View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Today's Scenic Drive 

If this road has seen maintenance since it was finished, it was barely discernable. But what a drive!

Things You Won't Hear on Denver Radio 

Overheard on Ag Radio: the Beef Checkoff is apparently in real trouble. This is the industry program that funds NCBA, where I used to contract. It funded the "It's What's For Dinner" campaign that resurrected Aaron Copeland's career, albeit a little late. This won't be good for the industry.

Also, it's tarantula mating season in the desert south of Colorado Springs. The 'burbs of the Springs have spread far enough south that some people are seeing them in their yards. I didn't even realize Colorado had tarantulas.

This Is the Great Outdoors? 

Ken Salazar like to brag about being a moving force behind the legislation known as Great Outdoors Colorado. Now when I think of the Great Outdoors, I think of this. I suspect you do too. I do not think of city playgrounds in Burlington, CO as the Great Outdoors. Nice city playgrounds are a worthy use of municipal funds, no doubt about it.

Salazar has been using his promotion of Great Outdoors Colorado in his response to the Summitville Slime. I'm just not sure those words mean what we think they mean.

Intelligent Design 

I've always been fascinated by design. No Platonist I, I wonder why certain eras have a "look." Why things look and work the way they do, rather than some other way. Great design is a combination of great engineering, great human factors, and art.

One of my favorite companies is IDEO, a design company. These are the guys who decide what things are going to look like. For starters. They decide how large things will be, how the pieces fit together. They're really good. Not only do they redesign existing tools to work better, they design entirely new products, too. Sometimes, they even come up with the prototype ideas themselves. Innovation. The HGH of capitalism.

Take the shopping cart. A few years ago, Nightline did a story about these guys, and gave them 24 hours to redesign the shopping cart. ABC wanted to see how they work.

Here's how they work. They went to the supermarket to see how people actually shop, and then they built a cart to help them do that. Simple, no? No. You think you wheel the cart up and down the aisle until you find what you want. You probably don't. You probably park the cart someplace in the aisle, and then walk up and down the aisle, using the cart like the Apollo astronauts used the lunar lander. So IDEO got rid of the cart's basket, and replaced it with a frame to hold a few of those hand-baskets people use instead of carts. Admit it. It's brilliant.

I read about this piece 4 years ago in The Art of Innovation. IDEO didn't have a customer for this product; they had just worked on it for the Nightline piece. The cart was so brilliant, though, that I kept waiting to see it someplace. I finally did. Last Sunday, I finally found The Cart. Interestingly, they're pitching it as an improved handbasket, rather than an improved shopping cart.

I realize that there's a pretty big installed base of existing carts, but we're Early Adopter Nation. I was ready for this cart before I saw it.

Monday, August 30, 2004

From the Road 

Fortunately, the "Flying J" chain of Interstate rest stops has started offering wifi at some of its locations.

I got up at 4:00 to catch the Pawnee Buttes at sunrise and moonset, and almost made it. In the event, I was probably a day late, anyway, since there's no good way to photograph them from the east, anyway.

The Pawnee Buttes are a couple of buttes in the limestone country of the western Great Plains, landmarks famous to the pioneers, to giving them a sense of how far west they had gotten. They were introduced to many of us in Michener's Centennial under another name. They were part of the Overland Route into Colorado, while followed the Platte River and led to Denver. It's now I-76. The southern route, now US-50, followed the Arkansas River and led to Pike's Peak. The shortest, central route, claimed to follow the Smoky Hill, but actually followed no reliable water at all, and frequently led to dehydration and death. One of the best sources for the early history of eastern Colorado is a book called Contested Plains.

Fort Morgan itself, now sans the fort, since we're sans the Indians, is a tiny town than serves the surrounding ranching and farming communities. Eastern Colorado grows a great deal of corn, in addition to its ranching. I passed up the main street cafe for a funky little off-the-beaten-path spot called the "In The Mood Coffee House." Glenn Miller spent his boyhood in Fort Morgan before migrating breify to pre-insanity Boulder and CU.

The coffee shop is a bit of crunchy Blue, in an otherwise stolid plateau of Red. A "Not in Our Name" poster defaces the front counter, and flags of all sorts hang from the ceiling, including one horrid defacement of the American Flag, with the stripes replaced by stripes of the rainbow. It's going to be closing soon, though, the building bought out by a competitor.

I'm writing this from the Flying J in Julesburg, northeastern tip of the state, on my way to Lamar.

Road Blogging 

I'm on the road this week, driving around the state for a little mini-vacation before heading back to school, back to the High Holidays, and back to the uncertainty that working as a contractor entails. Last night, I stayed in Ft. Morgan, and this morning I head to Pawnee Buttes. Today, it's a drive down through the Eastern Plains of the state, to Lamar.

Convention Thoughts 

Two quick thoughts. First, the networks aren't carrying squadoosh. So most people's impressions of the convention will be heavily filtered for most of the week, and crystallized by the President's speech. For many, their entire impression will be formed Thursday night. This is almost certainly good for the President.

Secondly, it doesn't look like any Kerry bombshells at the American Legion. Bill Clinton claimed that there had been too much discussion about the ad's politics and not enough about the facts. In typical Clintonian fashion, he then picked up on and repeated the lie that "all" the men who served on Kerry's boat supported him, and that none of his medals is in question. It looks as though Kerry proposes to fight it out along these lines if it takes all Fall.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Tyro Attacks Amendment 36 

As one would attack a steak, carving up before devouring it.

Go to 86 Amendment 36 for continuing coverage of one of Colorado's worst ideas.

More on "Jews for Jesus" 

Re: the post on Jews for Jesus gracing us with their presence in town for the next two weeks, I myself was honored with the following, charming comment:

Oh, so now Judaism is a religion. I thought it was a race. Or does it depend on whose ox you want to gore? All I hear from you is a thinly veiled racism, wrapped in hatred for Christianity. When in fact, American evangelicals, of all ethnicities, are the best friends Israel ever had. As to who's Jewish: who would Moses call a Hebrew. Dershowitz? Chomsky? You?

Threatened by Messianic ideology?

Grow up.

I do not know Scott's religion, his affilitation, his level of literacy or education, or even where he lives or works. But I assume that one person speaks for many, so here's my reply, posted in the comments, also emailed to him.

Charming. And well-reasoned.

Judaism is a religion, a culture. and a society. Judaism accepts converts; it cannot be a race, although Jewishness is inherited.

American Evangelicals aren't at issue here. Evangelicals by definition can't be a race, they comprise a religion. Evangelicals proclaim themselves as Christian, and any missionary activity on their part doesn't involve deceiving Jews into thinking that they can be Jewish and Christian.

Messianic "Judaism" is a dishonest attempt to convert Jews to Christianity while pretending not to do so. This is called "lying," and is generally frowned upon in polite society and civil discourse. As is name-calling, I might add.

You may have noticed, once you stopped hyperventilating, a set of links called the "Rocky Mountain Alliance." Most, but not all, of the members are Evangelical Christians. I'm happy to call them my friends.

I reject Christianity, I do not hate it. At least not when it is honest enough to go by that name.

Scott appears incapable of reasoned discussion, so why do I bother to respond? Because Scott may represent, or influence the views of others. Because this is an important and delicate enough times in Jewish life that it is critical we not be misunderstood. Evangelical Christianity has indeed evolved into a friend of Israel, and a friend of Jews. Messianic "Jews" are neither.

UPDATE: Here's a pretty good primer on the subject in today's Denver Post.

Radio Days 

Friday, we received the tape of the RMA'a appearance on Lea Live. Funny what the engineers do to your voice. I thought Jonathan was me, and I wasn't sure who I sounded like. Jim was quite distinctively Jim. He insisted right after the show that he had suffered brain lock, and I hope the tape disabuses him of that notion.

So, now guys, we have an audition tape!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Coors and Jobs 

The Denver Post seems detemined to keep thos going, with its editorial this morning. The paper gives Coors a fair shake on his management of the company, but then adds this:

His staff insists the advertising is accurate because of the jobs created by companies that emerged from reorganization at Coors Brewing, but these are the fruits of others' success.

Maybe. But these small companies started out with only one client: Coors, and while the new management there made the thing grow, and deserves credit for that, they got a big boost at the start. This whole argument is a fine enough line that the Post ought to find something better to write about.

Note also that the union has tried to organize the Coors Brewery four times and failed. This usually indiciate good management-employee relations. The single most important issue to potential union members is the continued existence of their jobs. Pensions don't matter if you haven't paid into them. Benefits don't matter if there's no job to take leave from. It doesn't sound as though brewery employees are sufficient worried about this issue to organize.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Friday, August 27, 2004

"Jews" for Jesus 

Over the next two weeks, starting Friday, Denver will have the unfortunate distinction of being the first in a series of cities targeted by a group known as "Jews for Jesus." This isn't anything like "Democrats for Bush." This is more like, oh, "Chemists for Alchemy," or maybe "Monarchs for Republicanism." It is a group of people who, masquerading as Jews, attempts to convert people to Christianity, under the guise of Judaism. They do this by appealing to some Jews' need to assimiliate as completely as possible, while still claiming credit for lox and bagels.

It is stealth evangelism (with a small "e"), and it stinks to high Heaven, where they will, no doubt, be in for a big surprise. We have a word for people who follow the teachings of Jesus. We call them "Christians." These Christians, however, call themselves "Jews," and are surprisingly and revoltingly successful at getting people to believe that there's no conflict here. The fact is that, by now, a fair number of people attending these so-called "Messianic Synagogues" acutally are Jewish, but they're practicing Christianity.

I was at a rally for Israel once last year, outside the local NPR studios. I noticed that, while a substantial contingent of demo'ers seemed to know each other, I had never seen them before. When I asked one girl what shul they were with, she hesitated, and said, "the Messianic Congregation, in the Platte Valley."


"Oh. Well, at least it's good that we can get together on this." A threat to Israel is an existential threat to the Jewish people. And who knows? Maybe if you're nice, they'll come back.

"Well, you know," unctiously, "we agree on a lot more than you think."

Firmly, "No, not really, not all that much."

Insistently, "Yes, you know, we do."

Restrainedly, "Well, that's a conversation for another day."

She wanted to draw me into a debate she was sure she could win. I'm Jewish, therefore I'm a legitimate target. (These people never take a vacation, either.) Any time, any place.

Me, I just wanted to get out of there before I said something I regretted. Something like, "We don't agree on anything, not even the time of day or the color of the sky. If you get some emotional succor out of calling yourself Jewish while breaking with its core beliefs, that's your business, but it's trademark infringement. No, it's worse: it's identity theft.

They look Jewish. The men wear yarmulkes. The women dress modestly sometimes. They know Israeli folk dances, but slip "Jesus is King" into "Hava Nagilah." They praise Jesus in Hebrew. They are the Viceroy butterflies of the religious world, and they taste about the same.

Not only are these people insistent, they also know scripture like Kerry knows Vietnamese waterways. It means that, while it seems like an argument ought to be an easy win, people who don't know their way around can get confused, which is pretty much what the missionaries want. Sow this year's doubt, reap next year's dues money.

While the best thing that I, as an individual, can do is to keep walking before I end up throwing one of them in front of a bus, as a community, that sort of response is completely inadequate. For one thing, we'd have to raid the building fund for the bail money. More than that, it sends a message that we're unwilling to defend ourselves, and it suggests to those who really don't know better that maybe these guys aren't all that bad, after all.

So the community has responded by inviting Rabbi Tuvia Singer, an expert on counter-missionary activity, to come speak at the JCC at 7:30 PM next Tuesday, September 7. In addition, members of the community will be handing out leaflets, shadowing missionary events over the next two weeks. Be there, and go hear Rabbi Singer speak.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Times on Niger - Again! 

Today's NY Times carries the following correction:

Because of an editing error, an article on July 15 about an official British report that criticized the country's prewar intelligence on Iraq misstated one finding of a parallel report released the previous week by the United States Senate Intelligence Committee. Like the British report, the Senate report traced several sources that appeared to substantiate claims that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger; the Senate report did not find that the claims were based on a single set of forged documents. This correction was delayed by an editing lapse.

Not only did it take them 5 weeks to make the correction (the "editing lapse" presumes that no one noticed or cared to notice for that long), the best they can do is that the documents "appeared to substantiate claims." The documents clearly did substatiate those claim. Substantiating a claim is not the same thing as proving it. Everyone now agrees that Iraq did try to buy uranium from Niger. But the Times, having campaigned on this issue almost as hard as they did for Martha Burke at the Master's, can't possibly print what actually happened.

How many front-page, above-the-fold stories did the Times run on Joe Wilson? Perhaps if they had bothered to notice when Wilson went south, they might have gotten this right. How many columns did MoDo write on the "16 words?" Surely, someone with as keen an interest in this story as she could be counted on to alert the editor?

Remind me again why anyone reads these guys.

LA Times Poll 

The new LA Times poll, for what it's worth, has Bush up 3 points nationally, 49-46. He still isn't breaking 50%, but it seems to confirm a fairly widespread trend over the least few weeks.

This despite oversampling Democrats again, by 36-31. So it's even worse for Kerry than it looks.

Tour of Goodies 

I love driving. Not in Denver, of course, where the traffic is approaching DC proportions, and the street lights are timed for maximum disruption. Out in the country, whether it's Barracks Road north of Charlottesville, or Route 50 west of DC (well, west of Fairfax, really), or pretty much anything outside of the Boulder-Denver-Colo. Springs axis of tail lights.

Even if I don't get a real, all-out, two-week trip, I at least like to take a week and drive. Last year, it was out to Nevada and back through Utah. This year, it looks like it'll be a Circle Tour of the state. Trying to find kosher food, especially kosher protein (think Atkins), west of the Mississippi makes you appreciate what the miners went through.

So I got a dehydrator. For jerky. Good snack. You can put it in the front seat, and chew on it as you drive. Fedex, though, apparently aware of the tight time schedule, decided that the dehydrator needed to be broken in with a little travel of its own. Here's the tracking route since Monday:

Aug 25, 2004 06:18:00 AM PHOENIX AZ US LEFT FEDEX RAMP
Aug 24, 2004 01:26:33 AM Woodbury MN US

The package actually originated in Minneapolis (so now you know what large retailer I bought it from); there are actually a couple of entries that have dropped off the bottom. Personally, I suspect foul play by Mitch Berg.

I'm used to seeing a couple of extra entries on Fedex itineraries. They used to send everything to Memphis, and then send it out from there. They may still do that for overnight packages. I hadn't realized that it was standard policy to give all outgoing merchandise the Grand Tour of Western Airports. My dehydrator is now better-travelled that some luggage of mine that United got its hands on a few years back.

Why the package, having arrived in Denver yesterday morning, had to return to Indianapolis for counseling, is beyond me. In fact it didn't: look at the transit times for that trip. It sure didn't spend much time in Colorado Springs, although maybe it took a little detour up Pike's Peak on the way to Denver. It never seems to have arrived in Oakland at all, just left, which seems to be the ideal trip to Oakland.

I have heard that these reports are all pretty much made up, to give the customers some confidence that their package actually is moving along. If so, Fedex might want to rethink how much creative license it gives its agents. Right now, it's looking like the Max Cleland Delivery Service.

Salazar Goes Over the Edge 

At press time last night (hah!), Salazar seemingly had played the Summitville issue the right way - show outrage at an unfair attack, get your opponent to condemn it, have the newspapers print editorials defending you, and generally get the word out that the attack as isn't worth the ether it travels through.

But I did say that Salazar had to be careful not to overplay his hand. Fortunately, he's gone and done just that, not merely going over the edge, but diving over, with the judges giving him scores ranging from 5.4 to 5.8. From this morning's Rocky:

Salazar noted that both Denver daily newspapers editorialized Wednesday against the ad. Like those editorials, Salazar asked that the ad be stopped, and called upon his Republican opponent, Pete Coors, to join in that demand.

Although Coors has denounced ads by outside groups, Salazar said Wednesday that isn't enough.

The two-term state attorney general labeled his brewery executive opponent a "handmaiden" to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that fund Americans for Job Security, and said it was "almost a hypocrisy" for Coors not to try harder to get the ad off the air.

Coors spokeswoman Cinamon Watson decried the tone of Salazar's message, noting that immediately after the primary election Salazar had pledged a positive race.

"I'd say that anybody who's calling for a positive campaign and in the same breath starts name-calling Pete is a hypocrite," she said.

Good for Coors. Salazar knows full well that the law concerning collaboration is unsettled. Were Coors to successfully call for the ads to be pulled, it would effectively make him responsible for all outside advertising, even though he can't possibly control it. Salazar is trying to manufacture an issue now where none really exists. And he's setting up his own sadder-but-wiser pose when the Sierra Club comes in with ads showing Clear Creek flowing with sludge and explaining that it's all those Coors trucks that cause the Brown Cloud.

More worrisome is the tendency at both the national and state levels to turns debates about policy and record into debates about campaign finance. Today, after McCain-Feingold's warping of the First Amendment, such debates have a somewhat menacing tone. In a way, it's worse that Kerry, since these ads never really threatened Salazar's candidacy. Complaining about mud is only slightly more recent than mud itself.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Salazar and Outside Ads 

I'm going to take issue with Guy and Hugh on this one. I don't think Salazar is particularly out of line, and I don't think either this ad or this issue is going to hurt him any.

First, all of the papers, the Post, the Rocky, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Grand Junction Sentinal don't think that Salazar acted improperly. The abuses started before his watch, and he was partly responsible for putting and end to them. When the time for settlement came, he got a deal that more than paid for the damage, without having to go to trial.

Secondly, Salazar has already run and won two statewide races where this issue was raised. These are fairly recent races, so it's not like the state's population has turned over in the interim. In fact, this points out one of the problems with the group sponsoring the ad: they're from out of state, and clearly don't have any clue about the history of either this issue or Colorado politics.

Thirdly, Salazar himself has called, somewhat disingenuously, for outside groups not to advertise in state. Coors has joined him in this, even though the Rocky has editorialized in favor of outside groups. There's a limit as to how much Coors can say without being charged with collusion, though, and Salazar knows it. There's a fine line between being offended and grandstanding. In any event, Salazar isn't running for President, so it's going to be hard to judge him by Kerry's antics, no matter how much he's tried to run as a third member of the ticket.

Finally, this group is not a 527, but a 501(c), and if the ad stops before Labor Day, they won't have to reveal their funding sources. That's ok, although the eponymous Karen Crummy prefers "secretly funded" to "anonymous," and it does make it easier to draw inappropriately sinister conclusions about the people behind the ad.

In the end, this ad is almost likely to help, rather than hurt, Salazar. I've got nothing against third-party groups. My position on McCain-Feingold is pretty much that of the Wall Street Journal and National Review: it is an abomination in the eyes of the Constitition and the Founders. That said, if third parties are going to advertise, they need to do their homework.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Carter to Venezuela: Drop Dead 

Just when things are looking bleak, just when all is Swift Boats and not-so-swift candidates, and you wonder if John Kerry is about to support My Pet Goat because, after all, he's the Navy mascot, along comes Jimmy Carter for comic relief. Never has a man's sanctimony and self-righteousness been so impervious to lances and mockery. And yet never has the fun gone out of trying.

In a 1983 speech, Bob Dole remarked on a recent reunion of ex-Presidents, Dole saw Carter, Ford, and Nixon, "There they are. See-no-evil, hear-no-evil, and evil." Now that Ford is over 90 and out of the game, I guess Jimmah's decided to take up the slack.

Down in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a Castro-protege with visions of a left-wing Latin America, has stolen a recall referendum he reluctantly agreed to. Mary Anastasia O'Grady has been all over this story. She describes in detail a huge turnout, preceded by opinion polls running 2-1 against Mr. Chavez. She describes an exit-poll, conducted by a reputable American firm, which showed the recall winning 60-40. She also describes exactly how the election could have been stolen: electronic voting machines, whose paper receipts were kept under lock-and-key by Chavez's troops. Carter Center representatives only looked at the tally sheets of a few machines, not at their paper receipts. This is roughly equivalent to conducting an audit by looking at reported financial statements. She also notes that some citizens, unconvinced by the results, were shot by government troops for protesting and demanding a real audit.

The Journal allowed Jimmah an op-ed yesterday, to defend his suddenly in-question reputation. What he wrote was a huff-and-puff piece that described his long experience in monitoring election, the history of how just about everyone had done Chavez wrong, and how he (Carter) had fought tenaciously for the recall referendum to be held at all. He completely side-steps O'Grady's comments, essentially agreeing with the details of the audit, but asserting that close enough is good enough. He dismisses the exit poll as erroneous, and claims that its release was really the cause of all the trouble, since it led people to assume one result. Carter then goes on to ask everyone to abide by the result, go home, and assume that the next regularly-scheduled elections will be held, and will include a real opposition.

People think that Bush's foreign policy is Wilsonian, but it's Carter who as apparently inherited Wilson's messiah-complex. His peroration takes credit for the referendum being held at all, while conveniently forgetting that it was Chavez who tried to invalidate petitions, and has now shot protestors. He encourages the people of Venezuela, who jumped through every legal hoop set up for them, in order to try to rid themselves of an incipient dictatorship, to go home an meekly accept the results in the interests of keeping the peace. What's more, he tells them to go home because he's Jimmy Carter and he knows what's best. He and Chavez apparently can't even agree on the terms of a more complete audit, but Carter has decided what the outcome will and should be. Funny, but I seem to recall him supporting the selective hand-recount in Florida.

For our class on leadership in business school, we had to profile a leader, and analyze his style and accomplishments based on the model we had used in class. One of my classmates chose Carter, and stressed his commitment to "peace," above everything else. For some reason, he considered this a virtue. His position here is clearly of the same cloth - he encourages people to appease their own left-wing dictator-in-waiting, in the interests of peace.

We should bear in mind that all this comes not at the expense of Dear Jimmah, but at the expense of the Venezuelan people, who are about to find themselves saddled with Castro-lite, but with oil. The best model for Venezuela may now be Turkey. A passable example might be Chile. What's sad is that it could have been us.

UPDATE: Steven Hayward makes much the same point over at FrontPage, but with more detail on Carter's troublemaking during the Nicaraguan elections of 1990. It's nice to be in such good company.

Yerushalayim Shel Zahav 

Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman won Israel's first gold medal ever at the Olympics today. As the AP points out, this will mean that, for the first time ever, "Hatikvah" will be played at an Olympic venue. It's just a doggone shame that Juan Antonion Samaranch, who fought bitterly against any rememberances of Munich at later Olympics, couldn't be there to see it. We'll see if NBC has the guts to show the medal ceremony, even though such a provocative and dangerous move could endanger the peace process.

The win gives Israel one bronze and one gold medal this year. Now the games, aren't over yet, so I don't want to gloat, but I think, if you count up all the medals, by all the Arab countries, and Iran, you get 3 total, one of each color. Maybe they should stick to Nobel prizes. Oh, wait, never mind.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Kerry on Boorda 

Kate O'Beirne of National Review seems to be one of the few who remembers Admiral Jeremy "Mike" Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations who took his own life in 1996. The first enlisted man to rise to that position, Admiral Boorda killed himself when Newsweek began to investigate the propriety of two "V" decorations, awarded for valor in combat, that he had worn on an off for several years. Admiral Boorda died believing he had mistakenly worn the award. Two years later, the Navy issued an opinion stating that he was not in error, that he did in fact deserve the "V"s.

When Admiral Boorda killed himself, it was only natural for the two Boston papers to seek out the opinions of their own local, decorated Vietnam Navy veteran, Sen. John Kerry:

"Is it wrong? Yes, it is very wrong. Sufficient to question his leadership position? The answer is yes, which he clearly understood," said Sen. John Kerry, a Navy combat veteran who served in Vietnam. - Boston Herald, May 18, 1996

"The military is a rigorous culture that places a high premium on battlefield accomplishment," said Sen. John F. Kerry, who received numerous decorations, including a Bronze Star with a "V" pin, as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam.

"In a sense, there's nothing that says more about your career than when you fought, where you fought and how you fought," Kerry said.

"If you wind up being less than what you're pretending to be, there is a major confrontation with value and self-esteem and your sense of how others view you."

Of Boorda and his apparent violation, Kerry said: "When you are the chief of them all, it has to weigh even more heavily."
(Emphasis added) - Boston Globe, May 18, 1996

Ironically, it now appears that Kerry has been erroneously claiming a "V" of his own, associated with a Silver Star. The "V" appears never to have been applicable to the Silver Star, although it can be awarded in conjunction with a Bronze Star.

Kerry clearly understands exactly what the stakes are here. I don't think anyone is expecting Kerry to follow Admiral Boorda's own, unfortunate example. We don't have a tradition of hari-kiri in this country, and Kerry himself felt it necessary to add that he didn't think it was worth Boorda's life. But we might think about holding Kerry to the standard he held Boorda to at the time.

Let me be clear: so far, there has been no firm evidence that Kerry's decorations weren't awarded properly, or that they weren't earned. But he has clearly lied about his combat experience, exaggerated (at least) the conditions for his first Purple Heart, and at a minimum failed to correct an error on his DD 214. We may never know the actual conditions of the Bronze Star or the Purple Hearts. But there are those who clearly and honestly believe that he didn't earn them.

I think it's a mistake to assume that the Swifties are only or even primarily, upset at Kerry's post-combat testimony about alleged war crimes. There's no question that that has ticked them off to no end. But respect is different from resentment. It's one thing to get clobbered by someone whom you respect. It's quite another to get blindsided by a former comrade who wound up being less - a lot less - than he was pretending to be.

Just Asking Questions 

Back to the Fever Swamps. You might remember a few months ago, when the head of Diebold, based in Ohio, turned out to be a Republican committed to President Bush's re-election. Almost immediately, the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic party, the one that produces the delegates, began accusing him of plotting to steal the election by tampering with the programming of the electronic voting machines.

I'm not normally very hard on the Rocky. Of the three business papers in the area, theirs is indisputably the best. Which makes the appearance of this uncharacteristically sloppy article on Saturday all the more bizarre.

A Colorado company under contract to ensure that the nation's touch-screen voting machines are accurate has been a substantial contributor to Republican candidates and groups.

The donations linked to CIBER Inc. are by no means against the law, but have raised some eyebrows with the approach of a hotly contested 2004 presidential election and the recent discovery of flaws in the ATM-like machines that will be used by millions of voters.

At Greenwood Village-based CIBER, employees and some spouses have donated more than $72,000 to GOP candidates and groups during the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Democratic donations linked to the firm were $3,000 during that time.

Companies can't give this kind of money to campaigns. They can't even give this kind of money to parties, directly. The company itself doesn't appear to have given anything to any candidate. If you think this is a fine distinction, consider that the Edwards campaign had to return thousands of dollars laundered through employees of an overly-enthusiastic law firm. And consider how you would feel hearing that "the State of Colorado" had donated tens of thousands of dollars to Ken Salazar's campaign. It hasn't of course, but its employees have.

Such donations from CIBER are "perfectly legitimate," said Rebecca Mercuri, a computer security expert with Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study.

"What should raise eyebrows is that our U.S. government and state governments allow this to happen," she said. "There's been nothing done to dissuade the perception that there's partisan control over the voting process."

There's also been nothing done to dissuade the perception that the moon is made of green cheese, that those little people actually live inside your television, and that dolphins are the descendents of advanced ancient civilizations.

There's also been nothing done to dissuade the perception that Rebecca Mercuri might have an axe to grind. Ms. Mercuri is a "computer security expert," to be sure. She has also spent about 15 years studying various voting systems, and has conceived a particular dislike for electronic systems. This isn't to say she likes older systems any better. She distrusts them enough that the Democratic Party invited her to testify for them in the 11th Curcuit in Bush v. Gore. So she's got two reasons to dislike CIBER, neither of which makes it into the article.

Now I have to agree that electronic machines should print out a receipt for the voter. I understand the notion that, in a world where every election judge had photographic memory, such a system might compromise ballot secrecy. But it's a far cry from "it would be a good idea," to "these guys are turning us into Venezuela."

Later on, the article comes to much the same conclusion:

Still, Douglas Jones, associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, said it's fair for people to raise questions about such contributions, given CIBER's role as a voting software tester.

But he doesn't think the donations should be seen as evidence that CIBER is engaged in partisan mischief - given that good citizens in a democracy are expected to be active participants in the political process.

"It's fine for it to raise eyebrows," he said of the CIBER donations. "I'd hate for it to generate conspiracy theories."

But Jones does worry about this: If there is a problem with the voting software and votes can't be 100 percent verified, then questions would arise about CIBER's partisan leanings.

"I'm not convinced that the system is bankrupt. I'm convinced we're at risk," Jones said

In other words, there's nothing really the matter here, but people are distrustful enough of the process that they might think there is. The author goes on to make the following points:

  • Voting-machine testing accounted for less that 0.1% of CIBER's 2003 revenues.
  • There's no connection between the work being done, and employees donating money
  • The article fails to note if any employees actually engaged in the testing made any donations at all
  • Two other companies are also authorized to certify the voting machines
  • State election officials, not the Federal Government, give that authorization

Makes you wonder why they bothered to green-light this article in the first place.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Um, About that Southern Border 

This story didn't get as much play as the initial 9/11 findings for some reason. The next time someone tells you that border security is a racist obsession, remind them of this.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Al-Qaeda runs a clandestine travel service, partnered with human smugglers south of the US border, and which helps move its terrorists around the world, according to results of a probe.

The national commission that investigated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States disclosed its findings in a new report released over the weekend as its last act before formally disbanding.

"There are uncorroborated law enforcement reports suggesting that associates of Al-Qaeda used smugglers in Latin America to travel through the region in 2002, before traveling onward to the United States," the panel said, without offering any specifics.


Determined to send its agents all around the world, Al-Qaeda put a premium on creating false travel documents and identity cards, according to the report.

RMA in the Papers 

Local Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi has some very nice words for the RMA and its coverage of the Colorado Senate race:

The Rocky Mountain Alliance is a consortium of bloggers who opine on politics, culture and anything else that happens to interest them.

All the members of the RMA live in and around Denver and post daily musings on their respective blogs, which have compelling titles like Exultate Justi, exvigilare, Mangled Cat and Mount Virtus.

At their worst, political bloggers are boring, narcissistic windbags who throw every disjointed thought they have into cyberspace.

At their best, bloggers supply a fluid, real-time debate, providing issues in the depth that mainstream media can't always offer. They link to source documents and meticulously follow the news as it unfolds.

Well, the Rocky Mountain Alliance offers the best of what the blogosphere has to offer.

David focuses on one of the more remarkable stories the RMA has to offer, that of Jim Cannon. Jim would deny this, of course, but nobody else can.

Jim was a truck driver for eight years. In late 2002 and early 2003, he thought he was fighting off a stubborn cold or flu. He had also experienced some tingling in both his arms and legs. One night, while driving from Phoenix to Denver, Jim found himself unable to breathe regularly.

About two days later, after checking in to a Flagstaff, Ariz., hospital, Jim was unable to breathe altogether.

He was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves - those outside the brain and spinal cord.

"I guess the easiest way to describe it," explains Jim, "is that your immune system overreacts to an infection that it's been fighting off for some time, and actually creates antibodies that attack your nerves."

In Jim's case, the disease affected all the nerves from the neck down. He spent a total of three months on a ventilator and another three months learning how to do everything again - to "feed myself, walk, stand ... everything."

"My blogging developed as a result of that," Jim says. "In most cases people get back a lot of what they lose, because nerves that cause sensation are fortunately the only nerves in the body that can grow. "

Jim still wears a brace and has to use a cane to walk. He has yet to regain a lot of sensation and movement in his left hand.

Jim's dad blogs at Damascus Road, and through his influence, Jim decided to start his own site. He wanted to talk about Guillain-Barré, spread information on the disease and connect with other survivors.

Jim says that blogging has helped him to regain some dexterity in his hands, but mentally, it's provided a boost that can't be measured. To this day, he maintains a private blog, documenting his personal journey. Meeting the other RMAers was just an added benefit.

Jim and his fellow bloggers at RMA are decisively right wing, but there is nothing else monolithic about them. They include retirees, professionals, master's degrees, the unemployed, and as Jim can attest, the disabled.

After meeting most of the RMA, I decided to focus on Jim's story because of his amazing battle and relentless spirit.

Jim caught on to my angle and called to let me know he'd prefer if I focused on the other members of the RMA.

Which tells you everything you need to know about Jim Cannon.

The rest of us couldn't agree more. Now, go read Jim's site.

Looks Like a Job for Sandy Berger 

From today's Boston Globe:

The Kerry campaign removed a 20-page batch of documents yesterday from its website after The Boston Globe quoted a Navy officer who said the documents wrongly portrayed Kerry's service. Edward Peck had said he -- not Kerry -- was the skipper of Navy boat No. 94 at a time when the Kerry campaign website credited the senator with serving on the boat. The website had described Kerry's boat as being hit by rockets and said a crewmate was injured in an attack. But Peck said those events happened when he was the skipper. The campaign did not respond to a request to explain why the records were removed.

Hat Tip: Command Post

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Some Pig 

I like going to the State Fair. Now, it's not the Minnesota State Fair, with their grand influx of conservative radio personalities, but it's still fun.

The junk dealers and the rides that look like they could be 1940s originals (that's not a compliment, by the way) aside, the animals are the main event for me. After all, it's one thing to sell wax hands for a living, quite another to be raising the animals I'm going to be eating soon.

OK, not these animals. I won't be eating these animals any time soon. But I did have some questions, anyway. We wandered into the "Sheep, Swine, and Goats" barn, currently occupied by swine. Swine sleeping, eating, parading around for buyers and judges.

I wanted to know if there were different breeds of pig, and what the purpose of them would be? Dogs are bred for different kinds of work. Cattle are bred for different purposes (milk, meat) and conditions. It seemed to me, though, that pigs pretty much all end up the same way. So what's the point of different breeds?

Well, it turns out that the purebred pigs, the labs and the cocker spaniels, are just breeding stock for the mongrels that the farmers really want. A proper mix of the right lines, and that pig will balloon up faster than any of the purebreds. Less feed and less time to market means higher margin and lower inventory cost.

Still, it makes sense that the champion and grand champion sleep a little easier.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

More Debates Scheduled 

We have been made aware of two more debates on the schedule for this race. On October 12, Allied Jewish Federation will hold its Candidates' Forum, apparently to include the 1st District House candidates as well. Details to follow, but it should be a chance to highlight foreign affairs.

And the local CBS affiliate will televise live a 1-hour debate on Friday, October 29 (don't these guys ever debate any time other than Shabbat?), from 6-7 PM. Again, with a panel of journalists.

Hey, how about a debate with a panel of bloggers?

Friday, August 20, 2004

Fire Suppression 

From yesterday's, a liberal news website:

The Kerry campaign has told Salon that the publisher of "Unfit for Command," the book that is at the center of the attack on Kerry's military record by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is retailing a hoax and should consider withdrawing it from bookstores. "No publisher should want to be selling books with proven falsehoods in them, especially falsehoods that are meant to smear the military service of an American veteran," said Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton. "If I were them, I'd be ducking under my desk wondering what to do. This is a serious problem."

Perhaps this explains Kerry's unwillingness to let The New Soldier be re-issued.

There's no question that this is a veiled threat of a lawsuit. The campaign is already suing the Swift Vets themselves, has threatened lawsuits against TV stations carrying the first TV ad, and is clearly threatening both Regnery and, by implication, bookstores that carry the book.

So far, as usual, the MSM is ignoring this ugly part of the Kerry "counterattack," although Irish and Scottish readers as well-informed about it.

At this point, the only event Kerry has scheduled during the Republican Convention is a speech at the American Legion national convention. Suddenly, this doesn't look like such a shrewd move.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

First Debate Scheduled 

At least one debate between the two Senate candidates has been scheduled, for Saturday night, September 11, in Grand Junction, at the Two Rivers Convention Center. Salazar & Coors will debate from 7:00 to 7:55, following an undercard of Ken's brother John vs. (presumably) Greg Walcher, from 6:00 to 6:55. John Salazar & Walcher are facing each other for the 3rd District House seat, although there's still a little counting left to do on the Republican side there.

It's extremely frustrating that this news appears in the Cortez newspaper, and on neither of the campaign websites. Another reason you need us.

Any Grand Junctions residents or bloggers who'd like to file a report here, please let us know.

We Were Wondering the Same Thing 

All The News That Fits... 

From a John Kerry ad defending himself against questions about his war record:

Well, when you post your medical records, and your After Action Reports, we will. You bet we will.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Good Economic News That Nobody Noticed 

I know there's only one economic number that matters, and it comes out every Thursday, but this week has actually been pretty heavy with economic news, and while it doesn't show Chinese-like growth, there's a lot to be happy about.

Empire State Index

This is a report on the state of New York's manufactuing economy. While the overall number was down, a lot, it stayed positive, which shows continuing growth. The employment index, and the price index both showed improvement, too, indicating little price pressure and increasing hiring.

Treasury International Capital

This measures how much foreign money is coming into the country. For the last few months, it has far, far exceeded the amount needed to pay for our current accounts deficit, meaning that companies have money to invest (good), and the government doesn't have to raise interest rates to attract foreign capital (very good). It suggests that the dollar won't be weakening any more, either.

Industrial Production & CPI

Both good news. We all know the CPI didn't show any pressure. But with industrial production up, and factory utilization still at about 77% of capacity, there's no price pressure there, either.

Look, it's not all good news. No matter what the Consumer Confidence numbers say, consumers are spending less, suggesting that they see a chance to save. I'm not sure where the money's going, so we can hope that maybe people are paying down credit cards. (Never believe Consumer Confidence numbers, by the way. People tell pollsters what they think they want to hear.) Pay attention to consumer spending, which does seem to be softening a little.

Again, we've had whole quarters where that number went down, in the middle of strong economic growth, so it's not fatal. But if we're counting on exports, we may be disappointed. Other countries are more dependent on oil than we are (we continue to import more oil, but it's the basis of less and less of our economy), so they may not have money left over for our consumer goods.

I'm not Alan Greenspan, a fact for while all should be grateful, but I don't see any reason for the Fed to be raising interest rates at this point. They may anyway, but I think it would be a mistake.

VFW Pictures You Won't Be Seeing 

The AP caption reads:

War veterans Jere Hill, middle, from Warham, Mass., and Robert Gibson, right, from Lexington, Ky., stand with their backs turned during Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's speech at the 105th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Cincinnati on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004. Man in foreground is unidentified. Kerry received a polite if not overwhelmingly positive reaction from the VFW. But there was a clear divide, with scores of veterans sittings with their arms folded while others clapped.

NFIB Endorses Coors 

The National Federation of Independent Business, one of the country's major small-business organizations, has endorsed Pete Coors for Senate.

This shouldn't come as a complete surprise. The SAFE Trust PAC endorses Republicans predominantly, although not exclusively, and they don't make an endorsement in every race. However, they have given money in the past to the Blue Dog PAC, a conservative Democratic PAC, Gary Condit (oops), and James Moran of Virginia, both Democrats. Locally, they were strong supporters of Bob Schaffer and Bob Beauprez in their House runs.

Coors ought to be able to turn this to his advantage. Probably the biggest issue on the table for small business (aside from making sure that the city where they operate still exists in the morning) is health care. Those who cry the loudest that the Federal Government should use its bargaining power to further distort the market for prescription drugs are blocking Senate action that would let small businesses group together to enhance their bargaining power. It fits in nicely with Coors's "markets not bureaucrats" approach to things.

Salazar has made health care his headline issue, ahead of everything else. This no doubt has something to do with his aggressive courting of the Hispanic vote. Coors now has an endorsement that he can effectively use to bolster his counter-message.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Websites - Advantage Salazar 

When I was hanging out with these guys, about 20 years ago (dear God, where does the time go?), we used to rate probationary speeches on two criteria: style and content. (Sometimes, someone would throw "form" in there to confuse people, which, at 3:00 Saturday morning wasn't too hard to do. Usually, at that point, we'd head down to the Corner for breakfast.) Do well enough, or speak late enough that people had stopped caring, usually about the time the keg ran out, and you passed.

It is in that spirit that I offer the following critiques of the two Sentorial websites.


Neither site dies here, that is, neither site has such a horrible design or color scheme that it sends you, screaming, here. Both sets of site designers seem to have mastered the basics: red, white, and blue, but muted, and faded into each other. Nice menus, pictures of the candidates, large content area.

And yet. Coors's site leaves you searching much of the time, while Salazar's has the menu equivalent of street signs, rollover popup menus. You've got people to your site, you don't want them wasting time looking at the endorsements when what they really want is your position on gun control. (Actually, what you really want is for them to hit the "Contribute" button. Both sites make that pretty easy.) One click and I'm at Salazar's Press Releases. Coors makes me run through two separete clicks, a bunch of text I'm not going to read anyway.

This stuff is easy to fix, and Coors should fix it. He's spending money on the site as it is, he should at least get his money's worth.


What's going to take a lot more work to fix is the content. Here's where Salazar eats Coors lunch, and washes it down with a Bud.

Salazar's press releases are up to date. Coors's most recent press release is from lsat month. Coors makes you register for a press kit. Salazar has a schedule of events and a Meetup site. Key stuff, to let people get involved. Salazar also has his TV ads on his site. Half of Coors's links take you to registration forms. His should should spend more time giving information and less time asking for it.

Finally, and most importantly, Salazar mirrors his site in Spanish. Coors is already at a language disadvatage, why compound it? Please don't make ideological arguments to me, unless you believe Coors can afford to just write off the Spanish-speaking media.

As a way to keep track of the campaign, the Coors site just doesn't offer any value-added.


Look, it's easy to make too much of this, but the blog is a web-based medium, and I think we can write about candidates' websites without it being a case of digital naval-gazing. I realize that, from the point of view of the web, TV looks like this, but that's not the point. It's a medium whose power is growing (you're reading this, aren't you?), and it's important to use it properly.

Coors still has plenty of time to do this right, but it's a little worrisome that he hasn't done so yet.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Amendment 36 - How It Will (or Won't) Work 

It turns out that those pushing electoral deform here in Colorado have got a precise formula for how their system will work. The website for Make Your Vote Count (For Less) has the full text of the proposed Amendment. I'm here to translate it into English.

You take each candidate's vote percentage, multiply it by the number of electoral votes Colorado has, and round it to the nearest whole number. So, in answer to the questions in a prior post: the threshold is a ridiculously low 5.5%, you need 61% to get 6 electoral votes, and no, there's no bonus for winning the state. If Colorado goes back to some even number of electoral votes, and you get 50% + 1, you still only get half the votes.

I won't bore you with the details here, but there are some mathematical combinations whereby rounding error and third parties can either result in either 10 or 8 votes being awarded. They handle those by either taking a vote away from the lowest total, or adding one to the highest.

Now, I called the MYVC(FL) offices, and actually spoke to State Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder), quoted here:

“This is great news for the citizens of Colorado,” said Democratic State Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder).“It means voters will be afforded the unique opportunity to reform an outdated electoral system which disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters.”

Let's just say that Sen. Tupa, while a perfectly nice guy, doesn't come across as the brightest bulb in the chandelier. He's proposed previous electoral deform, but has come out enthusiastically for this Amendment, claiming that it's even better than what he proposed. It's a shame he doesn't know what's in it. He couldn't answer any of my questions, couldn't answer any of the specific scenarios I gave him, and referred me to the website for the text. The text itself isn't linked to from the front page, although it's not hidden, and he couldn't direct me to it.

When I asked him specifically about what happens after the next reapportionment, if we get 10 electoral votes, he said he didn't know what the formula required, that he "didn't think that anyone there had thought this thing through that far, and that it would be at least 10 years before that happened." (Hint: 2012 - 2004 = 8.) That's thinking ahead.

As an aside, I'd mention that Sen. Tupa comes from a district that elected him with 72% of the vote in 2000, and elected his Democratic predecessor with 72% of the vote in 1996. If he's got time for hobbies like this Amendment, he must be fairly confident of re-election. So according to his logic, about 28% of his district is disenfranchised. This is not a proposal for action. I say this as someone who is unalterably opposed to a list system.


I took one look at that picture with Hugh, and saw that I was the only one who looked like a NASCAR dad (not that there's anything wrong with that). Funny, because most NASCAR races are held on Saturday, so I'm also the only one in the picture who couldn't go to or watch the races.

So, pretty much every morning (excepting Saturdays, of course), I'm up early, and on the stationary bike we have downstairs. I've worked my way back up to 45 minutes, and the bike kindly keeps track of the distance I would have gone if the thing had a back wheel and it weren't in the basement. It also keeps track of calories.

Every morning, I wake up, convinced that I can't do better than yesterday, because I'm a little more sore, and it's a little further. And yet. The scales are starting to show some improvement, and this morning, walking across the parking lot, I actually felt good, a little lighter, like my knees weren't threatening to go find less demanding work.

John Kerry on Terrorism 

A quote, from August 1, 1996 hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

KERRY:What do we need to do -- what concerns me is that our allies are in many cases practicing a kind of mercantilist policy to the exclusion, of some of the measures that we need to put into place and to the exclusion of a certain level of cooperation. Now, for the first time in history, we have empowered you, and you are in other countries in ways that you haven't been.

Is it your sense that we need to do more, we need to find a greater level of cooperation with our allies because it strikes me that none of these terrorist organizations could survive fundamentally? There will always be a terrorist entity of some kind or another with an interest. But that largest most dangerous of these entities survive with country support, the support of the country of Syria or country of Libya or country of Iran, Iraq and so forth.

And when we have had cooperation such as we did with Italy, at least on some momentary occasion bringing down terrorists, we seem less successful. And yet the chase for jobs and money in the international economic leverage seems to counter our efforts to bring people together, to put adequate sanctions on some of these countries, to mitigate or change outright their behavior.

Some things never change. Even then, the emphasis on allies. And then as now, he understood Iraq to be a state sponsor of terror, oh, wait, never mind.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Amendment 36 

With the Secretary of State's certification of signatures, Proposition 99 has burst forth from its cocoon to become the revolting moth known as Amendment 36. Yesterday's Ft. Collins Coloradoan presents the themes of this campaign.

Amendment 36, you will recall, proposes to split Colorado's electoral votes proportionally to its popular vote. In effect, it means that only 1 net vote would be in play for the next two Presidential elections. Should Colorado pick up another representative in 2010, up to 2 electoral votes would be in play. Or maybe none. In any event, it certainly reduce Colorado's interest to Presidential candidates.

John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said he does not think the state will be particularly helped or harmed by the passage of this measure.

"If we had 40 or 50 electoral college votes and were a swing state, it would make a difference," he said. "But we are neither, so it doesn't matter."

Straayer admitted it would make a difference in a close election, such as the 2000 presidential election, but said that was an exception, rather than the rule.

For those concerned about Colorado losing importance if the measure passes, Straayer said candidates tend to focus more heavily on states with more votes such as California, New York, Texas and Florida.

For those who say the measure is an issue of true and proportional representation, Straayer said the American political system is filled with features contrary to that idea, such as having two senators for every state and an unelected Supreme Court with lifetime appointments.

Well, I suppose a stopped clock is right twice a day. Straayer's last comments don't quite redeem his previous idiocy. His comments on what states see interest are just factually incorrect. He's so far off base, I could pick him off first, and I'm right-handed with a lousy pickoff move. First, we do seem to be a swing state, enough that candidates are spending money here. Secondly, of the four states he mentions, only one is seeing any interest. In a close election, it doesn't matter how big you are if it's not close, and it doesn't matter how small you are if it is close.

State Sen. Peggy Reeves, D-Fort Collins, said at first glance she is leaning toward supporting the amendment.

"Seems to me it might be more fair," she said. "Everybody's preference is honored."

Reeves also said she isn't concerned about presidential candidates losing interest in Colorado if the measure passes. Rather, she thinks the contrary could happen -- interest in the state would increase because candidates would know they had a chance at getting at least some of the electoral college votes.

Those are the two arguments, one specious, because it's patently untrue, and the other a weird value-judgment about what's "fair." Everybody's preference is honored: some people win, and some people lose. According to this logic we could dispense not only with executives, but with legislatures, and just run the state or the country by plebiscite.

The funny thing is, all these people who are so sure that it won't hurt the state, who are supporting this thing because they see a chance to steal four electoral votes for their guy, don't even have any idea how the votes will be apportioned. The proposal just leaves that to the General Assembly, to be decided after the election.

This year, it's farly clear: winner gets 5, loser gets 4. But what happens after 2010, if we get a 10th electoral vote? Why is it more "fair" that a candidate who wins 50.5% of the vote takes home 6 electoral votes rather than 5? What's the threshold percentage for getting even one, and how do we set it low enough to be "fair," and high enough so that we don't end up apportioning electoral votes like some European slate-ridden parliament where Ralph Nader ends up holding the balance of power? And what's worse, the Assembly apparently will be deciding these things after they know the outcome of the election.

"Fair" is in the eye of the beholder. "Fair" is whatever the rules are before the election starts, that everyone agrees to play by. For years, my friends would argue that the NFL needed more wild card slots, since it wasn't "fair" if someone ended up in a division behind the Cowboys. I never understood this logic. If it's understood that you need to win your division to get in, that's what's "fair." You want to trade away every draft pick for the rest of the decade because "the Future is Now?" Fine, just don't come crawling back when half your team is on Medicaid next year. I didn't understand the logic then, and I don't understand it now. Besides which, nobody's good forever.

This logic is also applied selectively. Diana DeGette's going to win with 70% of the vote, and I don't hear her complaining about how my vote doesn't "count." That logic only applies if your name is Mike Feeley, and you're being helped out by Ken Salazar.

"Fair" means not setting up state legislative boundaries where 50% of the General Assembly runs unopposed because there's nobody of the opposing party registered in their district. In 2002, 5 of 13 Senate seats were basically uncontested, and 20 of 65 House seats. And that doesn't include the seats that were won by 20% or more.

All these people who are so worried about making sure their "vote counts" don't seem to realize that it already does. They just need to run somebody who can appeal to more than 45% of the voters here.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Book Review - The Outlaw Sea 

We think of the ocean as being a lot like the land, just wetter. We can identify ships. They travel in well-established shipping lanes according to well-established timetables. The ships themselves are in good shape, subject to regular port inspections. They fly the flags of recognized countries, which are responsible for their registration, and they have home ports they come back to every so often. We think of ships as big, ocean-going trucks, maybe airplanes, that operate in a well-ordered system.

Not a chance, argues William Langewiesche, in The Outlaw Sea. Order may exist in ports, and the Coast Guard is trying hard to establish control of the coastline. But once you get about 10 miles out, utter chaos. Not only can't we meaningfully reduce it, it's all we can do to keep it from invading our ports and shorelines.

The maritime industry hides behind its bureaucracy. Ship owners may flag their ships under another country, whose registry is only an office in a third country. Ships needn't even visit their home ports. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), publishes impressive-looking rule books for the maintenance and inspection of ships. Without enforcement authority to back them up, the books go pretty much ignored. Ships that have perfect paperwork routinely break up at sea, killing their impoverished crews. Even giving the IMO enforcement powers wouldn't help. It operates on an all-nations-as-equals system, and the countries that benefit from the current setup, raking in registration fees, finding employment for their people, far outnumber those who want to tidy things up.

The sheer size of the sea make piracy possible, profitable, and impossible to stop. Most pirates are still small-scale opportunists. But the biggest hauls come from international crime syndicates that put together teams in a few weeks. They scout the target, kill the crew, take the haul, and put into port where people don't ask too many questions. Whole ships disappear and reappear under new names and flags. Of course, there's nothing comparable on land, because ships don't have VINs. Huge percentages of the world's shipping go through choke points vulnerable to attack. If some pirates are terrorists, so far it seems to be for profit, but there's nothing stopping them from taking a floating bomb into a port and pulling a Halifax on New York Harbor.

As for that, ships are not planes. It's not just a matter of checking what comes on board, or scanning every container, or putting tamper-proof seals on the ships. It should be obvious that none of that would work. First, it couldn't stop a bomb from being loaded onto a ship. Secondly, the global economy is so tightly bound together that imposing requirements like that would be the global equivalent of putting a booth toll on the Santa Monica Freeway during rush hour.

Like Langewiesche's previous work, it's well-written, and realistic. He focuses much more on reporting the story than on making presumptuous judgments on the people involved. One particularly detailed and gruesome account of an Estonian ferry accident, and the investigatory aftermath and nightmare takes on all angles, but probably could have been shorter.

Salazar and the Hispanic Vote 

Pete Coors was successful in the primary in part because his GOTV efforts targeted general election voters, in addition to traditional primary voters. This is why he won by the margin he did, and it's also why the Republican turnout was so high. It explains why the polls had it dead even - they polled only traditional primary voters.

Salazar will almost certainly try to do the same thing in the general election with Hispanic voters. They don't show up on the voter rolls now, and won't until much later in the cycle, when the voter registration drives take over. This means that they also won't show up in the polling, since the pollsters don't know how to find them. It's part of what will make Salazar a formidable candidate, although not, I don't think, and invincible one.

Salazar is making a much bigger deal of his Hispanicity this time than he has in the past. Barely an article goes by without mentioning it, and the Hispanic media has picked up the theme, too:

With "immense pride," state Attorney General Ken Salazar on Wednesday morning became Colorado's official Democratic candidate for the Senate.

"I'm proud to be the first Hispanic nominated as a candidate for the Senate, and I'm even prouder because my brother John is a candidate for the House of Representatives," Salazar told EFE at his campaign headquarters in downtown Denver.


Salazar plans to spend the weekend with his wife, Esperanza, and daughters in the ranch that has been in his family for five generations in Valle de San Luis in southern Colorado.

"And then it will be a lot of hard work until Nov. 2, when I hope my brother John and I will win to really fill all Hispanics with pride," he said.

In fact, Salazar has been slowly raising the Hispanic profile in his biography, and laying the groundwork for this, for at least 6 years. A Lexis-Nexis search turned up only 2 relevant articles in the 6 months prior to his 1998 Attorney General victory. According to the October 26, 1998 Rocky,

Salazar is campaigning in Hispanic neighborhoods and plans to run ads on Spanish-language radio stations. But, Salazar said, he is not spending more time on Hispanics than he is on other communities. Hispanic areas will get the same campaign literature as other communities, rather than a Spanish-language version, he said.

Salazar was counting on his Hispanic background, but wasn't yet willing to make a public issue of it. In fact, he ran ahead of Gail Schoettler, whom Bill Owens narrowly defeated for Governor that year. Fred Brown discussed the matter post-election (Nov. 23) for the Post:

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Republican, made an effort to shore up his already existing appeal to Latinos, and it helped him win by a huge margin.

His Democratic opponent, Dottie Lamm, suffered from lingering suspicion of some of the views of her husband, former Gov. Dick Lamm, who wanted to discourage immigration and encourage the speaking of English.

In the governor's race, if Hispanics had voted for Democrat Gail Schoettler in the same numbers that they voted for her fellow Democrat, Salazar, she would have overcome Bill Owens' narrow 7,800-vote margin of victory.

Paul Sandoval, whom Salazar calls "the dean" of Hispanic political strategists in Colorado, notes that Salazar won 10,700 more votes than Schoettler did in four heavily Hispanic areas - the San Luis Valley, where Salazar's roots go back four generations, Pueblo, west Denver and Adams County.

In Denver, the state's most ethnically diverse large population, Schoettler won 62 percent of the vote, while Salazar won 70 percent. In every one of the state's nine most-Hispanic precincts - four in Denver and five in Pueblo - Salazar outpolled both Schoettler and Lamm.

Note the comment about Dottie Lamm. It's important, because four years later, Amendment 31 was on the ballot. Amendment 31 would have essentially ridded Colorado of bilingual education. Salazar took a very public stand against the measure:

Thursday, Attorney General Ken Salazar announced his opposition.

"I do think it's important for our children to learn English in as timely and as efficient a manner as possible," Salazar said. "But I don't think this amendment is the way to go."

He said the amendment would take away choice from parents and authority from elected school boards.

Salazar, the state's highest-ranking Hispanic politician, grew up speaking English and Spanish in the San Luis Valley. But he said he doesn't see Amendment 31 as a Hispanic issue, adding it will affect all schools.

Rocky Mountain News, September 13, 2002

A Lexis-Nexis search for 2002 reveals about 5 relevant stories before the election, specifically mentioning Salazar and the Hispanic vote. In a major story on the Hispanic vote (Rocky, August 27, 2002), Salazar is the only living politician mentioned by name, although both parties' efforts are highlighted. Other stories mention his association with Hispanic voter registration drives.

This year, he's been even more outspoken on the issue, and apparently believes that it's his ace in the hole. He also believes that, having run and won elections by appealing primarily to white voters, he can now appeal to Hispanics without threatening that success.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Second-Tier Media, Still No Mainstream Media 

It would appear that persistence sometimes pays off. A little search indicates that Christmas in Cambodia is starting to work its way through the second-tier newspapers, and some of the english-language foreign press as well. The bad news is that, aside from the Daily Telegraph, it's all editorial pages and syndicated columns. And the mainstream media still doesn't think it's a story. Still, the Ft. Wayne News Sentinel has an editorial strongly defending the relevance of the story. One of the San Francisco Examiner's conservative columnists, Kathleen Antrim, is onto it. Investor's Business Daily, not exactly a reliable Republican mouthpiece, is also demanding answers, if not yet asking questions.

The problem is, these are, if anything, a little lower down on the food chain than the New York Post, Daily News, and even the Washington Times. The editorial writers are in a position to ask for medical records and diaries, but not in a position to pry open the doors with investigative journalism. Editorial boards don't dictate either coverage or slant, and they shouldn't. But an editor can assign a couple of reporters to a story, and have them interview some of the swiftvets involved. They can call around the Pentagon, and try to obtain some of those records. Shocked? Well that's what reporters do. When they actually want to cover a story, that is.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Blackout Extends to Denver 

Searching for Cambodia in today's Post and Rocky turns up a blank. The Rocky ran a series a few months back on some Cambodians living the US, who actually were tormented by the Khmer Rouge, but none of them mentioned having seen John Kerry.

Mike Littwin, who defended Kerry and wondered why vets in Virginia Beach weren't offended by Bush's National Guard service, has nary a word on the subject.

In the other paper, Jim Spencer, who apparently spent hours trying to track down the future President's pay stubs, has concluded that no such investigation in necessary in Kerry's case.

Littwin's defense contained this weirdly prescient description: "He led a swift boat up the river to where you could literally smell napalm in the morning." Funny, Kerry was probably thinking the same thing.

But Spencer is by far the worse offender. I've exchanged emails with Littwin, and he's always taken my criticisms seriously and responded thoughtfully. I don't expect it to have any perceptible effect on his writing, but you never know. In the week since the story has been out there, Spencer hasn't even bothered to "ask the questions." Hasn't even acknowledged that such questions exist, or might be valid, never mind taking all those years of journalistic experience and investigating them.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Salazar as Attorney General 

Probably Ken Salazar's worst moment as Attoney General came when he joined a lawsuit against the state, in order to preserve a Democratic redistricting plan. I spent a lot of pixels on this at the time, including some analysis of why the State Supreme Court's ruling was wrong. (It's near the bottom. Go to the end and scroll up a little.)

Salazar's reasoning was of the sort that only a partisan court could love. But it raises the larger question of his willingness to run his office in a non-partisan fashion. He's currently investigating alleged voter registration fraud in the upcoming election, in which he's a candidate. And he also will still be Attorney General after November 2, should the execrable Amendment 99 be passed into law.

Some enterprising reporter should ask him about what he would do in that last case.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Republicans Campaign - Kerry Shocked 

BOSTON - (AP) - Sen. John Kerry today accused President Bush of needlessly and dangerously dividing the country by campaigning. "I think it's terrible that they would choose to divide this country, to behave in a divisive and hurtful manner, by choosing to draw distinctions between the two of us. If there's anything my time in Cambo-, er, Vietnam taught me, it's the danger to the body politic that results from more than one party campaigning at a time...

Not exactly. But close:

A group financed by a major Republican contributor has begun running radio ads in about a dozen cities, many in battleground states, attacking Sen. John F. Kerry as "rich, white and wishy-washy" and mocking his wife for boasting of her African roots....

One of the radio ads addresses Kerry's failure to vote on a bill to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks: "It needed 60 votes to pass. Ninety-nine out of 100 senators voted -- Kerry did not! It lost by one vote! Maybe Kerry thought the more of us who are unemployed and hurting, the more likely we would vote Democrat."

Another ad attacks Teresa Heinz Kerry, who, at the Democratic convention last month cited her birth and upbringing in Mozambique and who has described herself as African American. In the radio commercial, the announcer says: "His wife says she's an African American. While technically true, I don't believe a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants, qualifies."

The Kerry campaign denounced the ads, all of which are being aired on radio stations with largely black audiences. "It's disgusting that the president's political allies are now using race as a political weapon," said Bill Lynch, deputy manager of the Kerry campaign. "First a group of right-wing Swift boat veterans began smearing John Kerry's military service, and now another group has resorted to playing racial politics."

Accusing the other side of playing "racial politics" after this is beyond words. Nobody belives this, least of all the Democrats.

It does, however, point out the only winning strategy that Kerry has - stop the Republicans from talking altogether. Refer to 9/11? Why, you're politicizing the most tragic event of our era. Vietnam? He's a war hero, and who are you to question that? His Senate record? Um, what Senate record? No, that's the past, and we want to talk about the future. Break the monopoly on black radio advertising? You're playing "racial politics." All of this is part of shaping the debate, of course, and you can't blame them for trying. But when you're only answer to any issue you don't like, or thought you had sewn up, is to accuse the other side of playing politics, it's possible you're in the wrong game.

There's another, more specific aspect to this, too. The Democrats probably wouldn't have 170 House seats or 45 Senate seats with the 90%+ black support they've had over the years. It's why John Kerry gave that abomination of a human being a prime-time speaking slot, and then praised him so fulsomely afterwards for "making sense" during the debates. It's why George Bush's speech to the Urban League and stiffing of the NAACP infuriated them so, and led directly to that speech. It's why that radio advertising, where Democrats had had the field themselves, has them squealing like stuck pigs.

It's also why black conservatives like Ward Connerly find themselves the targets of character assassination, for being "Uncle Toms" or "not black enough." It's why Dylan Glenn deserves your support. It's why these people matter. Because the Democratic party needs these votes. It can't hope to win any national election, or most statewide elections, without them.

Other Alliance Posts 

Welcome, Powerline readers. (Sounds like, "Welcome, Soopercard Customer.") My apologies to James Thurber for this.

Over at the other Alliance blogs, Kestrel has an update on the Venezuelan recall effort. This one may be even more important to win than Collyfornia. Chavez is a Castro protege, apparently begin supported by Cuban troops on the ground (apparently Castro is reliving the Vietnam era, too, as in Angola), and Venezuela is one of the few sourcs of oil not controlled or threatened by hostile Muslims or power-seeking Russians. He's all over this story.

Jared is looking at racism at the Aurora Mall. Once it was the place to be, now, it's the place to stay away from. Especially with a segment-killer-laden faux Main Street right across Alameda. My preferred solution.

And Jonathan has some insights about Medicare fraud here in Colorado. Hint: it speaks Spanish.


Personally, I don't care if the guy's gay. He's the target of a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment; he may have appointed the guy suing him to a position of extreme importance, in order to keep him quiet. That's why he is resigning. From a religious viewpoint, he hasn't said anything about divorcing his wife and moving to Massachussetts for convenience's sake, unlike certain recently-promoted Episcopalian bishops. So his actions appear honorable.

What's not honorable is hanging onto the office for three months, in order to avoid a special election that might see a boost in Republican turnout for Bret Schundler. New Jersey is currently a 9-point lead for Kerry, but that could change at the polls if Republicans see a chance to retake the statehouse. If the allegations and lawsuit are serious enough for McGreevey to resign in 90 days, they're serious enough for him to resign now.

Even when they're ahead, and it's not close, they cheat.

The Secret Life of John Kerry 

"Hell of a way to spend Christmas Eve, huh?" said the CIA man, gazing into the darkness beyond the rail of the swift boat. The lieutenant seemed unconcerned. "Put that cigarette out," he said. "You want every Khmer Rouge between here and the Mekong Delta shooting at us?" The CIA man pursed his lips, and tossed the smoke into the river. "We're almost there," said Lieutenant Kerry. "Well, we did get sidetracked a bit," said the CIA man. "I don't get sidetracked," replied the lieutenant, testily, thumbing towards the crewman on his left. "That son of a bitch knocked me off course." The CIA man studied the shoreline. The boat engine softly murmured, "pocketa-pocketa-pocketa."

"Here it is," as the boat pulled up to the shore. "Hold this for me," the CIA man said, handing the lieutenant his hat as he pulled out a map. Suddenly, a rice bin burst into flames nearby. "Shove it!" yelled the lieutenant, as both the crew and the CIA man looked confused. "Shove off! Shove Off!", and the boat turned down river. A few miles later, Lieutenant Kerry fingered the hat. "Sure was lucky," he thought to himself. "I can use this when it starts to get a little chilly, a little windy...."

"What did you say it was?" asked Mrs. Kerry. "It's Wendy's Chili, ma'am," repeated the clerk. Kerry's wife shot him a look worse than any VC. "Don't worry, dear," he sighed. "Take a few bites. Dinner's waiting on the bus."

Inspired by Powerline, the source of this powersurge in traffic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Operations Mismanagement 

I've been in business school now for just over 2 years, and should be finishing up this year. I'm getting a dual, MBA and MS Finance degress, in preparation for a career change.

I just finished a final exam in Operations Management, and I can truly say that I've never taken an exam quite like it since the invention of the laptop. Most of our courses require laptops, and many of them require some Excel proficiency. There's a reason for that. All sorts of neat, built-in functions. Plus, spreadsheets are kind of state-of-the-art at this point.

This professor proceeds to give us a heavily computational, multiple-choice exam with no partial credit, where calculators are encouragd and Excel is banished to the waiting room. I felt like I was taking an exam in how to use my calculator. If I had volunteered that I knew how to use a slide-rule, he'd have probably made us use those, instead. It was like teaching your kid how to drive on a 1922 Hudson because you want him to understand how the crank works, and to appreciate the airbags.

I don't complain about professors too much, but this fits in with a pattern of his not wanting to work too hard. He's nearing retirement, I think, having fought in Nam as a navy pilot (no, I didn't ask if he air-dropped Kerry into Cambodia), and has come to class a number of times completely unprepared to discuss the homework. He writes whole tables of numbers up on the whiteboard, forgetting about Excel again. For our review, we spent 10 minutes trying to persuade him that a linear programming homework problem needed an extra constraint. We were right, he was wrong.

I'm sure he's a nice enough guy. But when you're paying $700+ per credit hour, you don't want nice. You want content.

Terror in the Skies - More Corroboration 

I'm sure that Annie Jacobsen would like to get back to writing about mutual funds and retirement planning. She's good at it. Unfortunately for her, she's also good at writing about Flight 327, and staying on top of the story. Before she's done learning about federal bureaucracy, I'll bet she wishes she were only covering the finer points of Eliot Spitzer's plan to remake the world through litigation.

The latest developments come from another passenger on the plane, Billie Jo Rodriguez who corroborates the details Annie reported, plus this:

I also have to tell you one detail that you didn't catch. I emailed this detail to the Department of Homeland Security but I haven't heard back. As I mentioned, the tall man in the jogging suit sat right behind me. He got up and passed by me to go to the bathroom up in first class. (Note to readers: This is the same man that, according to a first class passenger, pushed another passenger out of the way to get into the lavatory first. This is also the man mentioned in a TIME magazine article who spent 10 minutes in the bathroom, which alarmed a Federal Air Marshal who then searched the lavatory).

The man was gone for a very long time. And when he came back, he reeked of chemicals -- the chemicals from the toilet bowl. He absolutely reeked of it. And I thought, what was he doing in the toilet? He didn't smell like chemicals when he got up to go to the bathroom -- it was when he came back. It was so spooky. What was he doing in there? That he would smell so strong of chemicals from the toilet?

Now, we've heard how the men were just washing up for prayers. But in the toilet? Those sinks are small, but not that small.

At this point, Annie has collected corroboration (to varying degrees) from seven other passengers, and has also established that the FBI considers Flight 327 an ongoing investigation.

The Vast Left-Wing Fever Swamp (VLWFS) may consider Mrs. Jacobsen as paranoid racist. The New York Times takes the somewhat gentler view that the whole thing was merely a misunderstanding, fueled by cultural differences. The Syrian Ambassador, though, has thrown in with the VLWFS, and is acting like a Kerry Campaign official charged with explaining what these 14 men were doing in Cambodia. But there were lots of nervous people on that plane.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory
help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections