Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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June 9, 2009

Virginia's Governor's Race is Set

Mostly because they're off-year elections, I still slightly follow politics from my former home state of Virginia.  This year, the Democrats had a contested gubernatorial primary, and come-from-behind (literally) candidate Creigh Deeds seems to have run away with the nomination.  Deeds will try to beat Republican Bob McDonnell, who's the odds-on favorite in the general election.

If he succeeds, he'll be the first Democrat governor elected in Virginia while the Democrats also held the White House since Mills Godwin in 1966. 

Interestingly, Godwin is also the last Republican to have been elected Virginia governor during a Republican presidency, getting elected again in 1974. 

Virginia governors can't succeed themselves, and Godwin was the first governor to win non-consecutive terms since William Smith, twice a war governor.

May 7, 2009

Conservatism's Not a Dirty Word

At least according to the Denver Women's Republican Club. This Saturday, at the University of Denver's Sturm Hall, they're holding a free forum on the future of conservatism and the Republican party - the two aren't identical - with a free continental breakfast.

It features some terrific speakers: Karen Kataline, Ben DeGrow, Ryan Frazier, Mark Hillman, and others.

See the whole flyer, with directions, the full program, contact information, and further reassurance about the free food.

They've worked very hard to put this together, and it should be well worth the time.

April 2, 2009

Like They Can Just Print the Money

I'm beginning to think that having put the State Capitol near the Mint was a mistake. I think the Democrats are beginning to think that they can just print their way out of whatever burdens they put on the state.

We found out last month that the Colorado Unemployment Insurance Fund was safe, despite climbing unemployment numbers:

Reforms instituted a generation ago appear poised to keep the system solvent even as other states see their unemployment programs go broke. And work is under way to improve the department's Web site this spring, which should make it more user-friendly and ease the strain on the phone system.


In the 1980s, state lawmakers set out to protect the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund -- it is used to pay benefits to people who lose their jobs -- after watching it go broke in a recession.

The result was an additional tax, dubbed a "solvency surcharge," that was designed to kick in whenever the trust fund's balance fell below 0.9 percent of the wages paid in the state. The calculation is made each year on June 30, and in 2004, after three years of recession, the tax kicked in.

The result: Colorado's unemployment trust fund grew to $672 million last fall, just as the latest recession was taking hold. That allayed fears that Colorado could again find its unemployment fund out of money.


"It would take a deep recession that went on for several years before we would go insolvent," [Mike Cullen, Colorado's director of unemployment insurance] said.

His assertion is backed up by various scenarios that have been considered, including a moderate or even severe recession, said Alex Hall, the department's chief economist.

"Certainly with all the information we have available at this time, and what we feel are reasonable scenarios, including scenarios that take us into a pretty deep recession, we feel that the surcharge is providing that stability and revenue for the unemployment insurance trust fund, and that solvency will not be an issue for us," Hall said.

Well, not so fast there, cowboy.

In a state budget outlook delivered week, the Colorado Legislative Council Staff predicted the fund balance "will fall precariously close to insolvency" to just $44 million by June 30, 2010, down from nearly $700 million on June 30 last year.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment expects a healthier fund at $187 million on June 30, 2010, but still has concerns, said Mike Rose, chief of statistical programs for the department.

"We also consider it possible that the fund might be marginally solvent at periods in 2010 and 2011," he said Wednesday.

Unemployment insurance payouts are expected to total $834.1 million in the current fiscal year that ends June 30 and stay at that level for another year, according to the council forecast.

In the midst of this, the legislature seems poised to pass HB 1170, which would entitle employees who are locked out - that is, they have jobs but are involved in a labor dispute - to receive unemployment benefits.

Here's a chart showing the monthly balance of the Colorado Unemployment Insurance Fund, along with a 12-month moving average of employer contributions and benefits paid out:

The reason I've smoothed out these payments and contributions is that employer contributions are extremely seasonal. They generally see a large jump in May, when the surcharge is assessed. They also tend to have almost no contribution during the last month of each quarter, while the first month of each quarter is the highest.

So, the payouts are still rising, and have just passed the contributions. For the first time since the recovery from the last recession, we've seen an actual drop in the fund's balance. Even if all those conveniently-times stories about how we're hitting bottom are correct, unemployment is a trailing indicator. Since contributions are based on the current aggregate salaries paid, that means that contributions will fall even as unemployment rises. This dynamic refills the coffers during the latter part of recoveries and prosperity, but drains them towards the middle and end of recessions.

Then, there's this:

A state Senate committee took up a bill Wednesday that would make Colorado eligible for $127 million in federal stimulus money for the fund by expanding the definition of who can qualify for jobless benefits. It would cost the state an estimated $14.6 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 to make the changes, largely to pay benefits for newly eligible residents.

So we'll pick up a net $100 million this year, at the cost of no future returns and nobody-bothers-to-ask how much more in perpetual commitments down the line.

The only way out is to float debt. If we end up having to do this during an inflationary period, it'll mean higher rates and even more trouble down the line.

Unemployment insurance is well-established by now. But I can't help wondering if it wouldn't be better to give it to the employees up front rather than paying to the government for what passes for their traditional definition of, "safekeeping"

April 1, 2009

Electoral College

Last night Michael, Ben, and I spoke with Robert Hardaway of the DU Law School to talk about the Colorado legislature's misguided attempt to amend the Constitution without, you know, actually amending the Constitution. I've posted before (and Twittered relentlessly) about the attempt to join an interstate compact to render the Electoral College a dead letter. 

He agreed that the Supreme Court was exceedingly unlikely to permit such a compact under Article I Section 10:

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of
Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any
Agreement or Compact with another State
, or with a foreign Power, or
engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as
will not admit of delay. (yes, emphasis added - ed.)

He also pointed out that there's no definition provided of the "National Popular Vote."  Apparently in 1960, the newspapers added up the popular vote and decided Kennedy won, while Congressional Quarterly came to the conclusion that Nixon had won the popular vote.  The determination of what count to use would rest in the hands of the state's top election official, presumably - but not named as - the Secretary of State.

One point we didn't get around to discussing was the question of Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico is, of course, not a state, but its citizens are US Citizens.  Would they suddenly be eligible to hold a Commonwealth-wide referendum and have their votes counted?  At this point, I certainly wouldn't rule out the State Supreme Court ruling that way.

I've separated out our discussion Prof Hardaway for podcast here, or you can listen to the whole show here.

March 31, 2009

Lawlessness Under Cover of Law - II

Turns out if you work at a company that's taken federal money, the government's going to save you having to wait until your company derives your new pay scale from what they can pay the CIO this month.

But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees -- not just top executives -- of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

...That includes regular pay, bonuses -- everything -- paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds. (emphasis added -ed.)

On Backbone Radio a couple of weeks ago, my colleague Matt Dunn and I disagreed on whether or not the government should try to claw back the AIG bonuses.  I didn't think so, but could see there was an argument in using AIG as a cautionary tale to keep others from taking the bait in the first place.  Matt was wondering why the Republicans weren't making a bigger issue of this.

Turns out we were both operating under the delusion that there were still rules.

Readings of the Commerce Clause have been increasingly detached from reality for the last 70 years, beginning with a decision that selling corn within the borders of Indiana somehow constituted interstate commerce, because corn is fungible.  This was followed by a decision that a company was engaged in interstate commerce because its suppliers' suppliers moved products across state lines.

Since the government hasn't provided any exit strategies for these, ah, "investments," this amounts to a perpetual pay schedule.  And you thought that post-graduate degree was going to open the door to someone more than a GS-8.

In fact, Treasury is considering dispensing with the requirement that you have received Federal money, requiring only that you be publicly traded.  Given the open-ended nature of this commitment, it's only a matter of time before the employees of these companies demand that their competitors be held to the same standard.

After all, it's only fair.

March 15, 2009

More Constitutional Objections to HB1299

It turns out there's another potential Constitutional objection to the proposal to turn our electoral votes over to other states - vagueness. There's only a minimal definition of what the term "national popular vote" means, and even less of what criteria are used to determine it.

By turning Colorado's electoral votes over to California and New York, Lois Court has also voted to turn them over to processes not in control of Colorado voters. Neither state has any signification controls against voter fraud. There are no uniform standards, indeed, no real standards at all, to make sure that Colorado's votes aren't diluted by lax procedures in other states, thus the definition of "national popular vote" becomes, I believe, intolerably vague.

Inevitably, this is going to result in a call for a national election authority, fully nationalizing even state and local election laws. In the absence of such an authority, our only recourse would be to sue other states who we felt were guilty of vote fraud. Dangerously, the reverse is also true. If other states decide that our processes are too restrictive, they likely could also sue on that basis, forcing looser, less reliable standards on Colorado.

The bill also states that:

This article shall govern the appointment of Presidential Electors in each member state in any year in which this agreement is, on July 20, in effect in states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes.

Meaning that the bill could change the rules after the presidential nominating process is complete. If there are a number of states waiting to ratify, then that year's presidential nominating contests will be held without knowing the rules of the general election.

If Bush v. Gore meant anything, it meant that you can't change the rules in the middle of the game. Why do I suspect that it's that, more than anything else, that galls the sponsors of this bill?

March 6, 2009

Kudlow for Congress? - II

Civil Sense, he of the Colorado Index, doesn't like my dissing of CNBC business anchor Larry Kudlow, who's reportedly thinking of challenging Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Countrywide) in 2010.

First, while Kudlow may have used cocaine in the past, that is not an automatic disqualification for public office. Even President Obama admitted to using "a little blow" before.

Second, while Kudlow did not see the sky falling one year prior to the financial crisis, very few did. That said, he is not corrupt, unlike Sen. Dodd, so that would be an immediate improvement.

Third, because he is a broadcaster, he can communicate. After all, President Reagan was a baseball broadcaster early in his career. The Republicans have too many politicians who are philosophically correct yet cannot connect with the public e.g. Bobby Jindal. A trained broadcaster with a firm grasp of market economics may work wonders in educating the public and the fiscally illiterate members of the Senate.

I never said that prior cocaine use was a disqualifier. In fact, I pretty much went out of my way to avoid saying that. But these things are always held more against Republicans than Democrats, and you can be sure that it'll be used to color Kudlow out of the box.

Civ Sense nails Kudlow's biggest advantages: 1) he's not corrupt like Dodd, and 2) he can communicate business and economics on TV. How well that style translates to campaign speeches is as yet unknown. Giving interviews is very different from conducting them. And please, can we declare a moratorium on Reagan comparisons? Calling Reagan a sportscaster is like calling Eisenhower a football player. By the time he ran for governor of California, he was a little more than that.

(Sense's cutting Jindal is a little bizarre; given that he's actually been elected Governor of Louisiana, he clearly connected with over half the voters there; it's not as though the irresistible Louisiana Republican Machine put him in office.)

As for the tsunami, in fact, the Street was worried about this as far back as '06. I clearly remember sitting in meetings at the brokerage with our senior analyst and head trader remarking on the fragility of the mortgage credit market, and that these derivative had spread the risk around to the point where nobody knew who held what. Search Kudlow's columns for any unease in 2006 on that score.

Kudlow's in the position of a bridge player who's got almost all the high cards in one suit, and nothing in anything else. If the debate moves to something other than finance, he's screwed. If he can be shown not to be 200 times brighter than Dodd in that one suit, he's equally screwed. As late as December 2007, Kudlow was claiming that a few interest rate tweaks here and there, along with moving poor mortgage-holders into FHA loans, would be enough to right the ship with little pain. Not a great move for someone who's selling his deep understanding of money and markets.

Dodd may well be damaged enough goods that he can be taken in a Democrat state. I'm just not enthusiastic about Larry Kudlow as the man to do it.

March 5, 2009

Kudlow for Congress?

Even for Senate. Hot Air is reporting that Larry Kudlow is taking a long, hard look at running for the seat of hopelessly corrupt Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd.

I wish I were as thrilled about this idea as they are. I've never been a huge Kudlow-as-TV-talking-head fan, and I'm even less of a Kudlow-as-Senate-candidate fan.

First, while the Republicans may want the 2010 election to be about economics and finances, there's no guarantee that will happen. I'm not certain he's going to be interested in or capable of discussing those issues.

Second, the man's had a serious coke problem in the past. Not the diet sodas in aluminum cans that are starting to catch up with me. No, the little white powdery stuff. This isn't a secret and it's not all that recent. But to someone who's never heard it before it's as recent as today's left-wing echo-chamber headline. Does it really matter? Probably not, and my bringing it up may not be fair. But who would you rather have vetting our candidates? Ourselves or the Democrats?

Finally, Kudlow's prowess as an economics-and-business analyst leaves a lot to be desired. I've always thought he was more cheerleader than quarterback. As late as Summer 2007 he was on Hugh Hewitt's show, plugging the economy as the "Greatest Story Never Told," and predicting that the good times would keep on toinin'. He didn't see the iceberg coming any better than Dodd did.

Nah, we ought to be able to do better than this, and we ought to know not to fall in love with media stars.

March 4, 2009

Ideology is the New Race

Today on Facebook, I posted a line I've used before on the blog, and, judging from the reaction, will probably use again:

Joshua finds the Democrats progressive: progressively more intrusive, progressively more restrictive, progressively more expensive.

Which prompted my old MBA ethics professor, Buie Seawell, not coincidentally a former State Democratic Party Chairman, to reply: "Joshua, give it a break. Life right now is not about ideology."


First of all, Buie would never hold Obama to that kind of standard. We have a President who doesn't even know the definition of a P-E ratio, but we're supposed to believe he's reasoning things out from supply-demand curves and detailed studies of macroeconomics.

But hypocrisy is always an easy charge. Nobody, least of all politicians or even former politicians, are perfectly consistent. Ideology is our philosophy, it's what frames our world view. The idea that we throw that out when we need it the most is absurd.

No, the goal here isn't to put ideology aside; it's to see one ideology prevail
by demonizing the other one while denying the first even is in play. It's running as a post-ideological president claiming that your critics aare ideologues. Kind of like running as a post-racial candidate while branding your opponents as racist.

Like anyone could ever get elected President that way.

February 17, 2009

"This Pork Ain't Kosher"

Fantastic coverage of the anti-Pork rally at the Capitol this afternoon:

Michael Sandoval has pictures and video.

The People's Press Collective has a couple of posts.

And El Marco photoblogged the event as well.

Join us this evening on the Blog Talk Radio show as Michael, Randy, and I chew over the pork.

February 12, 2009

Legislative Watch

It's a big couple of weeks coming up for the State House of Representatives, with some very good bills, and some very bad bills coming up for consideration in committee.

Here, then, are the six bills that caught my eye, along with their committee assignments, and when they're scheduled for hearing, and what room, in case you want to listen online to what your elected reps have to say:

The Good:

1256 - Interstate Purchase of Health Care

2/18 PM Session Room 112 (Business Affairs & Labor)

This bill would set up a structure for permitting Colorado residents to buy health insurance from out-of-state insurers. Sponsored by Cinsy Acree, it's the kind of free-market, trust-people-to-make-their-own-decisions legislation we should all be looking for. If for that reason alone, we can be sure it'll fail on a party-line vote. But it's good to get the Dems on record as believing that Coloradoans are dumber than other citizens when it comes to making insurance decisions.

1258 - Limit Extraterritorial Municipal Condemnation

2/19 AM Session Room 112 (State, Veterans, & Military Affairs)

Finally. After last year's grease fire of a State Supreme Court decision permitting the extra-territorial condemnation of property, the legislature is set to take up a bill putting a straight-jacket on this kind of behavior. Sure, it's one thing when Telluride goes after a developer out in the middle of nowhere, but sooner or later Jefferson and Adams Counties are going to getting into a spitting match over this kind of thing, and someone's going to get hurt.

1264 - Higher Ed Costs for State Inmates

2/16 PM Session Room 112 (Education)

At least, I think it's a good bill. Basically, it would keep prison from becoming a scholarship program for higher ed here in the state. I'm not certain how many inmates are studying Kierkegaard in the slammer (prison sentences must be lived forward, but understood backward), but this seems like a good idea. Just make sure that when the Dems inevitably call for shutting down prisons because they're not reforming inmates, you remind them whose fault that is.

The Bad:

1226 - No-Fault Insurance (Personal Injury Protection)

2/18 AM Session Room 112 (Business Affairs & Labor)

Wow. We're continually being told that we're in the worst economy since the Great Depression. We're about to see Congress pass a spending bill that'll make things even worse. And Anne McGihon wants to return Colorado to the bad old days of high-priced insurance and even higher rates of uninsured drivers. Can't anybody here play this game?

1267 - Higher Ed Pervasively Sectarian

2/23 PM Session Room 112 (Education)

The current law on money going to students revolves around what kind of institution they're attending. So if you're going to a "pervasively secular" institution, but studying for the seminary, you can still get help with interpreters, books, seeing-eye dogs, that kind of thing. This is apparently too much for some folks to bear, so they want to restrict state aid based on what you're studying. Just remember that this one came from the legislature, not from the courts.

1273 - Single-Payer Health Care

2/25 AM Session Room OSC (Business Affairs & Labor)

This is the Big One. It sets up a commission to start working out the details of health care rationing right here in River City. If you don't like your health plan choices now, you may have to change jobs. If you don't like your health care choices in a few years, you may have to leave the state.

January 22, 2009

Freedom of Movement

Colorado Democrats are getting ready to spend more money we don't have on a proposal to study ways of extracting more from you. And to watch where you're driving, to boot.

Nestled in the details of a major transportation proposal this year is an idea that could revolutionize how Colorado pays for its road and bridge projects.

The proposal, from statehouse Democrats, calls for pilot projects to study whether the state should do away with its gas tax and adopt a system in which drivers are charged based on how many miles they drive.

"What policymakers are looking at is a sustainable revenue source that they can count on," said Jim Whitty, an Oregon Department of Transportation official who has become a guru of mileage-based fees.

Glenn Reynolds has already made the privacy and efficiency arguments against this idea.

But I particularly like this part:

Whitty said one of the chief benefits of a mileage-based system is its malleability. It can be customized to charge people more for driving at rush hour or less for driving in rural areas. It can tax Hummers at a higher rate than Priuses.

Which means that the real goal here isn't the money, or even taxing in proportion to road wear and tear, it's more government-as-behavior-modification. The reason they're being "forced" to such extreme measures is that high gas prices have pushed people into conserving. In other words, they're already doing what the gas taxes are designed to make them do. So the obvious answer is to find substitutes.

In the future, people will eventually catch onto this game and just keep doing whatever it is they want to do in the first place, as not doing so isn't going to save them any money, anyway.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!

On a straight party-line vote, the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, just voted down a bill that would have required a photo ID for voting in Colorado.

The arguments opposed were presented by the usual suspects, arguing an undue burden on those who might not be able to obtain a photo id. The fact is, this problem affects a vanishingly small portion of the population, in large part because of the wide variety of supplemental documents that can be used to obtain a driver's license or a state ID.

In part because of the forgone nature of the vote, the Republicans on the committee did a fairly poor job of going after the opponents of the bill, with the exception of Kent Lambert, who had the legal arguments well in hand. He forced the ACLU into the ridiculous position that Crawford - which permitted photo IDs for voting in Indiana - was a "completely different circumstance" because that was a law being challenged, while this was a similar law being proposed. They would claim that we need to wait until elections are actually stolen - preferably electing legislators ill-disposed to voter ID - before we enact legislation to prevent it. In fact, as Lambert pointed out, the Court made it quite clear that there was no undue burden, and the ACLU in Indiana had used similar "solution in search of a problem" arguments.

A pro-immigrants group made the claim that rural immigrants would have to travel long distances to get their IDs. Nobody asked how many immigrants would be in this position.

Lois Court asked why, if the documents being excised were good enough to get a photo ID, they weren't good enough to vote with. Rep. Summers, the bill's sponsor, essentially conceded the point, arguing for "simplification." Fine enough, but the fact is that utility bills aren't IDs at all, while others would be well beyond the ability of an election judge, with a line out the door, to judge the authenticity of.

The arguments in favor were presented by several county Clerks and Recorders, focusing on their responsibility to ensure clean elections and the validity of the franchise. Court, again, made the point that these Clerks were representing themselves, not the Clerks' association, which has not taken a position on the bill. Using that logic, it should have been fairly easy to dig up a few to oppose the bill, something the Democrats couldn't be bothered with.

In fact, requiring a photo ID would be the first step towards dealing with emergency registration abuse, and would make a powerful argument against the growing vote-by-mail movement, literally a written invitation to vote fraud.

To paraphrase Mark Steyn on another subject, with them, it's always the wrong ID in the wrong state for the wrong election.

January 7, 2009

Back Into the Fray

I am announcing my candidacy for a Vice Chairmanship of the Denver County Republican Party. The party plans to alter its by-;aws to create up to three co-equal Vice Chairmanships, with the intent of increasing participation.

I am eager to be a part of rebuilding our party in Denvr and across the state. What follows is part agenda and part platform, developed in consultation with current Vice Chairman Ryan Call. Ryan is running for the chairmanship of the Denver Republicans; he is immensely qualified for that role, and I look forward to serving with him on the Executive Committee.

Our job is to help elect Republicans. It is not to dictate the ideology or the platform of the party to the membership. It is to help develop candidates, and to provide the tools for those candidates.

That will begin with presenting core Republican, Constitutional values to the Denver electorate, in a way that is appealing to them. Denver is a challenging electoral environment for Republicans, but our ideas actually deliver the goods that liberals say they want to. We can and must let Denverites know that their true interests lie with the freeing of their own talents, energy, and abilities.

Much of the buzz from the last campaign came from the use of technology and social networking to organiza Obama's supporters. In addition, alternative media - especially with the likely imminent demise of the Rocky - will become even more important in getting out message out. My own experience as a candidate, using blogs, online radio, Facebook, and other social networking devices, as well as my professional career as a web developer, will enable me to help the party into this arena.

We need to be able to run candidates in all districts, at all levels. The party can also be involved in building that farm system. Running for office is a large, complex job, and it gets moreso the higher the position. It can encourage candidates to run for local, non-partisan offices, to get their feet wet and to learn what's involved. In can be involved in identifying energetic candidates who are willing to sacrifice for the unknown.

It also means providing

  • Visibility: Lists of neighborhood and community organizations, along with meeting schedules, where prospective candidates can begin to make themselves known, and to listen to community concerns
  • Money: Denver will always be on its own, but we can improve our internal fundraising
  • Help for self-organizing grass-roots groups; the party can serve as a traffic cop, directing interested activists to grass-roots groups on like-minded activists; it should not and cannot control those groups; it can and should encourage them
  • Guidance: Replicating the national Party's book on compaign structure and deadlines, allowing for what is now Election Month, rather than Election Day
  • Support: Connecting candidates with existing legislators to help them better connect with their prospective electorate

Developing a farm team means making the most use of your talent. We need to reach out to a voter base of many ethnicities, and multiple ideologies. The party leadership should be able to work with - and respect - all elements of the party who are willing to work within the party.

All of this means hard work by the Executive Committee. It means a presence at every monthly District meeting, constant communication, and direct communication with precinct officers, candidates, and office-holders. It means planning, But it's the only way we'll be able to rebuild our party here in Denver.

I look forward to being a part of that, and I hope that the party will see fit to grant me that responsibility.

December 10, 2008

Rebuilding the House of Cards

With its Treasury assets low, the Fed is considering issuing its own debt, something it's never done before, and may be prohibited by law from doing.  The central bank has seen its balance sheet more than double, to over $2 trillion, and is trying to come up with added flexibility.

This is a spectacularly bad idea, so I'd expect to see enabling legislation on the President's desk by next week.

Anyone who buys Fed debt would be basically buying all those risky assets - plus whatever new risky assets the Fed decides to backstop tomorrow.  The market doesn't think much of those securities, which is why the Fed had to step in and buy them in the first place.  On the open market, they'd have insanely high yields and minimal value.  What the Fed is proposing to do is to remarket those securities, in effect as CDOs without the tranches, rebuilding the house of cards that got us into this problem in the first place.

Any difference between the yield those securities would be required to pay on the open market and the interest rate the Fed would have to pay would be - totally and completely - based on the public's confidence in the US Government's ability to cover those costs.  In other words, you and me. 

There are also almost certainly conflicts of interest (so to speak) between the Fed's role as a stabilizer of the debt markets and its role as a participant in them.  It's one reason the Fed has been independent, with the ability to tighten money and drive up borrowing costs largely without interference from the Treasury.  The Fed as debtor may be much less willing to fight inflation.

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.

November 19, 2008

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.

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 6, 2008

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.

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.

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.

October 19, 2008

Synergies in Free Speech Suppression

The Wall Street Journal gives a preview of coming attractions should the Democrats build a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Two items caught my eye, although the Journal lists them separately:

...the Fairness Doctrine is likely to be reimposed either by Congress or the Obama FCC. A major goal of the supermajority left would be to shut down talk radio and other voices of political opposition.


Google and would get "net neutrality" rules, subjecting the Internet to intrusive regulation for the first time.

The "Fairness Doctrine" is aimed squarely at talk radio. It would require broadcasters to give "equal time" to opposing viewpoints, as though there were only two. It was the law of the land until 1987, until repealed by the Reagan Administration. Here's a more thorough discussion of the problem:

"Net Neutrality," broadbandly-speaking, means that internet service providers would need to provide uniform service to all comers. The economics of this are more-than-questionable.

But the immediate threat is in harassment lawsuits, claiming that providers are discriminating against carriers of certain political viewpoints. After all, if talk radio is denied to conservatives, the next logical move would be to internet radio. Net Neutrality, combined with a liberal reading of the Fairness Doctrine, could provide cover for interfering with carriers such as Blog Talk Radio.

Given the FCC's approval of the Sirius-XM merger, a legal argument exists that applying the Fairness Doctrine solely to broadcast radio would be to discriminate against a medium with plenty of competition. That would be a slender reed, indeed, though.

October 17, 2008

Let's Pretend

That seems to be the Democrats' favorite game this year. In Ohio, the Democratic Secretary of State has persuaded the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court requirement that registrations actually be validated by election day. While the Supreme Court - possibly correctly - argued jurisdictional issues, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was claiming that it wasn't necessary to validate up to 200,000 registrations with irregularities. I say, "possibly," because I'm pretty sure that a Colorado state court ruled on certain aspects of HAVA four years ago, but it's possible that the issues at stake here are different, and non-justiciable by a state court.

Secretary of State Brunner has already allowed up to 3000 questionable registrants to vote electronically early, making it impossible to retrieve their votes should there turn out to be fraud. But Let's Pretend all those votes should count.

ACORN's been very active in Ohio, registering individuals, both existent and non-, multiple times. But since it'll be hard to make sure all these voters are entitled to the franchise, Let's Pretend there's no problem here, nothing to see here, move along, move along. By dodging the problem now, the Court has set itself up for a much bigger headache later on.

Likewise, my Democratic opponent, Lois Court, on Tuesday, defended the notion of Single-Payer Mandatory Universal Health Care (abbreviated backwards, that's "CHUMPS") by claiming that "I define 'public good' to mean something that's good for the public."

Never mind that that's not what it means, either word-by-word or as a phrase. Let's Pretend that it is. Let's pretend that the only cost is the cost of delivery, not the cost of the product itself.

The problem with Let's Pretend is that sooner or later Mom, or as she's known in this case, The Real World, calls you in to get cleaned up for dinner.

The other side likes to style itself as, "Progressives." They are. They're Progressively More Expensive, Progressively More Intrusive, and Progressively More Restrictive.

October 10, 2008

Special BTR Today

I'll be doing a special noon-time BTR show today about the financial crisis with King Banaian of SCSU Scholars, and William Polley of, ah, William Polley.

Hopefully, we'll all learn something.

September 15, 2008

Thinking Outside the Lox

My favorite essayist, Joseph Epstein, this morning in the Wall Street Journal:

Today, class, we shall take up the oxymoron, the figure of speech in which two contradictory words appear in conjunction. Here are some prime examples: amicable divorce, congressional ethics, definite maybe, military justice and Jewish Republican. Jewish Republicans may be rarer than Jewish coal miners. Let's face it, no one gazing at the crowd of the Republican convention in St. Paul last week would have mistaken it for Sam and Becky Lebowitz's grandson's bar mitzvah party.

The reason it is so difficult for Jews to vote for Republicans is largely historical. The GOP for many years seemed the party of the large corporations, the excluding country clubs, the restricted neighborhoods -- all institutions dedicated to keeping Jews out -- so that even now the Republican Party is associated, in the minds of Jews of a certain age, with anti-Semitism.

I have Jewish friends who believe in free markets, are deeply suspicious of big government, view the general bag of leftist ideas as callow if not dangerous, yet would sooner tuck into a large plate of pigs' feet than vote for a Republican for president. They just can't bring themselves to do it.

This may finally be a persuasive answer to Dennis Prager's eternal question. Epstein admits that his first vote for a Republican for President was in 1980, and, with the exception of sitting out 1996, he's voted that way every since.

The Democrats' record on things Jewish is finally not all that strong. Joe Kennedy, the so-called founding father of the Kennedy clan, was pro-Hitler and famously anti-Semitic. Jimmy Carter, in his sentimental idealism, has called Israel an apartheid state, comparable with South Africa. I always thought that Bill Clinton, in his vanity, would have done his best to convince the Israelis to give up the West Bank and the East Bank, and toss in Katz's Delicatessen on Houston Street at no extra charge, in his eagerness to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite all this, Jews cling to the Democratic Party. The Democrats, they claim, remain the party most interested in social justice, and it is incumbent upon Jews, who have known so much injustice in their own history, to be on the side of social justice.

The only Democratic administration in the past 50 years that may be said to have made good on a program of social justice was that of Lyndon Johnson, himself today much less admired, by Jews and others, for his efforts in this line -- the civil rights voting acts, the war against poverty -- than despised for his policy in Vietnam. As for social justice, who is responsible for more of it, on a world-wide scale, than Ronald Reagan, in his helping to bring an end to tyrannous communism?

For those Jewish Republicans who wish to persuade themselves that they're not alone, the local Denver group meets at the East Side Kosher Deli this Thursday at 6:30 PM, and we'll be hearing from the rather impressive Claire Schwartz, who heads up AIPAC out here.

August 31, 2008

Gustav Is Swedish For Katrina

As the press gets ready to remind everyone, in a suitably timely fashion, how badly Bush and the Republicans botched the Hurricane Katrina response, it's worth remembering what they got wrong - which was pretty much everything.

Fool me once...

August 29, 2008

Labor Day 2008

It's not often I link to the AFL-CIO website from here. The thuggishness that characterizes so much of the labor movement, both in union and partisan politics, makes them no heroes of mine. A movement that has been a victim both of its success and its arrogance has seen members stay away in droves. As a result, labor leaders have resorted to ever-greater government props and coercion to keep their movement from collapsing into rubble.

So I'd like to recall a personal hero of mine, Samuel Gompers:

First, he advocated craft or trades unionism, which restricted union membership to wage earners and grouped workers into locals based on their trade or craft identification. This approach contrasted with the effort of many in the Knights of Labor to organize general, community-based organizations open to wage earners as well as others, including employers. It also contrasted sharply with the "one big union" philosophy of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Second, Gompers believed in a pure-and-simple unionism that focused primarily on economic rather than political reform as the best way of securing workers' rights and welfare. Gompers's faith in legislative reform was dashed in the 1880s after the New York Supreme Court overturned two laws regulating tenement production of cigars that he had helped pass. Gompers saw that what the state gave, it could also take away. But what workers secured through their own economic power in the marketplace, no one could take away.

Third, when political action was necessary, as Gompers increasingly came to believe in his later years, he urged labor to follow a course of "political nonpartisanship." He argued that the best way of enhancing the political leverage of labor was to articulate an independent political agenda, seek the endorsement of existing political parties for the agenda and mobilize members to vote for those supporting labor's agenda.

It's worth seeing how badly the current AFL-CIO, SEIU, and NEA have betrayed every part of this vision. Of course, it's almost impossible not to be political when over half your membership is on the government payroll.

Gompers's unwillingness to transform his unions into tools of the Wobblies and international socialism also earned the enduring hatred of Emma Goldman. Judge a man by his enemies.

Happy Labor Day!

August 19, 2008

Bureaucracies & The Laws They Hate

Exhibit A of how bureaucracies exist to perpetuate their own power, and how large companies use regulation to entrench their own positions.

HB1227 was supposed to require existing cab companies to prove that new entrants would harm the public interest (although one would assume that one or the other going out of business would prove the point far better). But the PUC has already ruled - bizarrely - that a company needs to hire an attorney for its approval hearing.

The Rocky has it right: "An entrepreneur shouldn't need much more than a safe vehicle, clean driving record and a hefty policy of liability insurance to start hauling fares. Indeed, Castle Rock wondered why a corporation owned and operated by one person could not be represented by its owner before the PUC."

But bureaucracies must justify their existence, and existing companies are far better poised to work rules - any rules - to their advantage. What's astonishing is that a bill with clear language could be overturned by a regulatory agency chartered and created by the legislature.

The average citizen already finds himself subject to dozens of governmental layers. Does anyone really think that one created for single-payer health insurance would be any different?

August 7, 2008

(Not) Lost in Translation II

Rima Barakat Sinclair also found time to opine on Iraq during her candidacy. In the past, at the Big Tent Event on April 10, and at a subsequent Colorado Federation of Republican Women's meeting, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair has expressed admiration for the salutory effects of the regime change on Iraq's women, and the opportunities they now enjoy. She also - at a Colorado Jewish Republicans meeting in June of 2008 - expressed gratitude for the service and good works of an injured Iraqi veteran who spoke there.

However, in the chat session with Al-Arab Al-Yawm, she responded quite differently to a question from an Iraqi expatriate who had returned to the Middle East. Here's his question:

Ms. Rima ... Being an Iraqi I would like to ask you questions that have been so long in the minds of Iraqis for more than five years. Being an American, and in the vicinity of (American political kitchen) I returned to the region convinced that the US desired a return of Iraqi rights, which are still waiting, hoping for the dream of freedom. How is it that America & Britain are unable to find a solution to Iraq's security crisis, economically and socially? Was it the scheme of the freedom promised by the Iraqis that the price of the blood of thousands and thousands widowed and orphaned thousands and displaced millions? Did the U.S. administration expect the events that took place in Iraq? Are things, in a nutshell, in Iraq as expected and planned by the U.S. government, or was what has happened and is happening in Iraq not an unthinkable shock when I returned preparing to enter Iraq? If the purpose of the occupation of Iraq was to find weapons of mass destruction (across continents), then where can't America eliminate the weapons of mass destruction that kill Iraqis daily, in numbers increasing with the growing militia sources, and the processing of enough simple weapons to destroy dozens of Iraqis?

And here's her answer:

When reality contradicts propaganda and theory, logic gives you an honest answer. You have found the answer to your question yourself. What happened and is happening in Iraq does not constitute a surprise. In 1994, Dick Cheney, George Bush's current Vice-President, predicted the expected consequences for Iraq if U.S. troops entered the country. What was said then is achieved today, knowing that Mr. Cheney is still one of the foremost supporters of starting a war against Iraq. He is today also one of the most zealous advocates of waging war against Iran under the same slogan, "weapons of mass destruction" and "protecting Israel."

This amazing video shows that in 1994, Dick Cheney understood the consequences of invading Iraq:

And here, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair provides a transcript in mixed Arabic and English.

No attempt to defend the invasion. No attempt to defend America's performance. An outright attack on the integrity of a sitting Vice President in a foreign newspaper. Tell-tale quotes around "weapons of mass destruction" when obliquely referring to Iran's nuclear weapons program.

In other parts of the chat session, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair is quite fulsome in her praise of America's protection of free speech and civil liberties. The Constitution completely and correctly protects Mrs. Barakat Sinclair's rights as a citizen. I leave it to the reader to judge the use she's putting them to, and her fitness for office.

August 6, 2008

(Not) Lost In Translation

More from Rima Barakat Sinclair's big adventure, the email chat session with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Yawm . The following is a translation of one of her answers to a question from a reader, and consists entirely of her own words:

We are aware that the Arab media influence on Western society is limited, and we also know that the Arab issues are not fairly covered in the western media. There are many Arab American organizations that provide activities aimed at the definition of truth and justice the Palestinian cause.

The source of activities in non-Arab countries, which were founded some 20 years ago, has remained limited within the point of view and vision of the founding members of those organizations. Most have focused their efforts in Washington DC, leaving their influence on public opinion and American media deflated.

There are several factors affecting the ability of Arabs to launch publicity campaigns to explain the issue and win the American people to their side. One of them was the lack of interest by Arab tycoons or companies in producing films or television program available for worldwide sale. This is the reverse of the actions taken by a number of wealthy Jewish supporters of Zionism like Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch. So media campaigns advocating for Arabs or Muslims in America are limited to the efforts of individuals or small enterprises that suffer most from financial difficulties and limited distribution.

The reality of a Western media hostile to Arab and Islamic issues will not change as long as Arabs are only waiting for the West to see the "right," one day, without developing an integrated effort to deliver their message. A dialogue of religions is needed, and part of the Divine message is that the powerful should have compassion for the weak.

Ideally, morality starts with tolerance of others and self-understanding. If people applied this principle in their own lives, it would solve many of their problems. What applies to individuals applies to relations between nations. But reality dictates that the strong decide what is "right." It is the duty of the victim to remind the strong that he didn't consider the effects of his unjust abuse. Therefore, it remains important that one talk with a strong knowledge of his thinking and point of view. This does not mean forgetting or abandoning the right.

The Saudi Madrid initiative has received wide and positive media coverage, especially by the one rabbi invited to the conference. And since Saudi Arabia began and will continue this initiative, it is preferable to encourage religious scholars and Islamic institutions to study and support such initiatives, instead of having the positive reaction only or participating in conferences organized to discuss Islam by non-Muslims.

Well, at least it isn't the weird paranoid theories about McCain and Obama conspiring to turn Jordan into a holding cell for Palestinians.

Note also the purpose of the interfaith activity. Some of us have been called some pretty nasty names for bringing this up. Some of us are owed an apology. None of us expects one.

On the other hand, it does have that bit in it about the Jews running the media. It might be a little more convincing if she had found some actual Jews. Maxwell, yes, but Murdoch & Black, no.

You know, one time I was in Johnstown, Pa., site of the flood, for work. I took the afternoon off and went to a local very minor league baseball game. Of course, I was wearing the yarmulke. So two guys come down, sit on either side of me, and say, "You're not from around here, are you?"

Frequently, those words, directed towards someone wearing a yarmulke are quickly followed by, "and would you please go back." In this case, it turned out to be a couple of local yiddin who worked sports for the local radio station and newspaper. They wanted to let me know about the minyan.

"So," I said, "it's true. We really do control the media."

Back then, it was funny.

UPDATE: The newspaper has been named, and it has been made clear that all the indented comments are Mrs. Barakat Sinclair's own.

July 31, 2008

How a Campaign is (and isn't) Like a Startup

As a result of the campaign, I've been invited to chat with the local IDEA Cafe, basically a support group for aspiring and recovering entrepreneurs. Since it's a decidedly non-political group, I'll be talking about process, rather than policy. Basically, a campaign is a startup, and the campaign and entrepreneurs probably have a lot to learn from each other.

How so?

Well, for one thing, you had better have done your research before you start running. Your product is a combination of positions and proposals. (To some extent, your product is also your positioning relative to other candidates, but more about that later.) If you think you're going to have time to do research and refine the product once the campaign is underway, good luck with that, as they say. Part of a campaign is working on and refining message, but the basic product, and the principles underlying it, had better be settled before you start to run.

Probably the piece of the campaign that people are most familiar with is the marketing aspect - segmenting the market, and then trying to position yourself into (and your opponent out of) favor with those juicy segments. Here's where your brand - i.e. party - can either help or hurt. Trying to get yourself in front of as many voters as possible also matters, and there are free forums and so-called earned media that are less available to entrepreneurs, by virtue of the process.

And then, there's funding. Like any good enterprise, a campaign needs to show the prospect of a return on an investor's money in order to raise funds. And like any good pie of investors, the target group can be divided into more and less risk-averse. The great risk-takers will help fund the petition drive. But many folks won't contribute until you're past the primary.

Here again, the value in funding a candidate can vary from race to race. An investor in a candidate in a safe district might be seen as looking for access once the person's elected. A contributor in a close race is looking to boost that party's prospects for control. A candidate in a more difficult district can still raise money by broadening the theater: after all, votes in his district count towards state totals on things like ballot initiatives and Senate and Presidential races. And every candidate can sell the longer-term, multi-cycle business of fighting the battle of ideas in the trenches.

And then there's the Exit Strategy. Campaigns usually have a series of well-defined exit strategies; they're called, "elections." Although, if you think of the operation in terms of a political career, and not just one campaign cycle, then it more closely resembles and ongoing operation. The problem is that way, way too many candidates and politicians do exactly that...

Continue reading "How a Campaign is (and isn't) Like a Startup" »

July 8, 2008

Quick Hits

In advance of tonight's candidate forum, a couple of quick hits.

On the way into work yesterday, I heard a PSA, featuring Gov. Ritter, about his, "New Energy Economy." All about the beauty and cheapness of wind and solar? Maybe a little bone about nuclear? No, instead he went on for 30 seconds of my otherwise valuable time telling me to unplug electronics when I leave the house. Because there's always time to reset the TV, DVD, cable box, laptop, printer, and clock when you get home.

This isn't the New Energy Economy. It's the No Energy Economy in the land of the permanent crisis. Someone get that man a cardigan and a faux fireplace.


Then, after walking a precinct, I was headed back to the car when the local precinct-ress I was walking with said hello to a neighbor. The neighbor volunteered that she was a "big Obama supporter," and naturally, I asked why.

"His honesty."

I resisted the temptation to ask exactly what it was he had been honest about.


And this morning, I see where the G8 has agreed to cut greenhouse emissions. The G8, and Europe in particular, and great at making these promises. Keeping them is another matter, where the US, the rapacious, enviro-hating, pave-the-world US, has actually come the closest to hitting its Kyoto targets.


And finally, this morning, I happened to wake up early, and caught a little bit of a sports talk show reminiscing about old ball parks. The old ball park I remember was Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. It was one of the earlier multi-purpose parks, but because it was older than the 1960s cookie-cutters, it still had a little charm to it. It was open at one end, which made field goal kicking a challenge at times. And it was a neighborhood park, with local houses clearly visible over the center-field fence.

I saw my first MLB game there - Reggie Jackson's debut as an Oriole. But my most vivid memory was from a game just after college. The Mariners were in town, and I had seats along the right field line. And there were Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey, Jr., teammates, hanging out during BP, enjoying the moment.


See you this evening.

July 3, 2008


Over at the phenomenal Paleo-Future, we find this, from Our Friend the Atom:

The coal and oil resources of our planet are dwindling, yet we need more and more power. The atomic Genie offers us an almost endless source of energy. For the growth of our civilization, therefore, our first wish shall be for: POWER!

This was published in 1956.

But even if you do disagree, and believe that we're only a few corn stalks away from going back to horse-carts and coal-fired steam engines, go take a look at the site. It's fascinating. Yes, I've already told Lileks about it.

June 30, 2008

Of Initiatives Referred and Unreferred

Tonight, Andrew Romanoff and Ken Gordon will be hosting volunteer parties for their Tabor-to-Unions initiative. Sen. Gordon apparently suppressed an urge to write an email detailing the many problems with the political system:

It's annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause The inconvenience--having to get a majority If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause There are other ways of establishing authority

and went with something more positive and a little less dyspeptic.

In any event, these are the same folks who are pushing a series of referred measures to severely limit the initiative process here - now that they think they've got a permanent majority in the legislature. Every Democrat on the stage at the CHUN forum voiced this view - opposed to the initiative process on principle, but they'd make an exception in this case. Even my Republican opponent chimed in with the view that the initiative process was flawed - that's what legislatures are for.

And Lois Court noted that, "Representative government is a terrific idea - we should try it sometime," an line echoed in Romanoff's email announcement of the meetings. Nobody has yet asked her what she thinks of recent State Supreme Court rulings, I suppose.

This is a conscious power-grab on the part of the Democrats - they want to remove constraints on how much they can spend, and remove your ability to check that spending through initiatives. I don't think either will pass, but the fact that they're trying tells you a lot about their theories of power.

June 24, 2008

"The Cure" in Arizona

It turns out that there's more than one way to go in health care reform. While the lefties promote statist solutions such as single-payer health care and minimum-coverage mandates, others are forming organizations based on individual rights, personal freedom, and free-market reforms.

Consider the initiative to amend the Arizona constitution to preserve our basic rights to spend our money and make our health care choices for ourselves. It's called Freedom of Choice in Health Care, and their website details their philosophy.

What's key here is that they're willing to make the case not only on a pragmatic, free-market basis, but also on a Constitutional one:

From our right to free speech in the First Amendment, to our right to bear arms in the Second, to our overwhelming approval of the importance of property rights, in Arizona, we believe that acting to protect our liberty is not just an option, it is an obligation.

It's an inspirational group, and it deserves your support.

May 19, 2008

The Life Cycle of a Political Party

Why does a political party exist? To win elections? Or to promote ideas?

The fact is, the Republican party has ceased to do the second because it has effectively abandoned its efforts to do the third.

The question is, therefore, should it continue to do the first?

A fair number of Republicans, some of them recent candidates traumatized by public disaffection for the Iraq War during the last election cycle, believe that the party is dead, and should be put out of its misery as quickly as possible.

Others believe that, since the party has basically abandoned efforts to hold the government to its limitations under that obscure statute known as The Constitution, it can no longer address the critical issues of the day, and deserves the same fate as the Whig Party. The Whigs, incapable of producing a coherent philosophical position about slavery, found itself quickly put out of business, replaced by the Republicans, who knew exactly where they stood on the issue.

Statewide, the party leadership made a number of catastrophic mistakes, practically scripted to damage the brand, split the membership, and leave it in minority status. Aside from Ref C, which cost the party is claim to be the low-tax party, it also failed to confront campaign finance "reform," which created loopholes big enough to drive a truck through - loopholes all of which were conveniently located on the left-hand side of the road.

These mistakes left the party defenseless against attacks it was practically begging the Left to launch.

Some commentators are taking the "worse is better" approach to electoral politics. This has a soft form - lose an election badly enough to shake up the membership - and a hard form: lose badly enough to collapse the party entirely and leave room for a more principled replacement. The first is a reckless gamble, the latter a childish approach to politics that would throw away the eminently salvageable political machinery of generations.

The problem is, either one of these alternatives will leave a vacuum (which nature and justice abhor) giving over massive majorities to the Democrats. We've subjected the country to the tender mercies of the Democrats a few times in history, and the results haven't been stellar. In reverse chronological order, they've resulted in an intractable welfare state (LBJ and the Great Society), massive economic mismanagement (FDR and the Great Depression), temporary abandonment of the rule of law (Woodrow Wilson and WWI), and the dismemberment of the country (Buchanan and the Civil War).

The election laws aren't favorable to third parties, and it could take several election cycles before a new party established itself. And crushing electoral defeats can lead to decades of self-doubt and disintegration (see Democrats 1972 to 1992). In fact, the party could simply limp along in minority status for decades, decades that the country simply no longer has the luxury of. It's done so before.

The fact is, instead of cynically rooting for disaster, we would be better served to begin rebuilding the party brand now. We should be looking for candidates who stand for something, rather than being happy with the, "well, we're better than them" line, which has been played out for several elections.

We should be looking for candidates who can begin pushing the Constitutionalist ideals which the rank-and-file expect it to. We should be supporting those candidates.

April 22, 2008

The Unions and '68

Indirectly, the unions helped elect Nixon. Oh, sure, they spent $10,000,000 or more in 1968 dollars to elect Humphrey, and did turn around Michigan and a couple of other northern states. But what they did in Chicago was brutal.

Everyone blames Daley for the police and the situation in Grant Park. In fact, White makes it clear that the police acted properly over the first three days of the convention. The real brutality only occurred after the convention, when they stormed the 15th floor of the hotel, and took out their frustrations on the McCarthy kids, who had had nothing whatever to do with the SDS-organized mayhem outside. That wasn't shown on TV.

A telephone strike meant that the video from outside couldn't be transmitted live for broadcast; a taxi strike, coupled with Mayor Daley's refusal to let the TV trucks park on the sidewalk outside the convention hall, meant that the tape couldn't even be transported reliably.

Today, the riot would have been televised live, and the nomination and acceptance would have been televised later. As it transpired, Humphrey's acceptance speech was broadcast at the same time as the riot videotape, helping to give the impression that Humphrey was being installed as nominee by bayonets and tear gas.

And the unions were the reason for that.

Dems and ballot initiative voters, take note.

More Thoughts On 1968

One other incident, right at the end of the campaign, shows some of the differences between 1968 and 2008.

One of Nixon's fundraisers was an Asian lady who took her role as "insider" a little too seriously. Apparently believing that she was somehow empowered to speak for the campaign, she set about sabotaging the Paris peace talks by claiming Nixon wasn't going to be bound by the outcome.

There is no evidence that Nixon was anything other than horrified to find this out, and not just for the political implications. Both parties - with the exception of Eugene McCarthy, who didn't really want the job - tended to avoid outright criticism of the war or the President, and to avoid anything that could interfere with the conduct of foreign policy up to the election.

Humphrey found out about this mischievous Nixon fundraiser - and sat on the information. He believed that Nixon couldn't have countenanced this behavior, and that it would be unfair to use it against him. Meanwhile, the Nixon camp knew it had no plausible or persuasive response should Humphrey choose to go public.

Compare that Al Gore's behavior in 2000, panting to get news of an ancient DUI, leaked to him by a partisan judge in Maine, to the press before the weekend news cycle.

Humphrey had labored in Johnson's shadow, unwilling to publicly criticize the war or the negotiations until October of 1968. To the extent that there's a parallel in 2008, John McCain has at least avoided that trap, supporting the effort while making clear his differences with the administration on its conduct in Iraq.

Contemplate '68

So in my copious free time, I've been reading Teddy White's The Making of the Presdient 1968. 1968 has always seemed to me a bit mysterious as well as a bit of a turning point itself. How did Nixon get the nomination when he was only one of a list of names in 1967? How did Humphrey win without entering any primaries? Why did Romney lose in 1968, while 2008? And given the evident political parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, what lessons can we draw 40 years after the fact?

White wrote a series of these books, the most interesting being 1960 amd 1968, as they were actually in doubt. By 1968, having established a reputation for trustworthiness, White had unprecedented access to the inner circles of all the campaigns. Their trust in White's probity was well-placed. And while White was clearly a liberal, he was no leftist, and was eminently fair to all the candidates.

The election was framed by two things: Vietnam and violence. The Dems tried to portray "law and order" as a racist issue, and in George Wallace's hands it was. But student violence and radical violence had competed with racial violence since 1965. While some nostalgic for "action" may want to "Recreate '68" here in Denver, there's no atmosphere of violence from which to draw, making their success in that wanton endeavor fairly unlikely. The violence in the streets in Chicago was of Tom Hayden's and Rap Brown's making, not Eugene McCarthy's. Republicans expecting mayhem-filled streets here this summer, take note.

A couple of things stand out in comparison to 2008. We may complain about the length of the primary season, but in fact, the campaign was just as long then as it is now. Nixon was planning in December 1966 for the 1968 race, and he pretty much knew who his opposition would be: Reagan, Rockefeller, Romney, and Charles Percy of Illinois. (I had forgotten about Percy, but then, who hasn't?) The difference was that much more of the race was in the hands of power-brokers, much less in the hands of regulars. So much more took place behind the scenes.

Even then, Romney knew by January that he was done for, after the famous "brainwashing" statement, which showed him to be naive in foreign policy. Simply keeping his mouth shut would have been enough. Americans in time of war will tolerate silence on foreign policy if it means not undermining the present administration. They won't tolerate naivite. Take note, Barack.

Mitt reprised some of the mistakes of his father, George. While never having a gaffe of "brainwashing" proportions, he still appeared to see the political campaign as a marketing campaign, which is something different. George, too, had tried to use polls to wrap up delegates in 1967, as Mitt had used them to create an Iowa-New Hampshire strategy. In both cases, a candidate with more apparent weight ended up looking more attractive.

Parallels between McCain and Nixon can only go so far, however. Nixon had campaigned tirelessly in 1966 for Republican congressional and senate candidates, building a base of support and favors owed that came back to him in 1968. McCain poked his finger in the party's eye at just about every turn over the last few years, showing constancy mostly on the war.

They both, however, have campaigned as centrists. Liberals and consevatives will both scoff at this description of Nixon, but in fact, in 1968, he needed to chart a course between the Scylla of a liberal Rockefeller, and the Charybdis of a conservative Reagan. Rockefeller and Reagan apparently came to an understanding that if together they could get enough delegates to deny Nixon the nomination, they would then fight it out on the convention floor between themselves.

In the end, failure spelled the end for Rockefeller. Having lost twice, he ended up as Tom Dewey without the nominations. For Reagan, it was probably a blessing. With Goldwater's shellacking in 1964, another conservative loss in 1968 could have devastated the movement.

Nixon's centrism brings us to the other misunderstood - and deliberately distorted - aspect of Nixon's 1968 campaign, the "Southern Strategy." Reporters of the day and Democrats ever since have assumed that this was a racist strategy aimed at denying Johnson and then Humprehy the south. In fact, the south had been lost to the mainline Democrats even in 1964, and the threat to Nixon's carrying those states wasn't Hubert Humphrey but the overtly racist George Wallace.

Nixon determined not to out-Wallace Wallace, to run a non-racist campaign to deny Walalce the border states. He campaigned as the sane unifier in the border states, sending the message that a vote for Wallace, however cathartic, was a vote for Humphrey. It worked, but it was neither racist nor an appeal to latent racism, as today's lefty revisionists would have it.

The Democratic meltdown at the Presidential level in the South was so complete that it led White to extend the trend into the future, projecting a Democratic party that would become captive to the blacks in the south, the unions in the north, and the campus radicals elsewhere. Democrats, take note.

That Humphrey almost came back to win the election, losing by fewer than 500,000 votes nationwide was a testament to the power of Vietnam as an issue. When news of an apparent breakthrough in Paris became public, people felt they no longer needed Nixon, and almost handed Humphrey the election. Harris actuall had Humphrey up 43-40 going into the weekend.

By Monday, however, it was apparent that the breakthough was illusory, and the public swung back to Nixon. Had the election been held only a few weeks later, Nixon would likely have won by millions. Had it been held only a few days earlier, he would have lost. With the motivation for the breakthrough coming from Andrei Gromyko, it's hard to escape entirely the conclusion that this was an attempt by the Russians to manipulate the US elections to their advantage.

April 13, 2008

Another Run at '31

The Democrats are now in the process of repeating all of the mistakes of the Great Depression.

Pushing for a war on inflation, seeking to increase uncertainty in the housing market, allowing a $2 Trillion tax increase in three years, threatening to go full Smoot-Hawley, and now pushing for artificially inflated wages and artificial - and extremely temporary - job security.

The UFCW Local 7 has introduced a whole raft of ballot initiatives for this fall. While they're the political equivalent of an F- economic grounds, their underlying political agenda is unmistakable.

First, the economics. Ben Bernanke's been taking a beating recently, and on some counts, he deserves it. But this is a scholar of the Great Depression. I'm probably one of the bloggers you'll see who's actually read any of his scholarly papers on the Depression. Bernanke notices two great contributing factors to the Depression: the US's late abandonment of the gold standard, and the stickiness of wages.

One of the dirty little secrets of the Great Depression is that if you had a job, it wasn't so bad. That's because wages often staid at pre-crash levels, even as more of them were being paid by soup kitchens. Why were wages sticky? That is, why, instead of lowering wages, did companies keep them high, even to the point of failure? Because Herbert Hoover wanted it that way, believing that high prices meant prosperity.

These labor initiatives: no firings without specific cause, forcing small business to pay for health insurance, and forcing businesses to match the inflation rate, are the economic equivalent of begging for unemployment. Sure, if you've got a job it's not too bad. But try getting one when the cost of hiring keeps going up relative to everything else.

The cynic will say that this is all part of the plan. Well, it is. First, the unions have seen their membership drop off the edge of a cliff. The majority of their membership is now comprised of public employees, and people are beginning to question the propriety of paying taxes to support a naked political agenda. The unions need to prove that they still have some political muscle.

Another, little-mentioned aspect of their initiatives is that it would let anyone bring suit for alleged corporate wrongdoing. Historically, you actually have to have been hurt in order to have standing in a civil suit. This obvious sop to the other Great Democrat Constituency, the trial lawyers, would be another avenue for corporate shake-down artists to raise the cost of doing business, and to fund their own personal and political cash flow needs from the hard work of others.

Inflation-indexed wages will have yet another perverse effect. Such a rule would act as a subsidy to inflation, both promoting and limiting the incentive to fight it. Which means that pensioners, retirees, and those on fixed incomes will find their own savings stolen from them. Which will become an excuse for another big tax increase to fund those generous retirement programs we've rashly promised our teachers and other public servants.

Today's economy is more inter-connected, more diversified, more entrepreneurial, and more resilient than in was in 1930, which probably means that we'll end up looking more like Japan in 1990 than the US in 1930. But that doesn't mean that the damage to hopes, dreams, and security won't be real.

March 25, 2008

Campaign Finance Dialogue

Finally, someone over at who actually answers your questions. Nancy Watzman and I are engaged in a discussion about campaign finance reform. She's for it, and so am I. But I'm for reforming in favor of freedom, and she's in favor of more restrictions.

Follow the fun here.

March 12, 2008

Mark Udall, Natural Gas, Iran, and You

Mark Udall - a good, patriotic American - is a threat to national security.

OK, not all by himself, and not any one of his positions, but as part of a Democratic Senate majority, and as a combination of his policy views.


  1. He has repeatedly opposed expanded gas production on the western slope
  2. He has voted against an additional 700 miles of fencing along our border with Mexico

Why is this a threat to national security? Because Iran is almost certainly plotting to disrupt our supply of natural gas from Mexico, And because they may well be trying to insert operatives directly into the United States.

Todd Bensman of the San Antonio Express-News, wrote the series, "Breaching America," and appeared as a guest on Backbone Radio with John Andrews and me. Well, he's back, with a story about Iran establishing a presence in Nicaragua, now run by Venezuela-friendly and decidedly US-unfriendly Danny Ortega.

Make no mistake, this is no humanitarian mission. This is exactly from the Soviet playbook - promise aid to establish a reason for being there. In this case, the aid amounts to a ridiculously ambitious project with little-to-no economic reason for being. Send a high-level delegation, with ministers of electricity, or whatever, providing cover for intelligence operatives. (Note that one of the delegation members is the Iranian Ambassador to Venezuela, also a likely intelligence agent.)

With completely ineffective border security, the Iranians will soon be in terrific position to start slipping agents across borders. And there aren't a whole lot of borders between Managua and El Paso.

More immediately, they may already have tried to blow up the main Mexican pipeline. Or, they may have gotten the idea from that attempt, and want to do it right this time.

If it were an oil pipeline, it might matter less. Oil is easily shipped all over the world, so there's a world market for it. Natural gas is difficult and expensive to ship across oceans, and the US has also resisted building LNG terminals. This means that there is, at best, a continental market for natural gas. And it also means that the best defense against any disruption in supply is...a good, reliable, local supply.

Mark Udall's policies leave us both more vulnerable to an attack, and more vulnerable to the effects of that attack.

March 11, 2008

Old New Deal

Home sick yesterday with something that even weapons-grade Mucinex wasn't helping, I saw a part of a speech where Barack Obama proposed his "solution" to the higher education "crisis." This is a paraphrase, but not much of one:

I'll make college education affordable for every American with a $4000 tax rebate payable towards tuition. We're going to invest in you. But in return (There's always an, "in return." -ed.), we're going to require you to invest in us by volunteering in the Peace Corps, the VA...

I'd give it about half an hour before every college in the country raised tuition by about, oh $4000. Repeat after me: subsidies either raise prices or create surpluses.

But the really insidious part is that public service requirement, couched as, "investing in us." "Us" being the government and government programs. Obama is proposing to take more of your money, transfer it directly to liberal universities, many of whom already get your tax money or have endowments the size of small countries' treasuries, and then claim the first two years of your kids' working lives doing make-work projects for the government.

Now, if "us" meant the country, then going out, getting a job, and doing research in alternative fuels or new drug therapies, possibly nanotech. Notice what else is missing from this list: the CIA, FBI, the military.

But then, making money or defending the country aren't nearly as appealing as ticking off allies.

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

February 6, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

You know, if the Democrats actually cared about the homeless as something other than a political bludgeon, they'd stop trying to create more of them.

Just as New York is phasing out a 60-year experiment in rent control, Democrats on the House Committee for Local Government are proposing to let local governments here try it. I know it's a basic principle of history that nobody ever learns anything, but really, people, nobody's memory is that short.

As with most populist measures, predicated on the notion that I can get the government to get someone else to pay my bills for me, this scheme would only prolong the pain. By keeping rents down, mortgages would have to decline more to reach the historic averages. And with more people selling, and fewer places for them to move into, well, they'd either have to move farther out, or find a bridge with indoor plumbing.

All together now: subsidies create surpluses, price controls create shortages. There's no shortage of gasoline, because the price floats. There is a shortage of gasoline at $1 a gallon. There's also a shortage of bread at 10 cents a loaf, and Maseratis at $5000. Rent controls create housing shortages, because developers aren't willing to build as many apartment complexes when they'll make less money on them. Rent controls reduce the return on such a project, and make other projects more attractive by comparison.

There's never a good time for this sort of intervention, but right now, what's driving it is the number of foreclosures, and thus the number of people involuntarily entering the rental market, driving up rents at the same time that housing prices fall. Now one way to measure how out of whack the housing market had gotten is to compare rents to mortgages. Nationally, mortgages were 43% higher than they should have been, given historical averages. So some combination of house price declines and rent increases is necessary to get the market back into whack.

The irony is that, as bad as things are here compared to 2006, they're not that bad compared to the rest of the country, contrary to what you might have read. The Wall Street Journal shows that Denver's housing inventory actually decreased 3.8% compared to last year, one of only two markets to show a decline. We have 5.7 months supply on hand, tied for fourth-best in the nation, and prices declined a modest 1.8% year-over-year (6th-best nationally, with the 3rd-lowest decline). Denver's 3.71% delinquency rate is below the national average of 3.98%.

All of which means that, while there might seem to be enough of a glut now to absorb any price controls, in fact, we're likely to start feeling that pain a lot sooner than we think.

Even the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Weissmann, admits that rent control is a "failed economic policy," but puts forth his measure as a nod to local zoning control. But every Democrat on the committee voted for it, save one (who's married to a landlord and developer, so she rightfully recused herself). Makes you wonder exactly what political forces pushed the House leadership to bring this thing to committee.

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

February 3, 2008

Substitute for Achievement

Arlen Specter is the reason some people will vote for Ron Paul on Tuesday. Well, that and the belief that the Civil War was optional and that we turned lower Manhattan into a set for Capricorn One so that we could pay Halliburton to visit the apocalypse on Baghdad.

But today, Arlen Specter is the poster boy for the claim that, "Politicians need activity; it's their substitute for achievement." And that too often that activity comes at the expense of our liberty, time, and money, and at the expense of important things like the defense of the realm.

First of all, Specter is just wrong, wrong, wrong when he claims that football has an anti-trust exemption. It doesn't. Competing leagues come up from time to time, and the USFL won an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. (For damages of $1; tripled to $3; would that John Edwards had been the plaintiffs' attorney on that one. Maybe he could have used his cut to go Dutch at Goodwill with Mark Steyn on that coat.)

Secondly, any taping was a violation of a league rule, not a law. Sure, we all saw Joel Fleischman take down "Twenty-One," but that was actual fraud, misrepresentation of cheating as competition. This isn't the Black Sox or even Pete Rose putting down bets on the Reds. And nobody's claiming that the league fed the Rams' game plan to the Patriots or gave them a wiretap on Mike Martz's line to the booth. I don't recall Specter convening hearings when the NBA ref was found betting on games, although maybe someone in Congress did.

Specter claims that the public has the right to be sure that the games aren't being compromised by cheating. Oh, please. Someone ought to hog-tie him and use him for a fumble drill out at Redskins' Park and he'll see what cheating looks like.

Still, it's sad that Roger Goodell thinks that the fact that NFL discovered and investigated these rules violations on its own is any sort of help at all. The Army discovered and investigated the Abu Ghraib abuses itself. That didn't stop the New York Times and certain Soros-funded arms of the Clinton Campaign (or is it the other way around? Hard to know who you're campaigning against sometimes, as Obama might say.) from turning it into a bludgeon to undermine support for the war, the troops, and the administration, in some order of importance.

Good grief. Has the Senator no respect for our most important national holiday?

January 13, 2008

Preview of 208

With the 208 Commission due to report just in time to prevent opposition to its recommendations form forming, it's worthwhile remembering the socialist mentality of those seeking to "reform" the system:

Mayor Thomas M. Menino embarked on a highly public campaign yesterday to block CVS Corp. and other retailers from opening medical clinics inside their stores, an effort that exposed a rift between Menino and the state's public health commissioner, a longtime ally.

Menino blasted state regulators for paving the way Wednesday for the in-store clinics, which are designed to provide treatment for sore throats, poison ivy, and other minor illnesses.

The decision by the state Public Health Council, "jeopardizes patient safety," Menino said in a written statement. "Limited service medical clinics run by merchants in for-profit corporations will seriously compromise quality of care and hygiene. Allowing retailers to make money off of sick people is wrong."

So allowing retail health-care providers to make money off of sick people is "wrong?" I guess that wold include primary care physicians, their nurses and employees, hospital ERs, and doci-in-a-box clinics are "wrong" to make money. Non sequiturum delinda est.

I particularly like this quote, towards the end of the article:

Still, members of the commission said clinics inside retail stores might only exacerbate long-standing problems in the healthcare system. Dr. Paula Johnson, a board member and physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said episodic visits to a drug store clinic could defeat efforts to provide patients with a reliable continuum of care.

In other words, our lack of a solution to the problem could be precluded by their solution.

January 7, 2008

Granite State Predictions

I've never been a fan of over-emphasizing the horse-race quality of primaries and elections. There's something that seems lacking in a from-a-distance, by-the-numbers analysis, sort of like looking at a profitable company and failing to notice that their CFO and CEO have both resigned to spend more time with their money families.

Nevertheless, here we go.

For the Republicans, I think Romney helped himself a lot last night, maybe enough to pass McCain. That's important, because Michigan is up next, and it's shaping up as a titanic struggle between the two main Republican political families there, one for Romney and the other for McCain. Rudy misjudged the overall dynamic of the campaign, and I'm afraid that the third-place finish for him is going to hurt rather than help. Look for Thompson to move up a little on the outside here, too. He also did well last night, and it's clear that he's surprised a lot of people, myself included, by the time he's spent over the years thinking closely about the issues.

For the Democrats, Obama's energy and sunny disposition win over a tired-sounding Hillary. (This may also hurt McCain, since they're both looking for independents to help them win, and should also serve as a big, red, flashing neon sign for Republicans who think McCain can beat Obama in November.) Hillary's Crying Game is going to hurt her, not because it reminds everyone of Ed Muskie, but because it reminds everyone of...her. Like having her 2nd-grade phonics teacher, or whatever it was, materialize out of nowhere in Iowa, it looks staged. Bill may have been good at charming the country, but his choices of proteges have suffered by the comparison. Edwards may even come in second again, but since he is as phony as she looks, it's unclear as to whether that helps him enough in the event of an Obama stumble in Nevada or later on.

In the meantime, once again, today we got a reminder that this country is at war, and it appears to have had virtually no effect on either side. This is bad news for Hillary, and may, unfortunately, be good news for Huckabee when the race heads south.

Refighting the Civil War

Those of you with long memories, that is, those of you who can remember back past the Iowa Caucuses a few months ago, will recall that Ron Paul tried to make the case to Tim Russert that we - that is, the Union - need not have fought the Civil War. He argued that the slaveowners could have been bought out. He claimed that the War engendered race hatred that took 100 years to overcome. And he claimed that Lincoln left the Constitution permanently disfigured by his conduct.


Paul's argument isn't right. It isn't even wrong. It misses so many fundamental facts of life in 1860 that it could only appeal to that narrow slice of the electorate whose civics education ended in 12th grade, but who actually remember what they were taught. You can't be completely ignorant and make an argument like this. Less than a year out of college, I tried to make this same argument. It says something about RonPaul that on just about anything outside of economics, he sounds like a refugee from a college debating society.

Lucky enough to be a Virginian, I know something about Lost Causes, and one of the lostest of causes is arguing with someone about religion. So I know better than to get into a spitting match with a RonPaul supporter. Especially one with a Google Machine powerful enough to scare up lots of quotes about how the South just wanted to be "Let Alone."

Buying out the slaveowners was an idea that had been seriously considered as late as the Washington Administration. (By,"seriously considered," I mean more seriously than Daniel Webster and Henry Clay batting the idea around over beers at the Old Ebbitt Grill, falling suddenly and uncomfortably silent when John C. Calhoun walked in.) Prior to that, South Carolina and Georgia threatened to walk out of the Consitutional Convention in 1787 and form their own country then, if slavery weren't protected. As Joseph Ellis points out in his leftish but still superb, American Creation, by Jefferson and Madison's time, slavery had already become essentially undiscussable.

The South had been relying on increasingly demanding Fugitive Slave Laws, passed and enforced at the, ahem, Federal level, as the physical support for this crumbling Peculiar Institutions. It had developed a complex racial justification for slavery, far more responsible than Union blues for sharecropping and the Jim Crow laws which stifled racial progress in the South.

No, the point of the cotton photos was that the western territories, where Lincoln understood that slavery could not be allowed to spread, could support a slave economy, too. By 1860, the battle was over slavery in the territories. With Lincoln refusing to issue any new public statements, the one candidate who was waging an active campaign on the issue, Stephen Douglas, was so unpalatable to the South, that the fire-eaters led by William Yancey torpedoed the Democratic Convention rather than let him be nominated. He then proceded to finish under 10% in most Southern states. Perhaps RonPaul forgot this fact, because it appears that Douglas didn't even appear on the Texas ballot.

The South chose disunion, because it believed by 1860 that life without slavery was inconceivable. It relied on federal support for slavery where it could (fugitive slave laws), and denied federal authority where it might limit (the territories). The slaveowners didn't believe in being compensated for an economic loss, because by 1860, slavery was as much a social as an economic issue.

One of the reasons I'm a Burkean Conservative rather than a Randian Libertarian is that Burke got what the libertarians miss: that people form societies, and are motivated by ideas and passions that have nothing whatever to do with economics. It's one reason liberals and libertarians are so ill-equipped to lead the country in the War against Jihadism, because if you can't even get the motivations of your own countrymen right, what chance do you stand in comprehending why healthy young men plow airplanes into the Pentagon?

And in the end, this debate isn't really about the Civil War, is it? It's about the current War against the Jihadis. Because if the Civil War was optional, then pretty much any war is.

November 8, 2007

Our Inefficient Constitution

There is nothing new under the sun. Whenever the Left senses it's got an all-too-transient political advantage, it bemoans that thing called, "The Constitution," standing in the way of all the good they could do, if only permitted to work their will, unrestrained. Paul Campos presents the latest example in his November 6 column for the Rocky.

First, the structure of the national legislature is wildly undemocratic. What exactly is the justification for, in this the Year of Our Lord 2007, giving a senator from Wyoming approximately 70 times more power per voter represented than one from California?

In an era in which almost all of the most important political decisions are made at the national rather than the state level, the structure of the Senate essentially gives senators from small states a license to steal federal tax dollars for the benefit of their sparsely populated fiefdoms.

And, as Levinson the political scientist demonstrates, they are exceptionally good at doing so. Hence we get $50 million bridges to nowhere, economically and environmentally insane subsidies for various farming and ranching interests, and so forth.

In fact, states were and remain the basic political unit of the American republic. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 is one of the Foundational Laws of the United States precisely because is sets forth the rules for the creation of new states on an equal footing with existing states, and the law that once a state is a state, its boundaries are fixed. (Those of us from Virginia, while we don't exactly miss those western counties, don't exactly like the way they got their own "independence," though.) Of course, if your goal is to eviscerate Federalism, by making "all the most important political decisions ... at the national level," the only logical thing to do is to erase distinctions among the states.

In fact, the notion that smaller states are grifters, living off the largess of the larger states, is more than passing strange. Back in 1912, Woodrow Wilson was making the same arguments for demolishing federalism on the grounds that the larger states had rigged the system in their favor.

It never seems to occur to Campos & Co. that the real problem here isn't the "power" of the small states, but the fact that the Federal government has arrogated the right to dispense all sorts of favors that by right it oughn't be dispensing. The problem isn't the pigs, it's the trough. (Don't worry, Prof. Campos. Senator and Representative Salazar will be able to continue (or resume) collecting their farm subsidies.)

Second, the structure of the Constitution makes it very difficult to undertake any kind of serious legislative reform. Not only do both houses of Congress have to agree to exactly the same statutory provisions for a bill to become law (a requirement that, as Levinson points out, isn't found in many bicameral legislative systems) but in addition the Constitution gives one person - the president - the power to veto legislation for any reason he (soon to be she) likes.

These extremely high barriers to legislative action can be defended on the basis of various ideological preferences (most notably the view that, in general, only rich and powerful people should be able to get laws passed). But Levinson's point is that hardly anyone even bothers, because the structural features of the Constitution are treated as if they were equivalent to the laws of thermodynamics, rather than products of political choices made 220 years ago, and that are ripe for revisiting, given that the world has changed somewhat since the 18th century.

In fact, I suspect nobody even tries because the "high barriers to legislative action" have been successfully circumvented by outsourcing the legislative function to the executive. You're subject to far more Federal regulation - from the size of the airbags in your car to the water flow in your toilet - than you are to Federal laws.

The barriers to legislative action are intended to drive the country towards consensus, to make sure that action isn't taken without the consent of a broad swath of the governed. What this has to do with the "rich and powerful," isn't clear, any more than the year has to do with the appropriateness of federalism.

Third, Levinson points out that the Constitution gives us no way to get rid of an incompetent president, prior to the next election. This, under present circumstances, seems like an especially unfortunate oversight. He suggests the president should be subject to removal at any time, on the basis of a two-thirds vote of the legislature (he's careful to point out that such a procedure needs to be structured so as to allow the president's party to retain the office for the rest of the president's term).

This sounds like a call for more Wilsonian "progressivism." Wilson would have been happy to make the President subservient to the Congressional majority, which would certainly be the natural outcome letting Congress replace the President at will. So in addition to erasing state boundaries, Campos would accelerate the erasure of the boundaries between branches of government.

In short, Campos doesn't seem to like any of the mechanisms built into the Constitution specifically to make sure that power stayed distributed broadly throughout the Republic, safeguards that are the reason we've been so stable for so long. They get in the way of "efficiency," but then, opposition always does.

Progrssively more poor. Progressively less free.

October 29, 2007

Stealing Our Retirement

How much is that proposed property tax increase really going to cost you?

About three months of your retirement.

Proponents claim that the average Denver homeowner will only have to pay $62 a year.

Well, I happen to be Mr. Average Denver homeowner, I own a house valued at $255,000. I'm just over 40, which means I have about 30 years to go until I'm supposed to retire. Make that 30 years and 3 months.

Let's assume that the city government is never, ever, even under the threat of waterboarding, going to let me have this money back. They'll ask nicely, if they must, but the Light Rail Tax will follow the Coors Field Stadium Tax (Wait Till Next Year!) as the night follows the day, and, to mix metaphors, we'll end up having to pry our money loose from their cold, dead hands. This means that even if I'm able to sell my house somewhere down the line, the buyer, rational man that he is, will reduce what he's willing to pay by the after-tax amount of this tax he'll take on, as long as both he and the house shall live.

As for the amount of the tax itself, it's not going to stay constant at $62 (or about $46.50 after tax, since it's a deductible expense, at least until Charlie Rangel gets his glummies on the tax code). My house will, over time, appreciate in value. Let's call it about 4% a year, a pretty conservative number, all things considered. I bought a condo in 1989 at the top of the DC housing market, watched it decline about 30% in value, and then rebound to over double its low point. This condo appreciated at about 3% a year, and condos don't do nearly as well as houses over time.

Finally, remember that I'm going to be investing this money, too. About 8% a year is a good, solid guess, assuming that I'm not buying T-bills with it and that we don't have to live through 1930-31 again.

Put all these numbers together, and you get $8560 post-tax, inflation-adjusted. Thirty years from now, I've paid off the mortgage, and all other things being equal, $2900 in current dollars is a reasonable amount to live on.

That's three months of my retirement - and yours - that the Denver City Government wants to take from us.

Progressively More Expensive. Progressively More Intrusive. Progressively More Restrictive.

September 19, 2007

Profligacy Tax Calculator

Mayor Hickenlooper wants more of your money. How much more? Well, based on a conversation with the city Auditor's office this morning, and reports in various news outlets, I've come up with the following handy-dandy Mill Levy and Bond Issue Profligacy calculator:
Actual Valuation: $
Assessed Valuation: $
Current Tax: $
Mill Levy Tax Hike: $
Bond Issue Questions  
Question 2: Refurbishing Buildings $70.1 million
Question 3: Health and Human Services $48.6 million
Question 4: Parks and Recreation Centers $93.4 million
Question 5: Public Safety $65.2 million
Question 6: Streets, Transportation and Public Works $149.8 million
Question 7: Libraries $51.9 million
Question 8: Cultural Facilities $70.0 million
Bond Issue Total: $ million
In Excess of Bonding Authority: $ million
Profligacy Tax: $

September 9, 2007

Down The Memory Hole

Never's a long time, but, "Never Enough" seems appropriate for the state Democrats and their enablers over at the Denver Post. This morning, the paper's Local & Western Politics Blog runs an uncritical story about the desire of state Democrats to raise taxes again ("Seventeen tax proposals under discussion in Colorado").

The two liberal groups quoted, the Bell Policy Center and the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, are not identified as such. Members of Bell campagned with Ref C supporters a couple of years ago. And the CFPI's parent institute, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, describes its mission as: "The Colorado Center on Law and Policy's mission is to promote justice and economic security for all Coloradans, particularly lower income people. CCLP advocates on behalf of the the poor, working poor and other vulnerable populations though legislative, administrative and legal advocacy." My guess is you'll find about as many free-market types there as you'd find Republicans in CU's Ethnic Studies faculty.

Meanwhile, they quote House Minority Leader Mike May, briefly suggesting other revenues, and former Republican Senator Hank Brown, now Presdient of CU, crying poor for the University again.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is given whole paragraphs (and backing by Bell's "outreach director," to make his case for suspending constitutional restrictions in order to overhaul the state's tax code. Naturally, the fact that he won't discuss the nature of that overhaul in advance of voters approving the suspension goes unnoticed.

Also unnoticed is the fact of Referendum C, and the fact that tax revenues, far exceeding proponents' projections, aren't being used as promised. CFPI is full of dire claims for Colorado spending:

The state ranks 49th in the amount it spends per capita covering low-income families on Medicaid. It is 48th in state spending for higher education, 39th in state highway spending per capita and in the bottom third in per-capita investment in K-12 education, according to the institute.

Remember, these are the same folks who brought you the debunked claim (parrotted in at least 49 other states), that Colorado ranked 49th in state spending on education. Needless to say, these claims also go unchallenged.

Well, at least now we know their platform and talking points.

September 5, 2007


That giant sucking sound you hear is the last of my free time leaving the building. I've signed up to be one of the guest bloggers on the Denver Post's Gang of Four blog, on its PoliticsWest site run by Stephen Keating. Stephen's basically a conservative, which explains why the site is fairly balanced.

Another Virginian, from Tidewater no less, Jim Spencer, will blog from the left.

The idea is to provide a western, and Colorado, perspective on politics both national and local, through this election cycle. Right now's kind of a probationary period, so stop by and see what you think.

September 4, 2007

Anti-Semites For Anti-Semitism

California Conservative is reporting that Rep. Keith Ellison (D - CAIR), is joining the Congressional Anti-Semitism Task Force. Yet another sign that satire has become obsolete.

I can think of at least two non-competing reasons why Ellison might want to join this group, and at least three reasons why he might be allowed to. None of them is very flattering to the participants.

Lantos, et. al., probably see PR benefits themselves, a chance to co-op the opposition. They may also truly believe that inclusion is better than exclusion, or that Ellison deserves a chance to prove his bona-fides. If so, as CC points out, there are better places for him to start.

As for Ellison, the PR benefits are obvious, both for himself and to defang the fact that CAIR and other nationally-prominent Muslim groups are openly anti-Semitic. After all, when he criticizes Israel for defending itself during the next war, or votes against aid or military cooperation, or enters the latest AP or Reuters fauxtograph into the Congressional Record, he will thunder in disdain, "I'm not anti-Semitic. I'm on the Congressional Anti-Semitism Task Force! How dare you!"

The other, complementary job here, is to make sure that the ongoing Islamist war against Jews doesn't get attention from this group. I'd be surprised if it finds anything other than white supremicist and European Christian anti-Semites abroad. No doubt the armed soldiers at the re-dedication of Berlin's synagogue were there to protect against regnant Nazi groups.

August 10, 2007

An Evening With Harvey Mansfield

Last night, courtesy of John Andrews and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's Miller Center, I had the pleasure of attending the Boulder stop on the great Harvey Mansfield's Jefferson Lecture Barnstorming Tour.

It's one thing to read the speech, but, as with Shakespeare's plays, it's really intended to be performed for an audience.

It's impossible to sum up a learned hour-long speech in a few sentences, but I'll give it a go. Mansfield's main thesis was that politics, properly practiced, is about what - and as importantly, whom - will be important in a society, and that the what and the whom are inseparable. The attempt to reduce politics to "political science" does a disservice to both politics and science. Individual humans, and human ego and human ambition are simply not reducible to mass "forces" and averages.

As a result, politics, properly practiced, in a dynamic political culture, is confrontation not negotiation, and the negotiated accomodations of current European politics, where the vanilla center-left parties negotiate over spoils rather than contest policy, and something to be feared rather than aspired to. Mansfield's biggest laugh of the night came here:

The demand for civility in our politics should instead be focused on improving the quality of our insults, using wit, rather than blandness. I recall Senator Harry Reid claiming that he, "wasn't going to get into a name-calling contest with an attack dog."

It may be the only laugh Reid's gotten in his whole career.

Personally, I think Mansfield's got the problem right but the source of the infection wrong. Rather than blame "social science" for trying to level mankind, a complaint that's been around since the early 18th century, Mansfield should instead blame the academic left for trying to shut off debate that threatens its orthodoxies. The European stagnation exists - and its challengers are so toxic - precisely because its ruling elites have ruled so many topics out of bounds for discussion in polite society that the peasantry quickly turns impolite.

Likewise, he significantly overplays science's "collective enterprise." The rush to establish priority for publication gives the lie to any submission to anonymity. Newton, Hooke, and the rest of the early modern scientists had egos every bit as large as Bella Abzug or John Kerry, and it's strange than Mansfield, steeped in academia, would fail to recognize the self-importance floating around the physics departments of Harvard and MIT.

Still, these are quibbles. Politics is a human contact sport, and Mansfield's basic point - that politics and politicians have more to learn about the practice of their profession from Shakespeare than from Einstein is self-evident.

The ISI is one of the great academic institutions operating in the US today; they have, at least, made the right enemies. And John had this to say about the Center for Western Civilization, something marginalized in contemporary academic life as only, well, western civilization can be:

...[the] tiny Center for Western Civilization begun at the university as a solo effort by classics professor Christian Kopff. "The permanent things, embedded in tradition, are good things for human life," his defiant prospectus continues. He invites students to join "in the fruitful exploration of the benefits and significance of Western Culture, from the ancient Greeks to the American Founding." For perspective on the center's pathetic $86,000 budget (just increased by Brown, with touching gratitude from Kopff), consider that CU spends $22 million annually on diversity programs.

If they keep bringing in speakers of this quality, it'll be money well spent.

July 31, 2007

Seizures as Divine Wrath

The very first posting on the Denver Post forum on Chief Justice Roberts's seizure, from "justanicegirl1151" (sic):

I'm sorry to have to say this but Roberts is always doing something evil. He doesn't like Black people and has proven it many times. Perhaps somebody up there is trying to tell him he needs to change his ways. I sincerely hope he listens. Afterall, he is one of the people who make the "laws of the land", which the bible says we are to follow. He should conduct himself more responsibly.

Just to clarify: no you're not (sorry), no he isn't (doing), no he hasn't (proven), no they're not (trying), and no he isn't (making laws).

June 27, 2007

Self-Defeating Logic

Overheard on the bus: "And then the women [who wanted to impeach Bush] said that she was worried, because nobody was listening to her, and soon it would be 2008, and it would be too late."

Maybe she should take on someone who won't leave office when his term is over.

June 17, 2007

Sauce For the Gander

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit Readers! Thanks for coming, and have a look around the rest of the place.

By now, you've probably heard about the trial balloon Green Program that Mayor Hickenlooper has been spending his time on. Good to know that the next elections will run smoothly, the snow will be picked up efficiently, that traffic lights will be timed non-randomly, and that 8th Avenue between Speer and the viaduct won't need a 4WD vehicle to navigate. (The poor Prii that Mayor Hickenlooper wants to populate the streets of Denver with would be rattled apart on that stretch of road.)

The Mayor wants to have insurance companies charge drivers with long commutes more for their insurance (they do already), to have those who use more natural gas to heat their homes pay more for the right (they do already), to give preferential parking to Prii, and to force new housing to be green.

Ah, the Nanny State! So here are few suggestions that our elected officials should certainly be willing to go along with:

  1. There shall be no use of private jets for official travel when commercial service is available; this is a purely green idea.
  2. Reiumbursement for auto travel on official business for all city employees shall be based on the cost-per-mile of the highest-mileage car available on the market.
  3. There shall be no reimbursement for parking at DIA, or for mileage driven to DIA; employees will be reimbursed for the cost of using public transportation to get to and from the airport
  4. City government parking lots, used by city government workers, shall also set aside an increasing number of slots for hybrid and E-85 cars.
  5. Since timely maintenance saves gas, all elected official shall be required to report what cars are used in their households, and to maintain on file with the city up-to-date maintenance records
  6. Since driving uses less gas than idling, the city shall be required to conduct a comprehensive review of its traffic light timing, and to re-time the lights in the most efficient manner

January 15, 2007

Let the Handicapping Begin

It's official: Colorado Republicans will have an open seat to defend in '08. With Tancredo apparently thinking that a White House run offers a better chance to bang the illegal immigration drum, the Republican side is wide open.

Those of us worried about a Bill Owens resurrection bid can take comfort in the fact that Colorado's former governors have a history of losing such efforts - in the primary.

January 14, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere

Since all this snow started (and we got a little more today), I've been asking when we'll see the newspaper articles reminding us that it doesn't really help us all that much.

If you had today in the pool, you won!

The Denver Post reminds us that just because we have lots of water, that doesn't mean that we really have lots of water:

"If there were no more storms for this area, we'd probably be better off than we were during some of the worst drought years, but it doesn't exactly keep us out of the woods," he said.

For big metropolitan water users, the snow that's fallen across the Front Range over the past month doesn't guarantee summertime water supplies. Spring snows are more of a boon because they replenish reservoirs drawn down during winter months, water managers say.

When we get those spring snows, I'm sure the Post will explain that it's great that all those new canal and riverboat services have started, but that we're facing an uncertain fall.

All of which means that rain comes where and when you least expect it, so they best thing to do is to have lots and lots of new reservoirs ready and waiting for it. So of course, that's why the Post and the Democrats opposed Referendum A a couple of years back, which would have built just those.

The argument at the time was that the governor's bill wasn't specific enough, and certainly the Governor Bill obliged by specifically failing to try again - ever. If anything signifies the lack of confidence Owens had under the surface, the water issue was it. The left tries referendum after referendum, rewording them until either the voters or the courts agree. Owens shrugged his shoulders and moved on to raising my taxes.

Now, we'll probably be informed that all the best spots for reservoirs just happen to be in the way of wind farm proposals.

January 11, 2007

Well, They Had to Meet Somewhere

It's official. The 2008 Democratic Convention will be here in Denver. Apparently unfazed by a city in which the ubiquity of Wal Mart is matched only by the lack of union hotels, Hillary, Howard, and the whole motley crew are preparing to descend on us sometime next August.

For those interested, there will be a house available just for that week, at an attractive weekly rate. It's only 15 mins. from downtown driving, and on several major bus lines. Applications are being accepted now.

January 9, 2007


So tell me, when exactly did Denver turn into Narnia? This Friday's scheduled snowstorm has been scaled back to 6", courtesy of some arctic air that's apparently going to stick around for some weekend skiing. Normally, this stuff melts off, but with the bulldozers piling it up in the streets, some of the ice hills around Crestmoor Park will be there until March.

Of course, none of this would be happening if we had signed Kyoto.

Fortunately, my Dad was able to drive back to Geo'gia before the wind swept across Broomfield, turning Boulder into an island. We drove up to Boulder, and then into the foothills near Ward and Nederland on Sunday, and the wind was blurring the mountains even at a distance. Yesterday, it slid down the foothills onto the front range and closed down US-36. I've seen this effect from an office in Broomfield before, and it's pretty spectacular.

The other frightful event today was the swearing in of Bill Ritter as governor. I wish him well, really, and I think he's more of the Romanoff mold than the Fitzgerald. This isn't a day for sourness; it's a day to note that we can have a peaceful transfer of power from one party to the other, and not have half the counties in the state setting up roadblocks and designing uniforms. The color may be blue, but for a long while yet, the institutions are still strong.

November 30, 2006

Taking Oaths

I see where the Volokh-Prager debate over the propriety of taking an oath of office on a Koran has migrated to TV. Ellison seems to be a pretty despicable character, and it's a damn shame the voters in his district couldn't find someone else to give that sinecure to, but that said, I think Prager's wrong on this one.

First of all, let's dispense with the "religious test" stuff that Reynolds brings up. This isn't a legal argument, it's a political-symbolic one, and no one's suggesting that Ellison not be allowed to take office because he's a Muslim. In any event, the Islamist apologists are always talking about how the Bible is holy to them, too.

That said, as a couple of Orthodox Jews who called into his show Tuesday said, the book you take the oath on isn't for the benefit of the country, it's for your own. You put your hand on a book you believe in, and Prager's straw-man argument that you have to believe every word is the literal truth is off the mark. Reform Jews believe the Hebrew Bible is holy, they just believe it was written by men, not God.

But I think it's possible to win this argument even on Prager's terms. Washington, Madison, Monroe, Franklin, and other Framers were Freemasons. I'm a Freemason. The rule is that the oath of membership in the society is taken on whatever book is deemed holy to the person taking the oath. To claim that this understanding of what an oath means is incorrect is to invalidate the understanding that the Framers had of oaths, the very Framers that Prager is seeking to venerate by insisting that Ellison use a Bible.

November 3, 2006

Pump Up The Margin Of Litigation

The Washington Post today joins in the Democratic fear-mongering about voter ID laws:

On Indiana's primary day, Rep. Julia Carson shoved her congressional identification card in a pocket, ran out of her house and raced down the street to be at her polling site when it opened at 6 a.m. The Democrat, seeking to represent Indianapolis for a sixth term, showed the card to a poll worker, who told her it was unacceptable under a new state law that requires every voter to show proof of identity.

The law compels voters to show an ID, issued by Indiana or the federal government, with a photograph and an expiration date. Carson's card was for the 109th Congress, but did not say when the session ends. "I just thought I was carrying the right thing -- if you have a card that has a picture and shows it is current," she said.

In the end, the poll worker telephoned a boss, and Carson was allowed to vote for herself in the five-way primary.

My guess is that this specific problem - trying to use a Congressional ID to vote - won't happen more than once in any given Congressional district. It rather smacks of trying to create a scene; I'm sure that Rep. Carson has a driver's license.

It's been a commonplace for Democrats to oppose ballot integrity measures. One can speculate on why this might be - perhaps their recent history of losing elections has something to do with it. But it remains true that the party has opposed efforts to require IDs to register or to vote, and the current Democratic candidate for Colorado Secretary of State is running on opposing special interest money - although whether or not he considers unions to be special interests is unclear. He has stated his opposition to registration and voter ID laws.

This sort of article is intended to prepare public opinion for the inevitable lawsuits charging voter intimidation and vote suppression. The Post makes no mention of

  • ACORN's numerous convictions in multiple states for registration fraud (including Colorado)
  • Steven Sharkansky's research into the miraculous nature of deceased voting (and the less-than miraculous nature of homeless voting in Washiington State
  • The clear intent of the May Day protest organizers to register illegal aliens to vote
  • The ACLU's stated desire to count every provisional ballot, regardless of validity

As a result, readers are left with the impression that nothing other than the fear of election fraud, rather than its documented occurrence, is motivating these laws, and that tens of thousands of voters - all of whom happen to conveniently live in closely-contested districts - will pay the price for this paranoia.

October 30, 2006

Property Rights

The Taylor Ranch controversy is one of those nasty points of intersection between economics, politics, and the judiciary. In 2002, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a series of landowners who border the Taylor Ranch had the right to continue doing what they had been doing for about 150 years, namely, freeloading off the Taylor Ranch resources. We had the chance to interview Dick Johnston, author of The Taylor Ranch War, which follows the 40-year (!) series of lawsuits required to resolve this issue.

In essence, the court ruled that the communal rules of the original Mexican land grant from the 1830s and 1840s overrode the American notion of exclusive use.

It hadn't occurred to me before, but is it possible that communal property right could be an answer to the question, "Why is Mexico so poor?"

October 27, 2006

The Last Four Digits

Mike Coffman has been airing radio ads discussing how easy it is to register to vote, noting that you only need to provide the last four digits of a Social Security number, any Social Security number. There's a certain risk in broadcasting how easy registration fraud is to commit, especially for a Republican. You wouldn't necessarily want to run those ads on stations with lots of unregistered, left-leaning listeners. They might decide to exercise that ability in order to protect it.

Ken Gordon apparently has been running whimsical ads obliquely promoting campaign finance reform. It looks as though the choice will be between restricting free speech and protecting ballot integrity.

October 24, 2006

There Are Whistleblowers We Like...

...and those we don't. In the < I>Denver Post's case, they don't llike whistleblowers who leak to Republican campaigns. Of course, they're more than happy to report on the reaction of the Perlmutter campaign to a story planted by that campaign in the Post itself.

The Post ridicules Beauprez's claim that his source is courageous, even as it campaigns for federal shield laws for journalists. It states that Beauprez's source leaked for partisan political purposes, even as it defends the New York Times for publishing information that's likely to get Americans killed, in pursuit of its own political agenda.

Someone needs to remind the Post that "freedom of the press" is a right reserved to all the people, for all political speech, not just to newspapers.

In the meantime, I'm sure the paper will make much of this report by Reporters Without Borders, with the absurd claim that press freedom is eroding in the US:

"Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism,' " the group said.

"The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 U.S. states, refuse to recognize the media's right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism," the group said.

The fact that relations between an administration and a partisanly hostile MSM have deteriorated is no evidence at all of actual curtailment of press freedom. At this point, the only journalists to serve time in a terrorism-related case did so because of an investigation initiated at the behest of the newspaper that published them. If RWB really believes that the administration has conducted some sort of war against hostile journalists, they've been toting more than laptops back from Columbia. (I would note the scare quotes around War on Terrorism, except that RWB might accuse me of censorship.)

October 18, 2006

Political Quick Hits

It's too bad Steny Hoyer apologized before anyone had a chance to remind everyone that all the actual slaveholders were Democrats.

If libertarians really are this year's swing vote, then maybe "the Common Good" isn't the best 45th slogan for the Dems.

Bill Ritter is beginning to strike me as the kind of guy who could create very, very expensive structural majorities.

Political Markets Breakout

Election Day is 20 days away, but the political markets appear to have already voted. Take a look at the IEM graph of futures for control of the US House. The thing had been bouncing back and forth for a couple of months, and if the races were tightening, are at least indeterminate, they'd probablly have swung back towards parity by now. Instead, the Dems Win has broken out of the trading range to the top, and the Reps Win has broken out of its bottom.

We've been surprised on election night before, but this one doesn't look good for the Republicans. It's probably about time to open a market on the new Republican Minority leader...

October 12, 2006

Gotcha Politics in the Colorado 7th

Sure looks that way. The Denver Post this morning essentially accused Republican candidate for Colorado's 7th District Congressional seat of unethical - or at least hypocritical behavior - for accepting a weekend trip to Panama:

Republican congressional candidate Rick O'Donnell, who has blasted politicians who accept perks, took an expenses-paid trip to Panama with his girlfriend arranged by a TV station doing business with a state agency he headed.

O'Donnell took the trip three weeks before he resigned as the head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to campaign for Congress full time.

KCNC-Channel 4 gave him the trip, paid for by the CBS network, after the commission purchased television ads encouraging Latinos to attend college, O'Donnell said. Such perks - called incentive trips in the industry - are commonly used for heavy advertisers.

O'Donnell said he did nothing wrong.

This has all the hallmarks of a typical Denver Post election-year hit piece on a Republican. The trip took place over Super Bowl weekend, the first weekend in February, over 8 months ago, a fact which is deliberately obscured in the reporting.

The boilerplate, "O'Donnell said he did nothing wrong," tries to cover for the reporter's lack of due diligence on whether or not he actually did do something wrong. Since Ace here couldn't be bothered to read the code of ethics himself, he could have at least asked one of the experts that journalists are supposed to keep on call for just such a contingency.

In fact, I just spoke with the O'Donnell campaign's Communications Director Jonathan Tee, and he pointed out that the decision to advertise on CBS came about as a result of a consultant's recommendation. The consultant - whose contract was let by competitive bid - concluded that the best way to reach the young, male, Latino target demographic was through Broncos games. In order for there to be a quid pro quo, O'Donnell would have had to rig the bid process, so as to choose a consultant likely to recommend CBS's local affiliate for the ad run. All that for a weekend trip to go see the Canal.

The timing of the release suggests a number of questions, none of which are answered in the report:

  • When did the former commission employee tell the Perlmutter campaign about the trip?
  • Why did the employee not go to the ethics board, if there were a problem?
  • Was the employee "former" at the time he coordinated with the campaign?
  • Was the employee a political employee or civil service?
  • Did the communication take place from his office, or from a government office?
  • When did the Perlmutter campaign inform the reporter about the trip?
  • Why dd the Perlmutter campaign not simply issue a press release?
  • When did the reporter follow up on the tip?
  • When did the reporter ask the O'Donnell campaign about the trip?

At least one question answers itself: the employee didn't go to the ethics board because there was no ethical vioation. Come to think of it, all of the "whys" pretty much answer themselves, don't they?

Don't hold your breath waiting for Perlmutter or the Post to answer the others, though.

October 10, 2006

Partisan Shopping

I received an email the other day from a local denver Post reporter trolling for partisan shoppers. That is, people who actually drive miles out of their way to go to Wal-Mart rather than Costco, or vice-versa, because the company in question gives (or is perceived to give) to the party of one's choice. My response: eh, who needs it?

"The personal is political" has been the watchword of the Looming Left ever since the stay-at-home mom became first a figure of fun, and then, when she refused to get a job and a pantsuit, of venom. But mapping out a route that takes me by "red" stores while scrupulously avoiding "blue" stores would probably reduce my computer to singing, "Daisy, Daisy." It's too much to keep track of, and then, what, do you start chatting up the cigar store owner to find out his politics?

What's worse, once you legitiamize this sort of thing, it has a way of seeping into the public discourse, and then candidates get a hold it. Regulatory power being what it is, those corporate shakedowns will migrate from Green to Blue. As a businessman, it ought to be enough to deliver something someone wants at a reasonable price while navigating through the tax code, land use code, and employment code. You shouldn't have to worry about losing 48% of your clientele because you happen to like squeezing off a few rounds down at the range.

It's one thing if you want to reward Hobby Lobby because they give their employees Sunday off. Everyone's got individual practices you like or don't. The companies pursue those practices at a certain cost, because they think it's worth it, and you're just encouraging that. Buying at Costco because they support HilPac begns to range into authoritarian territory.

Politics has to stop sometime. Isn't enough that we fight elections every four years, blog round the clock, have shortened the news cycle to the lifespan of an amoeba? Does the Permanent Campaign really need to extend to economic civil war?

September 27, 2006

Tradesports Arbitrage

Has Tradesports internally mispriced the chance of the Democrats retaking the Senate? That is, do the chances of the Dems winning the individual races they need "add up" to the same number as the chances of them winning back the chamber as a whole? Mind you, this is an entirely difference question from whether or not Tradesports has accurately priced the contracts. I'm only looking at whether or not Tradesports is internally consistent with itself.

(I'm not the first one to think about this. A Google search turned up this somewhat amateurish attempt, along with these more sophisticated ones.)

Tradesports is a futures market based on real-world events. If you buy a contract, you pay, say $0.56 for a contract stating that the Republicans will hold the House. If they do, the contract expires with a value of $1.00, and you make $0.19. If Speaker Bela Pelosi is sworn in on Jan. 1, then the contract, like promises to control spending and defend the country, expire worthless, and you lose your $0.81. Ideally, the sum of the prices on a given event should equal 1. And the prices of equivalent events should equal each other. If they don't then an arbitrage opportunity exists, which means free money, which means drinks for everyone.

For instance, if the contract giving control to the Republicans is selling for $0.49, and the contract giving control to the Democrats is selling for $0.49, then you only have to pay $0.98 to buy one of each, kind of like what business is doing.

As for the notion of equivalent events, here's a simple example made complex. Suppose I can bet on two flips of a coin. I can bet on each flip by itself, and I can bet on the end result of both flips. In the real world, there's a 50% chance of getting heads, a 50% chance of getting tails, and a 25% chance of getting tails both times. So the prices of the contracts for tails on the first flip = 0.50, tails on the second flip = 0.50, and tails both times, 0.25. Betting the two tails separately is the same event as betting the two tails together.

Now suppose the market thinks that tails is a 60% likelihood, or a 2-3 bet. The chance of two tails should be priced at $0.36. (0.6 x 0.6 = 0.36) If it's not, if it's still priced at $0.25, then there's an arbitrage opportunity based on the idea that the market will discover & correct this discrepancy. Either the 0.25 is right, and tails is overpriced, or the 0.6 is right, and the combination is under-priced, or they're both wrong. But the two numbers are inconsistent with each other.*

So. When I did the math earlier, the contract for the Senate remaining Republican was selling at $0.816. If you take all the possible Senate race outcomes, and multiply them together, and add up the probabilities of those combinations that give the Democrats the Senate, do you get $0.816? If not, there's an arbitrage opportunity, because the market's not pricing the equivalent events the same.

Excel's a wonderful thing.

There are 33 Senate races contested this year. Currently, the Dems hold 18 of the seats, the Republicans 15. To take the Senate, the Dems need to pick up 6 seats. That means after Nov. 7, they need to have 24 of these seats to the Republicans' 9. I found the contract prices for the Democrat and the Republican in each of these races (counting Lieberman as a Democrat). Now, with 33 races, there are 2^33, or 8,589,934,592 possible combinations. In order to simplify things, I took as given any races where one party or another was judged to have a 95% or greater. Of those races, 13 go to Dems (also giving them the Socialist Bernie Sanders), and 6 to Reps. This means that Dems need to win 11 of the remaining 14 races to get to 24.

The contested races (and the Democrat's contract prices) are: Arizona (.09), Maryland (.65), Michigan (.90), Minnesota (.90), Missouri (.48), Montana(.80), Nevada (.09), New Jersey (.43), Ohio (.76), Pennsylvania (.84), Rhode Island (.80), Tennessee (.35), Virginia (.40), and Washington (.88). With 14 races, the number of possible outcomes is only 2^14, or 16384, which Excel can handle. If you write down all the possible outcomes, calculate the probability of each - as determined by Tradesports traders - and add up the likelihoods of those outcomes where the Dems win 11 seats, you get... 7.27%

This means that collectively, Tradesports prices the chances of the Dems taking the Senate at 18.4%, but taken race-by-race, they only get a 7.27% chance. Now, it's clear that the individual elections are not independent events, even though Tradesports lets you bet on them that way. A single event of national significance could swing voters all over the country, affecting every race that's in play, and given the Dems' percentages in the races in play, it would take a bigger event to swing the electorate Republican than to tip, say, Tennessee and Virginia to the Democrats.

If I move the cutoff to 0.80 from 0.95, that tips Arizona & Nevada to the Republicans, and Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington to the Dems. Even then, the percentage only moves to 10.88%.

But overall, Tradeports seems to be saying either that 1) it can't find the races to put the Dems over the top, or 2) some individual Republicans are getting a benefit of the doubt they don't deserve.

Sooner or later, the market's got to figure this out. Doesn't it? If it does, the beer's on me.

*If the coin actually is fair, and the contracts are consistent, that doesn't mean you hedge perfectly by buying one and selling the other. That's because you're adding the results of the two individual tosses to determine one payout, and multiplying the results to determine the other payout. If anyone's interested, I email me and I'll send you the math.

September 20, 2006

Owens the Party Builder

No, he doesn't get all the blame. But he was sure quick to assert his prerogatives when intervening in the party's nominating process this year. Here's the Republican share of the aggregate vote for State House of Representatives since 1996:

Notice a pattern? There's a slight rise in 2000, probably because of the Presidential election, but this is a governor without coattails. The 2004 win by the Dems was exaggerated by the Four Horsemen, but this was seizing an opportunity as much as anything else. I'll repeat: Owens at the state level has been to the Republicans what the Clintons are to Democrats nationally: very good for himself, very bad for the party.

Polled by Rasmussen

So now, there's one less American who can say, "you know, you always read about these polls, but I've never been asked." Rasmussed just called, so it was even a reputable one.

September 19, 2006

DeGette on Earmarks

As noted last week, my Congresscreature, Diana DeGette, voted against earmark reform in the House. Despite her opposition, the resolution passed, so with a couple of exceptions, anonymous earmarks are dead in the House.

I called her DC office to ask why, and one of her aides, Mr. Andrew Ginsberg, called back today. I'm happy to report that he was courteous, helpful, and responsive. What he had to say, I was a lot less happy with.

When I ask why she had voted against the rule change, he gave two arguments. First, it didn't do enough, like H.Res.659 and HR4682, both of which she supported. But both of those bills are huge, omnibus bills, seeking to address all sorts of rules problems, real and imagined. Sinking legislation you don't like by adding parts to add opponents is one of the oldest tricks in the parliamentary book. When the Republicans, wanted to pass reforms in 1995 per the "Contract With America," they passed each rule change on a separate vote, getting different majorities for each measure.

Voting against a measure you support because you can't get fifteen other measures is either not believable or petulent.

The other reason was that not all earmarks would be included. For instance, only bills reported out of committee fall under the new rules, and only tax earmarks which apply to one person would apply. But almost all spending legislation originates in committee, certainly all appropriations bills do. Most legislation that tries to originate on the House floor gets referred to committee, since the chairmen wouldn't have it any other way. And in any case, the author of the bill, or of the floor-offered amendment (another exception), knows what's in his bill or amendment, and who proposed it, so there's an address to go to there. Tax earmarks are another story, but an earmark for a large corporation - an example offered by Mr. Ginsberg - would almost certainly benefit or shareholders in many states. An individual's tax earmark is exactly the kind of thing most likely to be proposed by a representative who would be embarassed by the revelation.

We'll see if Mrs. DeGette lets the best become the enemy of the good when it's stem cell research that's up for debate.

As for specific earmarks, it turns out that Cong. DeGette is responsible for at least $600,000 in anonymous earmarks coming back to Denver. These include:

$200,000 for Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, for a naturally occurring retirement communities demonstration project.

I have no idea what this means. "Naturally occurring retirement communities." What, do they put a bunch of 60-year-olds in caves? They need $200,000 for blasting? Actually, it seems to mean what happens when all the kids at Wisteria Lane grow up and move out, and the families don't want to leave. For some reason, Jewish Family Services seems to be a leader in this nationally.

$150,000 to the City of Denver for housing assistance, mentoring, and other services for homeless families and seniors
Hospice of Metro Denver, for the Life Quality Institute
$150,000 to the Denver Rescue Mission for transitional housing for the homeless

Look, all of this is worthy stuff, but it's $600,000. If every man, woman, and child in the city of Denver gave a dollar, the Federal government wouldn't need to be involved in this at all. I don't want to revisit Referendum C, but why is it any better to have these guys hiring lobbyists to beg for them that to run ads and make their case to the people whose support they profess to have?

When asked why these requests were made anonymously, Mr. Ginsberg replied that, well, that's how earmark requests are made, and that there's no process for attaching a Rep's name to an earmark. Well, there is now. And before, these requests could always be offered as amendments.

So here's a question for you. If Mrs. DeGette ends up in the majority, will she vote to roll back this rule change before or after she proposes her still-unpassable omnibus reform bill? And will either of the papers report on it?

September 15, 2006

Earmark Reform Passes

Instapundit reports that earmark reform has passed the House, which can only be a good thing. According to the official tally, all four of Colorado's Republicans voted in favor, joined only by Democrat John Salazar. Democrats Diana "Oil Conspiracy" DeGette and Mark Udall, both in very safe Democratic seats, voted against.

With records like these, discussed at To The Right, you can see why the Dems weren't thrilled with the rules change.

The rules change essentially eliminated anonymous earmarks in the House, and takes effect immediately, although it's not clear how much difference it will make this close to elections and this late in the budget cycle. Also remember that we're in the McCain-Feingold blackout Incumbent Protection period, preventing non-Party media ads criticizing incumbents who are running for re-election.

Still, it's a good start.

September 13, 2006

Colorado GOP Under Destruction

I don't think I've seen anything implode this quickly since they set charges to the Kingdome. The latest tactical brilliance comes from the state GOP's website. Here it is:

I mean, here's the entire website.

Yes that's right. In the middle of a statewide election campaign, sitting one seat away from the Senate and a list of Democratic vulnerables away from the House, with redistricting on the line in the governor's race, and Democratic Secretary of State now a real possibility, the state GOP has decided that now would be a good time to take down the website. The filename of the graphic is "cologopundercon," but perhaps "cologopunderground" would be more appropriate.

You don't just decide to redo the website in the middle of the fall campaign on a lark. This kind of incompetence takes lots of planning. The election's been on the calendar since the founding of the Republic. Either the party planned to roll out a site - and therefore be offline - long before September, or Owens and Benson just did their best Mickey Rooney - Judy Garland impersonation. "Hey, whadday say we go out to the web and put up a site?" News flash: the time to figure out rebranding isn't when everyone's looking.

As long as free-spending Bruce Benson is turning into the Peter Angelos of American politics, you'd think he could find a little spare change for a web design firm. On the other hand, that might encourage people to give money. One way to look like the big fish is to shrink the pond.

August 9, 2006

Senate Independents

Don't look now, but in January, there could well be three independents in the US Senate, all of them caucusing with the Democrats.

We all know about Jumpin' Jim Jeffords, but two more are set to get in honestly. Vermont's Socialist (yes, really) Bernie Sanders is making the jump from the House to the Senate, and now Joe Lieberman is likely to be re-elected as an Independent, having been drummed out of his party. That would make three nominal independents, even though all three would effectively be liberal Democratic votes on social and tax policy.

Such a situation isn't unprecedented, although it is unusual, especially since 1900. (Searchable Senate database here.) In the mid 70s, Harry Byrd, Jr. of Virginia was an independent, and James Buckley of New York was elected on the Conservative line, but both caucused with the Republican minority. Further back, under FDR, there were four (or three) Senators who weren't official Democrats, but two of these were from Minnesota, whose Farm-Labor Party (later the DFL) was essentially part of the Democratic Party.

The DFL anomaly aside, independents seem most likely when one party seems firmly in control for a length of time, and party discipline on each side seems less important.

Primary Morning After

It's Wednesday morning, and we're still waiting for the smoke to clear in some of these races. The absentee and early voters appear to have given Doug Lamborn the edge in the 5th. The race was always going to be close, and Hugh's efforts may have been too little, too late. I actually have never been a big fan of excessive absentee and early voting, mostly for potential fraud reasons, although there's nothing like that going on here.

The other reason I don't like early voting is that it allows voters to deprive themselves of seeing how candidates behave in the crunch. Most early voters probably wouldn't change their minds, anyway, but the Christian Coalition flyers, and how the respective campaigns handled the matter, might have been instructive.

My friend Dan Kopelman is down by 56 votes (out of about 24,000 cast) for Arapahoe County Treasurer. I'm sure there will be a recount, but these things rarely reverse, as Al Gore found out. That's just heartbreakingly close.

Mike Kopp seems to have pulled out State Senate District 22. When I found out that Owens had endorsed Traylor, that was enough to put me on Kopp's side.

Spencer Swalm also seems to have eked out a win in the House 37th. Not sure what remains to be counted, if anything. The Arapahoe County Precincts Reporting number was off all last night, updating without changing the vote totals, sitting at "0" even as thousands of votes rolled in.

August 8, 2006

Primary Night

UPDATE 3: WIth about 3/5 of the vote in, Spencer is edging ahead of Betty Ann. With who knows how much of Arapahoe counted, Dan is within 83 votes of the lead. And with just over 1/3 of his precincts counted, Matt is starting to open a little daylight between himself and Candy Figa.

UPDATE 2: One other race where I've got a sporting interest is the Arapahoe County Treasurer, where my friend Dan Kopelman is running. So far, with almost none of the vote counted, he's down by 129 votes.

UPDATE: Clay reminds me that I'm an idiot. Of course, it's Spencer Swalm.

In four races in which I can't vote, I'm currently running 4-for-5. Hank Johnson took Cynthia McKinney to the woodshed, so to speak, with the voters in my parents' Congressional district apparently deciding that she was too much of an embarassment for them. Again.

Jeff Crank is leading in Colorado's 5th. I can't say I know a ton about the race, but a lot of the right people are supporting Crank, including the local Club for Growth.

Last year's LPR graduate Steve Swalm is beating this year's graduate Betty Ann Habig, with two precincts reporting.

Matt Dunn, another LPR grad and former holder of my seat on Sunday nights, is ahead of Candy Figa (which the Rocky spelled as "Fig") with one precinct reporting.

The only loser is Joe Lieberman. I met Joe personally at the shul we both attended in DC, although he wouldn't remember me. He was a nice guy, who show up at shul to pray, not to gladhand for political support. The world changed there a little bit when he got the VP nomination in 2000, but from all reports, Lieberman didn't big-time anyone during the run.

Sean Hannity's assertion that this is good for conservatives notwithstanding, I think this is a terrible outcome. Perhaps it helps out in the Hosue races in Connecticut. But it energizes a lunatic fringe of the Democratic party, and such movements have a way of being emboldened by this sort of momentum.

Hannity takes it for granted that people will be able to distinguish between the Tom Hayden clones, and the more responsible doubters of the war's conduct. I'm not sure, especially with a media disinclined to draw such distinctions. I'm afraid it will scare even more Republicans into going wobbly on the war effort, at a time when we need to stand together to deal with Iran.

The Democrats have shown exactly zero inclination to take national defense seriously. This sort of a win telegraphs to them that they don't need to.

July 25, 2006

Political Markets Tighten

Well, if you report the good news, you have to report the bad. Otherwise you turn into the MSM without the ad revenue. Like the New York Times.

Tradesports, after having run the Republicans Hold the House contract up to 0.55, has settled back in at even money, and the Iowa Electronic Markets are back to almost even between Hold and Lose. Given that the "Gain" contract is now up to .09, though, it's running 53-47 in favor of the Republicans. I'm not sure that all the people buying that contract know what they're buying, or maybe they just like a 10-1 shot to rise a little in the interim on some unknown news before they dump it.

Right now, if you could short in Iowa Markets, there'd be an arbitrage opportunity there, since the sum of the three contracts is a little over $1.

July 12, 2006

The Political Markets Rebound

Tradesports has the chances of the Republicans retaining the House at 55%, up from an intraday low of 43.2. (The official low of 30 occurred when the contract was trading at about 51, and looks like someone ham-handedly trying to drive the price down.)

The Iowa Electronic Markets have the combined chances of the Republicans holding the majority or gaining seats at 59%, about where they've been for most of the season.

June 29, 2006

The Washington Post Goes Litigator

My friend Peter Baker is following the President around on the campaign trail. This morning's report from a Missouri fundraiser for Senator Jim Talent contains this technically accurate but deeply dishonest paragraph:

Sharpening his rhetoric as the midterm congressional campaign season accelerates, Bush offered a robust defense of his decision to invade Iraq even though, ultimately, no weapons of mass destruction were found, and drew standing ovations for his attacks on those who question his leadership of the war or the fight against terrorists.

The only merit in this sentence is that it so neatly encapsulates the MSM's storyline on Iraq and the politics surrounding it. And the only thing that allows the Post to publish something like this without abject shame is their years-long ostrich-like refusal to publish anything that doesn't fit.

Saying that, "Bush offered a robust defense of his decision to invade Iraq even though, ultimately, no weapons of mass destruction were found," is like saying that, in 1778, Washington defended the Revolution even though there was trade with Mexico, meaning that George III hadn't quite, "cut off trade with all parts of the world."

Never mind that they have been found. Never mind that the WMDs were merely one reason for going to war in the first place. Never mind Iraq's running a pre-war bed-and-breakfast for Islamist terrorists. Never mind the Duelfer Report's findings that Saddam was planning to restart his WMD production after his hos on the Security Council got sanctions lifted. The war was all about WMDs, and the fact that we haven't found Castle Anthrax makes it a failure.

The second half of the sentence is no better. The President takes hits all the time for his "leadership of the war." What he's objecting to here is something very specific - the attempt by politicians to run the war by PERT chart, or at least to score points by appearing to try to do so.

The Post is trying to narrow the focus of the war to a point it can pretend it's won, while broadening the President's presumed response into Ray Bolger.

And no Post political story about the President would be complete without the obligatory Bush-as-Rove's-sock-puppet reference:

In his appearance in this St. Louis suburb, he said directly that some Democrats want to surrender, adopting the more cutting approach of his senior political adviser, Karl Rove.

The fact that this is exactly the take that Congressional Republicans, in one of their few recent moments of lucidity, used exactly the same language is of no moment whatsoever. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This is how the MSM and the Post will make use of the narrative they've established.

June 27, 2006

The Senate Dems' Campaign and National Security

This DSCC fundraising email nominally comes from Al Gore:

The evidence now makes it hard to avoid the conclusion that George Bush has repeatedly and insistently broken the law and the corrupt Republican Congress has shirked its constitutional duty to hold him to account.

In my view, a president who breaks the law poses a threat to the very foundation of our democracy. As Americans with a stake in the future of our country, we must act quickly and decisively. We have less than five months to win the six seats we need to control the Senate -- and pull our country back from the brink of a constitutional crisis.

"In my view, a president who breaks the law poses a threat to the very foundation of our democracy." He may actually believe this. After all, had any Senate Democrat decided to hold the previous President to this standard, Gore might have had the advantages of incumbency without the disadvantages of guilt by association. He probably wouldn't have even needed to campaign in Tennessee.

This email came out several days after the NYT handed over the details of another intelligence program to our enemies. The fact that "the evidence now makes it hard, blah blah blah" would seem to be an indirect reference to the SWIFT program. That absolutely no evidence - not even in the pages of the Times - has been presented to suggest any illegality or abuse in that program, ah, inconveniences him here as little as elsewhere.

Not one Senate Democrat has called for the discontinuation of any of the Big Three: international surveillance, phone call data mining, or financial transaction analysis. The Senate Dems, at least those in leadership, want the political gain of appearing to defend civil rights while realizing that they'll want those programs at their disposal should they gain power. Yet this doesn't stop the DSCC from sending out fundraising emails like this one all but threatening impeachment.

Of course, the notion of an impending Constitutional crisis is ridiculous. The courts are perfectly capable of resolving the legality of these programs, and there's never been even the hint of a suggestion that the Administration is interested in pulling an Andrew Jackson, or even an FDR (to name two Democratic Presidents) on the courts. Gore certainly has some experience in this area, as The closest we've come to a Constitutional crisis in the last 30+ years is the one perpetrated by him and his friend on the Florida Supreme Court.

It's almost enough to make you think they knew Gen. Casey would be briefing the President on a troop draw-down when they proposed one of their own.

June 23, 2006

The Governor, the Tsar, and the Duchess

So with the Democrats stamping their feet and threatening to hold their breath until they turn - er - blue, Governor Owens found time to meet with them yesterday about the proposed immigration special session. Since the Republicans are backing the governor on this one, the Dems really have no leverage. They'd need 15 Republicans to support their call rather than the governor's and that's not going to happen.

The Dems, in the meantime, sound less than sincere in their discomfort with the Court's decision:

Fitz-Gerald questioned whether the legislature has the authority to overturn a court decision. She said she didn't think it was the legislature's role to rubber-stamp flawed ballot questions.

No word on what she thinks of flawed Supreme Court decisions. In a statement that was in the initial Rocky report last night, but later edited out, Romanoff said that they could spend all summer overturning State Supreme Court decisions they didn't like.

So which is it, guys? You don't have the authority, or you don't like the idea?

Since the call defines the parameters of the special session, Owens ostensibly called the meeting to find out what the Dems wanted included. When they asked to include employer enforcement, he pointed out that, along with a number of other Republican bills, the Democratic leadership had killed this one on a party-line vote in committee. (Committee votes are significant precisely because they're a way of killing a bill without a floor vote that might put vulnerable members on the record with an unpopular position.)

The Rocky's reporting on this was less-than-stellar. Initially, they stated as fact that the governor was considering including Republican bills that the Dems had committee-killed. A call to the governor's press office revealed that that was only Fitz-Gerald's interpretation of the conversation. The governor's point was that the Dems had the chance to deal with these issues, and decided not to, so to come back now with a raft of half-baked ideas smacks of playing catch-up.

The Rocky took out that paragraph in this morning's draft, but reporting Sen. Fitz-Gerald's comments as fact without attribution is just sloppy at best, and credulous as worst.

Former Spook Calls It

In From the Cold had this to say about the MSM's treatment of the chemical and biological shells found in Iraq:

The MSM--if it ever gets around to this story--will likely claim that Santorum and Hoekstra are playing politics with intelligence.

From this morning's Washington Post (buried on Page A10):

The intelligence officials also suggested that they were pressured by Hoekstra into declassifying the study in recent weeks. Hoekstra first sought its release June 15 and June 19 and made the request again giving John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, 48 hours to declassify it, according to a senior intelligence official.

In From the Cold does what the Post declines to - describes the way intelligence now operates that makes such pressure necessary:

As a young intelligence officer, I was drilled that important information should make its way up the chain of command as soon as possible. Apparently, things have changed since I left the business. Information that contradicts prevailing judgements can be ignored, or simply buried on an intelligence website--let the customer find out on his own. If members of Congress want information, simply delay your response as long as possible, and provide data only when someone with enough horsepower (in this case, the HPSCI chairman) demands answers. Then, provide only a fraction of what they ask for.

June 20, 2006

The Immigration Debate Expands?

The Republican Study Committee of Colorado is encouraging Governor Owens to expand the terms of his special session to include Official English and proof of citizenship for voting & driving.

The politics are obvious - force the Democrats to take unpopular and unwise positions. It'll be much harder for Romanoff and Fitz-Gerald to bury these issues in committee, and virtually impossible for Democrats in close races to vote against them on the floor. Not if they want to be back in January.

Ken Gordon's already on record opposing proof of citizenship for voting and driver's licenses (which act as id for voting). Now he'll have to vote that way on camera. In the campaign ads, they'll put him in front of a Mexican flag.

The only possible downside is that you give away the issue of the Supreme Court by focusing on substance rather than process.

June 19, 2006

A "New Direction" For Wages?

Let's continue to pretend that the border doesn't exist, while raising the minimum wage!

This is like making the hole at the bottom of the tub larger, while pouring in more water and adding suction at the same time. You're increasing the hiring incentive for US employers, simultaneously reducing their incentive to hire US workers.

Electorally, you get to add numbers both to an oppressed underclass and the idle government dependants. Economically, you get to increase government spending at both ends.

If the Democrats weren't so clearly incompetent, this might actually constitute a plan.

June 6, 2006

Leaving Room For Meddling

As if Democrats weren't already immersed deeply enough in the Republican primary squabble, they're now using the Great Signature Battle as a means to get involved.

A Democratic political group Monday requested documents and communication related to Gov. Bill Owens' appointment of Secretary of State Gigi Dennis to determine if Dennis disqualified gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman for personal gain.

John Willard, spokesman for Clear Peak Colorado, said he filed the public-information request because of rumors that Dennis is a potential running mate of Holtzman's Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez. Owens supports Beauprez.

Gee, who do you think started those rumors? I give you two guesses. Of course, if you guess Clear Peak themselves, it won't help you track down the culprits, since they have yet to file an 8872 with the IRS, leaving their funding a mystery. (Remember that the next time Ken Gordon talks about how it's the job of the Secretary of State to reduce the influence of money in politics. Ask him, "whose money?" and see what kind of answer you get.)

So back to the Democrats. This full-court press on the election process can serve three purposes: 1) discredit Dennis so she can't run with Beauprez; 2) keep her tied down at the Secretary of State's office so she can't run with Beauprez; 3) publicly discredit her as Secretary of State, widening this fall's Margin of Litigation for the Democrats.

Note that this creates a no-win situation for Dennis. If she stays, it calls into question the general election. If she leaves, she enters the race as damaged goods.


Peter Blake has already pointed out that while Ms. Dennis might be a great choice for Beauprez's running-mate (just imagine show tune parody opportunities, for one thing), she'll be busy trying to run elections between now and then. She's almost certainly have to resign for practical and political reasons. (No jokes about Governor Owens appointing Mark Hillman on a temporary basis.)

Holtzman is now claiming to have verified the signatures he needs. Well, good for him, if it's true, but could he at least do it without taking a shot at the Secretary of State?

[Campaign Manager Bob] Gould said Dennis's office cost the campaign valuable time because officials failed to give them all the information they needed.

Blake notes that Dennis gave the campaign "access to the signatures," and, when you sign a petition, don't you also have to write out your signature? What exactly is Holtzman claiming here? By bellyaching about the process, to the extent that anyone is still listening, he's only doing Clear Peak's work for them.

In any case, we're headed for a hearing with Holtzman trying to get uncounted signatures counted, and the Beauprez team trying to throw out previously validated ones.

June 3, 2006

Not Over Yet

Marc Holtzman is preparing to challenge the Secretary of State's ruling that he failed to get enough signatures to make it onto the ballot, and it sounds as though he may have a case.

The Rocky also seemed to miss (or perhaps misunderstand) this piece of information from the Holtzman campaign:

Though we had thousands of signatures collected by volunteers, later in the process, we also had professional petitioners assisting us in certain congressional districts.

That firm has assured us that all of their petitioners were registered Republican voters, however, if those folks were newly registered, that voter information would not yet be registered with the Secretary of State.

This is different from claiming that the signatures weren't valid, so either the Holtzman campaign misunderstood the Secretary of State, or the Rocky did.

In any case, the Beauprez and state Republican officials need to shut up and let Holtzman pursue his cross-checking of names and his challenge. That's what the rules are there for. Claiming victory and calling on Holtzman to back out are somewhat understandable from the standpoint of the campaign. Coming from the party establishment, it just looks like bullying.

June 1, 2006

Holtzman Seems To Fall Short On Signatures

According to the Rocky, Secretary of State Gigi Dennis is prepared to announce this evening that Marc Holtzman has fallen short of the number of signatures needed to petition on to the primary ballot. Holtzman appears ready to challenge the certification process:

Holtzman, a businessman and the former State Secretary of Technology, promised to continue fighting.

"We will challenge this all the way up to the Supreme Court of Colorado," Holtzman said. "We believe we've dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't.' We produced more than double the number of signatures statewide."


Holtzman immediately vowed to gather 1,500 signatures from each of Colorado's seven congressional districts, 10,500 in all, to win a spot in the primary that way.

My guess is that there's as much chance of 50% of the signatures being invalid as there is of me being elected Pope. What almost certainly happened was that Holtzman fell below the statistical sampling threshhold in one or more specific Congressional districts, quite possibly the First. It's a district where I suspect Holtzman's support was thinnest, and also has a disproportionately low number of Republicans to canvas.

Beauprez's campaign issued a statement reading:

Marc has run a spirited campaign and I have appreciated his contribution to the debate," said Beauprez. "I look forward to working with Marc to ensure a united Republican Party and a victory this fall."

"I'm gratified and excited to be the Republican nominee and we're looking forward to a positive, issue-based campaign with our Democrat opponent in this race," concluded Beauprez.

Wouldn't hold your breath on that last bit, Bob.

In the meantime, stay tuned...

The Loyal Opposition Replies

In response to my posting below, Jeffrey Sherman, a plaintiff in the case, has sent the following reply:

I am a longtime reader and admirer of your blog, but I think you are incorrect in your post on the DRE lawsuit. I am one of the plaintiffs. I am a registered Republican. I consider myself a hard-core conservative (I can't call myself a Christian conservative because I am Jewish). I voted for and contributed money to President Bush (though not enough money to be disclosed). I became aware of this suit because a friend, whom I would describe as a very serious conservative, is the lead associate at Wheeler Trigg working on this matter.

There is no question that there are liberal-left participants in this suit, too. Perhaps they think there is some short-term advantage to having accurate elections. I can't say I know with certainty what motivates them. I do know that I joined as a plaintiff because I think the accuracy of elections is of critical importance (hopefully this is why my liberal-left co-plaintiffs joined this suit, too). Because I believe conservative ideas are ultimately more persuasive, I want to make sure that the votes of those people who vote for conservative candidates will be counted. Conservatives have been victims of election fraud for too long--dating back to the days of machine politics up through John Thune's (probably fraudulent) loss in 2000 against Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Further, the bogus nonsense about the "stolen" 2000 presidential election does no one any good. It is clear from the media recounts that President Bush would have won whether the Supreme Court stepped in or not. Having new DRE election systems that are subject to tampering and not easily subject to audit will only increase the incentive to cheat or to claim that elections were "stolen."

I was initially skeptical of participating due to the nature of some of the other participants. But, after some research, I think the proposed systems are too badly flawed and fail to meet statutory standards. Further, based on the information I have been given, the Secretary of State's office has patently failed to take the steps required under the Colorado statutes to validate the machines. I am not naïve enough to think that a lawsuit (or even legislation) can eliminate voter fraud, which has probably existed since elections have existed, nor do I favor an active judiciary that legislates voting methods. I simply want the state to abide by its own statutory mandate.

Those of us who are plaintiffs in the suit entered into a joint representation agreement that contains a Statement of Principles Regarding DRE Voting System Litigation. The principles state, inter alia, that "The fundamental right to vote means that each Colorado voter has the right to cast his or her vote in private and to have his or her vote fairly and accurately recorded and counted in a free and open election...The fundamental right to vote means that the methods, machines or systems used to record, compile, count, audit or recount votes shall be secure, accurate, verifiable and accessible to all Colorado voters." This seems to me to be not particularly controversial or partisan in nature.

Finally, I agree with you regarding requiring voters to present identification.

I sympathize with Jeffrey's position, and believe that his desire for an accurate count is clearly, indisputably correct, as far as it goes. My contention is that it doesn't go nearly far enough in order to avoid the impression that there's more at work here on the part of Mr. Finley and his attorneys.

I believe that this lawsuit is an attempt to discredit voting systems in an attempt to preserve a "margin of litigation," within which Democrats can file lawsuits challenging the results of close elections which they lose. Given the role that Democrats have played in opposing ID requirements, for instance, my faith in their desire for accurate elections is, shall we say, faint.

I would point out that it is not merely "some participants," but the organization sponsoring the various state lawsuits, and the firm leading the charge are well to the left of liberal. I don't have time to discuss all the points of the lawsuit right here, but will try to do so on Sunday, after Shavuot.

It's significant that the Florida 2000 case is best dealt with not by joining lawsuts such as this, but rather by arguing the facts of the case, which clearly support Bush. If the basis of this suit is the Myth Of Florida 2000, joining such a suit perpetuates, rather than refutes, that myth. It's also significant that it was a paper-ballot, punch card system, a "old-style" system with a theoretically verifiable paper trail, that led to election officials searching the surface of ballots with laser beams for dimples in order to determine "voter intent."

It's also true that the statement regarding the "fundamental right to vote" omits any mention of the equally fundamental right not to have my vote diluted by illegal voting. It's an open secret in Colorado that nursing home employees "help" their charges fill out their absentee ballots without the required dual-party supervision of the process. That this is the time-honored method by which the Democrats have stolen elections in the past (See Washington State Governor 2004, South Dakota Senate 2000, New York City Mayor 1989, Chicago any year) would suggest that a conservative should insist on equal billing. If that's not the basis of the suit, conservatives should be willing to file their own lawsuits demanding suitable precautions.

I understand why the need for an accurate count is a bipartisan issue. I just don't think this is the suit that will ensure fair elections.

May 31, 2006

Pre-Emptive Election Strike

What is it with Democrats and voting equipment? They seem reflexively opposed to any technology where they can't stick a pencil lead under the clerk's fingernails to, ah, prevent undercounts. Or where the dials can't be, you know, nudged up a little bit before opening.

Now, a Denver law firm is suing nine county clerks over the choice of voting machines for this fall's elections. Because of HAVA and ADA, the number of voting machines out there to choose from is severely limited. (ADA, for instance, requires that the voter can't be given any assistance in voting whatsoever, aside from maybe tilting the machine for him. This in a state where party operatives take bulk delivery of absentee ballots for their Alzheimer's-afflicted nursing home residents.)

The lawyers say they represent a "diverse nonpartisan group of Colorado voters seeking to protect the integrity and purity of elections." The legal action seeks to block the purchase or use of Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, and Hart InterCivic touch-screen computerized voting systems. The lawyers say the systems have a well-documented history of problems with security, reliability, verifiability, and disability access.

Named defendants in the complaint include Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis and the boards of county commissioners of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer and Weld counties.

The Colorado suit is being supported by Voter Action, a nonprofit that provides legal, research, and logistical support for grassroots efforts surrounding elections. Voter Action is supporting similar efforts in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states.

Sure, they're non-partisan. Voter Action is non-partisan like Jim Jeffords is non-partisan. Here's the bio for Lowell Finley:

Lowell Finley, Esq., Berkeley, California. Mr. Finley has practiced election law for over 20 years. He is one of the few attorneys in the nation with experience litigating electronic voting issues, having successfully sued Diebold Election Systems, Inc. in a California False Claims Act case that resulted in a $2.6 million settlement. Past cases include blocking newly-elected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from soliciting or using special interest campaign contributions to repay an illegal $4 million personal loan; representation of the California Assembly in redistricting cases before the California and United States Supreme Courts; winning ballot access for Chinese-American candidates in San Francisco and successfully suing an Orange County, California candidate for hiring uniformed security guards to intimidate Hispanic voters at the polls. Mr. Finley is a founding member and past president (1992) of the California Political Attorneys Association.

And for John Boyd, their legal advisor:

John Boyd, Esq., Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Hollander, Goldberg & Cline, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Boyd has been practicing civil rights litigation, first amendment litigation, constitutional law and election law in Albuquerque for over 25 years. Mr. Boyd represented the Democratic Party of New Mexico in the “voter i.d.” litigation that preceded the 2004 election and has participated on behalf of Democrats in redistricting litigation. He has handled a number of cases as a cooperating attorney with the ACLU. He and his partner, Nancy Hollander, are currently representing the Santa Fe-based Uniao Do Vegetal in its free exercise of religion law suit which is now pending before the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Finley contributed - albeit not very heavily - during the 2004 election cycle to both John Kerry and Mr. Boyd contributed to the Senate Campaign of Jeff Bingaman, one of the more liberal Senators going, and $2000 indirectly to the Kerry campaign. (It's unclear as to whether this is the same John Boyd who contributed to Republican Nancy Wilson's campaign in 1998, but six years is enough time to change your mind.) His partner Nancy Hollander also contributed to Bingaman's campaign. Altogether, employyees of Freedman, et. al. contributed almost $17000 since 2002 to various Democratic PACs, candidates, and party organizations, $0 to Republicans.

Likewise, employees of Wheeler Trigg Kennedy, who specialize in corporate shakedowns, have collectively contributed $5200 to Democrats, $1000 to Republicans, all in the 2004 election cycle. This include $3000 from the case's lead attorney, Paul Hultin, $500 of which went to the Kerry 2004 "If It's Close In Ohio, We Can Cheat," fund.

I'm all in favor of double-entry bookkeeping when it comes to electronic voting machines, too, but remember that these are the same people who think that asking for ID amounts to voter intimidation. I suspect this is an ongoing effort to deligitimize elections in general, throwing more and more of them into the courts on a very selective basis.

CORRECTION: I have been reliably informed that the firm does not specialize in suing firms, but rather in defending them. I clearly jumped the gun in misinterpreting the information on their website.

May 30, 2006

More Reading For The Insta-Daughter

Inspired by Glenn Reynolds's search for reading material for his daughter, I managed to dig up Harry Reid's Journey, Harry Reid, Inc., and Harry Reid's Think Tank (Search Inside the Book here, here and here).

Happy Reading, Miss Reynolds!

May 26, 2006

Assembly Notes & Aftermath

Next time, someone needs to write a religious exemption clause into the rules. Unless I can't avoid it, I really try to keep religious issues from becoming someone else's problem. This time, there wasn't much choice.

It started with the ID requirement. Staying at a hotel a mile away from the Arena, well outside the Colorado Springs eruv, I couldn't carry my license to the hall. I called the County Chairman. I called the state party. No dice. I spoke to the communications director, who suggested that I might, "bend the rules." I suggested that they weren't mine to bend, and that she might consider taking her own advice. Eventually, Clay kindly offered to drive my id over to the convention hall.

Ah, but that was only the beginning. When I got there, I was surprised to find hundreds, thousands of Republican party activists and delegates dressed like - Democrats. T-shirts, shorts, jeans. I generally figure that important civic duties demand dressing the part, but I was politely informed that, in general, only candidates wore suits. I'll remember that, lest next time, someone try to nominate me for something, and I end up having to whisper the speech into ear of someone who can use a microphone on Saturdays.

The actual check-in wasn't too bad. An ID. A name. They found my Certified Credential (tm), and off I went into the gaping maw of the political furnace.

The thing was held at the World Arena, Colorado Springs's answer to, well, the DC Armory, maybe the Capital Centre. The whole top level, usually dominated by soft drink vendors, was dominated by soft drink vendors, petition-hawkers, sticker stickerers, and groups handing out new free newspapers. (Cost Control Hint: you're reading this online.)

This year, in order to make sure that they could find all the alternates, they had actual assigned seating. I think that's the first time they've done that. Organizational Hint #1: If you're going to use assigned seats, use the row and section numbers that the space already has. Otherwise, you end up printing maps flipping sections 4 and 6 and confusing everyone. Hint #2: If you aren't going to take advantage of inherited experience, don't let one of the campaigns set up their own poles with their own numbers on them.

I arrived in the hall just in time for "The National Anthem: The Dance Mix." Now I know we're the Party of Patriotism, and that up in Greeley, they were probably singing the Internationale and medleys of old Grange Songs to pictures of Big Bill Heyward, featuring a special satellite feed of Hugo Chavez. But that's no reason to play someone's American Idol audition tape (what, a live singer wasn't in the budget?).

So after we finally got settled, it was the parade of elected officials nominating other elected officials for different elected offices. I particularly liked John Suthers's bloc of time. His daughter accused him of not knowing the words to any songs written after 1975 (I've got him beat by about 20 years), and then Suthers's wife showed up in a pant-suit that, well, Suthers probably knew the lyrics to. Mothballs are a wonderful thing. Also, memo to Bob Beauprez: pumping your arms once is energizing; doing it twice looks like you're shooting your cuffs.

There was a certain amount of back-and-forth between the Holzman and Beauprez campaigns, with the Beauprez people re-enacting the Charge of the Light Brigade into their opponents' confetti cannons.

And then, on to the voting.

Actually, on to the waiting. You've heard plenty about the certification process (and the certifiable delegates it produced). The people who had it worst were the alternates. As a Certified Delegate (tm), I could wander about at will, confident that when Denver was finally called, Shabbat might be over. Poor Ben, who did get to vote, more or less sat rooted to his spot so his hog-caller of an assistant to the County Chairman could be sure to find him.

Every once in a while, someone from the Credentials Committee would come out and tell us that Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead.

Fortunately, I was able to pass the time amiably with a few of the several hundred LPR members and graduates who were there. I counted at least 16 class members, which is a quarter of the current class, and who knows how many alumni. At least a couple of them thought it was funny when I feigned surprise that the governor wasn't in Greeley with his new friends, and pointed out that he was wearing an appropriately purple tie.

That was until I realized that not having signed the register on the way in might be a problem. That is, I might get to the ballot station, only to be told that my ID and my Certified Credential (tm) weren't enough. I hurried back to the credentialing station, and looked for someone to sign the register in my name. Eventually: "Oh, sure, I can sign for you. I understand completely. My name's Gabriel Schwartz." *Sigh*. Oy. You see, I can't have another Jew sign for me on Shabbat, because then I'm encouraging another Jew to break Shabbat. Non-Jews have no such obligation, although the rules about asking them to do things are kind of tricky. Eventually, we got someone to sign, with a little notation that it wasn't actually me, which is why the handwriting wouldn't match.

And then, back to the waiting.

Eventually, they called Denver, Larimer, and El Paso counties. Organization Note #3, #4, #5: don't put lines for three of the most delegate-laden counties at the same end of the hall, with the only way out being the way you came. How we managed to get the lines to move without actually passing delegates over our heads to the back of the line remains a mystery of physics.

Ah, the front of the line. The Promised Land. I can see my ballot from here. Organization Note #6: If you're going to make delegates sign again to receive their ballots, please have a religious exception next time. When I suggested that, having seen the ID and the Certified Credential (tm), she could just go ahead and sign my name and nobody would know or care, the El Paso County election official started looking around like a terrorist who had just been assured by President Logan that everything was under control and that Jack Bauer would soon be "taken care of." So, while the delegates streamed around me getting their ballots, voting, and leaving behind a convention full of memories, I stood there waiting for further permission.

One of my LPR class members helped me vote, and then another delegate, with whom I served as an election judge, agreed to drive my ID back to the hotel. When you've been shomer Shabbat for 15 years, you forget that it's a weekly occurrence completely unlike anything that someone who's not Jewish would ever experience.

Most of the time, "I can't do x," is enough, and as long as you're not jerking people around, they're very willing to help out. So here's a thanks to Clay, Ben, Phyllis, Denise, Carolyn, and the unnamed party officials who made sure that the signatures got where they were needed. And kudos to Geoff Blue for being the one non-Jew I've ever met who knew what an eruv was.

(Here's the on-one-foot explanation: on Shabbat, we're not allow to do "work." "Work" in this case, means anything that was done in the construction of the Temple. There are 39 categories of work, and the relevant ones last week were carrying and writing.)

So that's it. And you can guess what I'll be putting down on the party's Convention Survey form.

If Atlas Shrugged Were About Oil... would look like this.

Clear Peak Colorado, a committee that backs Democratic candidates for the state legislature, plans to launch a series of automated phone calls to voters this weekend.

"As you pay record prices for gas this holiday weekend, remember that some of your hard-earned money is paying for partisan politics," the caller says.

The calls claim that Republicans are using oil-and-gas industry money to pay for attacks on Democrats.

"The Republicans have let big oil off the hook for cleaner air and tougher drilling standards. The high gas prices go from your pocket to the Republicans and back to the pump again," the call says.

Talk about the grease calling the oil black. Someone needs to make calls to parents describing how Democrats are using state funds to attack Republicans over schools. Of course, that would take a Republican leadership with the onions to take on the teachers' unions and the lefty non-profits bellying up to the Ref C trough.

Never mind that it's excessive and poorly-designed clean-air regulation, along with bizarre drilling standards that are at least partly responsible for $2.64 gas to begin with. Federal clean-air regulation mandates that several dozen mixes of fuel be sold, balkanizing the refining and transportation process, preventing plants from substituting for each other when they go offline, and creating semi-annual switchover price spikes. Combine that with decades-old offshore drilling restrictions, and you're doing a masterful job of vertically integrating your supply-chain strangulation.

Not that the Post isn't sympathetic:

Already this year, Owens vetoed House Bill 1309, which would have let the state adopt tougher clean-air standards.

"Already!" The legislature has adjourned, and won't be back until there's a new governor, but the Post wants you to think that Owens is ready to run a drilling rig through the middle of the state capitol, and put a refinery in City Park, providing employment displacing the homeless there.

Thereafter follows a list of Trailhead donors who exhale dangerous carbon dioxide greenhouse gases. Including Pete Coors who has had run-ins in the past with state officials over air pollution. Coors, the Post may not remember, actually ran for Senate as a Republican two years ago, at the, ah, suggestion of Owens and Benson. So naturally he's contributing to a Republican party-building 527 because of air pollution.

Bad politics. Bad journalism. Bad economics. The triple threat.

I'm From The Democrats And I'm Here To Help You

When you're enemies are standing on a ledge, preparing to commit suicide, don't interfere. You might even give them a little push. It's better still if you can get a crowd to start chanting, "Jump, Jump, Jump!"

Marc Holtzman's campaign submitted 21,000 signatures yesterday to petition onto the August 8 primary ballot. Him, and his New Best Friend, Democratic campaign attorney Mark Grueskin:

"I don't like it when party bosses tell people not to run," Grueskin said. "It rubs me the wrong way."

Really? That must be why he represented the teachers' unions in their fight to use forcibly-extracted union dues to violate Colorado campaign law. Because after all, we wouldn't want to tell people what to do. (Ben's all over this.)

What really rubs him the wrong way are the words, "Governor Beauprez."

Grueskin has a history of helping sides in Republican intra-party battles (see here for 2004's edition; we know how the elections turned out that year).

Between one side sounding like Democrats, and the other actually hiring them, this is starting to look like the northern Italians inviting in Napoleon to help settle things down.

May 25, 2006

State Party Registration Changing

Dan Haley, in the Denver Post a few weeks ago, noticed a shift in the party registration patterns, but buried the lead for the sake of a clever and misleading dig at Republicans:

Where have all the Republicans gone? Their once commanding voter registration edge in Colorado has slipped a bit over the past two years as this red state continues to show streaks of purple.

Of course, the real story is either major party but rather, neither major party:

The rest of Haley's story eventually gets there. But Colorado has always voted purple. Tim Wirth. Gary Hart. Roy Romer. Dick "Duty to Die" Lamm. The aggregate Republican vote for the state legislaure has been slipping for a decade, but has certainly accelerated under the late-term stewardship of Bill "Purple Tie" Owens.

By the way, what's with the hump in the middle of the registration numbers? Certainly there were voter registration drives just before the '04 elections. The decline was a purge of dead and expat voters that had lingered on past their time. Hundreds of thousands of voters.

A statewide voter registration database is still in the works, running years behind schedule. In the meantime, out of state deaths and moves aren't reported back to our Secretary of State.

But Ken Gordon's not worried about voter fraud.

May 23, 2006

Difficult Decision

Marc Holtzman had a chance to run a campaign of ideas, as he said, and that in order to get taken seriously, he believed he had to play tougher than I would have, or than I thought was necessary. Trying to paint Bob Beauprez as a liberal in Republican clothing was always a mistake.

(That Beauprez's campaign, and some 527s supposedly on his side, have responded by making banking sound like a crime and trying to play guilt-by-association, rather than winning by taking the high road, is well beside the point. Bob Beauprez is no liberal. Could a softie on immigration get Tom Tancredo's endorsement? Really. And now, by standing up to the purple-tie-wearing Owens on the issue of the Ref C overage, Beauprez is showing some of the real spine he'll need to win the general and to govern effectively.)

There was a case to be made - that Beauprez, by blessing Ref C with faint condemnation, by backing Roy Blunt in the first round of the House leadership contest, by taking full advantage of earmarks and pork, is more like Romney than Reagan. It might not have stuck, but there was a case there.

In the process of making that case, Holtzman could have done what he did manage to do - force the Beauprez camp to talk about issues they'd rather have avoided. And he could have done so far less destructively than he has.

Let's leave aside the process issues for the moment. I do think it's poor form to make a big deal of the Assembly, and then, after having the argument in the press, insult the delegates and claim the process was meaningless and rigged against you. ("No, my dog didn't bite you, and anyway, that's not my dog.") Holtzman has had six months to make his case to the party activists, and he couldn't pull 30% in a two-man race. I do not see any reason to think he can win a primary that, if anything, is weighted more heavily to the regulars than the caucus process is. Remember, activists scare the regulars a little bit.

So now, Bob Martinez has asked. Now, 31 Republicans, legislators and candidates have asked.

What they don't understand is that when a man is running against a party establishment, and is in it this deep, there's almost nothing that that establishment can do or say that's persuasive to him. He needs to hear it from close friends and people who've been with him the whole way, not people who were suspicious of him from the start. (This means close friends, not Jewish bloggers who've been sympathetic to the idea of his candidacy.) Ending a campaign before every last option is played out is tremendously difficult; it feels like a personal failure, compounded by a personal failure of nerve.

But if Marc Holtzman wants to play Ronald Reagan's role in 1976, to introduce conservative ideas back into the party discourse, and to be a player in 2010, he should step aside, salvage the many relationships he has within the party, and do the hard work of organizing conservatives within the party over the next four years. Those people exist, and they're hungry for a legislative majority and a Republican governor.

Coming to them as the spoiler who cost them both is a complete non-starter.

Coming to them as a guy who can offer them ideas, hard work, and a pipeline to conservative voters is another matter altogether.

Salazar Gets One Right

No, the other Salazar. John Salazar of the 3rd Congressional district. He voted to lift the decades-old ban on offshore drilling in all but a few places. (Naturally DeGette got it wrong, preferring instead to take my money to pay for someone else's heating.)

Gee, now there's a novel idea. Responding to supply-and-demand issues by increasing supply. Maybe it has something to do with the energy poll results from his Congressional website.

Of course, there's this, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

Congressman Salazar remains committed to protecting the environment which is why he opposed the “energy bill” devised by the Bush Administration and oil companies that put profits first and threatens natural preserves and Alaskan wildlife. Rather than promoting oil drilling into our precious lands, Congressman Salazar is a leading proponent for renewable energy sources.

So if Salazar is for drilling elsewhere, but opposes it close to home, what does that say about him? Moreover, if that's what the DCCC chooses to emphasize, what does that say about their energy "policy?"

(Hat Tip:, now comforably Blogrolled.)

May 21, 2006

Long Day

Clay and Ben have already posted on the day's events at the State Assembly. I'll have a somewhat, er, unique perspective up on Sunday.

The quick hits:

  1. I was surprised, given the crowd reaction, that Holtzman polled almost 30%.
  2. The voting rules, adopted in reaction to a badly mangled 2004 Assembly, went overboard
  3. 1 & 2 may have been connected; Beauprez delegates, believing the matter in hand, may have been more willing to walk away from a 3-hour credentialing process
  4. The LPR owns this thing
  5. There's no way that the Holtzman campaign can credibly claim they were cheated, at least not to anyone there
  6. There are a surprising number of Republicans willing to help a guy with a yarmulke keep Shabbat

I'll expand on this, and then we'll also have a chance to grill both campaigns tomorrow night.

May 19, 2006

Ken Gordon's Strange Math

The Democrats want to amend the Constitution without having to amend it. In support of that proposition, another strange claim by Ken Gordon during our interview was that, "if John Kerry had gotten 60,000 more votes in Ohio," he would have been elected while losing the popular vote.

I guess they figure if they keep repeating this, it'll stick. The Ohio margin was 120,000 votes, not 60,000. Sixty thousand people would have had to change their votes, which is a very different thing. If 60,000 people had voted differently in Ohio, they surely would have done so elsewhere, probably making the question moot. And if New Hampshire, which was both smaller and more closely-run than Ohio, had gone the other way, Ohio wouldn't have mattered.

Look, almost every Presidential election is like this. Take a look at the map for 1976. Jimmy Carter won the national popular vote by 2 points. He won 297 electoral votes. So a swing of 29 electoral votes would have swung the election to Ford. Carter won Ohio by 11,000 votes, and Alabama (yes, that Alabama) by 15,000. So by cherry-picking 13,000 votes in those two states, Ford would have won the election while losing the popular vote.

Funny how 1976 never gets mentioned. Maybe if Ford had tried to sue his way back into office...

Colorado's Governor (and Candidates)... learn something from Missouri:

... Medicaid spending was hard to ignore. It covered 16 percent of Missourians and took up 31 percent of the state budget. Blunt decided to investigate the program, deny benefits to those who were ineligible, and tighten the qualifications. He knew he'd be attacked, but the assault was worse than expected. It lasted for most of 2005. "He had his butt kicked over Medicaid," Feather says. Medicaid's share of the state budget, however, has shrunk to 29 percent.

By not flinching, Blunt made himself something of a hero to Missouri Republicans. They tend to gush. "I always come back to the word courage when I think of Matt Blunt," says Dan Mehan, the president of the Missouri chamber of commerce. "He's taken some positions that require a lot of guts," says Mike Gibbons, majority leader in the state senate.

Read the whole thing. Then ask yourself what the hell Bill Owens thinks he's doing.

May 18, 2006

Intramural Wrestling

Good grief:

An intern for the Holtzman campaign, Laura Mendenhall, tried to block a Beauprez staffer, Jory Taylor, from videotaping the event. That outraged the Beauprez campaign, which says it routinely tapes such forums.

"They were shoving him out of the way," said John Marshall, a spokesman for Beauprez. "They totally accosted him. This is just junior high school stuff. It's disappointing and juvenile and not befitting a campaign for the highest office in Colorado."

A spokesman for Holtzman said Mendenhall had made "a rookie mistake" and gotten carried away. "She's very protective of Marc," said Jesse Mallory.


Mallory said the Holtzman campaign apologized for the incident.

"We're sorry the girls in our campaign beat up the boys in their campaign," he said.

That's a very funny line, although there's probably some group out there representing roller derby participants asking for an apology because, after all, why shouldn't girls beat up boys?

Still, it seems that the Holtzman campaign has lost its cool - collectively or individually - before, and that they're making a lot of these rookie mistakes. The press is a little forgiving because, well, it's Republicans beating up other Republicans, and while that may make for good copy, there's no point in taking sides in the other guys' fight. The nominee isn't going to get the same breaks when it's Bill Ritter up there bloviating about photographers.

And notice something else. The debate was supposed to be about returning Ref C dollars that the Ref C campaign said it didn't need but has now discovered that if the state doesn't keep, we're all going to find ourselves leaving for a better life in northern Mexico.

The only substantive ink on the proposal went to Ritter.

So while the Beauprez campaign is helping the Holtzman campaign make headlines with tactics, the Democrats get to make their case. Sure, the reporter could have demoted the scuffle to a line or two, and written a story about the issue, but this was so much more fun, and why give him the excuse?

Nice going, guys.

May 17, 2006

If You Don't Elect Them, They Can't Cheat

On Sunday, I had the chance to interview Democratic State Senator Ken Gordon, who's running for Secretary of State - chief elections officer - this fall. A couple of things stood out.

First, on the subject of illegals registering to vote, Gordon didn't seem particularly concerned about being pro-active, and stated that only once a threat was seen, should we bother to do anything about it. Secondly, on the subject of vote fraud, he seemed willing to support the notion of ID - contrary to what was implied in this article.

(Gordon's article also pooh-poohs concerns about people voting in more than one place, even though this was a concern at a the time in at least one (or two) specific races. Colorado also has a substantial number of people with second homes in New Mexico or Arizona, potentially replicating the problem of Florida acting as New York's sixth borough in more ways than one. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask him about this problem.)

Fortunately, Gordon's tacit support of Common Cause came to naught fairly decisively.

What really struck me was a seeming lack of familiarity with the issues. On illegals voting, he stated that requiring proof of citizenship would have a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics. Possibly on Hispanics, but only on those who aren't citizens. In fact, a driver's license would work well in this state. Colorado requires not only another state's driver's license when moving here, but also a full social security number or proof of rejection when applying for a social security number. That's not foolproof, but it's a system that would require the cooperation of a large number of people for an extended period of time to game.

More importantly, despite his support for IDs to vote, he seemed unaware that merely providing that last four digits of a social security number was enough to constitute ID. With no current statewide vote database, there's almost no way for the clerks to effectively check them. Moreover, someone could show up at the county clerk's office, on Election Day, and with emergency registration, provide their locker combination, be registered, and then turn around and vote on a machine. Not provisionally. On a machine. Because the county clerk's office in Denver will be a vote center.

I managed to find out the current holes in the system through a 30-minute conversation with Denver election officials, and a little digging on the web. You'd think that someone who wanted to be responsble for the integrity of elections could be bothered to know at least as much.

You can listen to the interview through the links below. The first segment is basically John quizzing Gordon about the just-finished legislative session. The second segment we get started on vote fraud. The third segment continues on vote fraud, but also has Gordon getting a little testy over his attempts to circumvent the Constitution.

Segment 1
Segment 2
Segment 3

May 16, 2006

The President And Immigration II

Another quick hit here.

This represents a massive failure of leadership on the President's part. He could have faced down both Vincente Fox - who has no vote - and Tom Tancredo, who does. Instead, he's left the door open for the Democrats to paint the issue as one of living standards, make businesses the bad guys, and then to combine the issue with protectionism.

At this point, the Democratic party stands for economic populism of the most destructive kind - raise taxes, control gas prices, slap tariffs on China, prevent existing energy alternatives, and increase entitlements. The President is at risk of giving them the room to sell border security on protectionist lines, opening up debates that should have been settled in the 1970s.

May 2, 2006

Beauprez's Principles

The Rocky Mountain News has a fine editorial this morning about the intra-party mess that Beauprez is making of the primary:

Colorado law says no person may "knowingly" make a false statement "designed to affect the vote" for anyone running for public office.

We have a somewhat different take on this matter.

If Holtzman wants to employ someone who lies to the press in such brazen fashion, that's his business. Journalists will adjust their reports depending on whether they feel they can trust anything he now says. For some, the answer will be no.

But as for there being an obligation to fire Leggitt, that's nonsense. The Colorado law is - or at least should be - unconstitutional. You can't outlaw false campaign rhetoric, intentional or not. Indeed, we can hardly think of anything more destructive to free speech than inviting courts to rule on political truthfulness and honesty.

Then this, on the "substantive" complaint:

Holtzman appeared in a TV ad attacking Ref C, a 2005 issue campaign in which there were no contribution limits. But those ads did not mention he was running for governor. Why shouldn't a candidate enjoy the same free-speech rights to support or oppose a statewide referendum as any other citizen - whether or not it elevates his public profile?

It's bad enough these laws are on the books. It's worse when a Republican betrays party principle and uses them for their intended purpose - to squelch political opposition.

May 1, 2006

Beauprez v. Holtzman

Am I the only one who notices the multiple ironies in a conservative Republican, ah, encouraging, cough, other conservative Republicans to attack a third conservative Republican using campaign finance laws none of us likes, over his opposition to taxes that, nominally at least, we all opposed?

I'm not the biggest Dick Leggitt fan in the world. But Beauprez has done nothing but confirm his image as someone willing to fight on the politics, but not on the ideas. The fact is, he's tried to short-circuit things at every level, to his and the party's detriment. If he had simply fought a stand-up fight on the issues, he would almost certainly have won the primary vote, regardless of what happened at convention in a few weeks.

Instead, he send out emails with taglines like this:

Prior to his arrival in Colorado, Marc Holtzman was an international financier where, according to his campaign, he "made millions off investments in Eastern Europe."

I know that farmers don't much like bankers, except when they happen to be bankers, but this sounds more appropriate for today's May Day festivities than for an intramural battle among people who know something about how wealth gets created.

The final irony is that in fighting this way, Beauprez is helping to re-open the Schaffer-Coors wounds from two years ago, and to make the primary fight as damaging as he and his supporters predicted when they asked for our support at the outset.

April 30, 2006

MSM Still Passing Gas

MSNBC's First Read continued its obsession with gas prices to the exclusion of, well, all other economic news this past week. A rough word-count of economic reporting on First Read's blog shows that of 3500 words devoted to economics, 3250 were about gas prices. This does not include a Monday posting ostensibly about the Dahab bombing that spent the second paragraph talking about oil prices.

Ironically, First Read is aware of the problem, even if they don't know that they know. On Friday:

Asked in the April 21-24 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll who is most responsible for high gas prices, 37% of those polled say the oil companies are most responsible. Oil-producing nations rank second at 22%, while only 15% lay the most blame at President Bush's feet and 4% say Congress bears the most responsibility.

While on both Tuesday and Wesnesday:

...unstable relations with Iran and political instability in Nigeria seem to be the primary drivers of the price of oil.

Gee. I wonder where people are getting this idea that ExxonMobil is wearing the oil-soaked black hat here?

MSBNC "First Read" Issues Correction

Last week, we noted how MSNBC's First Read blog had reprinted the New York Daily News's misquote of a CNN poll about how oil prices were affecting families. In the poll, 23% said that gas prices were having a "severe effect," 46% said they were having a "moderate effect." The Daily News and First Read both reported 69% under the "severe effect" label.

On Friday, in response to my email, First Read issued the following correction:

On Tuesday, we quoted a New York Daily News article, which cited a CNN poll showing that 69% indicate gas prices are causing them severe hardship. However, the actual poll finds that 69% say these prices are causing them "hardship", not "severe hardship."

To their credit, the correction was given about the same prominence as the original report - at the end of their long, daily commiseration about gas prices.

It's not a perfect correction; they probably should have noted the difference between "severe" and "moderate," for instance. But Ms. Wilner replied promptly and without attempting to make excuses.

April 27, 2006

It's Official

I finally got mail confirmation from the county party that, following a family tradition (see left), I will be a delegate to the State Republican Convention on May 20. Uncle Joe and I actually had a number of - spirited - political conversations when I was 14 and helped in my own small way to get Ronald Reagan elected President.

Naturally, since the convention is on Shabbat - even a local evangelical minister couldn't understand why they couldn't do these things on Sunday - I'll stay there in a hotel nearby, so I'll get a chance to file a report Saturday night.

Also, apparently the state party charges Denver $15 a head for its delegates for some reason, so I'll need to send a check there. Am I the only one who thinks it's just a very little dumb to put the County Republican HQ on Birch St.? Didn't Bill Buckley work very hard to get rid of those guys?

April 25, 2006

A Little Trent's A Lott

Trent Lott was just on Sean Hannity explaining why every time he opens his mouth he gets further away from succeeding Bill Frist and closer and closer to being the ranking minority member on whatever committee assignment he gets.

Look, I know gas prices are high. I pay for gas, too. But to try to argue that there's collusion at the highest levels because when you drive down the street, the prices are all near each other must be to come from a state that can see oil wealth but didn't have enough sense to lure it across state lines. Oil and gasoline are commodities, meaning that they compete on price, that there's no basic difference between the competitors.

Once again, it needs to be said that the oil companies don't set gas prices.

Lott also played the robber-oil-baron class-warfare card. Has he actually bothered to do the arithmetic? Does he really think that if every oil company CEO worked for $1 a year it would save me more than that dollar over the whole year?

Here are two suggestions that Senator Lott might want to try out. First: let the oil companies actually make a profit so they have something to reinvest in exploration and drilling and all those alternative energy sources they'll need to stay in business when the well runs dry. (Corollary: let them actually invest it in those things.)

Second: you, too, can share in the wealth by buying oil company stock. These stocks pay dividends. The Dow Jones US Oil & Gas Index is up something like 35% over the last year. Over the last 3 years, it's up about 100%. If you want to shield yourself against the high price of gas, maybe think about buying oil stocks, and sharing in the wealth.

No, I didn't do that, I'm afraid. But then, I'm not whining about greedy profiteering, colluding oil CEOs, either.

April 12, 2006

NBC's Political Director Fabricates Own Poll Results

This morning's NBC "First Read," ostensibly an analysis by NBC News's Political Director Elizabeth Wilner (and others), lies about the contents of an NBC/WSJ Poll:

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and other surveys continue to show that Americans have little appetite for extending the tax cuts in the face of more pressing domestic concerns -- including energy prices.

The poll contains exactly two questions about taxes. By a 49-29 margin, respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate favoring "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent." And by a 56-39 margin, respondents support the tax cuts (Question 18). Gas prices do not show up on the list of questions. The only support for Wilner's comment is that by a 49-19 margin, people asked are more likely to vote for someone who "emphasizes domestic issues over military and foreign policy issues," leaving those issues completely unspecified.

By the way, "favors tighter controls on illegal immigration" wins 71-11, the largest more-likely/less-likely result of any split. Somehow, that little nugget didn't make it into their analysis of the political dyanmics of the immigration debate.

March 29, 2006

Just Passing Through

Colorado has apparently turned into Staging Area Alpha for illegals coming into the country. Last week, in the middle of the annual tussle between winter and spring, winter got the upper hand on the plains. In the aftermath, a few of the highly-profitable jitneys running illegals from Mexico to points east spun out and closed the interstates.

Now, traffic's bad enough around here without this sort of complication, but it points to Colorado's central position as a collection and distribution point for the free flow of labor across the border. Take a look at a map. Colorado's got I-25 heading north-south, I-70 and I-76 heading east-west, and an hour farther north to I-80. (I-80, where "This is the place," takes on a whole new meaning.)

The inability of local law enforcement to help out is only making things worse. Denver's mayor hasn't exactly made this a high priority; the local latino politicos in Weld County openly oppose an ICE office in Greeley, and, this morning's Rocky details the long-haul meter-free taxi running from Denver to points east:

Law enforcement officials and local residents regularly see vehicles that they suspect are ferrying illegal immigrants to points east and west.

"With the need for agricultural workers beginning to increase, there will be more travelers in the next few weeks," Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone said. "If we went out and focused on the interstate, I think we could get two or three loads of people a day, with anywhere from 10 to 25 people in a load. And that would overtax our jail."


The Morgan County population was 31 percent Hispanic in the last census, compared to 17 percent Hispanic statewide. But, the sheriff said, some local Hispanics believe the figure is now closer to 50 percent.

Some time ago, Crone said, law enforcement officials planned a week-long sweep in Morgan County to arrest illegal immigrants. However, "They stopped it after two days because they had taken so many people into custody that there was no room (in the jail) for any more."

Tancredo may be right that the protests on Saturday could have been broken up by a few ICE agents checking for papers, but cleaning up the problem that way would require either an armada of C-130s or a holding facility the size of the state.

I have to write this every time, because the issue has at least two parts: for me, this is a question of sovereignty and security as well as economics. We're not going to ship out 11 million people, no matter what Derbyshire says. Steve King can claim that Americans will work for $10 an hour, including employers' insurance, payroll tax, and unemployment insurance costs, but I haven't seen it. We need to come up with a solution that cements the loyalty of those already living here, while cutting off the flow of illegals who undermine that loyalty.

I'm also more than a little worried about importing workers whose intention is to make money and leave. I want people coming in who have a stake in the country and in building a community. There's a strong argument to be made that the reason Mexico is poor has nothing to do with our having stole half their country (and the half with the paved roads, at that), and everything to do with the attitude of the initial settlers.

North of the Rio Grande, people came to build and create. South of that line, people came to pull as much metal out of the ground as they could, and then go home. That's changed, but it's only now that they're starting to get out from under that corruption. I'm pretty sure we don't want to be importing it here, and the only way to prevent it is to limit immigration to assimilable numbers.

The protests in Denver featured many more Mexican than American flags (although the DenPo decided to magnify the latter in its photo). We are rapidly approaching a tipping point, beyond which the politics of the issue will start to resemble that of hijabs in Europe. SB90 is good news, and a start, but without local support, it'll be a dead letter involving years of litigation to prove and enforce, years we don't have any more.

Maybe She'll Blame the Jews

Cynthia McKinney has a little temper, temper:

Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a police officer scuffled Wednesday after the Georgia Democrat entered a House office building unrecognized and refused to stop when asked, according to U.S. Capitol Police.


Members of Congress do not have to walk through metal detectors as they enter buildings on the Capitol complex. They wear lapel pins identifying them as members.

McKinney routinely doesn't wear her pin and is recognized by many officers, the police official said, adding that she wasn't wearing it when she entered a House office building early Wednesday.

By one police account, she walked around a metal detector and an officer asked her several times to stop. When she did not, the officer tried to stop her, and she then struck the officer, according to that account

We're taking bets on how long before she accuses the Israel lobby of paying the officer to harass her.

March 21, 2006

No, But I Got Nominated Real Good

Welcome to the blog of the new Precinct 648 Republican Committeeman, and delegate to the state convention this year.

Hold the applause. This is from Denver, where apparently going to Republican caucuses is one of those jobs that Americans just won't do. About 70 precincts met in the lunchroom of a local middle school, with each table set up for three precincts. There were three people there from my precinct, for three delegate slots. The state convention is on a Saturday, so if there's any writing involved, everyone's going to know who I voted for, if they care.

The fact is, for Colorado, the Republican map is inverted from the population centers. If the caucuses were organized like high schools, Denver and Boulder would house all the single-A schools and 8-man football teams. Kind of like Dennis Quaid's team in The Rookie, where showing up isn't 90% of life, it's closer to 99%.

Colorado has a strange schizophrenic system. There's a caucus, which selects the candidates who appear on the ballot for the primary. Then there's the primary. The caucus system has come under increasing attack as an anachronism, with some justification. But the parties get to pick the candidates, and there's no good reason why that task shouldn't fall to those most involved. The primary avoids smoke-filled room deals, although since the legislature is on the way to outlawing smoking, that's less of a threat now, anyway.

The other thing that the caucuses and conventions do is send resolutions to the national party for possible inclusion in the platform, so it remains the best way to gauge the party's collective wisdom, or, in the Democrats' case, its collective insanity.

Now for the fun. After tomorrow, I'll be on every candidate's mailing and phone list. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Fellow RMA member Clay Calhoun was also elected a delegate from the somewhat more-competitive Elbert County. The RMA begins its Long March to power.

UPDATE: Ray A. Rayburn, delegate from Boulder, has some useful clarifications in the comments section.

March 17, 2006

Vacating the Field

Take a look ah the Issue groups focused on the Middle East that Project Vote-Smart tracks:

  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA)
  • American Muslims for Jerusalem
  • Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel
  • U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

    See a pattern? Yes, I thought so.

    I'm fairly sure this isn't a bias Vote-Smart's part; every other section of the site has both sides represented where they exist. Since Israel's security isn't (or shouldn't be) particularly controversial among Jewish groups, why do the ADL, AJC, and AIPAC (AIPAC, of all people!) not publish ratings of their own on this matter?

    The standard answer is that we don't want, and can't afford, for Israel to become a partisan issue. It's not without merit. Since people vote on many issues, you don't want an election to turn on, say, the economy, and find that you've got a Foreign Relations committee taking campaign contributions from Hamas fundraisers. But I'm pretty sure than abandoning the field to the bad guys is having the opposite effect, and may eventually make Israel a bi-partisan issue, the other way. And I'm not even sure it's a completely honest answer.

    By allowing the other side to drive the ratings, you're creating an incentive for one party to seize the issue as soon as they think the bad guys may have some strength. And in a hyper-partisan era, when one party thinks that impeachment is a winning campaign issue, this becomes a real possibility. In the short run, you encourage it to become a partisan issue. In the long run, your friends start to ask why they're supporting you in the first place. That's how politics works.

    I think there's also something else at work here, though. I think there's a reluctance on the part of a traditionally Democratic leadership to admit that that party has become the (still uncomfortable) home of anti-Semitism, a la Cynthia McKinney and Al Sharpton. I think they and their largely Democratic membership don't want to face that fact, and the fact that conservative Republicans are now Israel's most reliable supporters, in part because they've been listening to their own press clippings about "theocracy." In the meantime, the actual theocrats are busily enrolling in Yale where they can take a census of gay and Jewish students to see how large the swinging wall has to be.

    Further, it's too easy to just write off Republican support as "those evangelicals." Maybe, somewhat. (Evangelicals aren't a majority of the party; they aren't even really driving the agenda.) But if you do that, then you have to explain why you can't carry the Democrats anymore, why you can't appeal to them on their terms, and that's profoundly embarassing, as well.

    Either way, the Jewish leadership isn't doing its job here.

    For statistical geekery, continue reading below.

    Continue reading "Vacating the Field" »

  • Holtzman v. Beauprez

    With Hugh Hewitt having identified Colorado as one of the purple states we need to keep tilting red, the governor's race this year is turning into one of national importance. I moved out here in part to get away from the hot house of national politics, so I'm feeling a litle like Wilmer McLean, but I'm here, and there's no helping it.

    I had a chance to see the first face-to-face debate (although not the first joint appearance) between Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez, and my first impression was that it stengthened my previous impressions. Holtzman is more of an ideas guy, while Beauprez has a somewhat more governmental approach to things. Holtzman is less comfortable speaking in public, while Beauprez is polished enough to allow himself some humor. Holtzman, running an outsider's campaign, is working harder to establish contrast, while Beauprez is working harder not to offend anyone just now.

    Continue reading "Holtzman v. Beauprez" »

    March 15, 2006

    Yearning to Blog Free...

    Instapundit reports that Bill Frist has introduced HB 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act into the Senate. Here's the text of the bill:

    Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

    Colorado Representative Marilyn Musgrave is a co-sponsor in the House. Might make an interesting question for her Democratic challengers.

    In Presidential terms, this is going to force McCain to take another stand that likely to be unpopular with the Republican base. Since the announcement appeared on Frist's funraising arm, VolPac, my guess is that the two are not entirely unrelated. It's harder to do this sort of thing in the Senate than in the House, of course, but count on seeing more of this sort of thing.

    Of course, the the New York Times has come out against the bill as inimical to its interests fair campaigns

    Politicians who chafe under the law's "soft money" ban would be free to run unlimited ads online, empowered by private donors who would not even be required to file campaign records. A similar loophole attempted by the Federal Election Commission has already been struck down in court for inviting "rampant circumvention" of the anticorruption law.

    A far preferable alternative measure would fully protect the growing legions of bloggers, but not at the cost of turning the Internet into a tool for the abusive enrichment of candidates. A critical question is whether the Republican leadership will deny the public a fair debate over this issue by bottling up the alternative bill this week.

    It is imperative that the courageous lawmakers who supported the McCain-Feingold reform law four years ago stand together against making the Internet a cornucopia of political corruption. Wavering Democrats, in particular, need a strong leadership call to stand fast, despite campaign-year cravings for more money. Voters need to pay particular attention to which lawmakers endorse this unfettered sale of political influence.

    One gets the sense that for the Times, as for Gorbachev's USSR, its internal contradictions are finally forcing it to implode. How paying me for a campaign ad on my site enriches the candidate is hard to see. Admittedly, it's a little like office accounts, and we'll be waiting to see what the Denver papers have to say about it. But it's much more like 527 activity, which the Times and the Denver Post only seem to oppose on a partisan sporadic basis.

    The call to "wavering Democrats" would have a lot more punch if Harry Reid hadn't introduced an identical bill - SB 678 - last year.

    A better alternative wouldn't be HR 4900, but to scrap the whole thing from start to finish, admit reality, and start over with a bill that permits complete political speech and requires disclosure as to who's paying for it. The Times like HR 4900 because it essentially captures Internet speech under the same rubric as the rest of campaign finance law, albeit with some exemptions that can be closed over time.

    One problem is the sheer size of the Net. Any enforcement would be spotty at best, and therefore subject to partisan tinkering, or the appearance thereof, which is at least as bad.

    Secondly, the Times can afford to hire lawyers to defend itself and its employees, if it chooses to do so, and if you're Judith Miller, you know what I mean. Since most of us do this for the fun and not the money, it raises the cost of compliance beyond what most of us are willing to pay. Sure, the limit's $5000, but why are attorneys and accountants entitled to a cut of anything over that?

    Finally, when the Feds walk in and sieze the computer I blog from, they're also taking my business, means of livelihood, family finances, and so on. Try do that to ol' Pinch and see what happens.

    Still, HR 4900 does conclude with these soothing words:

    Not later than 150 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Election Commission shall publish a single policy guideline for the use of individuals engaging in online communications which describes in plain language the rules and regulations applicable under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to individual Internet activity.

    That makes me feel much better.

    March 13, 2006

    History Rhyming?

    I'm off to a Denver Center-Right Coalition meeting, so I'll have to make this much briefer than it deserves.

    I wonder if, instead of being the FDR or William McKinley that we had hoped, President Bush isn't going to end up more like Lyndon Johnson. Even many conservatives, being fed a steady diet of bad news from the front, are starting to look for a way out of Iraq, and Federal spending, fed a steady diet of entitlements, is starting to look like Edgar just before the gas attack. Right now, that's not inflationary or recessionary, but only because everyone else's long-term interest rates are even lower than ours.

    If the party split grows, it could open the door for a serious but unpopular candidate like Hillary, playing the role of Nixon. Nixon's party at the time was about as minority as the Democrats are now - controlled nothing, and hadn't for a while. His victories did little to improve the overall party's standing, another Clinton parallel. But they did make the party credible again, and set the stage for Reagan to break the decades-long liberal monopoly on ideas.

    Gotta run. Discuss.

    March 8, 2006

    Hanna Resigns

    State Senator Deanna Hanna has resigned. Ken Gordon calls it an "unselfish act," which is probably true, but it was still the right thing to do. Hey, it's hard out here for a pimp.

    I wonder if she gets to take her office account with her, though.

    March 7, 2006

    Hanna Barbarians

    In case you haven't had to buy a house recently, State Senator Deanna Hanna is working overtime to neutralize the corruption issue for Democrats.

    In the meantime, both citizens and the JeffCo DA are starting to circle, initiating recall petitions and investigations.

    While Republican Joe Stengel did the right thing by paying back the money and resigning his leadership post, Hanna seems to be stonewalling, claiming that she did nothing wrong, counting on the partisans in the ethics investigation to cover for her "reparations" request.

    Maybe they can just make the check out to her office account.

    March 2, 2006

    A Few Maps Short Of An Atlas

    By now, you've heard about Jay Bennish, the geography teacher who's a few maps short of an atlas. Apparently his own personal compass has been deviating from true north for a while now, but only now has a student caught his, um, lectures, on MP3. This is a bit Ward Churchillian, in that it's one of public education's many dirty little secrets; teachers do this sort of thing all the time, and it doesn't make them any less popular or any less tenured.

    (Just for fun, though, Bennish on the doctrine of pre-emption:

    Why doesn't North Korea invade South Korea, because they're afraid of being attacked.

    Uh, been there, done that. I suppose it's too much to expect a public school geography teacher to find the letters "DMZ" on a map, but maybe he could hit his older brother up for a few bucks to rent some old M*A*S*H DVDs.)

    But keep your eye on the ball here - not the teacher, but the administration:

    Superintendent Monte Moses, who received a copy of the recording on Monday from 850 KOA-AM radio show host Mike Rosen, said it appears "a breach of district policy" occurred.

    "Our policy calls for both sides to be present ... in the interest of intellectual discourse," Moses said. Bennish's presentation appeared to be unbalanced, he said.

    The district is looking into whether the incident was an isolated one and will ensure that a balanced viewpoint of the president's State of the Union address is provided to students, Moses said.

    Something's certainly unbalanced here, and it's not just that Bennish's Triptik leans a little to the East, if you know what I mean. It'd be generous even to suggest that an "intellectual discourse" is possible with someone who buys into the whole Bushitler meme. But what goes for universities - where academic freedom is valued for the research it produces - is completely and utterly irrelevant for a high school geography class.

    What on earth is the "other side" of saying that President Bush is like Hitler. That President Bush isn't Hitler? If those are the terms of the debate, even winning it doesn't get you very far, and even agreeing to debate the point legitimizes it.

    If you actually listen to Bennish's ravings, you find them to be as fact-depleted as any comment posting over at DailyKos. What, exactly, would constitute equal time for "capitalism is at odds with humanity?" For equation of Hamas with Israel? For claiming we want a strategy of "divide and conquer?" Or that the Twin Towers were "military targets," taken out to equalize the loss of a Sudanese aspirin factory?

    If these assertions aren't immediately ridiculous - and it certainly sounds like a fair number of students are willing to go along with them - then they're the product of a radical worldview that hates this country. (Yes, for the record, I am questioning Bennish's patriotism.) A 20-minute editorial from the other side, especially now that Bennish himself has become a cause, would be worse than pointless.

    No, the only "balance" available is what used to be called, "an education."

    February 27, 2006

    Colorado Attorney General's Race

    View From a Height has it from, er, reliable sources, that Boulder business attorney Fern O'Brien plans to enter the race for Attorney General as soon as this week.

    O'Brien will run as a "privacy in health choices" candidate, code words for abortion, but will also seek to position herself as center-left, citing a long business career prior to entering the law. She's probably helped in that regard by the fact that, despite being from Boulder, she has a career practicing business law, not as a leftist activist.

    It's not as though Suthers is walking into this race with a hugh war chest - a search of the Secretary of State's site shows little-to-no activity for 2005Q4. Look for fundrasing to pick up. Heh.

    February 10, 2006

    LPR Friday

    Another month, another LPR Friday. Blogging light with occasional flurries, tapering off by this evening.

    January 29, 2006

    The War and the Temptations of Electoral Politics

    Since the Republicans are right on the War on Radical Islam, and since that is the defining issue of our time, and since, for the moment, most Americans agree, there is a strong temptation to try to ride this issue to victory after victory.

    This would be a mistake with potentially tragic consequences for the party, and worse, for the country.

    At the most basic level, the war is only one issue, and one that operates primarily (although not exclusively) at a national level. Focusing on the war makes it easier for down-ticket large-government Republicans to recreate the successes of Illinois and Pensylvania. Simultaneously, failing to make electoral tests of free-market economics and conservative social policy puts off serious reduction of government indefinitely - since those issues never win a mandate.

    More importantly, though, acquiescing in making the war a partisan issue makes it almost impossible to win the war. Bruce Catton, in a series of lectures, published as America Goes to War, points out that the Civil War - and any war in a democracy, really - is as much a political problem as a military one.

    Lincoln understood that the war couldn't be won if it became a Republican War. Lincoln was able to co-opt prominent state and local Democrats through the device of the "political general." Whatever their military shortcomings - and it's far from clear that they, rather than the professionals - did the lasting damage to the war effort - political generals served to keep the war non-partisan, and to keep the country generally unified on the issue.

    In allowing the War on Radical Islam to become partisan, and by not co-opting lower-tier Democrats, every election becomes a referendum on the war, even if that's not the issue forwardmost in voters' minds. In means that in order to win the war, Republicans have to win every time, and in a 48-48 (or even 52-48) country, that's just not going to happen.

    Now it's no good saying, "the Democrats wouldn't allow that this time - they were too set in their Bush-hatred." Even given that certain elements of their party were beyond hope, it's the President's job to find a way to get as many of them on board as possible. The longer we wait, the more powerful the anti-war voices get within the Democratic party, and the harder the job gets.

    January 28, 2006

    LPR Straw Poll

    Lots of interesting goings-on at the LPR retreat, but for the moment, the most interesting one.

    Hugh Hewitt (and the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt) made the trek from LA, and at the end of Hugh's presentation, he did his 2008 Republican primary straw poll. The results were telling.

    In a room of about 150 people, John McCain raked in about 4 votes, Rudy a few more, and Romney somewhere in-between. George Allen received the proverbial Forest of Hands, probably between 2/3 and 3/4 of the room. Hugh said that the McCain apathy is replicated everywhere he goes, but that he was a little surprised at Allen's strength.

    I still think that the real race is between Allen and Romney, the governors (or former governors) in the race.

    January 27, 2006

    The DenPo-WaPo Bubble

    The Denver Post editorial staff who attacked the NSA international intercept program yesterday probably think of themselves as bold crusaders for domestic civil rights. Unfortunately for them, they comes across as willfully ill-informed. Again.

    President Bush launched a campaign-style offensive this week to defend his secret executive order allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop, without court warrants, on phone calls and Internet traffic in the United States.

    His advisers hope the publicity blitz will impress the public in advance of Bush's State of the Union address next Tuesday and upcoming congressional hearings on whether the president has the authority to order such surveillance.

    It's not until the end of the editorial that the Post acknowledges that the speeches are not happening in a vacuum, but are coordinated with the release of a Justice Department white paper laying out the President's legal case.

    The road show is a distraction. If the president sees the need for an unbridled domestic eavesdropping program, he should negotiate its provisions with Congress. (emphasis added -ed.)

    And if the President wanted to declare Tuesdays to be "Dress Like a Disney Character Day," he'd need to negotiate that, too, and it has about as much relevance. That the Denver Post can't understand the difference between "domestic" and "international" suggests a woeful shortage of dictionaries in the newsroom. Intercepting phone calls that cross international boundaries is nothing like an "unbridled domestic eavesdropping program." Things that cross borders are different from things that don't. We have passports, visa, tariffs, Customs, border police, the Interstate Commerce Clause.

    As the Justice Department notes:

    Finally, as part of the balancing of interests to evaluate Fourth Amendment reasonableness, it is significant that the NSA activities are limited to intercepting international communications where there is a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member or agent of al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization.

    It's also little short of bizarre that the Post would argue that the President should enter into political negotiations without making a political case to the public. Of course, for a paper that has consistently supported elections without campaigns, also known as McCain-Feingold, maybe this position makes sense to them. It also presumes good faith on the part of Congressional Democrats, who were well-informed of the program, failed to object in any meaningful way for years, still don't call for the program's end, but are willing to use its existence as a political bludgeon.

    On the campaign trail, the president is re-branding the surveillance program to make it seem more palatable. "It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program," Bush said Monday during a town-hall-style session at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

    So the Post, having out-and-out lied about what the program is doing, turns the tables and accuses the President of "rebranding."

    Polls suggest the public is divided on the issue, although two recent surveys indicate most Americans favor the NSA obtaining a warrant whenever it sees a purpose to snoop on domestic communications.

    When asked about what's actually going on, however, the public turns out to be not quite so divided.

    After finally acknowledging the Justice Department White Paper, the Post quotes, verbatim, from a discredited Washington Post report on the Congressional Research Service's own findings. (Incidentally, the DenPo has the CRS responding on January 7 to a White Paper issued on January 19. Someone needs to look into this covert time-travel program.)

    "It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here," the authors of the CRS report wrote. The administration's legal justification "does not seem to be ... well-grounded."

    Note the ellipses. This particular quote - and the WaPo's misrepresentation of the CRS report - has already been deconstructed by Powerline.

    For the record, here's the full quote: "Given such uncertainty, the Administration's legal justification, as presented in the summary analysis from the Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests."

    The Denver Post editorial writers willfully repeated a discredited, misleading partial quote, weeks after its appearance. Who do they think they are, the LA Times, or something?

    January 26, 2006

    Salazar on Justice Thomas: "an Abomination"

    Sen. Salazar, champion of civil discourse.

    Thomas is an abomination. James Dobson is the antichrist. And Thurgood Marshall's on the way to sainthood. Good thing the liberals are around to preserve separation of church and state.

    January 20, 2006

    Fragmenting the Net?

    The Balkans may not have been worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier, but apparently for some Germans (and others), they're a perfect model for the Internet.

    German computer engineers are building an alternative to the Internet to make a political statement. A Dutch company has built one to make money. China has created three suffixes in Chinese characters substituting for .com and the like, resulting in Web sites and email addresses inaccessible to users outside of China. The 22-nation Arab League has begun a similar system using Arabic suffixes.

    Since the Net's hardware and local networking infrastructure now exist elsewhere, the idea is to build alternate Domain Name Servers, which can handle other alphabets, other domain suffixes, or alternate uses for the same domains.

    The politics of this, especially coming from the Germans, are little short of disgusting:

    Mr. Grundmann ... set up ORSN in February 2002 because of his distrust of the Bush administration and its foreign policy. Mr. Grundmann fears that Washington could easily "turn off" the domain name of a country it wanted to attack, crippling the Internet communications of that country's military and government.

    And after all, what calling could be more noble than that of protecting the communications of the Iranian or North Korean militaries and governments? Mr. Grudmann might spare a thought for the actions of Cisco and Microsoft at the behest of the Chinese government.

    As for the Arabs,

    Similarly, Arab countries have in the past 18 months experimented with country code domain names in Arabic, distinct from the Icann system, says Khaled Fattal of Surrey, England. Mr. Fattal is head of, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the Internet multilingual.

    "There is no such thing as a global Internet today," says Mr. Fattal. "You have only an English-language Internet that is deployed internationally. How is that empowering millions of Chinese or Arab citizens?"

    Apparently the irony inherent in the fact that the hundreds of millions of Arabs can only be "empowered" by a technological innovation being led from England is lost on them. The lack of Hebrew URLs doesn't seem to have hampered the Israelis at all, nor those Iraqi blogs that are doing such good work, nor, for that matter, those Islamist chat rooms and websites we hear so much about. Arabs live, by and large, in countries run by governments who first ask themselves why the Americans beat them to the Net, and then why the Chinese beat them to its censorship. And the only answer they can come up with is that the Net works left-to-right.

    The Net has operated like one huge free-trade zone, but that's imperiled now. One could see a self-reinforcing system of regional nets corrsponding to political and trade blocs. MercoNet, EuroNet, the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Net. Fragmentation also starts to look like a revenue source, as governments would have an easier way of monitoring - and taxing - traffic that crosses these electronic frontiers. You want to work from South American DNSs? We'll tell you what it's worth to you.

    Businesses will probably pay whatever freight they need to so that they can cross lines seamlessly, but it's an added expense and complication, so it tends to benefit the big guys who can afford it. For the little guys, it'll just show up as another hidden fee on their monthly access bill. Given that so many of the Net's economic benefits come from opening up economies of scale to the little guys, it's just that much more sand in the gears.

    This whole issue is important enough that I've copied the text of the Journal article below.

    Continue reading "Fragmenting the Net?" »

    January 16, 2006

    Shadegg for Majority Leader

    This is important enough that, for what it's worth, I'm signing on to the Bloggers for Shadegg.

    We need smaller government and the means to enforce it, not more limitations on yours and my power to petition. Shadegg is the only one so far willing to take these things head-on in a meaningful way.

    If you have a Republican representative, call him or her. If, like me, you're among the unfortunate minority, call the Republican reps in your state. If you're in Colorado, remind them that we've got two of the most vulnerable Republicans here, and that it's not 1998 any more.

    Beauprez & The House Leadership Race

    As a Congressman, Bob Beauprez usually isn't dealing directly with the same issues he would as governor. Immigration is one counterexample, where he's helped sponsor a tough border control bill. So are taxes, where in 2003, he supported a bill to reduce capital gains, dividend, and income taxes.

    Another is the House leadership race. Rep. Beauprez hasn't yet announced a candidate to support, but he's a member of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee, led by Rep. John Shadegg. Shadegg is a reliable conservative, fiscally sound, and squeaky-clean ethically. At issue is both what Rep. Beauprez does and what the RSC as a whole does.

    Rich Lowry has pointed out that waiting too long to endorse might doom Shadegg's candidacy. It might also provide cover to people who don't really want him elected.

    While, as Michael Barone notes, there's little point in handicapping such a race, and the that doesn't mean we can't ask the representatives who they're backing. The vote may be private, but public statements are on the record. If Beauprez were to make a strong public statement in favor of Shadegg, or to argue that the RSC should declare now rather than later, it would make a strong impression on conservatives who want the party to clean up its act for real.

    Beauprez does operate at something of a disadvantage, since he needs to deal with practical issues as an elected official, in a way that Holtzman does not. The House leadership race can provide one barometer of where he wants the party to go when it's under pressure.

    Cross-Posted at Holtzman v. Beauprez.

    UPDATE: A commenter points out that the National Journal is reporting Beauprez as committed to Blunt. The date of the posting is 1/14, which suggests that it was working off a slightly older list than that. This was before, or close to, the time Shadegg actually announced, at a time when Blunt was trying to sell the fiction that he had it all locked up.

    Even public committments are next-to-impossible to enforce. Beauprez could argue that he committed too early & he's sorry about that, but that Shadegg hadn't yet entered the race and, after all, it's better to say something publicly rather than do the traditional private-ballot back-stabbing thing and wait until the vote.

    January 12, 2006

    Senator Kennedy

    Listening to Senator Kennedy cross-examine - in his own way - Judge Alito on the concept the "unitary Presidency," you can see why he had to cheat in law school.

    By the way, at the time the Senator attended U.Va., the undergraduate schools there did not admit women. Although the future Senator was at the Law School, not there as an undergraduate, I think such fine distinctions are really just an attempt to evade responsibility for the institution as a whole. He also shares membership in the U.Va. Alumni Association with known terrorist apologists as well as actual, card-carrying members of the Republican Party. Why does his association with the University continue to appear on his official bio?

    Vindication By Association

    The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, in particular Feinstein, Kennedy, and Schumer, have been trying to use Judge Alito's association with CAP to claim that they know what's really in his heart concerning non-Italian minorities.

    Alberto Rivas, with whom I spoke last Thursday, would beg to differ. A center-left Democrat who worked with Alito 20 years ago in the US Attorney's office and has known him well ever since, Rivas wouldn't be out on tour promoting Alito's nomination if he had any doubts the Judge's character. Racism is one of those things that pretty hard to keep locked away without saying something incriminating over the course of decades. Lord knows, the Democrats have had no trouble digging up such disqualifying comments in the past.

    Sadly, Mr. Rivas had to leave the interview early - to go speak to Univision, the Spanish-language TV network.

    January 11, 2006

    The Great Right North

    As both of Canada's voters prepare to go to the polls, and with a little under two weeks to go in the campaign, an increasing number of polls show the Tories pulling ahead of the incumbent Liberals, with their momentum accelerating.

    It's been a long road back for the Conservatives, who basically dissolved into three parties in 1993, and have spent the last decade trying to put the pieces back together again. It looked like they might have in 2004, but the momentum stalled just before Election Day. This time, it looks as though people are ready to vote Conservative, knowing they might win, which is a completely different dynamic from a protest vote. Apparently, Stephen Harper may be boring, but once you actually get to know him, he's not all that scary, really.

    If they win, it'll be at least in part because the Liberals are hitting the Self-Destruct Trifecta: incompetence, corruption, and intellectual bankruptcy. (On the corruption point, at least, the current legislative Republicans should take note of what's happening up North.)

    In what can only be some sort of political Dissonant Convergence, the paucity of ideas merged with the incompetence this past week. It's not exactly Carter Briefing Book stuff, but someone leaked the Little Red Book to the Western Standard, who dutifully satisfied the public's Right To Know. Apparently, nobody satisfied the party's right to know, though, as Paul Martin's "number one priority" didn't make the cut. Either Martin's making it up as he goes along, or the post-election party revolt has started early.

    That "number one priority" isn't too impressive, either. It has to do with something called the "notwithstanding clause:"

    As part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the notwithstanding clause gives courts the responsibility to protect the rights of minorities, while providing politicians the power to go against the wishes of the court.

    The clause was included in the Charter in 1982 after tense negotiations between then prime minister Pierre Trudeau and provincial leaders.

    Martin has said in the past that he would be willing to use the notwithstanding clause to protect the rights of churches that didn't want to perform same-sex marriages. But he now feels that politicians should no longer possess that option.

    When you're number one priority involves giving away your own power, it's a pretty fair bet that you expect to be Not With Standing yourself in fairly short order.

    In what passes for Canadian foreign policy, the Liberals, not content to keep American weapons out of space also want to keep the Canadian military out of -- Canada.

    There's something disappointing about the Tories finally getting power back, if that happens. The Western provinces have been so consistently alienated from the national government for decades that some of us had hoped they might trade Ottawa for Washington and finally give us a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Now, they'll have to settle for running Canada.

    December 29, 2005

    Nothing New at the NSA

    It's not as though the NSA hasn't been listening to Americans' international phone calls for a long time.

    I just finished buying a car, and just about every salesman I dealt with was ex-military. One of them, trying to warm up, got to talking about his rotation out at the NSA. He recounted in some detail a conversation between an overseas soldier and his stateside wife, and then how they left the circuit open, and heard the wife invite her boyfriend over.

    This was, I note, a couple of days before the Times printed the details of the currently-controversial program.

    Mr. Pot, Please Meet Mr. Kettle

    The Wall Street Journal today reports on the effectiveness that independent conservative groups are showing in influencing the national debate over the war, especially in reminding people that Saddam did at one point have WMDs, and that he did have an ongoing relationship with al Qaeda in particular, and a sponsorship of terrorism in general.

    The focus of the article is Move America Forward. If the group were merely operating with White House indifference, that would be enough. The Administration's refusal to stand by obvious pre-war facts make MAF look more Catholic than the Pope.

    Naturally, the Left's response is to try to misuse the law to shut down debate.

    Liberals question how the group has maintained its status as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, which requires strict nonpartisanship, given the anti-Democratic tone of its campaigns. The group's Web site,, for example, attacks the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, referring to "Howard Dean types who only see a future of failure for this country."

    "When you have people participating in partisan activities with nonprofit dollars, that's really something the IRS needs to look at," says Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of the liberal advocacy group, another frequent target for Move America Forward's rhetoric. "An organization with a shady tax status participating in partisan activities and saying things that aren't true is a rogue element in American politics."

    When asked about using IRS rules or FBI files to shut down political opposition, "We could do that," said Mr. Matzzie, "but that would be wrong, that's for sure." No, I made that part up. At least. I think I did.

    December 23, 2005

    Tom Daschle, Strict Constructionist

    And legislative historian, too:

    As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

    Warrentless. But not domestic, and not surveillance.

    Senatitis Comes Early...

    ... to Colorado's former Attorney General:

    "The president could have gotten permission (for wiretaps) from the FISA court," Salazar said Monday, noting the secret federal court was establish for intelligence purposes. "There is a court procedure for this. It's a very important question whether the president has broken any laws in ordering this surveillance and the American public needs to know the truth."

    Salazar sent a letter to Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday, saying the FISA legislation allowing secret surveillance and searches requires FISA court approval.

    "The administration's reported assertion that it did not do so because it was inconvenient to do so at least arguably constitutes a violation of federal law that should be investigated by Congress," he wrote.

    On the radio, I also heard a radio snippet of him saying that he didn't know of any legal precedent or statute under which such surveillance would be legal, which is a much stronger statement. Also a much more ignorant one.

    Now, this comment came a couple of days ago. But at the very least, it implies a need to issue pronouncements on subjects where the Senator hasn't got a clue yet. I know he claims to be a supporter of the Patriot Act, possibly a holdover from his selective law-and-order days here in Denver. But he's also an attorney, has attorneys on staff, and could at least do a little background research before opening his mouth.

    Even if it's only reading this and this. Waiting for the latter would have delayed the Senator's Olympian comments for all of one day, although he would have missed the Sunday papers, to be sure.

    December 21, 2005

    Radio Daze

    Councilman Elbra Wedgeworth has way too much time on her hands. And apparently, the leaders of the Denver Black and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce are seeing a slow holiday season, too. They also seem to have confused CBS with NPR.

    All three met with CBS radio in Denver to protest a format change:

    Wedgeworth; Wil Alston, vice president of the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce; and Jeffrey Campos, president and CEO of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, met with Don Howe, senior vice president for CBS Radio in Denver. They emphasized to Howe the station's importance in the Latino and African-American communities.

    Central to the meeting was the sudden demise Thursday of the area's only rhythm-and-blues outlet, axed after six years on air.


    Independently, Urban Spectrum, a newspaper published in the Five Points neighborhood, launched a campaign Tuesday to let station management "know there is a voice out there they have turned their back on. They have a mandate to serve the public, and no one asked the public before switching."

    Actually, they asked the public every day, and the public yawned. This was the only station in town with this format, they had no competition for this niche, and they still couldn't drum up enough listeners to pay the freight.

    A few years ago, when KVOD, a commercial station and the only classical station in Denver, folded, CPR took over the call letters (although not the frequency), and began a 24-hour classical station. Maybe the aggrieved parties need to ask CPR to start sharing time on their classical network, but they need to stop playing program director with someone else's revenue stream.

    UPDATE: I wrote this late last night, and clearly wasn't thinking. The Hispanic & Black Chambers of Commerce? Have they no advertisers?

    December 20, 2005

    Sledgehammer to a Fly

    A District Judge today ruled that a Dover, Pa. school board decision to require students to hear a short statement raising doubts about Darwin and suggesting intelligent design as an alternative is unconstitutional. I'm no fan of ID, but there are a lot of things not quite right about this.

    First, note that, since the school board instituted the policy,

    ... all eight of the school board incumbents who favored teaching intelligent design were defeated in an election in November by candidates who opposed including it in the curriculum.

    The political system seems capable of handling these things without judicial intervention.

    Moreover, the ruling took 139 pages. Now, I'm sure the judge wanted to be thorough, but in my experience, when it takes 139 pages to explain your reasoning, your reasoning lacks clarity.

    Look, I don't think ID qualifies as science; there's more than a whiff of theology in any deus ex machina, and ID certainly posits a deus operating ex the machina of the physical world. Still, it's a notion that many religions could subscribe to, so it hardly sounds like a Constitutionally-prohibited establishment of religion.

    Moreover, I'm afraid that it could be too easily extended to other questions. Right now, physics can tell us why the something that there is looks the way it does. Physics can't tell us why there's something instead of nothing, and probably never will. Would a teach who asks that question, and then points out that philosophers as far back as Aristotle considered it a proof of God's existence be violating the Constitution?

    I'm not sure what arguments were presented to the judge, and it's possible that he felt obliged to rule on a constitutuional issue, but constitutionality is supposed to be a last resort, and it seems to me there were lots of other outs here before getting to that.

    December 15, 2005

    Mother of Presidents

    A new Rasmussen poll has recently-departed Virginia Governor Mark Warner leading current Senator George Allen 49% - 44%. This basically reflects the same margin that Warner-protege Tim Kaine had over Allen-protege Jerry Kilgore in this fall's Governor's election. Still, both men remain very popular, with Allen all but assured of re-election in '06. (If Allen's keeping Dick Wadhams around, it can only be for some other reason. Cough.) For Virginians, at any rate, this is a choice between two good candidates, rather than a lesser-of-two-evils.

    Some of Warner's lead may come from the fact that Allen hasn't been governor for 8 years, and more and more people think of him as a senator first. Senators do not make good Presidental candidates, largely because of the nature of the institution. But Allen was a governor first, and has stated on a number of occasions that he prefers executive office to legislative. (It's the same advantage Hillary has, although she's got more of an Imperial mentality, I think.)

    I've thought for a while that Hillary's greatest challenge will come from a centrist Democratic governor, someone who doesn't owe her anything and who can carry some southern states. Warner may be the guy. Alllen has national clout from his successful management of last year's Senate races. It's probably too much to hope for that Virginia would produce both nominees, but it sure would make for a fun campaign.

    December 7, 2005

    Dean: Bush as Nixon

    Vietnam managed to consume two presidencies - Lyndon Johnson's through failure to win, and Richard Nixon's through his own paranoia. Ironically, President Nixon and General Creighton Abrams had a winning strategy, but the Left still manages to think of Vietnam as Nixon's war. That's how they want you to think of it, too.

    Earlier, I posted that the Democrats seem to think they can recreate their short-lived success in 1974 by turning President Bush into President Nixon. Howard Dean's infamous radio interview with WOAI seals the deal.

    First, there's the quote about troops levels. No, not the Democrats' "plan" to redeploy (remember when they ridiculed Ronald Reagan for "redeploying" troops off the coast of Lebanon?). The talk about troops killed. Reuters and even ClearChannel itself have quoted Dean as saying:

    "I've seen this before in my life. This is the same situation we had in Vietnam. Everybody then kept saying, 'just another year, just stay the course, we'll have a victory.' Well, we didn't have a victory, and this policy cost the lives of an additional 25,000 troops because we were too stubborn to recognize what was happening."

    Well, not exactly. WOAI has an MP3 of the interview, and what they present as one quote is actually two with a little surgery:

    I remember going through this in Vietnam, and everybody kept saying, "yeah, just another year, we're going to have a victory." Well, we didn't have a victory then, and it cost us 25,000 more American troops because people were too stubborn to be truthful about what was happening.


    I've seen this before in my life, and it cost us 25,000 brave American soldiers in Vietnam and I don't want to go down that road again.

    Now, when I was growing up, quotations marks actually meant that you were, well, quoting someone, as in, transcribing the words that actually came out of his mouth. Apparently, to ClearChannel or Reuters, quotation marks are an excuse to redact and comment. This conflation has caused a great deal of confusion. By starting with the beginning of the second quote, they've led most radio producers to air the second quote. When people go to the story, they think that Reuters just made up the "additional" part out of whole cloth. In the first quote, Dean does in fact say "25,000 more American troops."

    But the misquote itself is still wrong. The way Reuters "quotes" Dean, he's saying that we were "too stubborn to recognize what was happening," meaning that we were misleading ourselves. In fact, Dean is quite clearly saying that Nixon then and Bush now were and are "too stubborn to tell the truth," that they are deliberately misleading us.

    Then, there's the matter of where the number 25,000 came from. In fact, about 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam. Dean's starting to count casualties when Nixon took office. Even then, Dean gets it wrong by 25%; about 20,000 American troops died after Johnson left office. That's true even if you put Nixon in the White House while Kerry wasn't in Cambodia collecting magic hats.

    This becomes clear from Dean's answer to the first question put to him, about prewar intelligence:

    What's happening now, oddly enough, there are so many parallels to the Vietnam era, it's a little scary. And we see, uh, what we see is very much like what was going on in Watergate. The Watergate burglary, for example, happened before the election but the President wasn't forced to resign until afterwards because there was so much additional information.

    Turns out there's a lot of good evidence that the President didn't tell the truth, uh, when he was asking Congress to give him the power to go to war, un, and, uh, but a lot of that didn't come up until after the election was over, so I think that what the President's finding now is that now that the election is over and the sort of "he said, she said" nature of the discussion is gone that there's a whole big body of evidence that suggests that the President was not truthful with the American people and that's pretty convincing evidence and that's why it's all coming back up again now.

    Are the Democrats trying to lay the groundwork for impeachment? Quite possibly. Remember, it was only the honorable actions of Republicans like Howard Baker that made Nixon's impeachment possible. By repeating, first as stray thought, then as suggestion, now as established fact, the notion that BUSH LIED!!!!!, the Democrats hope to make it impossible for Republicans to stand up and say otherwise.

    By ignoring this part of Dean's comments, Reuters and ClearChannel do another service to Dean. They make it appear that the suibstance of his remarks was focused on the Democrats' evolving "plan" to take credit for Pentagon strategy. So when the White House reacts to the comments as a whole, the headline writers respond with "White House Brutally Attacks Dean's Constructive Criticism of War's Progress." It lets Dean operate under the radar, getting in punches all over the country, building a case for impeachment, but throwing the flag on the retaliation.

    November 17, 2005

    Barone Speaks

    I had the pleasure of attending the Independence Institute's Founders Dinner last night. The Institute has been around for 21 years now, and this was a chance for a relative newcomer like myself to get acquainted with a prior generation of conservative and free-market activists, people whose names aren't so well known outside those circles. In part, this is because they were the change, starting their work during a period of high-profile Democratic governors and senators such as Dick Lamm, Tim Wirth, and Gary Hart.

    On display was some of the best-known local talk radio talent, including Mike Rosen, Jon Caldera, and John Andrews. Andrews was presenting an award to Ralph Nagel, local architect-turned-campaign donor, and when he finally got to speak, he took it out on Daniel Liebeskind, somewhat to the bewilderment of the assembly.

    But the highlight of the evening was Michael Barone. Barone has only recently emerged as a conservative writer, having had to develop his career hiding in the tall grass of the Washington Post editorial page, but his literally encyclopedic knowledge of gives him the tremendous advantage of being able to take the long view.

    Certainly he got off the best line of the night, when discussing the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the administration's image. While pointing out that it was primarily the local and state governments that had failed, he suggested that we grade them on a curve because,

    they had the same original handicap as Haiti: a legacy of slavery run by the French, which is very difficult to overcome.

    Baron's basic point is that as we move to a post-Industrialist economy, we will also move to a more decentralized society, and that it's up to us, the free-marketeers and those with respect for the founders, to make sure that our governmental institutions also reflect that shift.

    November 9, 2005

    (Democratic) Party Like It's 1973

    Harry Reid's tantrum the other day certainly reads like a bill of particulars in the court of public opinion:

    The manipulation of intelligence, to sell the war in Iraq, Vice President Cheney is involved in that. The White House energy policy, that puts Big Oil ahead of the American consumer, Vice President Cheney is behind that. Leaking classified information to discredit White House critics, the Vice President is behind that. Halliburton, contracting abuse, the list goes on and it goes on. Certainly America can do better than that.

    Leave aside that there's not a single sentence that's not demonstrably false. It doesn't matter. The Democratic Party is now attempting to create a series of unchallengable orthodoxies in the public mind. Iraq was a mistake, if not a moral obscenity. The war was conducted for Big Oil, and at the behest of corporate slavemasters. The Bush administration, having not found either hidden underground terrorist enclaves, and not found WMD, clearly told untruths during the runup to the war. Therefore, BUSH LIED about those things. What's that you say? We saw the same intelligence and came to the same conclusions? Well, then, Bush, er Cheney, must have manipulated the intelligence. From there, it's a short step to simply having lied us into war.

    There's no question that the Democrats seek to fan a general discontent into a general rage. That this strategy will forfeit Iraq and make action against actual enemies like Iran, Syria, and North Korea all but impossible is beside the point.

    Whether or not it comes to actual impeachment, the Democrats seem to think it's 1973 all over again. They can attack and either remove or neuter a Vice President (although it was easier then, since they had Agnew's fingerprints on the money envelopes), and then reduce a President to impotence or remove him. Then, as now, allies of good faith will be abandoned to barbarians. Then, as now, the Party has no strategy to confront an existential threat to the country.

    Should they gain power in 2008, that will all too tragically obvious.

    Virginia, Mother of Presidents

    There's no point in pretending that last night was anything but a washout for Republicans. The race that everyone's pointing to is in Virginia, where Democratic Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine beat Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. I haven't been following my home-state politics all that closely, but everyone seems to want to read the morning coffee-grounds and turn this into a proxy national fight. Guru Larry Sabato says that they have a 50-50 chance of being right:

    So what does this show? In two cases, the off-off year elections were indicators of the following year's political trends, and in the other two cases, they weren't. Please remember this unimpressive record of prognostication when you read the party press releases and the gee-whiz news stories next month. Here's the useless summary, based on history: The off-off year elections of 2005 may either be a harbinger of things to come in 2006, or they may not be.

    What people miss is that Virginia has a one-and-done term limit, and that outgoing Democrat Mark Warner is extremely popular, having governed as a centrist. (Even liberals tend to govern as centrists in Virginia. It was First-Black-Governor-Elected-Since-Reconstruction-Doug-Wilder who signed a bill combining Lee-Jackson Day with MLK's birthday to make Lee-Jackson-King Day.) So people were voting for what they see as Warner Redux.

    Yes, the race was a proxy, but not between Bush and whatever shrieking conspiracy theorist the Dems have making the rounds on Sunday morning this week. It was between Warner and George Allen. Kilgore is Allen's protege, and both Allen and Warner have presidential ambitons. (I think a Warner-Allen matchup in 2008 would be great fun. Virginia would probably end up being the swing state, and they could set up the debates at all those Civil War battlefields, just to remind people which side the Democrats were on back then.)

    To the extent that Kaine's win validates the idea that a centrist Democrat can win in a state without a coastline, this is bad news for Hillary.

    November 7, 2005

    Rubicon And Us

    I've finally posted my review of Tom Holland's Rubicon. It's a good book, but more importantly, there's a reason the Founders studied this period. Not for nothing was Cato one of the most popular plays of the day. I know people are tired of hearing this, but just because we don't need to read this stuff in Latin doesn't mean we don't need to read it at all.

    What does this have to do with us? Well, no, it doesn't mean that money is the equivalent of Legions, and that therefore, McCain-Feingold is saving us from Octavian Redux. It does mean that federalism and separation of powers are a good thing. Not because of concentration of power per se, but because smaller offices are less tempting to ambitious men. And if you've got a lot of small offices scattered all over the country, it's almost impossible to dominate them all.

    Secondly, there's the importance of citizenship and engagement. Before baseball, politics was the great participatory sport. We find it hard to believe, but read just about any contemporaneous account. Read Washington Irving, or Tocqueville, or Dickens, and they all say the same thing. And not just blowing smoke, but informed debate.

    The danger of uninformed, selfish engagement without virtue is that you end up with a mob that's easily led or bought off. And the more the point of political engagement becomes to secure favors and money, the less it becomes about building a community. Which means it becomes passive, and then disappears altogether.

    So how do these threats manifest themselves to us? Ah, that's for another post.

    November 4, 2005

    Marc Holtzman Is For Real

    Michael, Ben, and I had a chance to sit down with Marc Holtzman yesterday, and I now understand why campaigns organize these things. All three of us were leaning towards Bob Beauprez; all three of us are now reconsidering that not-position.

    I don't want to repeat their analyses, so I will just add my own impressions. First off, the campaign is clearly well ahead of normal schedule in terms of organization and ground game. Secondly, Marc really is an ideas guy. And third, there's the Internet: it's not just for email anymore.

    I'll start with the ideas. Holtzman is a former VC and investment banker, and he's clearly applying that technical knowledge to the state's budget issues. His arguments in favor of securitizing the tobacco settlement are the kind a finance-type would love, citing interest rate spreads and long-term effects of health education, funded by, er, the tobacco settlement. He makes a strong case that the state will never get a better deal than the one it can get now, and putting that money away to retire debt or for a rainy-day fund can be part of a structural solution to the budget problems.

    He also talks about securitizing other state assets such as real estate. His example is the highly-successful REIT that Tony Blair launched in Britain, based on Public Health Service properties. The problem is that politically, it's already been charicatured as selling off the State Capitol, and he'll need to find specific, goofy examples of property that the state owns. I'm sure they're out there.

    By comparison, a number of Beauprez's answers seemed sincerely conservative but not yet a governing program. He'll have to come up with something that fits that bill.

    As for the ground game and technology, the campaign is impressive. They're already well ahead of where a campaign normally is, in terms of counting heads going into the convention. Holtzman also talked about using a VOIP conference-call technology that captured hundred of voters for over 45 minutes. Cool stuff.

    Holtzman is clearly positioning himself as the non-establishment candidate, recalling Ronald Reagan's visit to Republican Party headquarters in 1977. (The Rockefeller Republicans running the party stiffed him. They paid for that later.) So internal rebellions can happen. But the more common career path for a party insurgency is the Howard-Dean-Mike-Miles trajectory.

    The good news, from Holtzman's point of view, is that he's a much more substantial candidate than Miles ever was, and a much more serious person than Howard Dean. And while Dean counted on college students in Iowa, Kerry had organization. We know how that one turned out.

    Stay tuned folks, this one's just getting started,

    November 2, 2005

    If You Don't Pass This Bill, We'll Shoot This Blog

    The Online Freedom of Speech Act, designed to protect blogs and the Internet from the predations of McCain-Feingold, failed to make it out of the House this evening. Hat tip: Powerline, although it appears that this was a procedural motion to suspend certain House rules in order to move the bill along. The motion got a majority, but not the super-duper-majority (with acknowledgements to Arlen Specter) that it needed.

    Colorado's delegation voted 5-2 for it, with only Diana DeGette voting against, it, presumably because it doesn't prevent blogs from price-gouging.

    Oddly, the other "no" vote came from the very conservative 5th-District representative Joel Hefley. What's up with that?

    October 27, 2005

    Nice Little Business You Got There...'d be a shame if we had to start telling you how much to pay people:

    Corporate directors must rein in soaring U.S. executive pay or face the prospect of government regulation, said the judge who presided over a landmark pay case involving entertainment group Disney Co. on Tuesday.

    Delaware Chancery Court Judge William Chandler -- who let Disney directors off the hook in August for Michael Ovitz's huge $140 million 1996 payoff after a brief failed term as Disney president -- warned in a speech to a directors' group that regulation would be a "blunt instrument."

    "If neither the courts nor the markets are able to restrain executive compensation, and if you the decision-makers fail ... the result will be imposition of regulatory controls," said Chandler, whose court handles many important business cases.

    I don't disagree that executive pay is out of whack. Given the quality of management at a whole host of large corporations, there's no question that a whole lot of guys sitting in AAA could step up to the big leagues without much loss of quality. That is, the talent pool is probably a whole lot deeper than we think it is, and the actual bottom-line worth of any individual executive, with a few exceptions, is much lower than they're paying.

    But it's up to them to figure it out.

    First of all, salaries, as salary have already been regulated, and companies just find other ways (deferred compensation, options, etc.) to pay executives. Money will find a way, whether it's around McCain-Feingold, or around judges and regulators who fancy themselves better managers than HR and corporate boards.

    But also notice the little bait-and-switch in the judge's last paragraph. "If neither the courts nor the markets...the result will be...regulatory controls." What does he think court-mandated controls are, if not regulation by another name? I don't care what party this guy is, or who appointed or promoted him. This is a perfect example of someone assuming that by definition, the courts are free to roam where they will, even into company salary negotiations.


    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