and we had noted it here on this blog at the time as something to be concerned about.  At that time, Iran was establishing a large, outsized presence in Nicaragua under diplomatic cover, claiming that it was there to promote economic development.  Anyone with an ounce of sense knew at the time that this was a precursor to something more serious, and now, that something more serious seems to have arrived.


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