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...

The Court's lone dissenter was...John Paul Stevens, ever willing to put personal preference over the law.

The Court may or may not have had to be technical in this decision - I'm not certain what arguments were put forth before it. But the purpose of the law was to convict criminal conpiracies, specifically mafia-type operations, not political protesters, no matter what the criminal effect of their activities. If individuals assaulted women trying to enter clinics, they should be tried for that, but to shut down an entire political movement because of that, and no other, was to try to place a specific political issue beyond the realm of discussion. It was political correctness given the force of law, and it was wrong.

It's worth noting the specific application of this law as the Clintons grasped for a means to make political opposition on this issue illegal. Violence has dogged anti-war,anti-IMF, anti-World Bank protests for years, well back into the Clinton era, but it was never, never suggested that International Not The ANSWER, or any of the other organizing bodies, should face RICO prosecution for their routine property damage and assaults on the police. Thank goodness we elected an administration that elected to refrain from this sort of abuse altogether rather than try to turn it on its enemies.

This is an old lesson, and one that the Democrats seem to have forgotten - the distinction between ends and means, and the notion than if you make certain means legitimate, they will, not maybe, but certainly, eventually be turned against you, so better not to bring them into polite society in the first place. I've been reading Bruce Catton & William Catton's fine history of the colonial and early national era, The Bold and Magnificent Dream. They note that when the Puritans in England seized power and killed the King, they offered all sorts of help to the Massachusetts Puritans. The colonials turned them down, realizing that one day, the Cavaliers would be back in power, and they didn't want to be punished then. Indeed, when Charles II and William III did turn their attention to the colonies, they rewarded their friends with land grants, but notably avoided punishing the Puritan colonies.

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.
  • It actually cites an opinion poll as the basis for support.
  • It notes, without irony, that Iraqi citizens (especially, of course, "the children," who don't vote here, either, see the Constitution) have no control over the actions of their government. Um, isn't that the point? Of course, they don't have any control - the country's a dictatorship. The resolution explicity supports keeping a dictator in power.
  • It cites the cost of going to war; no mention, naturally, of the cost of further attacks.
  • It repeats the nonsense of a "unilateral war," and holds Gulf War I up as the gold standard for a coalition. I could list the countries on our side, but you already know them.
  • We should lead by example, not emulation of our enemies? Who, exactly, are we expecting to follow this example? They admit that our enemies are everything they say we are: bellicose, warlike, dangerous, lawless, and, ahem, "unilateral."
  • It calls for a vote of Congress, while admitting that they've already debated and voted. Evidently, they didn't like the vote the first time.
  • Nobody outside the loop even knew this thing was coming up for debate before 6:00 last night. If they're so eager for "full public debate," why did this need to be scheduled in secret?
    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.

    The only thing I'm sorry about is that only two of the supporters of this monstrosity are up for re-election, the others having been term-limited out of office. And one of them is running unopposed. The other is in a seat so safe you need to be registered Democrat to be drawn into the district.

  • 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 DAs seem to be in favor, the defense attorneys against. The reports seems to undermine defense fears that juries will talk themselves into a conviction. First of all, most juries, from people I've talked to, take their work seriously. If they don't habitually get wedded to their own theories in the deliberation room, why would they do so just because they can ask written, judge-approved questions in court? Secondly, the jurors in some high-profile cases that were quoted seem to display an appropriate respect for the ability of the attorneys to present the evidence. I doubt they're going to jump in and start advocating openly there in court, unless one side has a major problem with its case. On the whole, this seems like a positive development.

    The article did mention that most juries in the 35 states that allow questions in civil trials don't know they're allowed to ask questions. This needs to be remedied. Juries need to be informed clearly of this fact, and the procedural rules surrounding it, as the trial starts. This isn't a question of telling them about "jury nullification," controversial about 10 years back. The attorneys probably hate it, and most judges probably are suspicious of it. But the legal system, after all, is for us, not them.

    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.

    The Senate passed a shall-issue law, and rescinded the rights of local communities to defy it. These are two separate bills, and the governor may or may not sign them. This may seem unfair to Minturn and Vail, but it's really intended to prevent Denver and Aurora from setting up another barrier. The thing died last year in the Senate, when the Democrats controlled the chamber, but the party leadership supported the bill. This year, the Republicans, with an 18-17 majority, were able to pass it, 18-16, despite two defections. That means that two Democrats also crossed party lines, but they aren't named in the article.

    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.

    This Saturday, both Houston and San Antonio ware planning Rallies for America, and on Sunday, Tulsa, Oklahoma is planning one, as well. Thanks to reader Cory Skluzak for pointing these out to me.

    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.

    The second was about one of the candidate beauty contests that they go through, trying to appeal to the rank-and-file. The gist of it seemed to be that the anti-war message is likely to be popular among party activists, and may propel one of the second-tier candidates into the first-tier. There's nothing wrong with his analysis as far as it goes, but I don't think it goes nearly far enough.

    A longer-term analysis, based on the notion of a short war, happening soon, would look somewhat different. First of all, I'm not sure about the reporter's claim that there is "hardening opposition to a military strike among the party rank-and-file," unless it's a different Party he's talking about. In the polls, even most Democrats support the President on this one, and if it helps a candidate in the early going, he's still going to have to face the voters as a whole. Secondly, anyone who has opposed the war, or is now apologizing for having voted for it (as the Senatorial Presidential candidates seem to be doing), is going to look damn foolish when this thing is over. They'll still be able to carp about the cost of the occupation, but I don't think they'll be able to complain about the war's popularity in Iraq, Iran, or anyplace else we care about. Iraq, properly handled, shouldn't be any more of a quagmire than Afghanistan, and the anti-war candidates will have to look elsewhere for support in a couple of months.

    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.

    On the other hand, if an excessive focus on those missiles is allowed to develop, it could be the next thing that drags out this mess. The wait for war is dragging the markets and the economy, and is far more wearying than actual fighting of the same duration would have been. The Bush people are smart tacticians, and even strategists, but sometimes they don't seem to have a handle on the psychological effects of their policies on Americans.

    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.

    It also points out just how out of touch academia and the mainstream media are from the US as a whole.

    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.

    This is of some interest to the Jewish community, since the Gart family has historically been both active and generous. While control of the company passed from their hands some time ago, I'm sure they retained some substantial level of influence. One hopes that this continues.

    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.

    Three years ago, I went to Yellowstone in January, and it was a sight. The thermal features were a bit of a disappointment, since they had so much more steam, but the wildlife was abundant, and the Buffalo didn't seem to mind the snowmobiles at all. Maybe because they outweighed us all combined.

    Another note about the consular offices. Denver's are listed on the website (don't ask me why it's .org and not 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.

    Also, he lavished praise on Zell Miller, and, if I heard him correctly, said that Sen. Miller would be introducing his tax plan in the Senate. Tom Daschle must be having a fit.

    But one of my favorite lines was about the impending war. Quoth the President: "Freedom is not America's gift to the world - it's God's gift to humanity."

    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.

    Voluntary stakeholders include customers, suppliers, employees, debt holders, and shareholders. Involuntary stakeholders include the Government and the Community, meaning anyone who is affected by company decisions. The Government will certainly take care of itself. Among voluntary stakeholders, every one of them is in line before the shareholders, and our obligations to them are more or less fixed. Customers should get a safe product that they want at a fair price. Suppliers should get paid on time. Employees should get paid what we agree when we agree. (We're talking about financial costs here, not the other responsibilities that people have towards each other.) And debt holders want their interest and their principal.

    The community is the squishy one. We're all familiar with basic torts involved: don't poison my water and make sure your pizza delivery guys know where the brakes are. But obligations may go beyond that, may not be strictly reciprocal, and may eventually be enshrined in law rather than in ethics or morals. Thus, could "community" be a trojan horse for socialist ideas, spirited into our bastions of free enterprise and innovation - our business schools.

    My hope is, naturally, that this doesn't happen. Instead, it's entirely possible that this will promote a more rigorous intellectual debate, forcing proponents on each side to sharpen and clarify their ideas before selling them to a public or to the legislatures. Appropriate suggestions for corporate responsibility may make it through, while the wacky ones get rejected. My sense is that most (but not all) business school students are politically conservative, or classically liberal, and want to preserve their own freedom to act once they get out. Much like the American public as a whole, which doesn't like class warfare since they see themselves as the future rich.

    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 guy who followed me picked, I'm not making this up, Jimmah Carter. Of course, he focused primarily on his post-presidency, there not being much to grab onto before that. It was interesting to see the list of conflicts into which Carter has stumbled, as published by the Carter Center. Virtually none of them has actually been resolved, and yet this has done nothing to damage either Jimmah's faith, or that of his followers, in negotiation as the best means of international conflict resolution. It may be fine for border disputes that stand on their own, or fishing rights. But the guy's been to Venezuela, what, 3 times?

    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.

    Flash forward about 40 years, and McGovern is in Europe as a guest on a radio talk show. He tells that story, and then takes a call. It turns out that it's from someone who, given the time and location, figured it was his farmhouse that got hit by that bomb. They heard it coming, were able to get out of the house, and while it was destroyed, everyone had lived. Here's what he told the man who destroyed his family home: he said that if the loss of his house had ended the war one day, or one hour, or one minute sooner, then it was worth it.

    Now, why would anyone think that the Iraqis would react differently? "End Racism," indeed.

    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.

    I'm afraid that the President, by allowing this to go on months more than necessary, has made a tactical error that could grow, in time, into a strategic one. He's allowed a misguided left to coalesce and seem more powerful than it is. It's not that they're changing anyone's mind. But they're "rallying their base," and eventually will end up with some issue where they have a majority.

    Normally, in the weeks leading up to, say, a Congressional vote, the nerves get frayed, the voices shriller, the rhetoric nastier. Then there's a vote, someone wins, and says it's time to move on, someone loses, calls a press conference and vows to fight on, but knows that this battle is over. There's an element of that in this travelling freak show that ANSWER has put together. But I'm not sure, ad hoc as they are, that they're going to go away after the war's over. And if Saddam has more surprises up his sleeve, Bush has cut our margin for error dangerously close.

    You know, we've seen something like this before. Remember the way the campaign reacted to the last-minute DUI revelation. It almost cost Bush the election, since he didn't react quickly. "Best laid plans" and all that, still have to be flexible enough to deal with the unexpected. I hope we're not seeing the same thing at work here politically and diplomatically, and I certainly hope that kind of thinking hasn't trickled down to our military planning. "Battle plans never survive first contact with the enemy."

    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 report claims that agriculture and tourism are vulnerable to increasingly violent weather, and that weather-related insurance claims are doubling every 10 years. Countries are preparing to implement new regulations. But businesses can, by changing their practices, make sure that we don't all drown, or fry, or freeze. Put together, this looks pretty imposing. Investors should be worried. But it pulls apart easily.

    First of all, legislation is not, strictly speaking, a matter of global warming. It's a matter of policy, which may or may not have anything to do with reality. In fact, the science doesn't support any sort of radical legislation, and the costs here are almost completely divorced from the reality of climate change.

    But even leaving aside the notion that our activities here have something to do with climate change, there are enough logical disconnects to power the average left-wing op-ed, or freshman term paper. The one hard statistic, not projected into the future, is about the doubling of weather-related claims. How long have they followed the trend? How much is a result of stricter building codes, economic development, or the movement into previously uninhabited areas? They either don't know, or they're not saying.

    It's been notes elsewhere that "increasingly violent weather" may also be a part of a natural cycle, having nothing to do with climate change, and that agriculture stands to benefit, if it adapts to longer growing seasons. That last point contains a more subtle objection to the Reuters article, and the mindset behind it, poised to produce bad laws. The successful businesses, the ones that investors should be looking for, are not those that adapt by being more "green." As an investor, I look for a business that can adapt to these changes. So I'd look for an agricultural company that can grow warmer-weather crops, or one that's buying up large swaths of Alberta. I would look for a tourism company that's figured out how to market mountain resorts with a shorter ski season, and so forth. What companies use the by-products of these crops?

    A successful business isn't necessarily one that adapts to the legislative climate alone.

    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?

    We started it out here in Denver. Get going, DC!

    Here's what we got from the AP, in a story about the San Fran Demo:

    In Denver, about 300 people waving American Flags and holding signs proclaiming "war is bad, evil is worse" also gathered Sunday in support of using force against Iraq.

    "I support our president and I support my sons. This is the only option," said Pam Pearson, 49, who has two sons in the Navy. "I'd rather force Sadaam out than have to play by his rules."

    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.

    Rally Coverage

    For the moment, just links to coverage. We report, you decide.

  • Denver Post
  • Rocky Mountain News
  • Rocky Mountain News II
  • Channel 9 (NBC)

    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.

    The News concentrated on the variety of people who showed up, and how far they came to get there. A lot of immigrants, from India, Russia, and Mexico. The News also has a second story about the parents of soldiers who have shipped out. The rally meant a lot to them, too.

    Channel 9's Web report was written by a "web producer," who evidently didn't attend. She, too, uncritically quotes the 300 number (see above), and gives about 1/3 of the ink to about 1/30 of the people in attendance.

  • Sunday, February 16, 2003

    Rally Report

    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.)

    The speakers were generally brief and on point, the singing was good, the cheering was frequently punctuated with "U-S-A, U-S-A," and a good time was had by all.

    The color guard has performed at a number of Presidential inaugurations. They wear military uniforms from each of the conflicts we've had to endure in our history.

    Notice the sign highlighted in red. Yes, it's anti-war. And you know something? Nobody pushed, shoved, kicked, shouted at, harrassed, or attacked the guy holding it. Imagine that.

    Thanks to Neil Dobro, Bill Eigles, Anne Freeman, and the rest of the steering committee who made this thing happen. Links to newspaper and TV stories as they appear.

    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.

    Sadly, the Denver Post doesn't seem to get it. They're running a week-long series on Cuba, and, naturally, things aren't as bad as you've heard. On Sunday, we heard about Cuba's lively arts scene. They have dance, they have music, Castro loves the arts. Cuba is so free-spirited. Never mind that even the most God-forsaken medieval wasteland had singing and dancing. Remember all those Bulgarian choruses in their brightly-colored native garb? They lived in a God-forsaken medieval wasteland up until about 10 years ago, and they had to be guarded 24/7 by men in drab-colored uniforms to make sure they went back.

    Ms. Aguilera and Ms. Sweets have mistaken entertainment for The Arts. As a conservative, I resent and dispute the notion that everything is political or politicized. But certainly the arts, to be vital, need to have the potential to make political and social statements. Otherwise, they are a museum, ossified and uncreative, fearful of what statement might offend the authorities. Art, as any port worth his salt will tell you, as any veteran of the 60's Folk Song Army will swear, can threaten power.
    And Castro's most ardent defenders would never permit you to think differently if the scene were, say, Miami.

    In the true spirit of lip-service, the article mentions to oppression that some say has affected Cuban art. But then the authors are off and running again, talking about Castro's patronage of the arts. Castro does not love the arts. He loves the distraction that entertainment can bring. He loves their entertainment's ability to, in Tom Lehrer's words, "let [them] forget for a while, their drab, wretched lives." Only he was being ironic.

    Yesterday, they talked about AIDS. Cuba claims a miniscule rate of infection, but most analysts dispute their numbers. The reporters say that, "while other experts agree, there's no evidence to support their skepticism." Of course, there's no evidence. Good grief, we're talking about a closed society, where certain facts are illegal.

    To their credit, the reporters do detail the gulag-like conditions that AIDS patients have to live in. Anyone who thinks that gays in the US have it bad ought to see what theu go through in Cuba. I'm no celebrant of the gay lifestyle, but if the "arrival of the US Dollar and increased tourism in the 90s" helped ease their abuse, then at least it's done some good.

    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.

    Look, I have a black labrador retriever of my own, named Sage. I wouldn't sell him for anything. I got him for all the reasons people buy dogs, and he hasn't disappointed in any of them. But he's not a person. He's a dog. It's bad enough that we can name pets in wills. Couldn't there be some provision just requiring that the dog be taken care of? But allowing people to sue vets for $100,000 for "loss of companionship?" I know I'm going to be devastated when Sage goes. He's only 3 1/2, so we've probably got about a decade left together. And I'd be furious at a vet who made enough of a mistake to kill him. But the vets I know love animals, got into the business to help them, and understand and embrace their responsibilities to these creatures. Allowing people to sue them is only going to raise their insurance rates, raise the pressure on them, and increase the scrutiny by and suspicion of owners if nothing can be done.

    Also, it's not as though there aren't lots of dogs around to replace the lost one. This may sound callous, but it's true. Half the dogs Sage and I meet walking in the park are from the Dumb Friends League, and as far as I can tell, they do a tremendous job weeding out the problem cases who are likely to cause harm. They're almost uniformly sweet, playful, and friendly. Breeders will tell you that with a purebred, you know what you're getting. Maybe so, but we had a purebred English Cocker for a few months when I was growing up, and he was nothing but trouble. Seems to me you know what you're getting with a Dumb Friends League dog, too.

    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.

    First, it carries a story about the Dems' '04 Senate electoral problems. It does point out that this early, nobody really knows what they overall lay of the land is going to be 18 months from now. And it repeats the meaningless fact that if 35,000 votes had gone the other way, Tom Daschle would still be majority leader. There is a difference between strategy and tactics, between the party's overall message and its choice of specific races to focus on. That's why that 35,000 number is meaningless. And this is an article all about tactical advantages.

    Another article by Robert Kaiser details the slow solidification of the Administration's pro-Israel policy, including some interesting comments by Rumsfeld about the results of the 1967 war. There are a few quibbles: 1) only very recently have Likud-types become more prominent in major Jewish organization, not over the last dozen years as Kaiser says; these organzations generally support whatever Israeli government policy is; 2) there is the obligatory quote by a Bush I administration official claiming that Sharon has manipulated Bush into this position; fortunately, it sits alone, and the rest of the article more or less demolishes this thesis; 3) James Zogby claims that the Republicans can't act as "honest brokers" because they're lining up with Israel. The fallacy here should be obvious: the US can't be an honest broker of anything while it's engaged in a war, and Israel is on its side in that war. There's nothing to broker.

    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.

    What's more interesting to me is the resurrection of Britain's traditional role of gathering up all the "out" powers to provide a counterbalace to the main continental power. It used to be Germany, or Germany-Austria. Now, it's France-Germany. By lining up Italy, Spain, Portugal, and some of the newer, Eastern countries, Brtiain is seeking to keep France-Germany in check. This amounts to a revival of the old diplomatic game, but without the guns. The Quartet may be dissonant when it comes to Israel, but Britain clearly sees a revival of the old notion of the Concert of Europe.

    One interesting question is what this means for Britains acceptance or rejection of the European project as a whole. Already, the currency question is on hold indefinitely - Labour has given up getting it past their own party, much less the country as a whole. Britain has always had reservations about being sucked up by Europe - that's one reason it didn't join the EEC in the 1950s - but now it's confronted with concrete dangers of the EU.

    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.

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