Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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May 21, 2009

Has Anyone Seen Sandy Berger Around?

For some reason, the National Archives has a hard time keeping its hands on information related to the Clinton Administration:

The National Archives lost a computer hard drive containing massive amounts of sensitive data from the Clinton administration, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and Secret Service and White House operating procedures, congressional officials said Tuesday.

One of former Vice President Al Gore's three daughters is among those whose Social Security numbers were on the drive, but it was not clear which one. Other information includes logs of events, social gatherings and political records.

Um, political records?  The Clinton Administration had a hard time keeping its White House operations, it politics, and its FBI files separate, and now it turns out that much information of this type is missing.

The aide, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the hard drive was left on a shelf and unused for an uncertain period of time. When the employee tried to resume work, the hard drive was missing.
Sure, and Sandy Berger was just looking for a place to make change when he stuffed those meeting notes and memos under a trailer for a dead drop brief time.

The first inclination is to suggest that someone wanted the information disappeared.  Washington is so thick with intrigue and interested parties that it doesn't take much of an imagination to come up with a couple of dozen suspects.  The fact that the Archives simultaneously claims that 1) it's trying to find out what was stolen, and 2) it's certain that there's a copy of it somewhere around here (shuffles papers on desk), opens the door to blackmail as well as protection.  And remember who's our current Secretary of State.

The Post doesn't appear to have bothered to put this in its print edition, but it'll be interesting to see if there's any follow-up.

Correction: The article did appear on page A20 of Wednesday's paper.

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 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.

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 1, 2009

AP Warns GOP Against "Risky" Opposition to Debt

Opposition to excessive debt as "analyzed" by the AP:

Analysis: GOP gambles in opposing Obama stimulus


AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.

At least two of these folks come with a history. Charles Babington, when at the Washington Post, and Jennifer Loven, in her current position as Democratic flack for the AP, each have a history of writing briefs for the current Democratic position disguised as news reporting or analysis, with Loven having trouble interpreting polls correctly.

WASHINGTON (AP) Eight days after Barack Obama took office as a "change" president, House Republicans have made a huge political gamble that could set the tone for the next election cycle.

In unanimously opposing the massive spending bill that Obama says is crucial to reviving the economy, they signaled they are not cowed by his November win or his calls for a new era of bipartisanship. Obama's popularity will slacken, they say, and even if it doesn't voters will reward a party that makes principled stands for restrained spending and bigger tax cuts.

As usual, "bipartisanship" for Democrats means, "do it our way." The cuts to the package were trivial, the remainder a wish-list of payoffs, new permanent spending, and disguised protectionism.

Democratic officials think Republicans are misreading Americans' hunger for action. And if they are right, the GOP could face a third round of election setbacks next year.

Ah, "Democratic officials" believe there's a Republican gamble, therefore there is one. No possibility that the gamble is on the Democrats' side instead.

The rest of the article is essentially a Democratic press release, repeating claims that the Republicans are rooting for a weaker economy, and that tax cuts for people who don't pay income taxes are actually offset against payroll taxes. Remarkable that when the Democratic party spent 2006-2007 talking about, "the worst economy since the Great Depression," and actively undercutting the war effort in Iraq, the AP never found time to accuse them of rooting against their country's economy or military.

The House vote makes it easier for Democrats to portray the entire Republican Party as a do-nothing, head-in-the-sand group, though GOP officials call that unfair.
It certainly will make it easier for the AP to portray the GOP that way, as only GOP officials will call it unfair.
Both parties point to polls that they say show support for their respective viewpoints. White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told House Republican moderates this week that surveys find about 80 percent support for the stimulus legislation.

House GOP leaders, meanwhile, cited a poll Thursday in which most respondents said the stimulus bill is too expensive. It also found, they said, that 71 percent think it's unfair to give refund checks to people who do not pay federal income taxes.

I don't believe published polls supporting Emanuel's position exist, and the AP doesn't cite any; Gallup has a slim 53% majority supporting the bill, while Rasmussen has the bill supported by 42-39. And while the Gallup poll has independents supporting it 46-40, Rasmussen has them opposing it 50-27. The AP reports no numbers for the Republican claims, and instead focuses on the unfairness of tax cuts.

In reality, the political decision here is easy to make. As Powerline pointed out, if the package is seen to be successful, the Democrats will get credit regardless of how the Republicans vote. If the package is seen not to have helped, then Republicans who vote for it will once again have forfeited a chance to distinguish themselves from Democrats.

In the world of the AP, only Republicans always take political risks by acting on principle.

January 31, 2009

"Worker Retention" - II

President Obama has paid his first installment to the unions, instituting a "Worker Retention" policy for federal contractors, of the kind Denver is considering at the local level. You can read the text here, via Mickey Kaus (HT: Powerline) gets at least one of the problems with it.

I wrote about this disaster of a public policy proposal the other day, but more has occurred to me since them. This, of course, is aside from the bizarre act of giving the employee an overt property right in a contract he had no hand in winning, and in fact, may have in fact helped cost his current employer.

As part of that patronage extension, there's the virtual elimination of any incentive to actually perform the work involved.

If the Denver City Council is so convinced that this policy would save the city money, they must be equally convinced that, had it been in place, it would have saved the city money over the last decade or so. So why don't they go back, dig up all the contract rebids over that period, see which ones changed hands, and see how much of the savings was attributable to labor costs.

Better yet, how about some enterprising reporter who actual job it is to cover these things goes over the last year's worth of contract re-competes and makes that calculation?

January 1, 2009

How Not To Invest In Real Estate

Colorado will receive $34 million to buy up distressed properties. Of that, Denver will get about $6 million.

This isn't right, This isn't even wrong.

Look at the path the money follows to get here:

The state of Colorado will allocate the HUD funds, and community development groups, with the help of elected officials, will use the money. NSP money can be combined with HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program funds as well as other funding resources.

This doesn't even include all the administrative costs; some of the $6 million will go to those, as well. The fingers in the pie include: the IRS, HUD, the state of Colorado, community development groups, local elected officials, who will rely on local bureaucrats, all of whom have incentives to maximize their respective cuts, none of whom have incentives to actually improve neighborhoods. I'd love to see the cost accounting at the federal, state, and local levels for this cash, but none will be forthcoming, I'm sure.

Worse still, $6 million isn't even worth the effort. According to the City Assessor's Office, we can roughly value all the residential real estate, both real property and condos, at about $40 billion. Six million isn't enough to arrest a trend of declining home prices; it is, however, enough to pick favorites and reward allies.

If there are distressed properties for improvement at a profit, there are plenty of investors willing to risk their own money, without having to make the round trip through three different bureaucracies.

Maybe they could even hire some of those paper-pushers to do the framing.

November 5, 2008

In Other Election News

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

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

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

November 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.

April 9, 2008

Rudderless Rockefeller

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller on John McCain:

He's a fighter pilot. He flies at 35,000 feet and drops laser-guided bombs, missiles. He was long gone when they hit. What happened down there, he doesn't know.

That's unkind, because that's fighting for your nation and that's honorable. But you sort of have to care what goes on in the lives of people. ... and he never gets into those subjects.

Not many people know this, but George McGovern flew bombers over Europe in WWII, and was the main subject in Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue. He often spoke of the painful memory of having to drop a bomb at noontime, which ended up hitting a farmhouse where the family was likely eating lunch. He knew it was necessary to get rid of the armed bomb, but he was always disturbed by where it hit.

Later, a member of the family called into a radio show McGovern was appearing on, to let him know that the family had heard the bomb coming and escaped the house just before it hit.

I wonder what Rockefeller would have to say about that.

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.

January 12, 2007

Openings at the Carter Center

It's like something out of the Onion: "Carter Canvassing Local Home Depot for Replacement Board Members."

OK, not quite. But 14 members of the Carter Center board have resigned in protest over Carter's increasingly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments:

Your book has confused opinion with fact, subjectivity with objectivity and force for change with partisan advocacy. Furthermore the comments you have made the past few weeks insinuating that there is a monolith of Jewish power in America are most disturbing and must be addressed by us. In our great country where freedom of expression is basic bedrock you have suddenly proclaimed that Americans cannot express their opinion on matters in the Middle East for fear of retribution from the "Jewish Lobby" In condemning the Jews of America you also condemn Christians and others for their support of Israel. Is any interest group to be penalized for participating in the free and open political process that is America? Your book and recent comments suggest you seem to think so.

In the past you would inject yourself into this world to moderate between the two sides in the pursuit of peace and as a result you earned our admiration and support. Now you repeatedly make false claims. You wrote that UN Security Council Resolution 242 says that "Israel must withdraw from territories" (p. 38), but you know the word "must" in fact is not in the resolution. You said that since Mahmoud Abbas has been in office there have been no peace discussions. That is wrong. You wrote that Yassir Arafat told you in 1990 that, "The PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel" (p. 62). Given that their Charter, which explicitly calls for Israel's destruction, was not revised until the late 1990s, how could you even write such a claim as if it were credible?


As a result it seems that you have turned to a world of advocacy, including even malicious advocacy. We can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position. This is not the Carter Center or the Jimmy Carter we came to respect and support. Therefore it is with sadness and regret that we hereby tender our resignation from the Board of Councilors of the Carter Center effective immediately.

Read the whole thing. And then fill out an application. We've often been told that racism - or anti-Semitism - is a virus, and It turns out they have a position available for an epidemiologist. When they get around to posting the requirements for Board Member, they'll already have your resume on file.

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.

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.

September 14, 2006

Political Markets Also Bounce

I gave up blogging about the political markets a little while back, not so much because of the bad news, but because I didn't need to be a ticker tape. Since good news is more fun to report than bad news, I also didn't want to risk being one of those wartime news services that report only victories, but victories ever further away from the enemy capital.

But there's been a bounce in the President job approval rating. Naturally, the same MSM which trumpeted collapsing and plumetting ratings as they fell from 47% to 37%, now considers the reverse movement to be "slight." It may still prove to be transient, but the distance is the same in either direction.

In any event, it looked like time to see if this was translating into support in the markets, and it seems to be. The betting parlors are pushing the Republicans back up over the 50% to hold the House. Both Tradesports and the Iowa Electronic markets have done so. Arguably, the IEM has better-informed investors, but Tradesports has a broader base.

Since the idea behind the "Wisdom of Crowds" is that more is better, and that the crowd doesn't have to be particularly well-educated in the speciality, take that for what it's worth. Right now, it's worth about 3 cents on the dollar difference between the two markets, which I suppose constitutes an arbitrage opportunity.

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.

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.

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

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 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.

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 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...

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.

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 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.

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" »

  • 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 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.

    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.

    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 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.

    October 3, 2005

    OK, I Lied

    I hadn't intended to write anything else, but just for fun, to see if the cheerful, upbeat, economically literate folks over at the Regressives noticed the latest jobs report or the latest Supply Managers' survey.


    But they did find time to write a typically homework-deprived posting about an out-of-state House race. Apparently it's news when a left-of-center (although by no means leftist) John McCain-endorsed candidate makes news by not chasing the Bush mantle. One pretty clearly nailed down by another candidate, anyway.

    This district isn't exactly the Colorado 7th. Chris Cox won it with 2/3 of the vote last year. It's going to go Republican. Brewer figures that her only chance to win is by forcing a runoff and carrying the Democratic vote 9-1.

    In the meantime, the Regressives can fantasize all they want about what would happen if elections were held on the first Tuesday in October in years divisible by 5. Bush might or might not win the election today. It's pretty clear he'd carry this district.


    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