Archive for October, 2014

Hickenlooper’s Bullying Attitude

John Hickenlooper likes to affect an aw-shucks demeanor, although there are times when his body language reminds me more of the Trivago Guy than a governor.  It’s disarming, and plays into his general image as a regular guy, and reinforces people’s impression that he’s a centrist.  True or false, that impression is one of his greatest political assets.

Unfortunately, Hickenlooper has a bit of a touchy streak when he’s treated like the politician that he is, and has been for over a decade.  That touchiness seems to have trickled down into his campaign.  Earlier this year, one of his staffers threatened to have Watchdog.org reporter Arthur Kane arrested when he showed up at a campaign office seeking income tax records that had been released to other media outlets.

And earlier this week, a campaign supporters pushed, blocked, and stalked Ellie Reynolds, a tracker for Revealing Politics.  As can be seen in the video below, one of Hickenlooper’s campaign workers, identified as Political Organizer Preston Dickey, follows Reynolds to a nearby coffee shop and then to her car:

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Hickenlooper can be seen standing literally a few feet away, either oblivious to or passively approving of the behavior of his supporters.  And here I thought we weren’t supposed to push girls around.

These are not isolated incidents. In March of 2013, Evan Ebel, out on parole, shot and killed Tom Clements, head of the Colorado Department of Corrections.  Hickenlooper was obviously deeply affected by the killing.  It turned out that Jack Ebel, Evan’s father, was a contributor to Hickenlooper’s campaign.  There is absolutely no reason to believe there was any connection between that fact and Evan Ebel’s parole.  Nevertheless, Hickenlooper got testy with 9News reporter Brandon Rittiman when Rittiman asked him about it on camera.  It’s unpleasant, to say the least, but it’s what reporters do, and Rittiman all but apologized for having to ask the question as part of his job.

I’ve had my own experience with Hickenlooper’s wrath.  After I recorded him admitting that Amendment 66 money could go to PERA, I have it on excellent authority that he blew his stack and took it out on a lobbyist who was unconnected to the incident.

The world is full of politicians who have tempers, and some of them can be very effective with them.  Lyndon Johnson was known to lose his cool – sometimes even for real, not just for effect – but generally had his way with a friendly Congress.  Any number of big city mayors know how to put on a show behind closed doors.  Knowing how and when to intimidate enemies and even friends is a valuable tool in an executive’s toolbox.  But that generally happens away from the cameras.  It isn’t done in public, and it sure doesn’t trickle down to how staffers treat the public.

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Staggering Improvement

Looking over a CoBank report on the state of rail capacity in the West, I came across this astonishing graph:

The Staggers Act effectively deregulated the rail industry in this country, after almost a century of increasingly heavy-handed rules set out by the Interstate Commerce Commission (RIP).  It took a few years for volume to rise, but contrary to the arguments of the regulators, rates fell, revenue fell, and productivity shot up almost overnight.  As effects rippled through the economy, volume began to take off.

In recent years, as the cost of fuel has risen, and capacity constraints have become more evident, rates and revenue have started to rise, which accounts for the turnaround in railroad stocks.

What’s really striking is the stasis that the railroad industry was held in before 1980.  The ICC set their rates, limited their service, and forced freight lines to continue to run unprofitable and largely unused passenger service, competing with bus lines that were getting significant federal help through the interstate highway system.  How much of the overall economy’s stagnation and deterioration through the 60s and 70s was a result of this misguided paternalism can only be guessed at.

Harley Staggers, the author and chief sponsor of the Staggers Act, was no economic or political libertarian.  He was a 16-term Democratic representative from West Virginia who tried to subpoena the footage from a CBS documentary on Watergate and filed an FCC complaint over the F-word in a song on a radio station.  But he had enough sense to see that Appalachia’s coal industry needed a healthy railroad system to grow.  He’s lucky that this act from his final term in office is what people remember him by.

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Complete the Syllogism, Palestinian Edition

The International Community condemns the Jerusalem terror attack.

The Palestinian Authority honors the murderer of the 3-month-old child.

Therefore…

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Foreshadowing 2016 with 1966

Many people are looking at who’s visiting Iowa and New Hampshire. Who’s campaigning for Senate and gubernatorial candidates is more interesting.

Obviously, for the most part, not Barack Obama, although Michelle seems to be in some demand. Gotta keep those policies off the ballot, after all.

Who is stumping for candidates? Mitt Romney. And Bill Clinton – not Hillary Clinton.

Why does this matter? One of the lessons I took away from Teddy White’s “The Making of the President 1968” was that Nixon solidified his support in the party and his standing as a national figure by aggressively campaigning in the 1966 mid-terms for Congressional candidates. Almost all of them won.

Romney may or may not have enough left to make a serious run.

What’s more telling is that Bill is either the more popular or more influential Clinton, or both. Apparently, not even most Democrats are really Ready for Hillary, they’re just Nostalgic for Bill.

Don’t underestimate nostalgia.  Nostalgia for Bush I was largely responsible for putting his son in the White House in 2000, when people were tired of the Clinton Drama, on the ballot in the form of his Vice President.  But George W. didn’t have Hillary’s resume or long, long, long history in the national spotlight.  He may have found it useful to ride Clinton fatigue with his own relative novelty and memories of what it was like when adults were in charge.

The fact that Hillary, who has had decades – literally uninterrupted decades – to make her case to the American people, is having to do the same thing, should be a yellow flag to those who think she’s a done deal.

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Liberals And Your Soul

Remember when Michelle Obama promised that Barack would heal our broken souls?  In my lifetime, that’s pretty much been the refrain of liberalism – a concern for the well-being of your souls, if not of yourselves, despite the stereotype that this is a feature of the religious right.  It goes to the heart of the liberal trope that intentions matter more than results, and that government action is inherently more virtuous than private initiative.

It turns out this was a characteristic of liberalism even when it was relatively new and driven by Evangelical concerns.  From Paul Johnson’s The Birth of the Modern, and his chapter on Britain’s rise in the role of World Policeman, comes this description of the conflicting British attitudes about the Barbary pirates and their slavery:

The West’s supine attitude toward the horrors of Barbary piracy had long aroused fury in some quarters.  Officers of the British navy were particularly incensed since seamen were frequently victims of the trade.  They could not understand why the huge resources of the world’s most powerful fleet were not deployed to root out this evil affront to the international law of the sea, once and for all.  They could not understand why liberal parliamentarians, who campaigned ceaselessly to outlaw the slave trade by parliamentary statute, took no interest in Christian slavery….But William Wilberforce, MP, and the other Evangelical liberals, who finally got the slave trade made unlawful in 1807, flatly refused to help.  They were concerned with the enslavement of blacks by whites and did not give the predicament of white slaves a high priority on their agenda, an early example of double standards.

I’m sure this account of Wilberforce is going to make some people unhappy, but it shouldn’t be taken as ad hominem.  He’s merely the most prominent representative of the cause, and therefore of the cause’s flaws.  Liberalism suffered from double standards when it was new, and now that it’s old, when it was religious, and now that it’s secular.

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