View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, July 08, 2004


Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Absolute Zero in Jeopardy is -58000.

Diane Carmen on Vouchers 

Sometimes, it takes a little while to catch up. Diane Carmen, the Denver Post's reliably liberal columnist, turns out to be less than reliable on her facts. In her column celebrating the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling against vouchers, she states:

Only 11 of the state's 178 school districts would be included in the program. Only children in the lowest of the low-performing schools would be eligible.

This is about 25% correct. Districts with a certain number of lousy schools would have been required to participate. While the number of districts participating is correct, any district could have volunteered to be included. Surprisingly, none did.

For participating districts, the eligibility criteria was the student's performance, not the quality of the school. So far more students would have been eligible than Carmen admits. And if parents were able to push a district to participate, many more students could be eligible.

Carmen is entitled to her opinions; that's what an opinion column is about. But, to quote Mr. Buckley, she's not entitled to her own facts. The Post has editors for this sort of thing. It should think about using them.

Senate Campaign Cash 

The Rocky carries the latest FEC filings for the Colorado Senate race, and it pretty much confirms what we knew: Mike Miles has no chance, with only $60K on hand, and Bob Schaffer trails Pete Coors badly in both amount raised and cash on hand. Coors only has about $760,000 on hand, though, about half as much as Ken Salazar. Schaffer may be hoping for a large infusion from the Club for Growth, but it had better come soon. In the meantime, Coors is facing the prospect of a two-front campaign up until August 10. The good news is that while he'd rather not self-fund, Coors is able to do so should he need to.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Salazar Spins Edwards 

In a story about the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, a bill (that eventually passed) to allow maintenance clearing of fire-prone forests, the Grand Junction Sentinal quotes Ken Salazar as having this to say about Sen. John Edwards:

“John Edwards represents the American Dream,” said state Attorney General Ken Salazar.

Salazar, running for U.S. Senate, was endorsed by Edwards earlier this year.

“He came from humble beginnings, the son of a mill worker, to now serving in the U.S. Senate,” Salazar said. “He has spent a lifetime standing up for people; he knows their struggles and their hopes. He represents a fresh start for America, and he is a great choice for John Kerry.”

Salazar is stuck running with, rather than away from, the national ticket, so I wouldn't expect him to say anything different. But if suing your way to the top is the American Dream, that says all you need to know about Ken Salazar's commitment to tort reform.

Edwards and the Colorado Senate Race 

Yesterday, I surmised that Edwards's profession as a trial lawyer wouldn't do him much good here, and that it might even hurt Attorney General Ken Salazar's run. Salazar was clearly put on the defensivelast Thursday by his support from the ATLA, but he's also seemingly decided to run vocally with Kerry and against Bush. By closely associating himself with the Democratic ticket, he opens an opportunity for the Republican nominee.

This morning's Rocky discusses exactly this issue:

In Colorado, Democratic U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Mark Udall both noted Tuesday that being a lawyer became controversial in 1996, when Democrat Tom Strickland first ran for U.S. Senate.

Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard bashed Strickland then, and in their rematch in 2002, for his work as a corporate lawyer and lobbyist.


The campaign for Attorney General Ken Salazar - who also has won Edwards' support in his quest for U.S. Senate - said Edwards' work as a trial lawyer is "irrelevant."

Udall disagreed, noting, "Our history is replete with leaders who have been lawyers who understand the way the law works.

"The trial bar at its best looks after the little guy. ... And that's what John Edwards does," he said.

Salazar not only has Edwards's support, according to the FEC, he's got campaign contributions from him. Strickland, an attorney himself, downplays the role that had in his two losses, and Udall, running in a safe Boulder seat, is free to play up the angle. But if Salazar's campaign is as terse as it sounds, he may be a little worried. He's also the only current office-holder or candidate who wants to claim this doesn't matter.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Used Book Stores 

I know we're coming out of the recession. The news is still basically good, and anyone could have predicted this little pause by looking at the markets, and at history. The last time we blew off an 8% quarter and a 4% quarter, we also paused before picking up for another 5 years of growth.

Still, every time we go through one of these things, something changes. This time, it seems to be used book stores. Denver/Boulder has lost at least 6 of them over the last couple of years: Willow Creek, the Bohemian Bookworm, Aion, Abracadabra, another one in Boulder, and one in Colorado Springs. Some converted to on-line only sales, others gone altogether. One even picked up and moved - I'm not kidding - to a barn in Sweetwater Junction, Wyoming.

One of the first things I do when I'm visiting a town is to look up the used book stores and see if there are any near where I'll be. It's not always bargains, of course. I once dropped 3 bills on an Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition (1911), and had it shipped back to DC. But I can always buy that one book, if it's something I've been looking for.

I know about ABE books, of course, and if I'm really looking for something, I'll try there, too. There's no use explaining it, though. Like most obsessions, explanations are either superfluous or pointless.

I need three things to browse. A cup of coffee. A little money. And knowledge that I'll have time to read what I'm buying. Maybe not that afternoon, but sometime. Going back to school has just about killed this passion. Two years of homework stealing every spare moment and student loans obligating every incoming dime have made every purchase a struggle. Another reason to finish up and get on with life.

For the last 20 years or so, I've made a habit of writing my name and the date on the flyleaf of new purchases. I'm not the only one who does that, of course, and sometimes I'll find myself adding my name to a list of those of two or three previous owners. But recently, I've taken to adding the name of the shop where I bought the book, too. Don't ask me why.

The best places for used book stores are college towns. Professors die or retire, and get rid of a lifetimes of books. It's why Boulder, until recently, had better used book stores than Denver, and why Georgetown still has a little used book row on P Street.

Still, even the ones there are going out of business. One wonders where the books go. Most of them are bought up by consolidators or other stores, it seems. Still, in a mere 200 years, we've gone from books being a luxury item to a throw-away.

Like anything, it can be overdone. Jefferson bankrupted himself buying books, when they were a little rarer. My own collection runs to about 3000 books. Last summer, when I was threatened with having to move to Austin for work, I started cataloging them, so I know. I've basically run out of places to put them, which also takes some of the edge of off browsing. When you know that those five books are going to mean a major reorganization when you get home, you think twice.

Ah, well. Enough of this. Back to the homework.

Schaffer & Taxes 

One other note on Thursday's debate. Pete Coors tried to mix it up a little with Bob Schaffer over the tax issue again, and Schaffer was having none of it. Good for him.

He's on pretty firm ground here. He voted to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and according to the remarkable Project Vote Smart, voted to reduce taxes just about every vote I could find. He also received a $1000 campaign contribution from Douglas Bruce, author of the TABOR Amendment we're trying to preserve.

Coors isn't going to make any headway with this. Coors has plenty to run on without pursuing this red herring, unless it's just a tactical move to get Schaffer to self-destruct in a puff of blue smoke and indignation.

Kerry the "Realist" 

Over the weekend, John Kerry published an op-ed piece detailing his "realistic" "vision" for Iraq. The Bush campaign should hope that he finds time to keep writing.

Our military performed brilliantly in the war's first mission: ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. And all Americans share President Bush's desire for Iraqis to live with the blessings of democracy and security. But we are a practical people, and we know that all the rhetoric we've heard hasn't been accompanied by a realistic plan to win the peace and bring our troops home. We know that a chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, was right when he argued that more troops would be needed to establish security and win the peace in the weeks and months after Saddam Hussein's fall. And we know, especially, that we should have brought more friends and allies to the cause.

By carefully avoiding any mention of why we went to war, and how success in Iraq makes the US more secure, Kerry is trying to frame the question entirely in terms of an exit strategy. The issue is no longer how to win a war against radical Islam, but rather how to shift the burden so we can bring the troops home.

The point here is not to revisit history but to forge a new policy based on what we know and on what will be most effective. We still have an opportunity to prevent Iraq from becoming a failed state and a haven for global terrorists and Islamic extremists. We can still succeed in promoting stability, democracy, protection of minority and women's rights, and peace in the region, even at this late hour, if we construct and follow a realistic path. But if we are to reduce the overwhelming military and financial burden America is bearing and maximize the chances of success, we will need help from others. Getting that help will require not only convincing our friends and allies that we share an interest in preventing failure but also giving them a meaningful voice and role in Iraqi affairs. That is the only way to forge real cooperation, and it is long past time for this to be done.

Follow the bouncing ball here. Again, Kerry fails to show any understanding of why we fought in Iraq in the first place. The only issue now is how to avoid catastrophe. The risks that he posits were exactly the reasons for going to war initially, but Kerry sees them only as consequences of intervention. Note also that Kerry doesn't consider these dire consequences, with worldwide implications, to be sufficient to recruit the allies he believes to be necessary. And finally, our "allies" should have a "meaningful voice and role in Iraqi affairs." So, while sovereignty was the rallying cry for Saddam's Iraq, it's dangerous to allow too much of it for a democratic Iraq.

On the economic front, that means giving them fair access to the multibillion-dollar reconstruction contracts. It also means letting them be a part of putting Iraq's profitable oil industry back together. In return, they must forgive Hussein's multibillion-dollar debts to their countries and pay their fair share of the reconstruction bill.

Huh? We're offering portions of multibillion-dollar contracts in return for forgiveness of multibillion-dollar debt, and promises to pay their "fair share" of those very contracts. In other words, we're offering a net financial loss as a financial incentive. From this equation, the "allies" we're trying to buy, er, bribe, er, persuade, are better off staying invested in Iraq's future by holding onto those loans.

We should also give them a leadership role in pursuing our wider strategic goals in the region. As partners, we should convene a regional conference with Iraq's neighbors. Such a conference would have two goals. First, it should secure a pledge from Iraq's neighbors to respect Iraq's borders and not to interfere in its internal affairs. And second, it should commit Iraq's leaders to provide clear protection for minorities, thus removing a major justification for possible outside intervention. Together, we should jump-start large-scale involvement with an international high commissioner to coordinate economic assistance and organize and implement these diplomatic initiatives.

Now, Kerry's spinning off into deep space without a tether. He carefully avoids enumerating Iraq's neighbors. They include such defenders of the international order as Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. All three countries have powerful reasons to see Iraq fail. Such faith in international conferences, after the 20th Century, is touching in its naivite. Appropriate, perhaps, for an op-ed writer, dangerous in a President.

After we take all these steps, and dramatically secure Iraq's external security through Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi promises, NATO can step in as a police force.

Sure. Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are all just itching to help us get out of the quagmire that Kerry imagines Iraq to be. Let's stipulate that Iraq is a quagmire (it's not) and that NATO has tens of thousands of extra, well-trained troops looking for police duty (it doesn't). Knowing that the purpose of leaving Iraq alone is to help the US out of a mess, and to replace the coalition with NATO troops, why on earth would they agree to such a thing? Indeed, they have every incentive not to, knowing that a democratic Iraq poses a serious threat-by-example to their own regimes.

Worse, they'd have an incentive to do what regimes in that part of the world do so well - lie. Get us to "internationalize" the mission, and then proceed to undermine the country, anyway. After we've started to bring the troops home.

We're going to give "a leadership role in pursuing our wider strategic goals in the region" to countries that plainly are hostile to those goals. Leadership roles are earned, not given away as sops to countries that have obstructed us every step of the way. If democracy, stability, and economic growth aren't enough to persuade Germany and France and Russia that our interests coincide, does Kerry really have such a low opinion of his friends that he believes that a few billion in cement contracts is going to win them over?

Most ominously, Kerry doesn't discuss what he thinks our "strategic goals" in the region are supposed to be. Kerry shows no signs of understanding the larger strategic role that Iraq is supposed to play. He shows no signs of being willing to support Israel in the face of European hostility.

In short, candidate Kerry is promising a President Kerry who is willing to put the national interests of the US, as he sees them, in the hands of bought allies and honest enemies. Now all he needs is a peanut farm and a toothy grin.

Good News from Iraq? 

The AP is reporting that a local, home-grown Iraqi group of indeterminite - well, everything - is taking on al-Zarqawi publicly, telling him to get out of Dodge, or face the consequences. This may or may not be a good thing.

A group of armed, masked Iraqi men threatened Tuesday to kill Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi if he did not immediately leave the country, accusing him of murdering innocent Iraqis and defiling the Muslim religion.

The threats revealed the deep anger many Iraqis, including insurgent groups, feel toward foreign fighters, whom many consider as illegitimate a presence here as the 160,000 U.S. and other coalition troops.

In a videotape sent to the al-Arabiya television station, a group calling itself the "Salvation Movement," questioned how al-Zarqawi could use Islam to justify the killing of innocent civilians, the targeting of government officials and the kidnapping and beheading of foreigners.

"He must leave Iraq immediately, he and his followers and everyone who gives shelter to him and his criminal actions," said a man on the video.

The video marked the first time that an Iraqi group made such a public threat against al-Zarqawi.

Now, on the surface this certainly looks hopeful. If it's the beginning of Iraqis themselves retaking possession of their country and their religion, it's hopeful. But I can think of a lot more ways this is bad than good.

In the first place, if the group has higher political aspirations, they may capitalize on any success to further those. It's probably unhealthy for a democracy to be encouraging political success through violence. This group doesn't seem to be under the control of the government, and doesn't seem to like us, much, either. They could turn out to be a gun aimed at us. Even if they are what they seem to be, an amateur political player is frequently prey for more professional organizations. If Saddam still has any friends, they could infiltrate or subvert the group to their own purposes.

Assuming everything is on the up-and-up, I'd still like to see some professions of loyalty to the new government from these guys, before we start rejoicing too heartily at Iraqi public-spiritedness.

Kerry, Edwards, and Colorado 

In Thursday night's debate, the Republican candidates (both of them, not just Schaffer) were able to put Salazar on the defensive regarding his support from the American Trial Lawyers Association. Salazar spent time from a number of succeeding questions justifying this clearly unpopular position.

When Kerry selected John Edwards as his running mate, a man who has made all of his money in lawsuits, some of them backed by very questionable science, he didn't do himself, or Ken Salazar, any favors here in Colorado. Salazar has already signalled his intention to run against George W. Bush. He clearly belived that nationalizing the race would help him here. Now, it just clarifies a likely line of attack on him. And with the Senate taking up class action reform today, either Coors or Schaffer should have a rich trove of horror stories to illustrate their point.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Independence Day 

I haven't developed any particular July 4th routine over the years. Sometimes I go hiking, sometimes I go to a national park, sometimes I barbecue, or go for a long drive. This year, we're at a friend's condo in Carbondale, outside of Aspen.

I remember Fairfax City's parade (complete with little Shriner cars) growing up, and watching the county fireworks from our driveway. Later, we used to go to the Capitol steps to hear the concert and watch the fireworks.

This year, we'll watch the fireworks in Aspen, and drive home tomorrow over Independence Pass.

help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections