|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today against using RICO to punish political groups for political activities, sort of. The Court ruled that aggressive anti-abortion protests didn't "obtain property" for themselves, so they weren't extorting anythng when they got out of hand. This is excellent news, overturning another piece of the wretched Reno legacy. Now if we can only get Elian back...
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
The Denver City Council voted 7-3 last night for a resolution opposing war with Saddam. The thing is a laundry list of nonsense arguments and half-truths. It is a harvest of self-contradiction.
Good Grief! Even Charlie Brown abstained. This wasn't "grass-roots democracy at work," as one activist-without-a-life put it. It was the hijacking of a public body for purposes well beyond its charter.
In another legal development, the Rocky reports that, under very limited circumstances, juries in criminal cases will be allowed to ask questions of witnesses. They already could in civil cases. This is not as radical a development as I had thought. Evidently, most states allow questions in civil cases, but the article only lists Arizona as allowing juror questions in cirminal trials.
The Denver Post carries some very cheerful news this morning about the Colorado Senate and concealed-carry permits. The lead and second paragraph, in what the editor and reporter no doubt think is cute repartee, liken to debate to an old-west shootout, conjuring up images of inert bodies. But once we get to the actual facts, the news is good indeed.
Monday, February 24, 2003
It's also possible that we here in Denver have started something, or, at least, have given heart to those elsewhere in the US who want to silent majority to speak up. While the International (Doesn't Have an) ANSWER is marching in DC, the DC Chapter of FreeRepublic.Com is organizing a counter-demonstration at the Sylvan Theatre.
Meanwhile, the Denver Post is following the United story carefully, and the pilots seem ready to prove again why unions shouldn't run businesses. UAL wants to start a lower-cost regional carrier, something that's worked well for the other airlines, and which may allow them to compete with the Frontiers and the ATAs of the world. Naturally - the pilot's union, which is responsible for much of the lopsided labor structure to begin with - opposes it. Most pilots I know love to fly, but somehow, I don't think they're going to be able to afford their own 737s, even when they go on the auction block.
The Washington Post has two interesting articles on Democratic strategy and policy for the 2004 campaign, and Republicans should be encouraged by them both. First, the Democrats plan to spend the next two years attacking the President's credibility. This worked so well for the Republicans against Clinton, ahem, I'm surprised they didn't come up with it sooner. The fact is, people trust the President, have bonded with him, and don't care about te policy details and compromises that every leader has to make. They consider him a man of principle, which he is, and watching people like John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Tom Daschle try to sound like to soul of credibility for the next two years should be entertaining.
One of my favorite movies, Defending Your Life, was on last night. It stars the fabulous Meryl Streep, and the then-brilliant Albert Brooks. (I saw the trailer for Brooks's newest film, co-starring Michael Douglas, Saturday night, and I'm a little concerned he's turning into a parody of himself. He was never a nebbish; he was always a guy just a little out of his depth.) The whole overcoming fear part of it is terrific, although the metaphysics aren't as neatly worked out as one might think. Still, the basic premise is workable, and the notion that we spend a lifetime trying to work ourselves out of harmful patterns into healthy ones is refreshingly presented. Rent it.
Friday, February 21, 2003
The Washington Post is reporting that Has Blix may ask for a deadline for the destruction of those Iraqi missiles. I think the Post's emphasis on the missiles and a proximate causus belli is misguided. The Administration hasn't looked for anything that specific to hang its hat on so far, and it is unlikely to start doing so now. The bill of indictment against Hussein is far broader than a few missiles.
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Good News! In the battle for public opinion, Israel is winning, reports Gallup. What's intersting is the Israel vs. Palestinian sympathies. The Palestinians never get very high - despite all the ups and downs, they've barely budged. All the variation is between the pro-Israel feeling and the don't care. And the don't care seems to get a boost under two circumstance: nothing happens for a while, and Israel seems weak. After all, if you're not willing to stand up for yourselves, why should we stand up for you? But when there's a real threat, the Americans swing round to the side of justice and honor.
The Rocky is reporting that Sports Authority and local Gart Sports are going to merge in a stock-swap. The combined Sports Authority will be headquartered in Englewood, just south of Denver. The deal valued the companies equally, which is about right, according to the closing market cap.
Some good news: it looks like the travelling and somewhat adventurous public will be able to see Yellowstone by Winter, after all. Bloomberg News is reporting that the administration is set to allow cleaner snowmobiles, and fewer of them, but the Park wil stay open to those who aren't Olympic-quality athletes.
Another note about the consular offices. Denver's are listed on the http://www.denvergov.org website (don't ask me why it's .org and not denver.gov). At the bottom, there are a number of options for foreign-language translations of the site. For some reason, "Simplified Chinese" is flying the ChiCom flag, and "Traditional Chinese" is flying the flag of Taiwan. What's up with that?
France has trade consular offices all over the country. There's one here in downtown Denver. Why aren't these offices ripe targets for protest. We can make it clear that we're not against foreign trade, just boycotting the French. We have steadfast allies, starting with Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, you know, the rest of Europe and the Anglosphere. We could send them bouquets at the same time we're outside demonstrating against the Cheese.
The President gave a fine speech this morning at a Georgia High School, carried live on Fox News. It was mostly about the economic plan and tax cut plan, and it showed a fine understanding of basic business and economics, and the importance of sound tax policy. He spelled out very nicely why his plan isn't for "the rich," and why it affects business decisions we all make. It was clear, precise, sound, and easy to understand. Almost the sort of thing you would expect from a Harvard MBA.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
I've mentioned before this notion of business "stakeholders," which is au courant in business schools now. Today, the finance professor discussed why the principle of maximizing shareholder wealth is a misunderstood and misapplied concept among those who deride it. God, it's nice to be studying with people who understand economics as well as business.
According to Fox News, Hollywood is counting on your inability to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Martin Sheen is filiming a TV commercial for Win Without War, a group of actors who want you to call Washington on the 26th, deluge the phone lines, and effect an old-fashioned denial-of-service attack on their telephones. Fortunately, the people with the Win Without War website have more sense.
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
For our MBA, we need to take a career development and leadership class. While the career development part is geared more to the day students, the leadership part is interesting, and even useful. For class, we needed to present a profile of a leader of our choice. I chose George Washington. To anyone who thinks they know this guy, I would highly recommend Richard Brookheiser's Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington.
The International House here is having an "informational" dinner this Sunday. It's about three "countries." Lebanon, which is being less Finlandized than anschlussed by Syria. Saudi Arabia, which, in George Will's words, "isn't so much a country as a family with a flag," and something called "Palestine," which is recognized by no civilized government and appears on no US maps. Now, guess what kind of information they're going to present.
The left always talks about how the Iraqi people will suffer in a war. I saw Stephen Ambrose speak here in Denver, shortly before he died, plugging his then-newest book, The Wild Blue. It's about the less-glamorous B-17 crews in WWII, in particular, one brave pilot and commander, George McGovern. McGovern used to get asked if he regretted any of the bombs he dropped, and he said no, he didn't, given the cause, except for one. The bomb bay door had gotten stuck during a run over Austria, and since you can't land the plane that way, they had to release the thing wherever they could. It was just about noon, when he heard that the bomb was away, and looked down to see it strike a farmhouse. McGovern was from South Dakota, and knew just whan farm families do around noon. He always said that if he could have one back, that would be it.
Maybe Bush is looking to face down the French, the America-hating left, and the Iraqis all at once. Today's Washington Post is reporting that he's going to wait two more weeks before going to war. On Feb. 28, Inspector Clouseau, er, Blix, reports to the UN again, giving the French another chance to rail against the world, and on March 1, International (not the) ANSWER is planning a protest rally in Lafayette Park (if it's still open) across from the White House. If, in the absence of another resolution, and in the face of another set of street demos, the President goes ahead and sends in the troops, it should douse all three enemies at once. But it's a big gamble.
Monday, February 17, 2003
CNN quotes a Reuters report about the financial effect of global climate change on businesses. Sort of. Like most global warming stories, it's really about politics. And what isn't about politics is about bad science, and bad statistics.
The Industrial Workers of the World, once a potent socialist-anarchist force (but, like the Cubs, they've had a bad century), have joined the WWP in opposing the war. Now, more than ever, Don't Go Wobbly!
For those who didn't know -- A.N.S.W.E.R, the communist (really) front group that's organizing the anti-war protests, is planning a Convergence on the White House on Saturday, March 1. Now, look, I don't like giving free press to the opposition. These guys are well-organized,. well-funded, and well-off-their-rockers. But this time, since we know about it, how about organizing a counter-demo? If TV has 2 minutes to devote to them, how about stealing 15 or 20 seconds of their precious airtime?
Here's what we got from the AP, in a story about the San Fran Demo:
I have no idea where they got 300. Maybe their only standard of comparison was their high school gym. Or maybe they can only count to 3, but they knew there were more than 30 and fewer than 3000. This isn't bias, it's fabrication, and it calls into question, by at least a factor of 2, Saturday's and Sunday's anti-war crowd estimates.
For the moment, just links to coverage. We report, you decide.
A couple of notes. The Post story is pretty fair, although it probably gives more ink to the 50 sloganeering anti-war types who showed up across the street than is necessary. While it's pretty reprehensible that one of our guys yelled out "Bomb Islam," it shows how important it is not to get into shouting matches with these guys. I was pleased that the wrap-up speaker specifically asked us to ignore them. There are a lot of emotions involved here, as well as reason, and when you get too emotional, you say dumb things.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
The first-of-its-kind Rally for America, somewhat mistakenly called a pro-War rally, went off today in Denver, and we were very pleased with the turnout. The Serious Side is pro-War, and it's difficult to get serious people to turn out for a rally. We got about 2000 people, and they were all in good spirits, they cleaned up after themselves, ignored the few naysayers gathered across the street to chant mindless slogans. (One of the local news reports claimed that some people had shown up thinking we were an anti-war rally. Oops.)
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Cuba again. The Wall Street Journal has an uplifting story about four Cuban Coast Guardsmen who, with access to better maritime facilities than a rubber raft or a wooden door, took off for Florida yesterday and made it to the US.
Loose cannon Congressman Peter King from NY has evidently called France a "second-rate" power, and suggests that they be excluded from future military alliances, since all they do is get in the way. No comment from the French Embassy, but I expect that all second-rate powers everywhere are insulted. I think he was being generous.
Monday, February 10, 2003
News today that Target, WalMart, and other major online retailers are starting to charge salestax on their online sales. Up until now, internet sales have been exempt from sales tax, but now, the big boys are starting to charge it. Their stated aim is to make sales tax a standard on the Net. For a long time, bricks and mortar have complained that clicks and mortar have an advantage by not charging tax. (Of course, they don't mention shipping.) In fact, the large companies are just tying to raise the bar for their smaller competition. The larger companies involved all have a significant retail presence in many states.
Sunday, February 09, 2003
I sympathize with the arguments against the War on Drugs that focus on our loss of 4th Amendment rights. I don't sympathize at all with those who claim that drug use is a victimless crime. Ask these families.
Although, there is this monstrosity working its way through the Colorado legislature. Remember, Colorado is considered a bellweather state in tort law, so be prepared.
One of the few downsides to living in Denver is that the lighthouses are so far away. Powerline may bemoan the Strib, but at least they have the Pioneer-Press. For national and internation coverage, the Post and the Rocky are more like the prairie dogs and the rats than we like to admit. So this morning's interesting headlines continue to come from the Washingtont Post.
Friday, February 07, 2003
The GAO has dropped its ill-conceived lawsuit against Vice-President Cheney's office. It was a terrible idea to begin with, fraught with separation-of-powers issues, and attacking the executive's rights to take advice and make decisions. The GAO is basically an independent body, although it does seem staffed with a lot of Democratic holdovers. The Post seems to blame at least some of the decision on the Republican takeover of the Senate, this seems gratuitous. More likely, lower-court reversals had more to do with it.
The Washington Post reports on a rat invasion that evidently came close to wiping out the National Zoo's prairie dog exhibit. It's accompanied by a photograph of two of the fattest prairie dogs I've ever seen. Remember that next time somebody tells you zoos are cruel.
Now, I've been living in Colorado for almost 6 years, and I can tell you that while easterners (as I was) think prairie dogs are cute, out here, there's not much to choose from between them and the rats.
The Denver Post has a touching article this morning about soldiers writing their wills before they head overseas. Fort Carson, down near the Air Force Academy, has seen a large number of call-ups of both regulars and reservists, many of them too young to have considered writing a will or a living will or even death. The headline is a bit over the top; it conjures up images of a guy raising his hand in panic and asking, "You mean I could die? They never told us that!" But mostly it's just people who haven't made out wills, being sent into a particularly dangerous situation.
Some of the people are older. How a man with kids makes it to 45 without a will is beyond me.
One interesting note is the job help that mobilized reservists get. Employers have to hold open their old jobs for these guys and gals, which is only right. But, the article notes, some folks are self-employed, and need to make payments on equipment for their business. There's no law covering this, but the Army does try to work things out with the loan company. The knowledge that they'd be putting a soldier out of business probably carries a certain amount of moral weight.
Thursday, February 06, 2003
The Jerusalem Post is reporting (registration required) that Yisrael B'Aliyah has decided to merge is Knesset delegation with Likud's giving Likud direct control over a lboc of 40 seats, or almost 1/3 of the Knesset. This is important on a number of levels.
In terms of coalition politics, it will make it slightly easier for Sharon to form a government. It's two fewer seats he has to worry about, and there's probably some arithmetic there that makes things easier. But the real import is what it does to Yisrael B'Aliyah. The party was founded by Natan Scharansky, easily the most famous refusenik from the Soviet days, and a man with tremendous moral authority both at home and overseas. If he were a black South African Communist, he'd probably be on a par with Nelson Mandela. He was able to maintain significant respect at home by not selling out his party, by keeping his independence even within a coalition. The party was always conservative on "foreign policy," but somewhat socialist in its economics and always in favor of more programs for immigrants. The failure immigrants to turn out in significant numbers this electon is what cost the party so many seats.
It's Scharansky's moral authority that Likud really wants to co-opt; the two seats are really incidental. The only part of the parties to merge is the Knesset delegation; - lower-level office-holders will stay with their parties. Yisrael B'Aliyah is claiming that with only two seats, the only chance it had to maintain viability was to merge with Likud, since Shinui's secular coalition might have been able to leave it out altogether. Still, the move smells a little of politics, and one hopes it doesn't damage Scharansky's reputation. I'd like to see the part continue as an independent force, primarily for Scharansky's sake.
In other Israeli political news, Labor's secretary-general, Ophir Pines Paz, has admitted that the public hates them. You Don't Say.
The Denver Post headline writers continue to ignore the content of the stories they publish. This morning, the lead article claims that "few Colorado minds were changed" by Powell's speech. But the only evidence offered to that effect is anecdotal. The polls tell, in fact, the opposite story. A few days ago, the Post published a poll, with a headline, announcing that Coloradoans wanted to wait for the war. Only 53% supported military action against Iraq. The poll published with today's story has 69% in favor of US military action. This is a swing of 16%, and a nearly 3-1 margin in favor (not counting the undecideds).
The Post needs to be careful. The Ciruli polls come without significant methodological information, the anecdotal evidence is interesting but not representative. If it continues to ignore evidence it doesn't like, it may find itself going down the same path as Howell Raines.
MSNBC just put up intermediate results from an online poll, asking if Powell was convincing. 77% said yes, 33% said no.
Can MSNBC add? We report, you decide.
Is it possible that the Russ Feingold and the anti-war left just don't know English? For a movement that draws heavily from college students and self-styled intellectuals, this is hardly surprising. They keep talking about a "unilateral attack." So far, we've got upwards of 20 countries on our side, many of which are ready to commit troops, airspace, and bases to the effort. We've got most of the Gulf states, we will have Turkey, and we have Jordan. We have 18 European countries who've just told France and Germany to remember where they came from, Australia has already shown up and New Zealand will. There is nothing "unilateral" about anything with that number of supporters, almost of whom come from the civilized world.
The word they're looking for is "pre-emptive." Iraq has not, as of yet, actually managed, by overt, acknowledged military action, managed to attack the soil of the United States. The Iraqi government's potempkin republican institutions, from "parliament" to "referendum," have not, as of yet, declared war on the United States. None of this means that they aren't collaborating with al Qaida, that they aren't planning such an attack, that they wouldn't use their chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons to deter us from, say, protecting Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. It just means they haven't done so yet.
The anti-war folks will argue that we need to absorb an actual attack before we can respond. Some of us would argue that we have no moral obligation to let our citizen be incinerated, their lungs burned out, or their children murdered, before we make sure that it won't happen.
When the actual attack comes, the pacifists will move the bar. For some of us, that's reason enough to act now.
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
DU College of Business has both a daytime track and a nighttime track. The daytime track generally assumes 3 classes per quarter, and the students are generally a little younger. The nighttime track assumes 2 classes per quarter, and the students are a little older, and are working during the day. Because last quarter I got ahead of myself, this quarter I'm taking one class at night and one with the day students. This is the second daytime class I've taken, and from what I can tell, the nighttime students are much more engaged (despite having worked all day), much sharper, and the intellectual energy is mich higher.
I think this may be becuase the nighttime students are less likely to be in school marking time, and more likely to see a direct application their careers or business lives. At the same time, they seem to be a little bit older, so a little but more experienced and mature.
The response to the rally postings to far has been terrific. I want to thank Instapundit, Powerline, Yourish, Rod Dreher (of NRO), and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs for posting news of the rally. I hadn't yet contacted the newspapers, and now it may not be necessary. I am reliably informed that the Rocky Mountain News will have an article soon on the rally. Evidently, papers are now reading blogsites.
Monday, February 03, 2003
We finally got some much-needed snow. Not everyone likes snow, but fortunately that doesn't incude either me or my dog. While I was out walking Sage the Underdog this morning, we walked through Crestmoor Park, a very large, very nice park with a fair amount of open space. The climate is so dry here that the snow was sublimating, that is, evaporating straight away, without melting first. The sun was low in the sky, fighting through the clouds, and this field of white was enveloped in mist. I felt as though I should start looking around for a hatless man in a topcoat wailing, "Catherine, Catherine."
More exciting than turning on your lights! More action-packed than filling up parking lots! Austin, eat your heart out!
Denver is finally going to show the nation how to take the Rally Monster back from those weasel-loving folks with no ANSWER. We're having a real, live, rally for normal people who support the president and the liberation of Iraq. Here's the flyer! And yes, we have a real, professional-looking press release, too. But isn't this announcement much more fun?
Look, this is pretty important. We don't have a "street" here the way the Arabs do, because we have actual "elections," where we get to make real decisions about those who make our policies. But pictures and impressions matter. And if the only thing people see is one pro-Saddam freak show after another, it's easy to lose heart and forget those poll numbers that say that we're not alone. And it's even easier for people in Israel to think we've forgotten them.
So, Sunday, February 16th, show up at Colorado's State Capitol at 1:30 pm, and give the press something to distort - er - report. Well, you decide which.
Sunday, February 02, 2003
One of the more interesting debates is over the exact nature of the Axis of Weasels: are they twisting the Americans' tail, or are they after something more? I come down firmly on the Steyn/Hindrocket/Lowry side, which says that they are trying to use existing international institutions to contain the Americans. Then, they'll try to build the nascent Europe into a Franco-German dominated alliance, to provide a permanent counter-balance to the US, and to resurrect French power.
Saw Catch Me If You Can this evening. A really good, upbeat film that holds your attention and captures the look of an era. And now I know something about routing numbers on checks.
I was out walking my dog in the park this morning when I heard about the Shuttle. I almost started to cry right there on the spot. The space program, - rudderless, aimless, bureaucratic as it is - is one of the single most important national endeavors that we have. Those people were heroes. I remember seeing Apollo 13, and marvelling that Apollo missions had become routine to the public. Shuttle missions had become so routine that we now had space tourists. Adventurers, so long as they don't get in the way of the professionals, should be encouraged. They will help make space travel truly routine. But this disaster is a reminder that we're not there yet, and that every mission puts brave men and women in harm's way.
I truly believe that the best thing now is to fix the Shuttle, and get on with a manned mission to Mars. If we're going to be spending big money and risking human life, we'll do it a lot more willingly if there's a goal.
A couple of words about Ilan Ramon, who was, to all accounts, a mensch. He was not religious. But he carried a microfiche Torah up with him, had kosher meals made, and inquired about keeping Shabbat. Some of this, no doubt, was the desire to carry familiar things with him into the most alien and isolated of places. But he also said that as an Israeli, he was a representative of the whole Jewish people, and felt a responsibility to keep these things for the duration. More Jews, observant and not, should feel the same way.