View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Steal This Book! 

You've seen the movie, now read the book.

Pete Coors on the Stump 

The Fort Morgan Times has a good rundown of a Coors campaign appearance at, of all places, the Stroh's Inn.

Denver Water and the Drought 

Denver Water has voted to allow a third watering day each week, under the same 15-minute-per-zone restrictions as before. Since people have been conserving, they're probably just trying to raise more revenue.

Honestly, while my new grass seed will like it, I'm not certain it's the right thing to do. Given the fragility of the water supply, keeping restrictions in place might spur people to do the two things we need to: build more reservoirs and plant less-thirsty plants and trees. One is called saving. The other is called spending less. Together, they'll let the economy grow.

It's an arid climate people, you all knew that when you moved out here. What, you didn't notice that you could see Pike's Peak from Kansas? People come out here, and they plant Kentucky blue grass and aspen and deciduous trees that sweat so much they change the humidity readings at the weather stations. Then the wonder why there's no water. We xeriscaped a portion of our front yard that wasn't growing anything but weeds, and any new seed we put down is fescue.

We don't need restrictions on the number of taps. That'll just destroy a local economy that's getting back on its feet. I can't think of a faster way to keep people out than by artificially inflating house prices in an environment of rising interest rates.

We need two things: a price structure that encourages conservation, and one where the revenue structure matches the cost structure. Right now, Denver Water has about 90% fixed cost and 10% variable cost. But their fee structure guarantees 10% and lets 90% float. When people conserve, there's not enough money for maintenance or new projects. Make me pay more up front, and zap me with an escalating penalty for flooding the yard. Then we'll see how quickly those new dams get built.

Kerry on College Education 

Speaking yesterday in Chicago, John Kerry unveiled part of his plan to get more students into college, and to get more of them studying math and science.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says if he's elected president, 1 million more students will graduate from college during his first five years in office and he will bring a special focus to boosting opportunities for low-income and minority students.


Kerry says he'll make a special push to encourage students to study math, science and technology by spending $100 million more annually on scholarships for those fields and $20 million more than Bush requested to spend this year on programs in those areas at colleges with large minority enrollment.

We'll note the tacit assumption that he wins a second term, usually considered poor form for a challenger, and move on.

Of course, he admits that half the enrollment increase will come from population growth, which even the most ambitious politician can't take credit for. He plans to spend $100 million more on math and science at the college level, which comes out to about $500 per extra student, or enough for one book. Maybe a used book and a bookbag. Probably not a decent calculator, though.

Kerry's education plan has a particular emphasis on supporting minority enrollment in college. He would require colleges to report to parents and students annual data on the number of minority, low-income and middle-income students enrolling and graduating.

Ah, yes, report to "parents and students" annual race data. Let's all gather in the stadium to watch the annual Powerpoint presentation. This is, of course, a report to a government bureaucracy with a vested interest in quotas. In some sense, it's worse than strict numerical guidelines. State don't know where the goalposts are, but does know it wants to be ahead of Tech.

As for increasing minority enrollment in math and science, college really isn't the place to start here. Start with high school. The business school at DU dropped its econometrics classes not because of a lack of demand, but because the students couldn't handle the math any more. Yet after decades of laying waste to high school education, the Democratic party still can't come up with any actual ideas. You think they're mad over the war? You ought to be purple with rage over the way they're treating your kids.

Finally, there's the confusion of "price" with "cost." The price of a college education keeps going up, if measured in tuition. The costs of providing that education go unmentioned. Again.

Senate Developments 

The Denver Post is reporting that Pete Coors will run $400K worth of TV ads over the next few weeks. This actually is a fair portion of his estimated cash-on-hand, but it's the first big media buy of the season. The target markets are all Republican-rich (although not necessarily Republican majority): Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction. I haven't seen the ads yet, but I'd like to know to what mixture of pro-Coors, anti-Schaffer, anti-Salazar they are.

We'll see some poll numbers shortly thereafter to see if there's been any movement. The problem is that Schaffer, with little money on hand, has to win every battle or risk slipping behind. The endorsements he's gotten so far have been neither surprising nor particularly helpful. The Club For Growth endorsement may matter more, but only if there's money attached. Again, even most primary voters have probably never heard of the organization, and endorsements, like humor, only works if you don't have to explain it.

The other news is only news because it's been reported. The Post saw fit to comment on Salazar's revamped website, including blog. Like any campaign website, the blog is really the daily press release (yawn), but it's open for comments. This has proved embarassing to some other campaign sites. The fact that it rates a mention at all shows the growing importance of websites in campaigns. Next week, I'll do a review of all four sites.

Monday, June 28, 2004

I, Pencil 

If you read only one article on economics in your entire life, read this.

Issue Questions 

Two other issue-related questions are worth looking at, as well. Given a choice between cutting spending and raising taxes to meet a balanced budget, Coloradoans choose cutting spending 54-26, or by better than 2-1. The one flaw in this question, and it's a real flaw, is that the answer "both" was tabulated but not read. We don't know how many people just assumed that the pollsters weren't offering it as an option. Only 14% chose it. Nevertheless, as a measure of gut instinct, the poll suggests that Coloradoans remain fiscal conservatives, something that Bell and Bighorn should keep in mind when trying to persuade us to gut TABOR. It's also something that the state Republican party will want to use during the fall elections.

On the question of gay marriage, the balance falls to the independents, who oppose a Constitutional amendment 49-40. This, in the home state of the sponsoring legislators. My guess is that the response is apathy on the issue, and a sense that amending the Constitution is overkill. The courts will simply impose this on the country barring an amendment, overruling any statutory provisions as, well, unconstitutional. I have no idea how to get this message across.

Primary Poll - Name Recognition 

Ben has already pulled apart the Senate portion of the Post's Mason-Dixon poll this morning, and the main conclusions are obvious. Salazar is way ahead of Mike "Who?" Miles; 39% of Democrats don't even recognize Miles's name, despite extensive bus-touring throughout the state. Coors and Schaffer are locked in a tight race, but even 20% of Republicans couldn't identify Schaffer. Salazar beats everyone, but again, the differences are closely related to name recognition, with even 20% of Republicans saying they'd vote for him, clearly unlikely.

Should Schaffer win the nomination, he won't have that problem. That said, the diffculty of being heard without money is clear. Miles has virtually no cash, and virtually no chance. We are assuming that Schaffer wouldn't face that problem as starkly in the Fall. Still, part of Coors's appeal to the NRSC was that he could be largely self-funding, in a year with a large number of competitive races. So far, while Schaffer has a number of out-of-state endorsements, the only two candidates with out-of-state profiles are Salazar and Coors.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Now is when everything slows down. You put up a sheet of drywall, and it changes 4 feet of the garage instantly. You finish that, and then come two coats of mud, then primer, then paint. Then shelves. Each of which doesn't look like much, and takes a day to dry.

So, we had better start now. The first coat of spackle went on today, will be dry enough by tomorrow morning that an early riser can sand it down, and tomorrow night, put on the second coat. One very nice feature about Colorado is that even when it rains, it's dry. The second coat can be a fast-drying mix, and I might be able to sand it down tomorrow, as well.

The big debate is going to be about the garage floor. I'm leaning towards sealing it now, before the shelves go up, because once they go up, I have a feeling they ain't never comin' down. So it's pretty much now or never. Better now.

Colorado - Swing State? 

The Denver Post is out with a new, fairly comprehensive poll of the state this morning, and claims that it spells trouble for President Bush. Maybe the Star-Tribune has been running seminars on polling and poll interpretation on the side, because the differences between 2000 and 2004 just aren't as stark as the Post says they are.

First, let's do the numbers. Most importantly, the vote-for number and the approval rating number. The Post has Bush up 48-43 in a state he won 49-40 in 2000. It also has him at 50% approval.

Now, Colorado's voter registration in Republican, 37-30, but the poll has a sample of 41-37 Republican. This isn't as bad as the LA Times poll, but it does skew the numbers in two ways. It narrows the party margin, and it significatly understates independents. Independents are split 44-43 for Bush. Neither Mason-Dixon nor the Post explains why Democrats would be more likely to vote that Republicans. In fact, in a poll of 800, all of whom "stated they regularly vote in state elections," 4% didn't vote last time. There's no analysis of these DNVs.

When adjusting for actual party registration, Bush is up 49-42, and his approval rating creeps up over 50%. Hardly cause for panic, either locally or nationally. The adjustments are small, but they're almost all Karen Crummy has when breathlessly announcing that Kerry is "within striking distance."

The Post's analysis is the real crime here.

"This election is about the incumbent. Voters are asking, 'How is his performance? Does he deserve to be rehired?"' said Larry Harris, a director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., which conducted the poll. "Right now, it looks like Bush is vulnerable in Colorado, and that spells opportunity for Kerry."

News flash: elections are always about the incumbent. Even elections when the incumbent is term-out are about him. People voted for Bush 41 largely because they bought him as Reagan II. Gore was so afraid of the incumbent he spent more time running away from his than towards himself. In Ford's case, it was even a little about the incumbent's predecessor. Humphrey lost largely on the strength on Vietnam, Johnson's war. Eisenhower's lukewarm endorsement of Nixon may have cost him the election. And Eisenhower himself was elected largely because of Korea, which Adlai Stevenson didn't start. (Neither did Truman, of course, but it was his job to finish it.)

But even elections that are about the incumbent need a challenger worthy of the office. Or at least one with something for people to latch on to. Usually that something is optimism. Even Carter, who got more purse-lipped and dour as the world crashed around him, came into office as a breath of fresh air. One of the major travelling expenses for the Kerry campaign is air fresheners.

"If Kerry gets ahead in Colorado, it suggests a massive Democratic landslide," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "If he is even leading by a point or two in Colorado, then (Bush) will be hard-pressed to win the country."

Now Sabato's as good as they get. What he says is absolutely, 100% correct, but it's also 100% obvious, and 100% irrelevant. He's following Senate and Presidential races all over the country, and probably a few House races and a few governor's races, too. This is the third time in the last week he's been quoted by a paper out here, and he's got to be wondering if there are any political scientists living in Colorado. It's a general statement, and its power is entirely based on numbers shifts that the Post is trying to manufacture.

The poll indicates Bush, who beat Al Gore in Colorado by nine percentage points in the 2000 presidential race, now has two obvious problems: He is under 50 percent in the race, and fewer than half the voters have a favorable impression of him.

Since 1948, incumbent presidents running for re-election with approval ratings under 50 percent in June or July of an election year have lost.

Two statement, two problems. First, Bush won Colorado with under 50% of the vote. Now, there's no question that almost all those Nader voters who bother to show up are going to vote for Kerry. But when you're at 49%, you don't need very many to get you over 50. Yes, incumbents would like to have a re-elect number over 50%; it's not fatal, and when you're up by seven points, it's not even serious.

As for those approval ratings, proper adjustment for party gets them up just over 50%. Unadjusted, you're looking at a margin of 1 voter. But more importantly, there's no reason to think that 50% is an important one, or even a stable one. The presidents who were re-elected all had approval ratings in the high 50s or higher, those that were defeated, in the low 40s or lower.

I suspect that these numbers tend to roll away from 50% as the election gets closer. An election is a choice, and there's a tendency to think better of the lesser of two evils, or to think worse of the guy you're voting against. Nobody likes to vote against someone they have to admit is doing a good job, and I suspect there's a certain feedback loop at work here. You persuade yourself that the incumbent is better or worse, in order to help justify your vote.

This is fine for an election year. What's poisonous is when it infects the other three years, too.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Democrats Unhinged 

If you want to see a good example of why Zell Miller will be speaking in New York instead of Boston this year, go to the Bush Campaign Site and take a look at their frontpage web ad. It's a compilation of the worst of the unhinged Democrats, who have become all too common this election cycle. The ad make the point that while Kerry has condemned this compilation, he hasn't condemned the original comments.

The ad includes a ad contest winner that famously compared Bush to Hitler. We see a few more clips, and then it finishes up with John Kerry, the candidate these maniacs support, in about as angry a moment as you're likely to see, even after the botox has worn off.

For this, the DNC sends out the following email:

Titled "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party," the ad features Adolf Hitler alongside Democrats, including John Kerry. President Bush's campaign has relied on negative attacks against Kerry, but this is a new low.

We've always said the Bush campaign would do anything to win, but even we are shocked that they've sunk this low. It's bizarre. It's outrageous. And we're not going to stand for it.

If President Bush has any decency at all, he'll remove this hateful ad from his website immediately.

The ad features Adolf Hitler being compared the Bush, not being compared to Kerry. Kerry, of course, was pretty silent at the time, maybe because was seen as being in the Dean camp rather than his own. But he's had plenty of time to tell his buddies to cut the crap, and he hasn't.

Some things just make fun of themselves.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Miller to Speak for Bush 

Popular retiring Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller will speak Wednesday night at the Republican convention in support of President Bush. Miller had pretty much already endorsed Bush, but it's another opportunity to discuss the lurch towards insanity that his party has taken, and it may have some effect on Senate and House races, as well.

Cross-party endorsements aren't unprecedented. Maryland Governor William Schaeffer endorsed Bush 41 for re-election, and Sarah Brady spoke in support of President Clinton. But this is the first time I can remember that a sitting elected official of the opposing party has crossed over to speak at the other party's convention in prime time. If memory serves, Wednesday night is nomination night, and while there won't be any drama, it usually when the party puts up its best speakers. Unless it's Atlanta and it's 1988 and you're Michael Dukakis. Miller's a good speaker, too. Maybe he'll bring his dogs.

Here's what's funny, though:

"I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage," [Georgia Democratic Representative Al] Lewis said, a reference to a speech Miller gave 40 years ago in which he argued that President Johnson was abandoning his Southern roots by pushing some civil rights issues. Pottage is defined as a thick soup or stew of vegetables.

The original reference is Biblical, of course, to Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a "mess of pottage," in the vernacular. It's bad enough that Lewis can't get the price right. The AP reporter thinks that what's important is the recipe for the soup. It's clear he has no idea at all what the allusion is. I can see him reading his notes, looking at the quote, and then reaching for his Webster's because he doesn't know what pottage is. "Lord, what's a cubit?"

For This He Drives 8000 Miles? 

Ken Salazar finally finished up his 64-county tour of the state this week, after driving, he says, 8000 miles in the last two months. The real star of the story is his 140,000-mile truck, which just adds to the whole "aw, shucks" pose that Salazar tries to strike.

"The truck ran out of gas once and broke down one other time, Salazar said." Now, saying the truck ran out of gas is a little like saying that the truck was caught speeding. I know the cities are spread a little thinner out here than along I-95, but still. It appears that Mr. Salazar isn't any better at budgeting his gasoline than he is at budgeting for his Dairy Queen.

And for what? Here's what the inquisitive, incisive attorney general found that Coloradoans care about:

  • Jobs and the economy
  • The high cost of health care
  • Homeland security and the war in Iraq
  • Support for education and the environment, especially water

    Wow. Who knew?

  • Bad Day for Schaffer 

    Boy, talk about losing control of the news cycle. First, Bob Schaffer calls a press conference to demand that Ken Salazar resign. Then, the Rocky runs an article essentially suggesting that the whole demand doesn't amount to much. Colorado has no such tradition, unlike Virginia. (Larry Sabato, a smart guy by any measure, has this one dead on.) And Schaffer himself has held full-time office while campaigning for a promotion.

    Then, to add insult to injury, the Rocky runs an article about Schaffer's job as a consultant to a startup bank. Now, this is a bank "in organization," as banks are called until you could go to them and borrow money for, say, your Senate campaign. But Schaffer went ahead and described himself as a "bank director," which stretches the point a little.

    Now, as resume-padding goes, this is so minor league it's closer to kickball. (Ben is all over this.) Schaffer hasn't trumped this up, hasn't tried to match Coors's business record with it. Nevertheless, on a day when you're calling on the state's attorney general to call it quits, that's not the day you want people distracted by trivia like this.

    It also turns out that Schaffer's campaign is down to about $125K left in the bank. Coors, who has taken an unpaid leave of absence from the brewery to run, was in perfect position to second the suggestion. If he's as far ahead in money as all that, it could have added weight to the suggestion, and distracted Salazar during his own primary fight. Instead, he chose to turn it back on Schaffer.

    Thursday, June 24, 2004

    Garage Update 

    What's this? Jews and Tools? Jews and power tools? Isn't that like alcohol and cars? You want to kill someone? What, bubbele, it's for the insurance, isn't it? So you couldn't start a fire like everyone else?

    Drywall in place. Time for the spackel. Sounds like a prime photo-blogging opportunity.

    Schaffer Calls on Salazar to Resign 

    Word is that at a Schaffer press conference this morning, he called on state Attorney General, and probable Democratic Senate nominee, Ken Salazar to resign. Basically for the same reasons that Kerry should resign, and that Bob Dole did resign - he's on the public payroll and he's spending time campaigning. If they want any traction on this, they'll have to release numbers showing just how busy Ken is campaigning instead of prosecuting. Kerry has missed something like 85% of Senate votes this year. Schaffer will need a comparably damning metric of negligence if he's going to get people to care. As it is, I think most people accept that public officials are allowed to seek other office. As of the press conference, they hadn't issued a press release.

    Schaffer didn't offer any actual evidence of malfeasance, although they claim to have some documents they don't want to release at this point. Maybe they do have something. But if they want to make it stick, they should probably go ahead and make their case. Unless they've got an actual mole in the Salazar camp, they don't control the investigative process, and they don't control the news cycle. This means they won't be in a position to drip-drip-drip the thing on their own schedule.

    Schaffer's trying to put Salazar on the defensive, in part to force Salazar to play on two fronts, and in part to make himself "inevitable," as they said about W during the 2000 campaign. Nothing wrong with that, of course. As long as he wins the game in front of him, first.

    Intramural Squabbles 

    A lot's been made of the "differences" that emerged between Schaffer and Coors in their last debate. To me, these differences really look a lot like a schism over whether to use white or red grape juice at kiddush. Or in their case, white or red wine at communion.

    The Denver Post spends most of this morning's post mortem on the fact that Pete Coors didn't know Paul Martin's name when it was brought up. Paul Martin is the Prime Minister of Canada, at least until Monday. Interestingly, the Rocky's reports this:

    When Schaffer brought it up again near the close of the debate, Coors responded, "Bob, I do know his name. I know he's a liberal and probably won't be in office too long, and I'm looking forward to knowing the name of the new one."

    Now, Martin's party is the Liberal Democrats, but they're referred to as "Liberals." The newspaper quotes him using a lower-case "l," but my hearing usually isn't good enough to distinguish between lower- and upper-case letters. If Coors meant to refer to Martin by party, rather than persuasion, then with Canadian elections coming up, and Martin trailing in the polls, he would seem to have a better grasp of Canadian politics than Schaffer wants to acknowledge.

    More importantly, nobody cares. While we don't want to elect a Senator who spends more time watching beer ads than producing them, most Coloradoans probably couldn't tell Paul Martin from Billy Martin or "Lefty" Martin. This kind of thing didn't hurt Reagan or Bush, and it won't hurt Coors if he can define a vision that resonates with Coloradoans.

    As for the data mining discovery by the Coors camp that Schaffer voted a couple of times to raise user fees and excise taxes by a couple of basis points, sorry. Nobody seriously disputes Schaffer's anti-tax stand. The Club for Growth, a pit-bull of an anti-tax group if there ever was one, likes him, and the notion of some kind of inconsistency just isn't going to fly.

    Neither is this kerfuffle over the drinking age. There are lots of good reasons to bring it back down, probably some good ones to leave it where it is, but Coors only talked about it in response to a question from Schaffer. It's not like he's made it the centerpiece of his campaign to run around campus, horns blaring, shouting "drinks for everyone!" He's running for Senate, not fraternity president.

    One area where Coors may be vulnerable is the environment, especially water. Oh, not on the facts, of course, and Schaffer was careful not to hand the Democrats an issue in the fall. But the Post brought up the issue:

    Pete Coors: "I understand water issues - that's what we do. We turn water into beer." During Wednesday's debate, Coors emphasized the importance of clean water.

    But according to a scorecard compiled by Environmental Defense from federal reports, Coors' Golden brewing plant ranks as one of the nation's biggest polluters.

    In 2001, the most recent year that records are available, Coors released 54,000 pounds of nitrate compounds and 7,700 pounds of ammonia. Neither discharge is harmful to health if it is diluted, but they could have ecological impact.

    Amy Valdez, spokeswoman for Coors Brewing, said the company releases far less than its federal permits allow.

    I have no idea who "Environmental Defense" is, although it could be the Environmental Defense Fund. I'm sure that pretty much every company that uses water gets named "one of the nation's biggest polluters" when there's an election or a legislative vote at stake. The Post doesn't bother to describe the "ecological impact," and Coors Brewing makes it clear that it's well within the law here, too.

    But you can count on Mike Miles and Ken Salazar to make red meat out of this during the general election. There's no way a Republican is going to get a fair shake on the environment, regardless of his record. He could promise to uproot every last rancher and farmer on the eastern plains of the state and turn whole counties over to the buffalo, and they'd ask if he was using hybrid trucks to move the furniture.

    After you get past these "differences," I think the Coloradoan probably had the best take on it: There was little distinction between the candidates on most issues.

    UPDATE: See Jared's post on this, too.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2004

    Home Improvement 

    After working full time and taking 16 hours, plus an assistantship, just working with one evening course seems like a vacation. So what am I supposed to do to fill up all the free time? Drywall the garage, of course! And put in shevles, peg board, and a workbench for kicks!

    Now, I've done drywall before. In my old condo back in Fairfax, the previous owners had put in, or at least tolerated, that awful brown paneling in the dining room, of all places. It was the work of a moment to pull it down, only to realize that not only was it nailed on, it was Black Gooed on, too. So, down came the drywall, and what had looked like a weekend project turned into a months-long remodel, complete with drywall, wallpaper, chair rail, crown molding, and drapes.

    I just hadn't remembered how heavy the stuff was. Amazingly, each 4x8 sheet weighs a quarter-ton, and yet one drywall screw will hold it in place indefinitely. Magic!

    Debate Report 

    The Rocky has a report on this morning's debate between Schaffer and Coors. Apparently, the two candidates are taking Clay's advice and trying to differentiate between themselves. And there are even some policy differences between the two.

    The way the Rocky reports it, it sounds like Schaffer has staked out some pretty untenable ground on terrorism. It most certainly was not Clinton's attempts to "go it alone" that helped let our current problems develop. It was more his unwillingness to go it at all.

    Coors, on the other hand, didn't do himself any good by coming out against TABOR, the only reliable check we have on state government. It's good he's running for senator and not governor.

    Both of these are problem areas. But Schaffer has also hedged on the Patriot Act, which, combined with the above comments, suggests some real weaknesses on terrorism issues. If these tentative impressions are unfair, he'd better do something fast to correct them.

    Coors and Coors - Business and Public Policy 

    Ben raises some interesting questions about the relevance of business experience to politics. In particular, he asks why Pete Coors's business experience is relevant to fiscal politics but not his social politics. Clay asks the same questions. The short answer is that business is about making money, not promoting social goals.

    The long answer is related to business in general, and to Coors Brewing in particular.

    The first thing to understand is that the Coors family doesn't run Coors anymore. It's a public company, with a Board of Directors and hired management. When Pete Coors came in, one of the things he did was to hire the Pepsi Mafia to come in and run the company. (These were not "consultants," as one of Hugh's callers had it, but business professionals who had served in senior management in a major American corporation.)

    This doesn't mean the Coorses are sitting on the sofa, drinking the family beverage, flipping back and forth between Rockies' games and DVDs of the Board meetings. It does mean that when Bill Coors left, management, including Pete, realized that the family business model wasn't going to work anymore. Returns were too low, the stock price had stagnated, and 800-lb. gorilla Anheuser-Busch was offering Ft. Collins brewery tours on the way back from Rocky Mountain National Park.

    You can argue that this makes Pete a hands-off manager, but you can also argue that picking the right people is at least half the battle. Two words: Justice Souter. Maybe this means that he has more of an executive mentality than a legislative one, but you'd need more evidence than this.

    Coors Beer was also under some pretty heavy social attacks at the time, too. They were under gay, Hispanic, and black boycotts, none of which can be good for business. They decided to be pro-active, get ahead of these groups before being held up by Jesse, and get off the boycott lists. Not a single one of the activist groups that holds voting stock in the Democratic Party has endorsed Pete Coors. If they can figure out it's just business, why can't we?

    Businessmen are taught to think of the world they operate in as the environment. Laws, regulations, social constraints, the likelihood of fools lying down in front of bulldozers are all considered part of the environment. They are taught to make use of these rules to achieve competitive advantage. They are emphatically not taught how to spend a lot of time changing that environment, nor are they taught how these rules make whole economies more or less efficient. Our challenge is to change to meet conditions, not to affect these conditions.

    (I should add that in the case of DU, at least, this is a somewhat one-sided proposition. When we're taught about labor regulations, the benefits of unions, ADA, and the value of balkanizing our workforce to reflect local populations, these conditions are presented as environment. When we're taught about circumstances where the goverment hasn't yet imposed regulation, those situations are presented as "ethical challenges," or chances to raise the ethical bar. This is a bait-and-switch that lets liberal professors frame the discussion to their liking, and it merits a whole posting on its own.)

    The point here is that businessmen are too busy figuring out how to respond to the world to worry too much about how to change it. To the extent that they do affect public policy, it's usually either centered on their own business, or it's concentrated on raising barriers to entry. It's one reason that businesses tend to divide their campaign funds.

    None of this is going to be very comforting to social conservatives, and it shouldn't be. If businesses decide to add in a Spanish-language hotline for questions about same-sex partner benefits, it's because they're responding to disturbing social trends that need to be fought at some other level.

    As Michael Novak has repeatedly argued, the Founders set up this country as a commercial republic. But knowing what it takes to run a business is fundamentally different from maing judgments about how to organize society. So when Coors says he should be credited with business success, while you should look to the Heritage Foundation for his politics, he's not being inconsistent. It's not whether politics needs to be more like business. It's whether or not policy can be better informed by business.

    Little Things in a Campaign 

    This site is not Coors central. I'm leaning that way, but at this point, I'm committed only to keeping the seat.

    Still, it bears pointing out that the Schaffer for Senate website has been down now for the better part of two days. Part of Schaffer's appeal is exactly that he is a professional politician, with experience in both office and in running campaigns. The woman at the campaign's office said yesterday she couldn't even get to her email, so the problem may be even a little worse.

    This doesn't speak well for competence. He's missing critical fundraising days, and I had to make three calls before I could confirm this morning's candidates' debate. Lots of websites go down. Company sites and even commerce sites go down. But most companies aren't operating so close to the line that they have a deadline. All campaigns do.

    UPDATE: The site was up briefly around lunchtime, but appears to have gone down again. Laura's a good soldier, and is certainly doing her best (see comments, please). She certainly can't be happy with this situation, and as the first line of public contact,is probably getting hammered left and right. Nothing said here is an attack on either her or Kathy. But to have a candidate's website down for two days, with the campaign in full swing, can't be helping matters, and it's hard to see where a business would allow such a thing to happen. The campaign may not be directly responsible for the site's network (they have almost certainly farmed that out to a hosting company), but they're ultimately responsible for their site being up.

    UPDATE: I'm happy to report that the Schaffer web site is working once again. One of these days, I'll have to get together an assessment of the four candidates' sites.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2004

    Walking the Dog 

    This morning, while crossing Alameda Ave. with the dog, I saw something that is at least worth a threat level Kermit (or whatever green is). An SUV with a rag doll tied to the grill (or, "grille") as they used to call it when cars were just beginning to start reliably.

    It's bad enough that you need to have your turn signal disconnected before it'll pass inspection out here. Now we've got guys driving around who think they're the captain of the Hesperus.

    Fuzzy Math 

    Again, the Washington Post has a poll out. Again, it shows movement in the direction of John Kerry. Again, it pays to look at the party distribution. When they tell you, that is.

    On the poll's headline question, trust in the "campaign" on terrorism (don't call it a war, of course), independents say they prefer Kerry 50-45. But overall, the Post weighs Democrats 9 points more heavily than Republicans, 38-29. I know each question has a margin of error of 3 points. But this is the lead, the single question they base their headline on, and it's clearly the outlier. It's also peculiar that the President does better on Iraq than on terror in general. Iraq had been widely perceived as a drag on his terrorism popularity.

    Two other questions also suggest this issue isn't as clear-cut as the Post headline writers would have it. On the question of who they trust to keep the country safer, Bush wins 54-40. On the question of whether or not Kerry has a clear plan for terror, the answer is "no" by a similar margin, even though this question oversamples Democrats 36-30.

    Overall job approval similarly gives Democrats a 5-point edge, 35-30. The other Big Question, who would you actually vote for, gives Kerry an 8-point lead, but they don't break it down by party. And there's been little change in another core fact: most people supporting Kerry are voting anti-Bush (55%), while Bush's support is overwhelmingly pro-Bush, over 80%.

    There's no question that the poll shows independents moving away from the President. There's also no question that those figures are several points less reliable than the overall poll numbers, as they include only a third of the 1200 people polled. This makes the independent numbers slightly less reliable that the Rasmussen tracking poll, which polls 500 people.

    Monday, June 21, 2004

    Kerry Quote 

    KNUS is replaying the following quote from Kerry's downtown rally today.

    I want an economy where, instead of people working and working and working and working for the economy, the economy works for the people.

    Wow. An economy where people don't work. I thought he wanted to create jobs.

    As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Not only that, as Dave Barry would never admit, I couldn't possibly make this up.

    One Giant Flight for Mankind 

    Today marks the first private flight into space. Up until now, all spacecraft had been government-funded and government-built. The fact that a private firm is now able to build, launch, and return to earth a re-usable spacecraft is a significant development for those of us who grew up watching Star Trek, and got goosebumps of nostalgia watching Apollo 13. It is a testament both to advancing technology and a growing economy that a private firm is able to put someone up and bring him back safely.

    Today's flight was a craft build by Burt Rutan, who also built Voyager, the first airplane to fly around the world without refueling. Rutan is reclusive but brilliant, and clearly sees today's flight as a step towards routine civilian space travel. NASA has had to ground its shuttles, but private initiative rolls on.

    Much will be made of this spacecraft as an entrant for the $10 million. But Paul Allen (left), who looks like a little kid ready to call shotgun on the next flight, has already put $20 million of his own money into the venture. The X-Prize's real value lies in legitiamcy and future funding, potentially on Wall Street, rather that its cash value.

    You think there's a market for this? People flew in from all over the country just to watch. No, it's not Zefram Cochrane firing up a roman candle from his backyard in Montana. But it's as close as we're gonna get. The pilot did this in shirtsleeves, by the way.

    The X-Prize was well-designed, like all good prizes. The ship has to carry a passenger, has to be reusable, quickly. One they actually claim it, venture capital is going to line up so fast they'll need to set up cordons with a sign saying, "You Must Be This Tall to Ride the Spaceship."

    The joy of the pre-Shuttle program was that it went somewhere. We all got excited over the proposed Mars mission because we were going someplace new. Even though this ship is still suborbtial, it still has that feeling of going somewhere. Gotta start saving for that ticket now.

    Friday, June 18, 2004

    The CFOs Speak 

    Every quarter, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business polls corporate CFOs about the economy. This is critical, because the role of a corporate CFO is to plan. They have to plan how their company is going to spend money this year: on employees, on benefits, on new equipment and new software. And to plan your budgets, you have to know what, class? Anyone? Anyone at all? *Sigh* Anyone besides Lisa? Yes, that's right, you have to know how much you expect to sell.

    That means this survey tell you lots of things: how businesses plan to spend, and capital expenditure is a large part of the economy, and how much they expect to make. How many people they plan to hire. This comes from the horse's mouth, so to speak, and according to Duke prof John Graham, these guys are pretty accurate. My brother-in-law is the CFO for a start-up, and he's going through the same thing right now. You never know everything, of course, but the point of a survey is that none of us is as smart as all of us. Or something like that.

    Anyway, the survey has some interesting results, many of which suggest that things will be getting better here in Colorado, and many other of which suggest that no businessman with any sense should even consider voting for John Kerry.

    Here's where John Kerry comes in. The biggest risk to their businesses, according to CFOs, is the unknown unknown: domestic terrorism. And number 3: wage increases. Not exactly good news for a guy whose foreign policy will almost certainly result in one, and who just came out for an increase in the minimum wage. And as noted later, even as things stand now, CFOs expect to hire half of John Kerry's goal in the next 12 months, even without his, er, "help."

    Interestingly, high oil prices don't seem to both most companies, with over 50% saying that $40 a barrel vs. $30 a barrel has either not affected or increased their earnings, 80% saying the same about their investment spending (including capital expenditure), and over 80% saying it hasn't affected their hiring plans.

    An aside: The number two risk was increased interest rates. But tied for number 4, just below wage increases, were exchange rates and inflation, both of which higher interest rates are designed to combat. So sometimes, you just can't win with these guys.

    The rest of the survey is pretty much good news all the way around.

    First of all, 72% are more optimistic than they were last quarter. Maybe this just means they're more confident things are getting better, maybe they really believe things will get better faster than they have been. Regardless, this is good news. Most optimistic region? Companies headquartered in mountain states. When asked about thier own companies, 60% are more optimistic, only 20% less so. In this case the South Atlantic is way out in front, but the Mountain region is a distant second.

    Overall, CFOs are expecting a 3.1% GDP growth over the next 12 months. Not the torrid pace we've been seeing but pretty respectable, and comparable to that following the last 8%/4% spurt back in 1984. They expect the prices for their products to increase by only 2.2%, while their productivity should climb 5.4%. These are both very good numbers.

    Here's the kicker. Wages and salaries are expected to grow by 3.4%, outpacing prices, and the number of employees is expected to grow by 4.1%. With non-farm payrolls at about 130,000,000, this corresponds to something like 5.3 million jobs in the next 12 months. Dividends should be up, benefiting the investor class. Capital spending should be up, the ripple effect helping to prolong the recovery.

    Kerry: Coming to the Belly of the Beast  

    John Kerry, in advance of his Monday campaign appearance here in Colorado (which means "Red," by the way), gave a little 10-minute standard Q&A sop to the Rocky Mountain News this morning. Aside from the reporter's repeated fawning over the Senator's decidedly mixed snowboarding skills, it was pretty routine stuff. Still...

    Q: Are there any issues in particular that are specific to Colorado that you think would help you here?

    A: There are a number of issues that are specific to Colorado that will help me there. First of all, Colorado has lost about 112,000 jobs, 34,000 manufacturing jobs, minimum, and we need to renew job creation.

    You have a great energy institute out there. I visited it. I believe that we can do a much better job of encouraging alternative and renewable energy. And there are some 40 million acres of public land that's currently leased for oil and gas development in the United States outside Alaska, which (aren't) producing today....

    Q: Back to energy production. Do you favor increasing drilling in Colorado?

    A: The answer is, we need to invest in renewable energy - wind and solar and new technologies. But we can also drill responsibly, and we will drill in places that have been leased appropriately, and I support that where it is appropriate. But I don't think you need to open environmentally sensitive public lands for that development, given the amount that we have already that is unused.

    So his plan for energy independence doesn't include any more actual, um, energy. He specifically rules out Alaska, and carefully avoids agreeing to more actual drilling. Kerry's "plan" seems to consist of little more than synfuels, true to the Party of Carter. God help us all if he starts campaigning in cardigans. Of course, he's confusing electricity and gasoline again. Fine rhetoric, but bad policy.

    The one thing that could join the two is the proliferation of hybrid cars that need to be plugged in to be recharged. Which is happening anyway in response to gas prices. Once again, John is late to the party.

    Then there's this:

    And today we've learned through the commission on 9/11 that there is no real al-Qaida connection, wasn't one at the time the president and the vice president were asserting that it was. And I think that Americans don't like being misled into war. I think it's a critical component of leadership.

    He's talking about Iraq, of course. By now, you all know that this isn't what the commission said. To the extent the staff report discusses Iraq, it doesn't contradict Administration claims. To the extent is tries to go further, it has little proof. Someday, someone from a major news organization is going to actually read the damn thing.

    Schaffer on Hugh Hewitt 

    Dueling radio interviews, Part II. Same questions, different answers.

    I thought Schaffer did a nice job, not stellar, not brilliant, not, "Gee that man makes me think of Ronald Reagan without his mentioning him" good. But he did well, and certainly better than Coors did.

    A couple of reasons for that. First of all, he's got a voting record to refer to, such as on taxes. Second, political position need to be thought-out, and Schaffer has spent a long time thinking about these issues. Going back to Reagan, liberals spent years deriding him as an actor. But In His Own Hand is a collection os radio addresses he wrote himself, working through these positions. Schaffer hasn't done that, but his career in politics did show.

    I have no doubt about Coors's conservatism. But when asked why he was running, Schaffer gave a policy-based answer, rather than a politics-based answer. Better. Also, while neither really had much to say about how they'd beat Salazar, Schaffer at least gave an answer that indicated he understood the problem, while Coors merely answered that he wasn't running to lose.

    On the whole, Schaffer didn't do himself any harm this afternoon. It'll be an interesting race to watch.

    False Hopes? 

    Some of us have been hoping for a Mike Miles upset in the August Democratic primary. Turns out that we've seen this scenario before here in Colorado. Didn't turn out well for the underdog, although it's worth noting that Strickland lost both the general election and the rematch.

    It Is, Perhaps, the End of the Beginning 

    Hindrocket over at Powerline takes the occasion of Charles Krauthammer's column today to credit Israel with a victory over a terror campaign. The above quote from Churchill reflects my own views on the matter.

    Hillel Halkin over at Commentary has a concise, lucid explanation of Sharon's strategy, and the actual state of things. The fence and the pullback are really an effort both to impose partition, and to give the Palestinians a chance to work out the direction they want to take for themselves. It also, importantly, gives Israelis a chance to live in peace. For now.

    It doesn't actually guarantee military or political victory over the terrorists. Hamas will continue to exist. Even with the fence, there's no sign that any of the active leadership sees Israel as anything other than a travesty against Muslim honor. The hope is that Palestinians, deprived of convenient Israeli targets to vent their wrath, will start to rethink their support of Hamas and Arafat, and that more moderate leaders will emerge from the rubble.

    It is entirely possible that Hamas will emerge. Or that, given a few months of quiet, Israel will be forced to concede victory and rehabilitate Arafat yet again. It's entirely possible that a Kerry administration, armed with sage advice from former Secretaries of State, will do just that.

    Israel can declare a victory of sorts because it hasn't tried to cure the disease, just to quarantine it. The US doesn't really have that option. And eventually, Israel may not, either.

    Thursday, June 17, 2004


    Many, many more jobs on the horizon. As businesses fill these, they'll be looking for higher-skilled ones as well, and wages will rise. That may take a little while. This morning on CNBC, Duke University's CFO survey reported that interest rates and wage inflation were seen as the biggest threats, and that they would likely cut into capital expenditure (new hardware and software), and hiring.

    It's always a balancing act, folks. Always.


    Hat tip to Jared for pointing to this study of the regional effects of globalization.

    Some of our local columnists, like Cindy Rodriguez, forget that there's a severe cost to not globalizing. The article rightly points out that many companies eventually locate their production facilities in the same country as their customers. This is not merely to avoid transportation costs. It's also to shield themselves from currency fluctuations. Hedging against currency changes is very expensive and time-consuming for multi-nationals, and this is a way of avoiding those costs. I'm sure that the anti-globalists are much happier seeing that money go to workers than to pay the commissions of currency traders, and line the pockets of George Soros. Ahem.

    Also note that eventually, these local companies would go out of business. Their foreign competitors would either buy them out, or relocate their production here to the States (which happens pretty frequently, too). In either case, we'd then hear carping about foreign ownership of US assets. As if their owning our debt weren't bad enough.

    One counterpoint, though. I heard a well-respected finance professor express favor for foreigners owning our debt, on the grounds that interlocking economies don't tend to go to war with each other. We heard exactly the same arguments about pre-WWI Europe, which just goes to show that nobody learns anything, no matter how much they know.

    Isn't There a Schaeffer Beer? 

    In the latest intramural news, Bob Schaffer is more than a little upset over the airing of a Coors Beer ad during the NBA playoffs a week ago. The ad, in violation of campaign finance laws, featured Pete Coors himself.

    Schaffer is behind in money, and already can't compete in media buys with Coors, without Coors going outside the rules. That said, Mr. Coors, and the company, and ESPN all say that it was a mistake by ESPN, not by either the beer company or the campaign.

    Unless he wants to pursue a whole new line of strict liability regulation, a peculiar position for a conservative Republican to take, Schaffer should probably consider his point made and drop it.

    Welcome... fellow Hugh Hewitt listeners. Hugh is, as the Northern Alliance has commented, generous with his encouragement and support. Take a look around, and please visit other Rocky Mountain Alliance blogs, over there on the right.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2004

    Patriot Act 

    As this week's arrests show, we're still at war, and the bad guys are infiltrating into the country, and using a fifth column here as cover.

    We may indeed need the Patriot Act to be renewed. We want to make the opposition's resistance to our safety a campaign issue. Not just because we want to win, but because we want to be safe.

    It won't be enough to review the arrests and argue for renewal. I'm afraid that Justice and the White House are going to have to show exactly how the Patriot Act has contributed to our safety, i.e., show how specific provisions have led to specific arrests. They are going to have to do this without endangering pending prosecutions. But they are going to have to do it.

    It's probably not a bad thing in principle: to make the government show that it needs additional power. These provisions are so common-sense, mostly just extensions of existing powers applicable to organized crime, that I don't believe they should have any trouble at all showing their utility. The Patriot Act has, sadly, become synonmous with Police State. It's ridiculous, of course, but connecting lives saved with specific provisions would go a long way toward taking the air out of the windbags on the other side.

    Coors on the Radio 

    Pete Coors was a guest on The Commissioner's show this afternoon. Needs work. Guy is a little harder on him than I am, but I don't think he's off base at all.

    Look, Coors gave all the right answers to the policy questions. But the Big One was weak: Why do you want to be a Senator? His answer (Schaffer can't win, I can, and it's important that we hold the Senate) is a politico's answer, not a voter's answer. You believe in public service? Fine, I can think of about 40 elected offices you could start off with. Why Senator? What do you want to do? What do you think is important, why, and what would you propose?

    Pete, when you took over Coors, you knew what had to be done. You knew you had to get the company back to its core and cut costs. I'll bet when someone asked you what your plan was, you could rattle off 10 different changes you wanted to make.

    Do the same thing here. When someone asks you about federal judges, bring up Miguel Estrada. When someone asks you about conservation, mention gas prices. Hugh asked you about running a business. You talked about how much more complicated things are now, and about Sarbanes-Oxley. That was terrific, because it was something everyone's heard of. Just skip the part about 404. People hear "404" and they think about File Not Found. Which is the last thing you want to tell the auditors.

    You don't have to trade your beer in for coffee, or start wearing purple suits or anything like that. But you do have to give people a reason to vote for you.

    Defense of Coors 

    One commenter over at Jared's site has posted some comments critical of Coors. They're brief, but they deserve a response.

    I can think of a whole bunch of reasons to keep Coors employees away from the campaign. Conflict of interest. Campaign laws, especially McCain-Feingold. Lawsuits by disgruntled employees who don't participate and don't get promoted. The company has interests independent of Pete Coors, and can't afford to alienate one of the political parties. None of these involves skeletons, which may still be there.

    Secondly, Delegate, check your numbers. Pete Coors has been head of Adolph Coors since 1993, but head of Coors Brewing since 2002. Assuming you mean the former, remember that in late 1993, Adolph Coors spun off ACX, Adolph Coors Technologies, and sold off a biotechnology venture they had gotten involved in. Company employment numbers will reflect that. Also, according to the Denver Post, at the time of the first round of layoffs, in 1993, Coors only employed 5800 people in Colorado, it's not possible for them to have decreased employment by 5000 in their core business.

    As for Coors's management of the brewery, at the time Pete Coors took over, the stock had been mired at $20 for years, returns were low compared to the industry, and other brewers were simply doing better financially. The alternative to focusing on the core business, and laying off some employees was to watch the company slide into bankruptcy. He's no "Chainsaw Al Dunlop." The cuts have been gradual, with generous buyout offers, and have kept the company afloat.

    In fact, the company's stock has done quite well, the company has gone from a regional beer to a national brand, it's created a number of other successful lines, and now competes internationally as well. Sales, profits, and returns have all grown substantially, especially in the last few years, even as the country went through a recession.

    As for the liberal social policies, I can't say I'm delighted by that, either. But it was a purely pragmatic business decision. Businesses, sad to say, are not socially conservative, and there's no reason to expect them to behave that way.

    Regarding TABOR, Peter Blake did some spadework in the Rocky about this several weeks ago.

    What We Don't Know 

    Is much more than what we do know. With Jon and Ben going back and forth over the Club for Growth's Republican Senate poll and Colorado election history, we need to back off and note some limitations here.

    First, I agree with Ben that I can't see any obvious problems with the poll's methodology. They pulled 500 likely Republican primary voters. Now the difference between the two is well within the margin of error, 6 weeks away from the primary itself. This is a little like the difference between being 30-32 in June, and being 30-33. I know which one I'd rather be, but I wouldn't lose sleep over the difference.

    However, the CFG probably backs Schaffer. (Coors won't be showing up on any RINO lists, though, since those are for voting representatives, not candidates.) The real problems come in the refining questions, and therefore the analysis. The accuracy of a poll is roughly proportional to the square of the number of participants. With only 200 most-likely-voters, Schaffer's 10-point lead is still well within that sub-sample's margin of error. It's likely that fewer than 200 voters came from Schaffer's old district, rendering any data from that subsample almost completely meaningless. At these numbers, any discussion reminds me more of Isaac Asimov's "Election Day 2084" than of serious political analysis. It doesn't speak well of the Club that they attempt to draw conclusions from such small samples.

    Ben's reminds us of Bruce Benson's campaign. While 1994 was certainly a Republican year, Roy Romer was a popular governor running for re-election during an economic boom. At the time of voting, the state had a Democratic governor, and a Democratic Senator, Ben Campbell. It barely went for Owens in 1998, and barely went for Dole in 1996. It was a much different place than now.

    Bruce Benson was a state party chairman, who fits as much into the Bill Armstrong mold as the Pete Coors mold. As does my recent professor Buie Seawell, state Democratic party chairman who ran for Senate in 1990, and couldn't even get the nomination.

    In short, I don't think this poll, or the state's history from a decade ago, have much to tell us about what will happen in November.

    "No Room for Compromise" 

    Of course there is. Not with people like this:

    "They want to use abortion as the trump, but they have to have a seamless argument for life then," [Lena] Woltering said. "For instance, there were countless unborn babies killed in Iraq during the war. But they don't speak out as forcefully on that."

    (Woltering is part of Call to Action, a liberal Catholic group trying to change Church doctrine.)

    No, there's no room for compromise, or even discussion, with people who compare unborn children with men who chop off other mens' hands for fun.

    But there's plenty of room for compromise. Every abortion debate lists a series of cases. Even for the life of the mother? What about rape and incest? Parental notification? If there's no "room for compromise," then even bringing up these cases is pointless. When advocates bring these up to show the other side as extreme, it by definition implies there are less extreme positions.

    Now, here's Mike Miles on the issue. Remember, by the way, that Miles isn't even Catholic.

    Miles, the El Paso County educator who faces Salazar in the Democratic primary, said he thinks Sheridan crossed the line by suggesting voters refrain from Communion in some cases.

    He said he thinks most voters would rather keep religion and politics separate, just as the United States wouldn't favor a new government run by Muslim clerics in Iraq. "We sometimes have to put aside our own belief system if it runs counter to the public good," he said.

    Does anyone else see a difference between a mullahcracy in a Muslim country, and the Church advocating its values in a pluralistic society? And how, pray tell, can one be in public life and have a belief system that's contrary to the public good? Maybe I could have one that would be contrary to the public consensus. But why would I believe in something that I knew to be contrary to the public good?

    Candidates and Bishops 

    In light of the Bishops' Conference here in Denver this week, The Grand Junction Sentinal has a list of the Catholic candidates' positions on gay marriage, abortion, and stem cell research.

    Note Salazar's response, which is that he'd continue to defer to court decisions he can't publicly admit that he likes.

    Reagan vs. Clinton 

    This Garner cartoon, from my old friend David Schlesinger:

    The Democrats have been spinning nostalgia recently. First, they assure us that as we remember Reagan, we'll look at Bush and be disappointed by the comparison. Now, Bill Clinton is planning to use his book tour to boost John Kerry.

    Like Reagan, however, Clinton as ex-president has seen the controversies of his tenure recede while appreciation for his outsized personality has seemed to deepen. And like Reagan, Clinton is now widely regarded as a touchstone for his party, including for the presumptive presidential nominee, John F. Kerry.

    Charles Krathammer had it right: by reducing Reagan's legacy to mere personality and optimism, the Democrats give a chance to spotlight Bill Clinton's only real assets.

    If George Bush is no Ronald Reagan, then John Kerry, just as assuredly, is no Bill Clinton. Worse, to the extent that they are like their parties' "touchstones," it's exactly in substance and character, not style. And as the cartoon above suggests, that's a competition Bill Clinton can't win.

    Bad Budget Compromise 

    Once again, the compromise is to have voters forego their TABOR refund checks in return for delaying Amendment 23's required increase in school spending. These are not the same thing. Although both were approved by the voters, the Democrats clearly support Amendment 23 as a sop to their parent corporation, the Colorado Education Association. TABOR is a broad statement aimed at all taxpayers, which acts as a general brake on the legislature's ability to raise taxes.

    Enviros Aren't Even the Good Guys 

    I'm not sure I like the term "eco-terrorism," since the goal of these guys usually isn't to kill people, but destroy property, and we do draw a distinction between life and possessions. Still, this isn't the act of normal people, but of violent thugs who apparently aren't content with civil society's way of dealing with thing.

    Enviros Aren't the Little Guys 

    The AP is reporting that the administration is seeking industry help in battling environmetalists' lawsuits concerning oil and gas exploration.

    About 7,100 cases are being litigated by the department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said Thomas Sansonetti, an assistant attorney general of the Justice Department.

    More than two-thirds of the cases originated west of the Mississippi River, most of them in the Rockies.

    "When these lawsuits come up, when they sue the federal agencies like EPA or BLM, intervene if possible," Sansonetti told executives at the Independent Petroleum Association of America conference Monday. "The fact is, we need help. Sometimes, two or three of our attorneys are matched up against entire law firms."

    The environmentalist lobby isn't the Little Guy anymore, and hasn't been for quite some time. No more than labor was the Little Guy before, oh, the PATCO strike (throat clearing). These organizations have billions of dollars behind them, the pro bono time of some large law firms, and the image of working for the public against the Big Corporations.

    That said, it's a little disconcerting to see the government asking industry for help like this. It frames the issue in exactly the way the environmentalist lobby wants it framed. How much more effective would it be to go to the unions, explain that jobs were at risk, and ask for their help, too? Not only would it give the effort a more populist cast, it would also be politically smart, splitting two key Democratic constituencies.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    DSCC Throws Weight Behind Salazar 

    Looks like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is completely committed to Ken Salazar for the Senate. They don't even list Mike Miles as a candidate on their web site. Miles, who pulled an upset at the party's state assembly to win the primary ballot's top line, is furious at the DSSC continuing to call Salazar not "the prospective nominee," or "presumptive nominee," but just the nominee.

    He should be upset. And the Democrats are doing themselves a disservice. The Post article points out that in other states, the DSSC web site does list several candidates. The national Democrats must be getting nervous that Salazar doesn't really have this thing all wrapped up, after all. They may taste a pickup here in Colorado, and feel that Miles is endangering that. And yet, having misjudged their own party dynamics so badly, their judgment regarding the state's broader electorate may not be as sound as they think.

    Colorado is a state with a national profile, and yet a small enough population that politics is still very much retail. Money matters, of course, but the Denver media market is hardly LA or New York. There simply is no reason why an interested voter couldn't have met all four of the main candidates personally before the primary. And that will continue to be true in the general election. National parties apparently tend to think in terms of media buys first, candidate appeal second.

    One of the time-honored tactics of campaigns is to create an air of inevitability, to claim momentum, to make it seem as though their candidate will win, so you're just wasting your valuable envelope-stuffing time (and worse, your money) by backing the other guy. But it's unusual for national parties to blatantly interfere in primaries this way. Even the national Republicans, who were clearly pulling for somebody other than Schaffer, did so behind the scenes.

    If Miles does pull off an upset in August, the DSSC is going to have to back up so fast they'll beep.

    Sunday, June 13, 2004

    Buenos Dias, Senor, Eh? 

    Canada wants cheap Mexican labor, too. Maybe we should be advertising this here in the States.

    Summer Sports 

    Am I the only one who's a little uncomfortable at Immodium AM sponsoring the "Pre-game Poop" on the NBA Finals radio coverage?

    Also, there's just something wrong about the Red Sox and Dodgers playing ball in June. This ought to be earned. That said, it probably won't stop me from seeing the Sox Thursday afternoon out here. In an NL city.

    Friday, June 11, 2004

    Standing in Line 

    I flipped by C-SPAN at about 11:00 last night, just before I turned in. This was 1 AM Eastern Time. Amazingly, people were still filing by at a pretty good clip. I guess if you've waited in line for 5 hours, you're going to finish up, but still. If it was like that around the clock, then over a quarter of a million people, including the ones in California, came to pay their respects.

    And how about Gorbachev coming? I mean, I understand Thatcher, but this is like Jefferson Davis coming to Lincoln's funeral, had he lived. The man lost his party, his job, his country. If anyone were to be angry, you'd think it would be him. Certainly he was not, as CNBC just called him, a "staunch ally" of Ronald Reagan. But no, there he was, honoring the man who bested him. Gorbachev did try to change the Soviet Union, before the whole shell game collapsed on him. It sounds as though he realizes that even what happened was better for his people.

    Thursday, June 10, 2004

    Reagan's Debt 

    Amidst all the honor being paid to Ronald Reagan, one callerto Hugh Hewitt last night voiced a frequent complaint: Reagan's deficit spending, and the national debt. Now this was noted at the time, but at the time President Reagan left office, the national debt was 53.4% of the nation's GDP. At the beginning of 1947, 18 months after the end of WWII, it stood at over 108% of the GDP. This was a result of about a decade of deficit spending to relieve the Depression and win WWII.

    This is not an argument about fiscal responsibility. This is an argument about priorities. There's not a single critic of Reagan who would favor literal soup Nazis down on the 16th Street Mall here in Denver, so FDR's spending was worth it. For most of them, the Great Society programs were also worth it. (In fact, the main reason the debt load of the country didn't grow in the 70s was that we taxed our way into relative solvency - for a while - although never into prosperity.)

    The only way you can complain about President Reagan's deficits is if you prefer communism to Nazism, and gas lines to soup kitchens.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    Campaign Ads 

    Ah, you know it's campaign season here in Colorado now. We've had Pete Coors ads for a few days now, and now, John Kerry ads. I don't think there's any connection between that and the Emergency Alert System warning they just played, but you never know.

    Weak stuff. Shots of the Profile in Capitulation mingling with the groundlings, and a list of milquetoast positions. Including "a strong military and strong alliances." The first part just isn't true.

    As for he second part, the ad just happened to debut here on the day the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution backing the interim Iraqi government. This is like Dewey promising Victory in Europe during his 1944 campaign. Remember, Kerry was out there making lame NASCAR allusions just before the economy's job engine went from uga-uga-uga to vroooom. Please, John, promise me something else.

    Kerry thinks Colorado's in play, that maybe Red Rocks is turning pink. Either his internal polls are showing him something nobody else sees, or it's a replay of his being suckered into running ads in Louisiana, of all places. I know, Kerry's thinking that all that enthusiasm for Wild Man Salazar will have coattails, but what does it say for your own strength when you're hoping to ride the state's Attorney General to victory? Go ahead, John. If you win here, the game's over anyway.

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    Ted Rall's Rant 

    The execrable Ted Rall posted the following on his site yesterday. He seems to have taken it down, but we believe it should be preserved for posterity:

    How Sad...

    ...that Ronald Reagan didn't die in prison, where he belonged for starting an illegal, laughably unjustifiable war against Grenada under false pretenses (the "besieged" medical students later said they were nothing of the sort) and funneling arms to hostages during Iran-Contra.

    Oh, and 9/11? That was his. Osama bin Laden and his fellow Afghan "freedom fighters" got their funding, and nasty weapons, from Reagan.

    A real piece of work, Reagan ruined the federal budget, trashed education, alienated our friends and allies and made us a laughing stock around the world.

    Hmmmm...sounds familiar.

    Anyway, I'm sure he's turning crispy brown right about now.

    I hope Google does very, very well in their IPO. They deserve every penny.

    UPDATE: It turns out Rall's site is back up, the victim not of shame but of server trouble. When, in the fullness of time, Mr. Rall passes on, I'm sure that one person who's there to notice will comment on it appropriately to the other one.

    Schroeder's Poor Class 

    While most politicians and pundits have at least credited Reagan with actual achievements, the best Patsy "Don't Cry For Me - I'll Do It Myself" Schroeder can manage is a grudging respect for Reagan's ability to hoodwink the public. While most of us remember a strong economy, a respected country defeating a dangerous enemy, and a rediscovery of national purpose, the former Congressman from, er,Colorado can only remember deficits and college loans. And by reminding us that she coined the term "Teflon President," she reminds that she contributed little else of value during her long tenure representing, er, my district.

    Sunday, June 06, 2004

    Monica Crowley on Fox News 

    Monica Crowley on Fox News just said that the reason President Nixon's funeral was in California and more low-key was the family wanted it to be in keeping with Nixon's temperment.


    Remember those White House Guard uniforms? They made perfectly honorable Marines, who never want to do no harm to no-one, look like runners-up in the band competition for the Rose Parade.

    Mike Wallace Proteges 

    Remember when Mike Wallace famously said that he wouldn't warn American troops of an impending ambush? Some young, impressionable journalists apparently were listening:


    MOSUL, Iraq - Coalition soldiers questioned two news media cameramen and a reporter after a roadside bomb exploded near a Coalition convoy two kilometers north of Mosul June 3.

    The media, who were at the scene prior to the attack, told soldiers at the scene they had received a tip to be at that location prior to the attack and they had witnessed the explosion.

    There was minimal damage to a Coalition vehicle, a cracked windshield, and no serious injuries.

    3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers requested the media accompany them to a base camp in Mosul to answer questions as witnesses to the incident. The news media representatives left the base camp in the mid afternoon.

    I sure the enterprising reporters were disappointed that they weren't rewarded with more spectacular footage of the violent deaths of their fellow Americans. After all, the enemy is only going to give you so many chances to pick up a cheap Pulitzer.

    Courtesy of reader Gabriel Chapman.

    Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

    Ronald Reagan 

    Ronald Reagan died yesterday. He had been out of the public eye for so long, with a disease that we all knew about, that his passing almost seemed incidental. We had had so much time to mourn while he was still alive. Funerals are both for the dead and for the living. There was much the same dynamic with Ronald Reagan these last 10 years - any tributes paid him were for our ears, not his.

    As a kid growing up outside of DC, the late 70s were miserable politically. Politics was the town business, and you couldn't avoid it even if you wanted to, which I didn't. I rememebered Nixon's resignation, Whip Inflation Now (WIN) buttons, Jimmy Carter's famous walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, and his Presidency, all downhill from there. Hostages, Hanafi Muslims (even then), inflation, gas lines (again), and President who blamed us for all this.

    Even as a kid, I knew two things with unshakeable faith: 1) we were special, we were the good guys, and 2) the Soviets were the bad guys. Ronald Reagan validated that faith, by refusing to apologize for this country, and by refusing to let us devour ourselves. Anyone could have run against Carter. But Reagan didn't just run against failure; he ran for success.

    I went to his inaugural, helped by some VIP tickets from my (Democratic) Uncle Joe Richman. I got to see the new President announce that the plane carrying the ex-hostages had left Iranian airpace. The thinking at the time was that the Iranian let the hostages go out of simple self-preservation. But when he fired the PATCO employees, he was refusing to let the country be held hostage by lawbreakers here, either.

    This was a great Presidency, not a storybook one.

    The first two years were tough economically, with a second recession following the one in 1980. But the economy had clearly recovered by 1983, and in those days everyone knew it. The press hadn't yet decided to switch back and forth between whichever jobs number was less impressive. It didn't much like him, but it hadn't declared war on him, either.

    Last night, the news showed a brief clip from one of the 1984 debates with Walter Mondale. President Reagan had just answered a question about age by saying that he wouldn't make his opponent's youth and inexperience an issue. Reagan was smiling; the press, audience, and even Mondale were laughing. It broke the tension, answered the question, and had the side-effect of making Mondale's normal expression all the more dour.

    People forget that the outcome of the Cold War, like the outcome of WWII, was far from pre-ordained. But for people like Reagan, the world could be a very different place right now.

    Friday, June 04, 2004

    Iraq's 2+2 Syndrome 

    One of the less-helpful innovations to come out of DU Business School is something called a "2+2." Basically, at the end of a group exercise in one of the softer classes, like HR, organizational behavior, or leadership, the members of the group each give every other members two compliments and two areas of improvement.

    We did this at the end of HR, with fairly normal results. In my case, people felt that I could have volunteered for more, but that I produced consistently high-quality work, in a timely fashion, and carried my weight. There was one person who seemed a little upset that we had to work things around the ubiquitous Jewish holidays, and didn't seem to like the fact that I had opinions, but other than that, pretty milquetoast stuff.

    You can see the problem here immediately. Other than the one critique that was long on blade and short on handle, there wasn't much to go on. The one consistent criticism wasn't really all that bad. And given that this past quarter resembled the B-school equivalent of a 100-mile forced march to Bastogne in the dead of winter, I was doing what I needed to do to survive. There's a time and a place for everything, but it seemed prudent at this point for me to stay well inside the divorce-coronary-suicide inefficient frontier. I've got plenty of group work left to play myself back into shape.

    The point is that 2+2s flatten everything out. There's no scoring system, so for someone who was truly outstanding, like one of the gals on the team, you still have to come up with two "areas of improvement." They might be that "you chewed gum a little too loudly in the meetings," but they show up on the page next to, and take up about the same amount of ink as "you stayed up all night editing the group's 40-page paper."

    Something similar is going on with Iraq. The pluses, which are gigantic, get written down in the same size type with the same amount of ink as the minuses, which are much smaller. The same psychology that makes 2+2 look good superficially is at work here as well: a post-mortem, or even a mid-term evaluation, of any operation will produce pluses and minuses. But without any judgment, without any way of ranking them, you can spend time fixing things that aren't really broken, or miss chances to stay ahead of the curve.

    More Employment 

    In addition to the good job numbers from May, the Institute for Supply Management, which surveys expected activity in the manufacturing and service sectors, reports that their employment indices rose for May, as well, indicating that even more robust hiring is on the way.

    The manufacturing employment index was up to 61.9 from 57.8 in April, and the service employment index was up to 56.3, from 54.5 in April. This is the highest manufacturing emloyment index since April of 1973. Anything over 50 means growth in the job market, or net hiring. Incidentally, the both indices have been over 50 since late last year.

    The overall Manufacting Index has been over 60 for 7 straight months, something that happens about once every 10 years. Cheer up, folks, the economy's normal.

    Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee 

    I know this is old news, but I haven't seen it commented on anywhere else, and I think it's worth mentioning.

    The Ford Foundation got caught passing money to groups and "researchers" in middle-east studies departments whose first order of business is the destruction of people like the board of the Ford Foundation, and who would only spare Dearborn because of its close proximity to Detroit. Since then, the Foundation has promulgated some new rules, preventing their money from going to programs or institutions that support terror or hate or bigotry (even directed against Jews) or the destruction of any country (even Israel).

    Naturally, the Ivy League is up in arms. Claiming that this violates academic freedom. Coming from people who 1) overwhelmingly support "campaign" "finance" "reform," and 2) pass speech codes that have made duct tape part of the incoming freshman "valu pak," this is rich beyond words.

    Of the nine schools who are complaining, seven of them get either a red or a yellow light from, FIRE's site devoted to monitoring campus squelch knobs. Of the two where free speech is explicitly defended, one is the University of Pennsylvania. While the University may not have an explicit code, it has been less-than-zealous defending actual free speech, refusing to condemn the theft of conservative campus newspapers, and censuring a religious Jewish student for complaining, colorfully but not racially, about the noise coming from a black sorority.

    Here's the list:

  • Harvard
  • Yale
  • Princeton
  • Cornell
  • Columbia
  • Stanford
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Chicago

    Of course, the irony here is that a student could get kicked out of school, or worse, for saying the very things that the universities insist that they have the right to promote.

    Hypocrisy is an easy charge to make, and not very impressive. But these schools seem to have a nasty habit of trying to tell other people what they can say with their own money.

  • Thursday, June 03, 2004

    AFA Speech: Almost Covered 

    President Bush gave the commencement address at the Air Force Academy yesterday. If you were unfortunate enough to have the Denver Post as your only source of news, you might not know what he said.

    Oh, sure, they published the text of the address. But they also sent the eponymous Karen Crummy out to cover it. Once again, the folks over at the Rocky must be glad she's writing for the Post.

    Of the 750 words devoted to the speech, Ms. Crummy give over a third to Democratic operatives, and the candidate himself. These comments are interspersed throughout the article, acting as a Greek chorus. In the case of Gary Hart, his official role as an adviser to the Kerry campaign goes unmentioned.

    Contrast this with the Rocky, which reserves three paragraphs at the end of the speech for Senator Kerry (nothing wrong with that). The main difference is that the Rocky also takes time to mention the cadets. You know, the guys who are liable to be going over there to fight for us? Remember them? Remember where the speech is happening, Ms. Crummy? Think maybe their reactions (positive on the whole) are worth recording?

    The Post's "analysis" consists of a further 675 words arguing that the President is desperate, being dragged down the drain by a failed Iraq policy and a country that's falling apart on his watch.

    Two other notes on the President's fundraising speech Tuesday. The headline "Bush Bags Millions" is just a little crass, don't you think? And a secondary story on the cost of the police security (it comes to a little more than a dime per resident) also seems petty.

    So now, we know what to expect when candidate Kerry comes here in a couple of weeks. A report that's largely critical of his speech, with plenty of Republican reponse. A headline emphasizing the money he's taking in, no doubt commenting on the average income of Aspen residents. And a sidebar on the cost of police protection.

    Don't hold your breath.

    Cross-posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

    Back in the Saddle 

    After a week of being buried by the collective demands of 16 hours' worth of end-of-quarter projects and finals, work (as in a job), and a Jewish holiday called Shavuot ("Feast of Weeks" to you folks), celebrating the 10 Commandments part of the "Ten Commandments," I've finally got time to catch up on the world.

    Jared is reporting on a blog-flame war. Hey, as a friend of mine says, "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    Night and Day 

    To understand the difference between Denver's two dailies, you need go no further than their respective coverages of the anti-Bush protest here in Denver yesterday. Whether or not the appearance of 65 rabid Bush-haters in response to a Presidential visit is newsworthy is open to question, something the reporter for the News seems to have grasped. The Post reporter on the other hand (aided by the delightfully-named Karen Crummy), is under the delusion that the political rantings of 20-year-olds are worth the ink used to print them.

    Among the Post's gems:

    "It was exciting to be that close as he went by," said Lisa Arnolds, 26, of Denver a Kerry supporter. "He was probably looking away, ignoring all the dissent, though."

    Looking away? Maybe if he knew where to look away from. Those limos are quiet.

    Protesters were peeved that the president was attending the fundraiser where about 50 people contributed $25,000 to $50,000 per couple.

    "I am blown away that anybody would spend that much for a plate," said Kate Breslin, 20, of Denver. "It's frustrating because so many people are unemployed and donors will be sitting in there listening to classical music and eating expensive meals."

    Two words for you, Miss Breslin: George Soros. And these poor, unemployed people, whose ranks I may be about to join in a few weeks, can't afford classical music? Hell, unless it's a live string quartet, you probably helped pay for it. Colorado Public Radio has a 24-hour classical station. As for the meals, take another look at your videotape of that Democratic Unity Dinner a few months back. I don't think those are Chicken McNuggets they're chowing down on, disappointing though that might be to Bill Clinton.

    Miss Breslin, if you were less busy protesting Presidential visits, and were majoring in something more useful than medieval women's art history, you too might have the chance, someday, to give $50,000 to the socialist of your choice.

    Bernita Balekian, 25, of Denver said she takes Bush's stance against gay marriage personally.

    "I'm bisexual," Balekian said. "It shouldn't be against the law to love someone."

    Um, Bernita, it's not. And nice quote, by the way, managing to advertise in both the Looking For sections at once, for free, in a news article, at the newspaper's expense.

    By contrast, the Rocky's correspondent can barely believe they sent him out to cover this tripe:

    The president provokes his opposition to temper tantrums of such comprehensive scope, it was a challenge for demonstrators to boil down to a few words what it is about him that should tick off the rest of the country, too.

    Boy, if that doesn't paint a picture of derangement, nothing will. When I was a kid, there was a huge sign on a local property (corner of Blake Lane and 123, if you must know), protesting something that someone had done to this guy. The message ran on for a couple of hundred words, and it probably took regular commnuters a few weeks to get through the whole thing, one red light at a time. The guy was clearly a lunatic. He had no chance against City Hall, but even something like "Bastards Stole My Land" would have had more of a shot.

    Hecker had what appeared to be a 1,000-word manifesto printed on the back of his shirt. By comparison, his sign, "Today's lies threat: high," was a more visible message but far shorter on evidence.

    He's here! We found him! Imagine that, after all these years, I've tracked down the guy, and he's living in my neighborhood. I'll have to ask him what that sign back in Vienna was all about. Isn't it glorious when you find pieces of your childhood still living and walking around?

    Hecker said he was demonstrating against a president for the first time since the Reagan administration. He finally decided to do so, unsatisfied with complaining idly to several Republican friends.

    "I'm here to do something to change the country for the first time in my life, besides sitting and arguing with people," Hecker said.

    Sparago said her aim was similarly therapeutic.

    "I'm just hoping that, by us being here, and (passers-by) hearing the horns honk, they understand that not everybody can just do what they want," she said.

    But, "Do I think people out here are making a difference? No, and that's being honest," Sparago said. "I don't think it changes anybody's mind."

    Lest anyone forget how much the Left hated Reagan, this says it all. I also like that line about the whole thing being "therapeutic." It pretty much sums up the entire political program of the Democrats and the Left.

    On the other hand, maybe this article wasn't such a good idea. If the Kerry people read it, they may realize that this isn't such a battleground state after all, and we won't get to see them waste their money here.

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