Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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April 30, 2009

The State Backs Loans

Apparently jealous of the Federal government's ability to distort credit markets, the Colorado legislature has decided to get in on the act.  SB-051, which Gov. Ritter signed into law, would extend loans to banks, who would then turn around and loan the money to homeowners and businesses to install solar equipment.  The idea is to smooth out the cash flows, eliminating the up-front cost of the system, up to $12,500.

For the homeowner, and especially for the business-owner, for whom the interest and depreciation are deductible, this is a good deal.

For the government and the taxpayer, not so much.  There's no fiscal note attached, which means that, in theory, there's no cost to the government.  This can't possibly be true, otherwise there would be an obvious arbitrage opportunity for the state.  The state can obviously issue debt for lower interest than the banks will lend it out at.  The state could do that, split the difference on the interest with the banks.

Why not do this?  Because of default risk.  You know, people not being able to pay the debt.  Which under the terms of the bill will almost always result in subordinated liens against the property, with the taxpayer coming out on the short end of the foreclosure proceedings.

Now, where have we heard this story before?

April 17, 2009

When The Money Keeps Rolling In, You Don't Keep Books

In Evita, a very white-washed Che Guevara makes appropriate fun on Evita's very own "stimulus" plan, the Foundation Eva Peron, sort of a Make-a-Wish Foundation for adults.  Obama's stimulus plan serves much the same function for liberal interest groups.

Now, while Evita skimmed off the top for herself, nobody's accusing the folks at the top here of doing the same thing.  (Obama's crew may be allergic to 1040s, but that's something else.)  Still, everyone's supposedly committed to "transparency" - our own state government excepted - so states and localities are expected to, you know, track where they're spending all this borrowing.

Apparently, that wasn't in the budget:

When it comes to the $787 billion in federal stimulus money flowing from Washington to the states, it will cost money to spend money.

Nebraska's governor's office told lawmakers it expects to spend more than $1.2 million over two years to oversee disbursement of about $1.5 billion Nebraska stands to receive in federal stimulus funds.

Other states, including Colorado, are in similar straits. But Washington -- at least for now -- isn't handing out money for states to hire auditors and accountants, and the stimulus law requires stringent reporting from states to ensure transparency and curb abuses.

You're kidding me, right?  Nebraska's complaining about having to spend less that 0.1%, less than one tenth of one percent of this handout boondoggle on administrative overhead?  Governor Bill "I'll Take All Of It" Ritter didn't think about this before he committed the state to this spending?

In any case, remember, money is fungible.  If we're spending an extra couple of hundred million on, oh, transportation projects and workforce training, we really ought to be able to cut a million out to pay for the administrative costs.

Naturally, this last point completely escapes the AP, both in their main story and in their Colorado-specific addendum at the end.

April 13, 2009

Forest, Meet Trees

The state legislature, having voted down measures that would make sure that voters are 1) eligible to vote, 2) eligible to vote in Colorado, 3) citizens, 4) who they say they are, and 5) not voting someplace else, is proudly preparing to take us back to the days of pencil lead under the finger tips and submerged ballot boxes:

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would push Colorado toward an all-paper election system, but the measure doesn't contain a hard deadline for achieving such a system.

Instead, if the bill passes, the legislature would merely declare its intent that every voter in Colorado cast their vote on paper. It would be up to the secretary of state to actually effect that change through a provision in the bill requiring that office to approve counties' purchases of new voting machines.

This is a bipartisan mess, but given that the other measures were all opposed on a party-line vote, it's fair to say where the Democrats would rather have our attention distracted focused.

Apparently, it's more important to be deciphering, inferring, or imputing "voter intent," than to be assured that it's a voter whose intent we should care about in the first place.

April 8, 2009

The Denver Post on HSAs and Single-Payer

Guess which one gets a better review?

As the Colorado House of Representative took us further down the road to socialized health care earlier this week, Douglas County School are considering moving to a Health Savings Account plan for their employees. Needless to say, the Denver Post finds this objectionable:

Douglas County School District soon may join a growing number of employers pushing workers to manage their own medical spending with health savings accounts, eliminating copays for drugs and doctor visits.

The transition is frightening for many who see it as a reinvention of health insurance as they've always known it.


The plan would work nicely for about 85 percent of employees, who are predicted not to spend more than the $1,000 put into their accounts by the district.

But for the other 15 percent, the change could mean a few extra thousand dollars a year spent on health care.

By the twenty-second paragraph, we find out that the system would actually include all that preventative care that single-payer advocates talk about:

A major component of the new health plan, up for a teachers-union vote at the end of the month, is a push to get employees to eat healthier and exercise more.

The plan comes with free preventive care, meaning no charge for mammograms, well-baby checkups and vaccines. Also, the district wants to reward employees for getting healthier - holding contests akin to "The Biggest Loser" reality TV show.

In-between is a real-life, specific case of financial hardship that the plan might cause.

And then, almost at the end of the article, comes what could well be the most appealing aspect of the plan for middle-class employees:

Health savings accounts are the fastest-growing trend in health care, said Andrew Sykes, chairman of Health at Work, a Chicago company hired by Douglas County to coordinate the possible conversion. The accounts have a triple tax benefit - the money goes in pre-tax, grows without tax and can be taken out without tax penalty to spend on health care.

In fact, the money can eventually be rolled over into a regular IRA, without the health-care-spending stipulation. And the tax implications for that real-life case aren't even discussed.

Compare this with the promise-heavy description of single-payer earlier this week:

During the extended debate on the bill, Democrats argued passionately for a government-backed system covering all Coloradans to replace a current system they said is inefficient and full of holes.

"I think it is our responsibility that every single Coloradan, regardless of their wealth or position in society, get the health care they need," said Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. "It is our obligation."

"This system we have right now," said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, "is completely and fundamentally broken, and there's no amount of patching it up that we can do to provide universal coverage."

Democrats said a single-payer system would save money overall by streamlining the health-care machinery and taking advantage of economies of scale.

Eventually, we get to the Republican response, but the political trumps are saved for the last paragraph:

Last month, the head of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing told lawmakers that Ritter is against the bill, noting that Ritter's health-care commission studied a single-payer system and rejected the idea.

There are no numbers given, no estimates of what such a system will cost or what care compromises will inevitably have to be made, no examples of people who would lose treatment because it wasn't deemed cost-effective by the state, only vague Republican accusations of rationing and expense.

In the meantime, a system that the Post admits will work for 85% of employees, that is intended to control costs by having individual rather than bureaucracies make choices, that provides a serious tax shelter for the young and healthy - exactly when we want people to be putting away money for retirement, is described as scary.

Apparently, for the Denver Post, free stuff is an easier sell that freedom.

April 5, 2009

Smoot-Hawley = Pace-Tapia

Apparently having failed to learn any lessons from the 1930s, Sen. Tapia and Rep. Pace have decided to sponsor HB 1328, which would:

Requires state agencies that purchase steel products to give a preference to such products produced in the United States if certain conditions are met.


Each governmental body shall Require that every contract for the construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, improvement, or maintenance of public works contain a provision that, if any steel or foundry products are to be used or supplied in the performance of the contract or subcontract, only steel or foundry products made in the United States shall be used or supplied in the performance of the contract or any of the subcontracts unless the head of the governmental body determines in writing that the cost of domestic steel or foundry products is considered to be unreasonable.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariffs are rightly blamed for, if not bringing on the Depression, acting as a severely aggravating factor in its depth. This particular bill would permit US-made "steel products" to be up to 15% more expensive than the comparable foreign product, which would rise to 25% if the government found that such a purchase would "benefit the local or state economy through improves job security and employment opportunity." This ridiculously low standard is met pretty much by definition.

Worse, the language of the bill is so broad that "steel products" could include not merely steel and alloys as raw material, but also in machinery used to execute the contract. This is going to needlessly and perpetually complicate the act of executive such simple contracts as road-building.

Canada (rightly) threw a fit over proposed Congressional protectionism earlier in the year, and the US is now fixing an unnecessary mess with Mexico over a couple of dozen Mexican trucks plying the roads. I don't know if Canadian or Mexican law permits reprisals against products from individual American states, but I'm sure that legislation could be tailored to hit Colorado directly.

For the record, Canada and Mexico are Colorado's largest trading partners, to the tune of about $3 billion of Colorado exports a year:

Wonder how well that will benefit the local or state economy's job security and employment opportunity."

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 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 13, 2009

Interstate Compacts...and Your Vote

Many pixels have been spilt, by Slaptick, Ross, and Amy Oliver (whose job I still want), about the end-run around the Constitution that is HB1299.

I won't bother to repeat their efforts to defend the Electoral College.

What strikes me is the irony of using the Electoral College and the Constitution to undermine them. HB1299 provides that the bill won't take effect until states with a combined Electoral College vote of 270 - enough to elect a President - approve it. The eleven largest states could decide that they want to change how a President is elected, without input from the other states. (In practice, Georgia and Texas, are unlikely to go along with this scheme, so the number of states needed would rise to 14 under current electoral count. Upcoming reapportionment might change it down to 13.) This reverses the Constitutional formula for amending the Constitution, with barely 1/4 of the states able to change things on their own.

When I pointed this out to the last political hack to try this stunt, Ken Gordon, on the air a couple of years ago, he retorted that this was only true because of the Electoral College itself, as those same states could elect a President. Of course, electing a President, who serves for four years, is a far less critical task than changing the Constitution, which changes will likely be with us forever.

The whole maneuver may not even be Constitutional. Article I, Section 10 reads, in part:

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, ... 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.

There are numerous interstate compacts, dealing with law enforcement, sexual predators, water rights, and other topics. The Supreme Court has ruled that the State needn't get Congressional approval unless the compact would impinge on Federal jurisdiction, which is why it's located in Article I, legislative powers.

However, the Court also ruled that term limits were an additional requirement for office, and that since Congressmen were Federal officers, the states had no power to impose those eligibility requirements. I wonder if one could make a similar argument about electors. I also wonder if a state has the right to apportion its own electors as it chooses, but cannot sign away that right of selection to other states.

All the arguments about this being an urban power grab are true. What's also true is that it's an unholy mess, which because its effects take place catastrophically, rather than as the states adopt it, is likely to sneak up on us and be settled in court, where so many of our issues are decided, rather than in the legislatures, where the ought to be.

March 12, 2009

What Does Lois Court Have Against Small Business?

Lois Court (D - Economic Cluenessness) joined all four Boulder Democrats in the State House yesterday in voting against Declaring March 9 - 13 Small Business Week. (By the way, Randy, Rep. Fischer from up there in Larimer County also dissed the bill. Raise an extra glass to the Maya Cove's owners next week, will ya?)

This is the sort of pro-forma measure that usually sail through by a combined 100-0, and if anyone pauses to comment, it's usually to sing the praises of whatever group is being honored.

Admittedly, there was a dig in there about the estate tax, but people die in Boulder and east Denver just like everywhere else. Stating that an estate tax can be a powerful disincentive is just stating an economic fact. It's like voting against a resolution honoring the astronauts because there's a clause in there stating that solid rocket fuel is dangerous and should be handled with care.

Maybe they didn't like the line about small business having a harder time getting credit, because it reminds people of all the money we're borrowing.

Maybe this is like voting against a Children's Day, because every day is Children's Day, and under the Dems, they want every business to be a small one.

I really have no idea. There are 59 Democrats up on Capitol Hill, and 48 of 'em were able to make their peace with this non-binding sense-of-the-legislature that wealth comes from entrepreneurial brains, rather than legislative luncheons.

February 18, 2009

Economic Sanity On The Hill, To A Point

The House Business Affairs and Labor Committee just voted to kill HB 1208, which would have proposed a state-wide Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rule on all state construction projects. While the bill was killed, 7-4, some of the reasons given for voting against it weren't encouraging. Rep Rice voted against, but prefers carrot to sticks. One would think that winning a contract would be enough of a carrot. He also equated this bill several times with TABOR and the 6% rule as "government by formula." So this doesn't necessarily mean enlightenment on the part of the committee Chairman.

It was also noted by the representative of small business that the bill would disproportionately affect minority workers. That was, of course, the implicit reason for the initial Davis-Bacon Act, pushed by white unions to exclude black workers from the work force. For some reason, Rep. Soper was unable or unwilling to distinguish between minority ownership and minority workers. There is, in fact, no reason the party and its candidates shouldn't make minority workers in Denver well aware of the affects of this legislation, and of which party tends to support it.

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 29, 2009

Blog Talk Radio

Tuesday night we chatted with Jan Tyler, who blogs on election integrity at her own site, and at Jan had something to say not only about her own work, but also about the trend towards paper ballots and the risks inherent therein. We also touched on the Democrats' blocking of registration and voter reform here in Colorado.

Our second guest was State Senator Greg Brophy, Assistant Minority Leader and scourge of coyotes everywhere. We talked about his efforts to forestall the hammer coming down on Colorado's energy industries, and proposed protections against eminent domain abuse. We also asked him, as we ask all Republicans who come on the show, what three core principles should the Republican party place front-and -center?

Listen here, or subscribe on iTunes.

Join us next week as we talk to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies about the upcoming elections in Iraq, and where we stand in the fight against Islamist Supremacy.

In the second half, we talk with reporter Mike Saccone of the Grand Junction Sentinel about the Western Slope, the state legislature, and the state of newspapers not named "Rocky."

Listen live at Blog Talk Radio

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.

"Core Functions of Government"

Yesterday, Senator Moe Keller, who has been working with the Department of Revenue in dealing with Colorado's $600 million budget shortfall for this year, actually said that they were being "forced to examine the core functions of government."

Nonsense. So far, nothing has been considered non-core enough to be cut to zero. In fact, as she pointed out later on in her testimony, 17 or 18 departments receive under 2% of their overall funding from discretionary spending, so cutting their money from the general fund entirely wouldn't barely affect their operations. Clearly, those departments are not subject to this committee's appraisal of the "functions of government."

On the other hand, this kind of rhetoric coming from a Democrat is a gift to Republicans, who ought to be talking this way.

January 20, 2009

Dogs Are On Our Side...

...but coyotes are not.

Coyotes, once the scorn of the West and a widespread target for eradication, are thriving along the Front Range and raising concerns about their place in cities and suburbs.

On Thursday, a pair of coyotes attacked a woman in Broomfield who was playing Frisbee with her dog. In Centennial and other metro areas, increasing numbers of residents are complaining about pets being killed and coyotes being overly aggressive.

"We are seeing an increase in coyotes going after pets and increased sightings," said Jennifer Churchill, a Colorado Division of Wildlife spokeswoman.

The division does not track population numbers of coyotes, Churchill said, but based on increased sightings, officials believe their numbers are way up.

"They're pretty much everywhere in the metro area right now," Churchill said.

Now, I'm as fond of Wild Kingdom as the next guy, but this is a classic example of people not taking wild animals seriously enough until they start behaving like, well, wild animals. I mean, not everyone has an Old Yeller hanging around to even the odds, although I like to think Sage would still be up to the task.

Fortunately, our newly minted State Senator, the rebbitzen Joyce Foster, was there to help out, with a bill imploring the Division of Wildlife to, well, do something.

Sage and the Ur-Cujo out there may share a common ancestor, but coyotes have no business living in a populated area. If they really are moving into my district, I guess that Ted Harvey's right, and maybe it is time to start packing while walking.

November 25, 2008

What Was That About the Oil Industry

Governor Ritter and too many legislators have been counting on the oil and gas industry to protect us against a recession. Note that these are the same people who argue against shale oil on the basis of Black Sunday a few decades ago.

Here comes the bad news your mother warned you about:

Energy companies are slashing operating budgets as Colorado's once-booming oil and gas industry struggles with plummeting commodity prices, a tight credit market and an uncertain regulatory environment.

Hiring freezes have been implemented in an industry that just six months ago struggled to fill open positions. The effects of the cutbacks are trickling to other companies, such as law firms that provide service to oil and gas operators.

News flash: it ain't just the law firms. It's trucking companies, hotels, housing, construction, pipeline companies, metalworking, logging, and everything else upstream from the hole in the ground. It's not just severance taxes, guys.

They'll base the budget on a cyclical industry, but won't allow it to grow to take advantage of the upturns.

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.

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.

May 19, 2006

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.

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.

January 30, 2006

Culture of Entitlement

Apparently, state Democrats figure that since they supported the Ref C tax increase, they get to decide how it gets spent:

Republican state lawmakers who opposed Referendum C are lining up with ideas on how Colorado should use the extra money the state will collect over the next five years, raising eyebrows among some of the Democratic leaders who fought hard to pass the measure.

Just two weeks into the 2006 legislative session, several Republican lawmakers who opposed lifting the state's revenue cap and pledged to be the state's fiscal guardians are pushing bills that would use some of that Referendum C money.


That litany has caused some Democrats to complain that those lawmakers don't have the standing to say what should be done with the money.

"These people chose not to be part of the solution," said House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder. "Part of me says, 'Too little, too late.' They're a day late and $300 million short."

This explains why Alice Madden isn't House Speaker.

In fact, it also indicates at least the second time that the majority Democrats have had to re-iterate that fact, indicating more insecurity than they'd like to let on. After all, the House rules are such that if the Dem caucus were united, this sort of browbeating wouldn't be necessary. The only way any of these ideas gain traction is if some Democrats support them, making the target of this outburst obvious.

It also suggests that the Republican gubernatorial nominee has a chance to carry down-ticket seats with him, if he chooses to.


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