View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Request for Correspondence  

If anyone does attend the Committee Hearing tomorrow, please email me, and I'll be sure to redact all correspondence and post it Saturday night, with proper attribution. Somewhat more dangerously, he suggested, you could post it in the comments.

If you are a blogger, I'll be sure to link to any first-hand reports of that meeting on your blog.

That's all for a couple of days. Good luck, and to any Jewish readers, Happy Sukkot!

A Chat With the Secretary of State's Office 

Lisa Doran, the spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State's office, must have been happy to have to call me back. Sounding like she'd been to Cambodia and back, she took about 30 minutes of her fairly valuable time to walk me through some of the issues involved, and some of the things we can do even up until Election Day. There's a holiday coming up in a few minutes, but I'll do the best I can.

There is a form for challenging the right of another citizen to vote, and that right to challenge is something that it available to all residents of Colorado. Of course, for regular, non-provisional ballots, it won't do any actual good, since the charge is basically one of criminal fraud, and dealt with after the election is over. There's no way of setting that vote aside.

Something that Susan Greene failed to point out in her story is that, while there's no history of widespread, systemic voter fraud in Colorado, Arapahoe, Adams, and Mesa Counties, at least, have seen substantiated fraud charges in the past. It's not unheard of. I don't have time to dig up the specific legal cases involved, but perhaps someone out there does.

Colorado appears to be ahead of other states in that there is a centralized, state-wide voter roll that is returned to the counties each month. Although there's no way for the SOS to enforce this, counties are encouraged to cull their voter rolls should the state locate duplicates. Problem: the only required registration information is Name, Address, and DOB. If someone's registered in more than one county, the state will try to peg it down using name and SSN, or name and birthdate. But they can only advise counties to look into specific names. In additin, given the manual nature of the voter registration process, this list can be several months out of date.

The last of these lists will come out sometime in mid-October, which will almost certainly not be enough time for the larger counties to run through their problem cases.

Representative Fairbank's law, which prevents voters who have reqested absentee ballots from voting provisionally. Ms. Greene never mentions in her article that this law is in response to actual cases documented by county election officials.

So, what can you do? First, go to the meeting tomorrow. Ten o'clock to 12:00 at the Denver Post building downtown. Take the bus if you want, it's right across the street from the main bus terminal. If you do go, go prepared. Here are the rules that are up for comment. (PDF) Read them, print them out, mark them up. Understand that the SOS's office is trying to act as the last line of defense in a system where they have no control over registration rules. They can only counter those leaky rules by being tough on their end.

Second, volunteer to be a poll judge. It doesn't pay very well, only from about $75 to $125 for a long day's work, but it's a civic service opportunity. The voter rolls will note those people who haven't provided any identifying information beyond the minimum. If the Common Cause suit succeeds, it might be worth keeping a count (not names), of those voters who don't present id.

Finally, be a party poll watcher. This used to be primarily a GOTV operation, where the poll watchers would call party members who hadn't yet voted. But it looks like it's going to evolve into a fraud/disenfranchisement role. You can stay all they way through the counting, if you want. Do it.

Also, counties can start counting absentee ballots 10 days before the election, and have until 12 days after the election to finish absentee and provisional counting. Parties get poll watchers there, too.

Right up until Election Day, people are dropping out, unable to be judges or watchers, so call up and volunteer. They'll provide the training, and you can help keep an eye on things.

Welcome, Hobbsians (not Hobbesians) 

Bill Hobbs has set up his site as a voter fraud clearinghouse, and I can't say it's a comforting sight. Go there, and see what states are in worse shape than Colorado. I hope you don't find your state there.

Voter Identification Hearing 

The Committee meeting, where you, the public, will have a chance to voice your concerns about loosening the ballot identification requirements, will be from 10:00 to 12:00, tomorrow, Thursday, September 30, at 1560 Broadway in downtown Denver. That's the Denver Post building, and you can't possibly miss it. It will be on the 2nd floor.

Should you decide to go, please email the Secretary of State's office so they have enough copies of the proposed rule changes on hand.

The Secretary of State is an elected, partisan position, but they've been the good guys on this so far. Mrs. Davidson is taking as hard a line on this as she reasonably can, but if it looks like public opinion is going the other way, she may have no choice but to relax the rules. Adverse court rulings either here or in Missouri may mean the state has to retreat, but a strong showing of support can influence the outcome.

No word yet on whether or not you have to sign in.

UPDATE: The time had been listed incorrectly. It is now correct.

Where Is the Line for the Tickets? 

I just watched a live webcast of the first X-Prize launch of Spaceship One. Unreal, not only the launch and return, but the live coverage over the web. This was truly the 21st Century equivalent of 1927. You know, you think it's this exotic ship, but it's still got that comforting N-number on the tail.

The biggest difference between 1927 and 2004 is that the writers in 1927 had style. The two mike men for the webcast were, I'm sure, perfectly competent for the Weather Channel. But much as I love classical music, I never thought that a symphony could exceed a private space launch in excitement.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Welcome, Kerry Spotters! 

Welcome to those of you visiting from the Kerry Spot. Scroll down to find the Voter Fraud postings. After you're done, have a gander at the Rocky Mountain Alliance's coverage of the Salazar-Coors Senate race.

The Debate 

One of George Bush's biggest advantages over Al Gore in the 2000 debates was the fact that Bush is comfortable in his own skin, while Gore couldn't figure out what color he wanted his to be (see Kerry reprise, below). Gore spent a lot of time focus-grouping between debates to see how he could improve his acting, which left Bush free to just be himself.

I think one overlooked aspect of Kerry's decision to switch to retro-Iraq-cum-Vietnam attack-mode is that that is who he is, and always has been. This kind of grandstanding and showboating on a war is how Kerry made his name initially, and it's what he's comfortable doing. These are lines he's been delivering all his life, and it's probably even refreshing to return to his roots this way.

I'm afraid this may neutralize some of the President's advantage in this department. People may perceive this as a hitherto-unseen strength and confidence. With Kerry not worrying about how close to get to Bush, or whether to dress in earth tones or a blue suit (and the Oranqe-and-Blue Broncos colors will be terrif for next week's Colorado visit), he can just be himself, and let loose with both barrels.

Of course, there is the problem that himself isn't very appealing.


Maybe he forgot which state he was in again...

Good Economic News? 

Rocketman notes the latest Commerce Department report on personal incomes. The fact that incomes are up everywhere, and accelerating in 2/3 of the country is good news. But it may have only limited economic value, and may end up being bad news of a sort.

One of the persistent qualities of this recovery has been low inflation coupled with rising commodity prices, from oil to steel to timber to rubber. Companies haven't been able to raise prices, though, because of a lack of what's called "pricing power." This means either there's too much competition keeping prices down, or too little free money lying around for businesses to charge more.

The net result has been low inflation, but also lowered expectations for corporate earnings, slower-than-desired hiring, along with slower GDP growth, higher gas prices (and soon, coming to a homestead near you, higher heating oil prices), and recently declining consumer spending. This has also put pressure on corporate earnings estimates, and thus on stock prices.

Hold that thought.

The other funny thing, that seems to be confusing everyone now, but will no doubt be crystal clear after the fact and when it's too late to help anyone, is the bond market. Foreign appetite for US government and corporate bonds has kept money flowing into the economy at levels higher than necessary to feed our trade deficit. This has kept down long-term interest rates, based on supply and demand, and allowed the Fed to raise short-term rates at a leisurely pace.

It's also meant that corporations have had the capital on hand to raise capital investment. We may be seeing some of that start to trickle down to employees and workers.

If this increase in wages is eaten up by rising consumer prices, we'll see a couple of bad effects. First, bonds at current interest rates will be less attractive, forcing down prices and forcing long-term interest rates up. Alternately, businesses may just do without that foreign investment, and cut back on CapEx. The Fed may also believe it has to increase the pace of its rate raises, both to bolster the dollar and to try to kill inflation. This risks cutting off the recovery just as it's starting to gather steam.

There's no reason to think that we're headed for another round of late '70s stagflation. For one thing, there's nothing in the money supply that would allow us to start spiraling upwards. The more likely effect is that any slack that we do see will just be eaten up before it gets a chance to do much good.

ID at the Polls and What You Can Do 

Here are the items that Colorado will accept as valid identification at the polls, as of now:

  • A valid Colorado driver’s license;
  • A valid identification card issued by the department of revenue;
  • A valid U.S. passport;
  • A valid employee identification card with a photograph of the eligible elector issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government or of this state, or by any county, municipality, board, authority, or other political subdivision of this state;
  • A valid pilot’s license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration or other authorized agency of the United States;
  • A valid U.S. military identification card with a photograph;
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of t he elector (a cable bill does not meet this requirement);
  • A valid Medicare or Medicaid card;
  • A certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate;
  • Certified documentation of naturalization; or
  • At least the last four digits of the person’s social security number.

The last four digits of the person’s social security number or a Colorado driver’s license number or Colorado ID number shall be accepted as identification only if the number is verified against an existing state identification record.

The complete list of voter registration and identification rules, as currently proposed, is here. Pay particular attention to Rules 5.5.7 and 26.

I just got off the phone with the immensely helpful Billi Joel Lupton at the Colorado Secretary of State's office. She confirmed that should the Common Cause lawsuit succeed, someone would be able to register and vote without ever showing any ID, aside from a signature. Presumably the elections officials would try to match the registration signature with the ballot signature, and we all hope they'd do better than CBS News in that regard.

Look at the gaping hole here. Some of the ID requires a picture ID. But much of it is little more than validation that a name matches an address, with no guarantee that the person voting is that person.

The Secretary of State's office will review and re-issue the rules on Thursday, based on public comment. Here's how you comment. Either go to the Committee hearing from 10:30-12 at the Secretary of State's office, in the Denver Post(!) building downtown, on the second floor on Thursday. (If anyone calls the SOS's office, and this information is not correct, or has been changed, please let me know by sundown Wednesday and I'll correct it.)

Alternately, you can email the HAVA Director, Drew T. Durham, at Be polite, but be firm. Let him know that you like the rules as written, that you do not want them relaxed, and that you want ID to b required for provisional balloting on November 2.

The Denver Post Does Voter Registration 

I've just finished (ahem, just finished, hint, hint) a contract devoted to helping a company improve its Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Sarbanes-Oxley was a law passed in the wake of the corporate scandals, and the section in question requires companies to have very strong internal controls as information passed from system to system, and to document those controls thoroughly. Data may pass from a billing system to a financial accounting system to a mangerial accounting system to a payroll system, even to a payment system. These controls prevent anyone from having direct access to the data, and so prevent some enterprising IT professional from, hooking up the electronic equivalent of a siphon line onto the cash flow. Or to prevent them from pulling an Enron at the behest of Upper Management.

Let's just say that if the same standards were applied to Colorado's voting procdures, Common Cause's Pete MaySmith, the Secretary of State, and every county elections official would be perp-walked out of their offices live in prime time, and we'd all assemble in a school auditorium for a show of hands November 2.

For a sense of how the media is treating voter registration rules, take a look at Monday's Denver Post (New rules may tangle vote). It consists almost entirely of quotes from Common Cause and the liberal Bighorn Center, and worries almost exclusively about disenranchisement. Reporter Susan Greene dismisses fraud concerns with a sentence noting that Colorado has no history of fraud.

Since Florida in 2000, when the outcome of the presidential election was in doubt for five weeks after the balloting, much attention has been paid to eliminating snags that kept as many as 3 million votes from being counted nationwide. Measures passed to prevent further problems, however, are raising new concerns.

No source is given for these numbers. John Fund in his superb Stealing Elections, suggests that they are much more mythology than reality. In any event, calling them "votes" is like calling Kobe Bryant's accuser a "victim" before he'd be convicted: it presumes the outcome. In this case, it presumes that the ballots were from legitimate voters, legitimately cast.

"We're on a collision course of conflicting laws and regulations," said Pete Maysmith, director of Colorado Common Cause, which last week sued Davidson over new rules it says will disenfranchise voters. "It has the potential to leave people on the outside of the polling place looking in on Election Day."

After the Florida debacle in 2000, Colorado's legislature and Congress sought to ensure no voter will be turned away from the polls again.

Yes, but they also sought to ensure that people couldn't vote twice, or under someone else's name, or in different jurisdictions. Quotes from the Dems: 1, Republicans: 0.

State and federal lawmakers passed measures providing for emergency, or "provisional," ballots - those cast by voters who forgot IDs or whose names don't appear on registration rolls. They're counted only when verified after an election.

In Colorado, the program had great success in the 2002 election, when 24,099 of 27,366, or 88 percent, of provisional ballots cast were accepted and counted. Of those, half came from voters who requested absentee ballots, which they either lost, filled out incorrectly or never received by mail.


Soon after, Republican state Rep. Rob Fairbank of Littleton successfully pushed to limit the number of provisional ballots made available and counted. The law he sponsored requires identification from people casting provisional ballots and prevents voters who request absentee ballots from voting provisionally.

Fairbank called the law an anti-fraud mechanism: "We needed safeguards to know you were who you said you were and to make sure you weren't voting twice."

Had it been in place in 2002, the law would have kept about 12,000 provisional votes from counting, according to one official's testimony. As a result of the law, the percentage of provisional ballots that counted in the Aug. 10 primary was 65 percent, down from 88 percent in 2002.

The number of provisional ballots rejected in August exceeded the margin of victory in at least three races, according to Fair Vote Colorado, a nonprofit group researching the effects of election laws. Had more been counted, the race to replace U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis and primaries for the Douglas County Commission and state House District 52 could have ended differently.

"When the number of rejected provisional ballots is larger than the margin of victory because of these laws, you have elections being decided by state legislators, not voters," said Mary Wickersham, who spent four years researching state election law for Denver's Bighorn Center for Public Policy.

This history here seems to be fair enough. Still, I'd like to know what official, working for what county or state office, made that estimate of 12,000 additional ballots rejected.

Notice, though, the disconnect between registration requirements and balloting requirements. Under the State law, according to the Jefferson County Clerk's office, the County is required to register someone who signs a piece of paper with their name, address, and birthdate. Under federal law, and according to the rules Common Cause wants to impose, that person could then vote provisionally without showing any form of ID, since provisional voting was created for the express purpose of accomodating people who don't bring ID to the polls.

As for Ms. Wickersham, to put it bluntly, this is like claiming that if a bank auditor determines more checks to be fraudulent than you have money in your account, he's the one responsible for your impending bankruptcy. Just as the money sent to impound never really belonged to you, so the ballots being rejected should never have been counted in the first place. It's precisely when the number of ballot rejected exceeds the margin of victory that election officials have been at their most heroic in protecting the integrity of the process.

References to Dems: 3, Reps: 1. Fair Vote Colorado is run by a Bighorn Researcher and a former Democratic operative.

Mark Silverstein knows firsthand the frustration of not having his vote counted.

In August, the lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union rode his bicycle to his polling place without his driver's license, and an election judge twice told him he wouldn't be able to vote without his ID.

So Silverstein cast a provisional ballot and filled out an affidavit requiring that he list his driver's license or state ID numbers. He hadn't memorized them, and left the question blank.

As is his right, Silverstein then followed up to make sure his vote counted. The Denver Election Commission told him it didn't. But after several letters and phone calls, he said, officials still haven't explained why, as the law requires.

"It's likely that scenario was repeated in multiple polling places around the state," Silverstein said.

Not that we can ever prove what's in someone's mind, but how much you want to bet that Mr. Silverstein showed up without ID on purpose, to provide a test case? Seriously, who goes out biking without a driver's license, or some form of id? And I'm supposed to believe that this attorney for the ACLU doesn't know his own Social Security Number?

This whole section devoted to the misadventures of one either mischevious or addle-brained ACLU attorney will count only once. Dems 4, Reps 1.

Under the ominous heading, "Voters Without a Voice," we read:

Like Silverstein's, the votes of three plaintiffs named in last week's Common Cause lawsuit didn't count in the August primary.

Elizabeth Schulte of Denver, for example, couldn't vote provisionally because she didn't receive her absentee ballot. And Peggy Tibbetts of Silt didn't have an ID and left her polling place without casting a provisional ballot after a Garfield County election judge said it wouldn't be counted.

The lawsuit - scheduled to be heard Tuesday in Denver District Court - seeks to stop two state rules making it tougher to cast provisional ballots and the state law requiring voters to present driver's licenses, utility bills or other forms of identification at the polls.

Plaintiffs say requiring IDs amounts to a poll tax because most forms of ID cost money.

"You can't have election rules that disenfranchise certain people, like minorities and the poor. Our constitution protects against it," said Common Cause attorney Martha Tierney.

Doran said IDs are needed to prevent double voting. She had no specific information last week backing up her claim that voter fraud is a problem in Colorado.

Watchdogs counter that election law should widen access to voting, not limit it. They say security concerns pale compared to the need to protect basic democratic rights.

"The undocumented specter of voter fraud doesn't outweigh the primary responsibility of state and federal law to protect all citizens' right to vote," Wickersham said. "We must not erect barriers to the most basic act of democratic participation."

In this string of non-sequiturs and self-righteous lecturing, the notion that requiring people to have ID is equivalent to a poll tax stands out as the most specious.

I know from poll taxes. They used to have poll taxes in southern Virginia, and my great uncle Joe used to hand out the money to Democratic voters in his district to pay it. This is not a poll tax.

Quote count, Dems 8, Reps 2. And that's not counting the Post reporter's insta-rebuttal to Ms. Doran.

John Fund points out that Democrats are overwhelmingly concerned with expanding the franchise, Republicans concerned with following the rules, by something like 60%-20% for each party. What does this tell us about the Post's sympathies?

Registration Requirements 

For those of you (you know who you are) who think I'm nuts for worrying about voter registration, I called around to a number of the county elections officials this morning, and the results were, to say the least, not particularly encouraging.

I spoke to elections officials in Denver, Jefferson County, Boulder, El Paso (home of Colorado Springs), and La Plata, in the southwestern part of the state.

I was particularly interested in what measures the counties took to validate in the information that was presented on the registrations forms, specifically the address information. Most of the time, the answer to that was, "none." Neither Denver nor Jefferson (which has seen the highest number or new registrants), makes any effort to check the validity of the addresses.

Most counties have computer programs which make sure that the addresses exist and are in their county. But only Boulder actually seems to make a records search to see if people are actually living where they say they are.

In theory, the voters are required to give the last four digits of their Social Security Number or their Driver's License number on their application. But according to the lady with Jefferson County (who was extremely generous with her time), even if that information isn't provided, the counties are required by law to register the applicant, as long as they provide a signed piece of paper with their name, address, and birthdate.

One method of detecting fraud is the USPS. Since new voters get voter registration cards by mail, cards that come back as undeliverable are evidence of false information. This doesn't preclude people from using similar names or variant spellings of the same name, at the same address. Once again, these "people" have to be registered by law.

Counties do make some effort to make sure that people aren't already registered there, but the concern isn't so much that the same person votes twice in the same place under his own name, so much as that the same person votes repeatedly under different names.

Jefferson County also noted that the Secretary of State's office sends out monthly updates to the counties, to try to control registration in multiple counties. She did admit that because of timing issues, there might be either no update between October 4 and the election, or that there might be insufficient time to check the rolls.

There simple seems to be a remarkable amount of trust in the system. Repeatedly, elections officials pointed out to me that the voter was reminded on the signature line that knowingly filing a false form was fraudulent and criminal. Their touching faith in human nature aside, there's no way of going back and taking out fraudulent ballots since, by definition and design, we don't know how people vote.

Later - ID at the voting booth. What's required, and what Common Cause and the Bighorn Center want set aside.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Battleground Poll 

The Battleground Poll is one of the most respected polls out there, conducted by the Republican Tarrance Group and the Democratic Lake, Snell, Perry. Their new numbers are up, and they have to be encouraging for the President.

Not only does he lead by 5 points overall, he also leads by 5 points in the "definitely" category, has a job-approval of 53%, and much, much better positive/negative name ID than Kerry, especially among the "feels strongly" category.

The latest numbers are from 9/23, but by then the public had already been exposed to the new, improved Kerry for a little more than a week, and there's virtually no movement in who the public prefers concerning terror, Iraq, and keeping the country safe. On economic issues, Kerry barely fares better than the President.

The generic Congressional ballot has the Dems up by a point, after having led throughout the entire year.

Look, Reagan didn't seal the deal against Carter until the debates. The polls were bouncing around before the debates, and even up until election day, Reagan hadn't opened up a clear lead. Gallup had Carter up by 4.5 points n September 9th. People didn't trust Carter, didn't like Carter, but weren't ready to take a flyer on Reagan until they saw him live and unmediated. Kerry is probably hoping for a similar dynamic in the debates.

Just one thing: Bush isn't Carter.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Vote Fraud in Colorado? 

Powerline reports on potential voter fraud in Wisconsin, and blogger Sandi is doing additional investigation. It turns out that one of the organizations involved, the New Voters Project, is active here in Colorado, and much of the same potential for fraud exists here, too.

Colorado, like a number of other battleground states, has seen voter registration drives, some of which have been crooked. Back in August, a large number of voter registration forms had incorrect addresses or names. Initially, some of these discrepancies were attributed to paid signature-collectors, with obvious incentive to pump up their numbers. It turned out that the firm overseeing this drive, as well as petition-gathering drives for some local and state initiatives was under investigation for some shennanigans in other states, as well.

When three local DAs joined the Attorney General's investigation, it was revealed that the local office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), had hired the firm in question to conduct a voter registraion drive. (That would appear to let Amendment 36 off the hook for that part of the problem.)

ACORN itself is a pretty typical liberal organization, and voter registration drives are part of their work. As is union organizing. When it looked like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, they rubbed their toe in the dirt, looked down at their shoes, and said that, yeah, maybe some of these petitions originated with them.

ACORN seems to be on the wrong side of the voter fraud issue nationally. They've filed a lawsuit to extend the voter registration deadline past October 4 in Florida. The "pay-for-play" excuse has, it seems, gotten them into trouble elsewhere. ACORN has also had a worker take the Fifth in an investigation in New Mexico.

Finally, a local man was indicted for forging voter registration signatures. As of yet, there have been no additional indictments. Attorney General Salazar has a reputation for being above-board, but it's unconscionable that the hasn't recused himself from an investigation where he clearly has at least a potential conflict of interest.

Two other organizations that have been pushing voter registration drives in Colorado are the aforementioned New Voters Project (more about them momentarily) and Fair Vote Colorado. Both of these organizations are almost universally described as "non-partisan," and yet both are run by either Democratic or Naderite political operatives.

Fair Vote Colorado lists as its contacts Shawn Rogers and Mark Eddy. Mr. Rogers is a research analyst at the Bighorn Center, and Mr. Eddy was the Deputy Campaign manager/Communications Director for 2002 Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Rollie Heath. Bighorn Center founder, Rutt Bridges, was a candidate for the Democratic Senate nomination who bowed out in favor of Ken Salazar. There's nothing underhanded about this, but it's disingenuous to call FVC "non-partisan."

The New Voters Project is much more problematic. Mr. Belling discusses some of the local Wisconsin problems, but it turns out the organization has cheating etched into its DNA. It's funded by the George Washington University, but it's also funded by the Public Interest Research Groups, founded by Ralph Nader as a means of strong-arming and coercing students into funding his activities.

The New Voters Project is possible with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and the State PIRGs are organizing the project, with the mission of increasing the turn out of young voters in the 2004 election.

The state coordinator, Ben Prochazka, used to be the Western States Field Organizer for USPIRG. Fox News reported this March on how PIRGs operate, and it's distinctly distasteful:

First, they attempt to institute mandatory, nonrefundable "contributions" from the student body either through a student referendum, a petition drive or by going through school administrators. The University of Wisconsin requires all of its students to donate to the local PIRG chapter, as does the University of Oregon, and about a third of the state colleges in New York's SUNY system.

If that doesn't work, PIRG chapters attempt to institute a "reverse check" system, where each student automatically donates to PIRG each time he registers for classes, unless he specifically knows to look for an already checked box asking for his support -- and "unchecks" it.

If they can't win support there, PIRG groups will attempt a "refundable fee" system, where each student is automatically billed, but can request a refund by taking the bill to the university registrar or bursar's office, filling out some paperwork, then taking the form to the local PIRG's campus office to get the money back.

Such systems rake in millions for PIRGs because they put the burden on college students to educate themselves about each line item on their tuition bill, or to go to great effort for a comparatively small refund, particularly unlikely when mom and dad or Mr. Perkins and Mr. Stafford are paying for college anyway.

So now, local county elections officials are overwhelmed with applications. Worse,

Several clerks say they can't always double-check the entries they make from mostly hand-written, often illegible registration forms.

"We're doing the best we can ... but we're not always going to be right. You can't have 100 percent accuracy," said La Plata County Clerk Linda Daley.

There are no state rules on double-checking new voter information.

"That's not something we get into," said Lisa Doran, spokeswoman for the secretary of state.

Moreover, Common Cause has filed a lawsuit to prevent Secretary of State Donetta Davidson from requiring any form of identification to vote, even electric or phone bills.

Underlying Monday's lawsuit are questions about Davidson's political motivations. She is a Republican, and experts say her election rules could help her party, whose members are thought to be more likely to have IDs such as driver's licenses and less likely to cast provisional ballots than Democrats.

Provisional ballots are given to voters whose names don't appear on registration rolls; they're counted only after being verified after the election.

"There are some marginal voters, less educated or newly immigrated to this country, who may be a little less familiar with procedures and requirements, and they might skew Democratic, but it's not an overwhelming skew," said Denver political consultant Eric Sondermann.

Added Democratic consultant Rick Ridder: "Like any business, if you put barriers up at the point of sale, you should expect to have a reduction in sales."

Davidson spokeswoman Lisa Doran, in response, said the secretary doesn't consider politics in setting election rules. "This is a nonpartisan office," she added.

Monday's lawsuit challenges a state law passed in 2003 requiring a driver's license, utility bill or other form of ID at the polls. Election officials say the rule is needed to prevent people from voting twice, as they say has happened in Colorado.

Plaintiffs argue the rule amounts to a poll tax because most proof of identification costs money.

"In effect, you have to pay for something before you can vote," said attorney Martha Tierney.

The suit also challenges Davidson's recent rule prohibiting voters who request absentee ballots, but lose or don't receive them, from casting provisional ballots on Election Day.

Like the law requiring voter identification, Doran said, the rule is needed to keep people from voting twice.

This is ridiculous on the face of it. The rules in place are perfectly reasonable protections for a system that has far too few of them. The notion that a rent notice or utility bill constitutes a poll tax stretches the concept of "tax" beyond recognition. The fact is the Common Cause is seeking to remove any checks at the polls to make sure that the people voting actually are who they say they are.

Should Common Cause succeed, we will have a system with an admitted inability to validate registrants, disabled from checking them when they try to vote. My advice is to get to the polls early before someone votes in your name.

Three things are lacking in all the reporting I've seen, from Wisconsin to New Mexico to Colorado. First, there's a basic belief that disenfranchisement is tangibly, fundamentally worse than fraud. That's partly because of the country's history with black disenfranchisement. But it's also because the victims prevented from voting can be found, while fraud invisibly victimizes everyone. The fact that it's more likely to victimize Republican candidates may or may not play a role here, as well.

Second, the issues get reported piecemeal. First, there's the question of voter registration. Then, there's the issue of voter identification at the polls. But you can only understand the problem by seeing the joint effects of fraudulent registration and no voter identification. This is almost never pointed out.

Finally, the papers assume that any errors, in addition to only running one way, will also be the result of honest mistakes by a system overwhelmed, and incompetent individuals filling out forms. (The idea that there is a plan to overwhelm the system never comes up.)

The Post editorializes about disenfranchisement, but says not a word about fraud. The Post finds time to question Davidson's motives, but not those of Common Cause. Who, after all, could be in favor of vote fraud?

Who, indeed?

Coattails and Anchors 

The Denver Post today discusses the effect of the presidential race on Colorado politics, specifically the effects of Kerry's unpopularity and Bush's popularity. The fact is that while Bush may demonstrate coattails for Coors, Kerry is more likely to act as an anchor for Salazar, a fact that Ken's brother John, who's running for a House seat, apparently recognized a couple of weeks ago.

Salazar has the Daschle Problem. No, he hasn't gone around hugging Michael Moore. But he knows that he can only get elected running as something he's not - an independent moderate.

Salazar portrays himself as a political moderate, the fellow from the San Luis Valley who wears a cowboy hat and transcends party labels. It worked in his statewide campaigns for attorney general, especially two years ago when he won a vast majority of the counties even as Republican Bill Owens easily won re-election as governor.

Campaigning in a cowboy hat, and putting a cowboy boot on his site as a fundraising device have helped cement this image. Having been Attorney General helps any Democrat look like a law-and-order kind of guy. But this is the first election where Salazar has had to run 1) on national issues, and 2) as a lawmaker rather than a law-enforcer. Salazar has no choice but to triangulate these issues, coming out with policy proposals that are practically mimeographs of Kerry's, while talking about independence.

He's run hard against Bush, but has had to distance himself from Kerry, skipping the last few local appearances by the national ticket. But much of his strategy seems to mirror that of the national ticket. Consider this from the Durango Herald about a weekend campaign appearance there:

Democrat Ken Salazar said Friday that homeland security will be his top priority if he wins his race against Republican Pete Coors in November's election for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

"I think the first and most important priority we as a nation need to uphold is to protect the nation and the homeland," Salazar said.

While Salazar has mentioned national security in general terms before, he's clearly made education and health care the centerpieces of his campaign. Just at the moment that Kerry begins attacking Bush over Iraq, Salazar discovers national security.

Coors has begun linking Salazar to Kerry on taxes. That's fine for a start, but Kerry and Salazar have a lot of liberal proposals on health care and education, proposals which aren't like to be popular here if properly vetted.

Salazar is caught between a rock and a hard place. He's tried to nationalize the race by running against Bush, but the more he does so, the more he risks running as Little Kerry. It's time to close the trap.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Jewish Holidays 

Tishrei is the current month in the Jewish calendar. Tishrei has holidays like Florida has hurricanes. In rapid succession, one a week, we get Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the week-long holiday of Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are sort of bookends for the Ten Days of Penitence, or, as they've recently come to be known, the Days of Awe. For Yom Kippur, we went down to a synagogue in the southeast part of town. The rabbi there has built a congregation almost entirely from outreach. As part of that effort he incorporates a great deal of singing into the service, which helps maintain interest and concentration. Yom Kippur prayers last pretty much the whole day, and it can be easy to spend more time fighting the fast than paying attention to the services.

Tunes are not mere distractions from hunger, though, they're an integral part of the service. You grow up hearing certain tunes, year after year, and then when you go off to college or to another shul, you're astonished that people there use different tunes. This can be deadly for a Passover seder, which is so personal and family-oriented, so much so that many people I know go around the table soliciting tunes from people and singing the same songs over and over to different melodies. As a friend of mine put it, "if you don't hear the songs you're used to, you can walk away feeling that you haven't really had a seder at all." The same is true, to a lesser extent, for High Holiday services.

As it happened, this year was a pretty easy fast for me, and for a number of others I spoke to. The weather was cool, which no doubt helped, and we even got some rain in the afternoon, which I have never seen before on Yom Kippur. All in all, for a day on which you're praying for the year to come, not a bad day.

So now, it's time for Sukkot, known to non-Jewish readers of this space as the Feast of Tabernacles. Tomorrow, I build the Sukkah, a temporary structure separate from the main house. In theory, you're supposed to live in the Sukkah the entire week, but most people can't manage that. Instead, we eat all of our meals there.

The other part of the holiday involves something call a Lulav and Etrog. The Etrog is a citrus, not really edible, that's native to Israel. Etrogs are notoriously expensive, and many organizations use them as fundraisers. At one point, my parents lived in Florida, and I tried to plant etrog seeds in their back yard. They moved before we could see the results of the experiment.

The lulav is a bundle of three sets of branches: palm, myrtle, and willow. (Naturally, when Passover falls near Palm Sunday, we'll note the Catholics going to Church with their lulavs...) The lulav and etrog are meant to be shaken in all 6 directions (up, down, front, back, left, right) as part of the holiday, and we also take the lulav and etrog, and proceed around the synagogue.

I remember one year, in DC, we did one of these circuits around the White House, to protest the first Bush Administration's strongarming Israel over some loan guarantees. I remember there being some concern about our ringing the White House, shaking these palms, that people might think we were putting a curse on the place or something similarly absurd.

This was the time James Baker famously comment, to "f--- 'em, they don't vote for us, anyway," and the combination of word and deed probably set back Republican efforts to gain the Jewish vote 20 years. It's not clear that even now, with his unambiguous and clear support for Sharon and Israel, the younger Bush won't suffer from the political sins of the father.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Salazar the Non-Partisan 

Salazar told the crowd that one "clear difference" between the two candidates is that Coors is partisan and he is not. Salazar mentioned the card he gets from the Bushes.

Salazar's not a partisan? I know that it's part of appealing to the center, or the unaffiliated, that you scream from the rooftops that you'll put Land, Water, and People over Party and Politics, but volume generally bears an inverse relation to sincerity.

One word: Redistricting

The man personally threw the authority of his office behind a lawsuit against the state the employs him. Salazar claimed in the Denver Post, April 14, that he "exercised my power as attorney general in the independent manner that I should." Well, he was certainly independent of the other powers of government, aside from the Democrat-domination State Supreme Court. How independent he was of the Democratic Party is open to question.

Salazar filed a lawsuit against the state, against a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. He neither issued an advisory opinion nor filed an amicus brief on behalf of someone else's case. In fact, according to the July 16, 2003 Rocky, it was Democratic legislators who joined Salazar's suit.

He did this even as his brother was running for the Democratic nomination in House District 3, which he eventually won. No, John didn't file until 4 months later, but I'd be more than a little surprised if the topic never came up over dinner.

Salazar's one of the most partisan Democrats in the state. Just because he's found some ways of working with the other side - a necessity when the Governor and legislature are both from the other party - doesn't mean he's not a partisan.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Littwin on Amendment 36 

I don't usually make a habit of agreeing with, much less quoting, the Rocky's Mike Littwin. But I have found him open to constructive comments, and while he writes with a definite point of view, he usually doesn't make up stuff.

Today, he offers a liberal response to Amendment 36. His argument goes something like this:

The Electoral College stinks. The Founders were snobs. But that's the system we've got. Since we're not going to amend the Constitution to get rid of it, we could, state-by-state, apportion votes proportionally. But if we're the only ones who do it, we end up with less clout than Halliburton, er, Wyoming. In fact, the most likely states to do this are Democratic (you assume facts not in evidence, sir -ed.), so the Democrats will essentially take themselves out of the race altogether. Therefore, Amendment 36 is a bad idea, both for Colorado, and for any other states that choose to follow our generous, self-sacrificing example, noble though it may be. Particularly because those states are Blue.

(He also asserts simultaneously that it stacks the deck in favor of small states while not helping small states at all. It's an article that practically screams for an extended Fisking, but I've got better things to do. Like look for a new contract.)

If the Blue states are more likely to go this way than the Red ones, you can forget electing any Democratic Presidents any time soon. There's no way you get a snowball effect, because the incentives are all on the other side. Most of the small states are solidly one color or another, so they have no leverage and no incentive to split; all it does is further dilute the power of the large states.

What's important to notice here is that it's a pragmatic argument, or several pragmatic arguments, not a principled one. It's just pragmatic on a different scale. Which is exactly the kind of debate the Founders wanted us to be having.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Post Still Doesn't Get It 

In that online chat, Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser said, paraphrasing, that he didn't see any evidence that the terrorists objected to the Bill of Rights.

From today's Weekly Standard site, by Stephen Schwartz:

At the 21st ICNA Annual Convention, held at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in 1996, Imam Hamza Yusuf declared, "I am a citizen of this country not by choice but by birth. I reside in this country not by choice but by conviction in attempting to spread the message of Islam in this country. I became Muslim in part because I did not believe in the false gods of this society whether we call them Jesus or democracy or the Bill of Rights or any other element of this society that is held sacrosanct by the ill-informed peoples that make up this charade of a society. . . . [T]here should be no voting or debate . . . [W]e have no room for ayes or nays."

One of President Bush's themes is that the Islamicists hate not what we do, but what we are. Robert Kaiser still doesn't get it.

3 USC 5 

Which looks like a Southern Cal cricket score, but it really a section of the US Code. I mention it below, but I wasn't sure that the "day" in question was Election Day. It is.

Both Bush v. Gore and Bush v. Palm Beach refer explicitly to 3 USC 5, and refer to Election Day as the day by which the rules must be set.

If you take this seriously, I don't see how this Amendment can pass muster. Any attorneys who read this, please feel free to comment.

Other States' Electors 

According to Information Please:

In the early days electors were most often chosen by the state legislatures, but with the growth of democratic sentiment popular election became the rule. After 1832 (and until the Civil War) only in South Carolina did the legislature continue to choose electors. In some of the states at first the people voted for electors by congressional districts, with two being elected at large from the whole state, but with the growth of political parties this plan was largely discarded (only Maine and Nebraska currently use it) in favor of the general-ticket system (the one now prevailing), whereby a party needs only a plurality to carry the whole state. Thus in most states a voter casts a ballot for as many electors as the state is entitled to. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires either that the electors be chosen by popular vote or that the general-ticket system be employed.

So Nebraska and Maine went back to the Congressional District method. It's not a holdover:

During the 1800's, two trends in the States altered and more or less standardized the manner of choosing Electors. The first trend was toward choosing Electors by the direct popular vote of the whole State (rather than by the State legislature or by the popular vote of each Congressional district). Indeed, by 1836, all States had moved to choosing their Electors by a direct statewide popular vote except South Carolina which persisted in choosing them by the State legislature until 1860. Today, all States choose their Electors by direct statewide election except Maine (which in 1969) and Nebraska (which in 1991) changes to selecting two of its Electors by a statewide popular vote and the remainder by the popular vote in each Congressional district.

Here's Maine's statute:




§802. Representation

One presidential elector shall be chosen from each congressional district and 2 at large.

And here's Nebraska's:


Presidential electors; vacancies; how filled; meeting; procedure.

The Governor shall provide each presidential
elector with a list of all the electors. If any elector is
absent or if there is a deficiency in the proper number of
electors, those present shall elect from the citizens of the
state so many persons as will supply the deficiency and
immediately issue a certificate of election, signed by those
present or a majority of them, to the person or persons so
chosen. In case of failure to elect by 3 p.m. of such day, the
Governor shall fill the vacancies by appointment. After all
vacancies are filled, the college of electors shall proceed with
the election of a President of the United States and a Vice
President of the United States and certify their votes in
conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Each at-large presidential elector shall cast his or her ballot
for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who
received the highest number of votes in the state. Each
congressional district presidential elector shall cast his or her
ballot for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who
received the highest number of votes in his or her congressional

Victories for Diplomacy 

France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain have relented, and will now allow NATO troops to help train Iraqi security forces and the new Iraqi army. (I suppose the French troops are too busy directing traffic. The Germans are the traffic. Belgium is the road.) They won't help pay, either, which does prompt one to ask what they're actually offering the alliance in the first place. Still, at least they're permitting the Official NATO Imprimatur to go on those troop from countries who do want to participate.

One of Kerry's talking points is about allies. He's said a couple of time that "it doesn't have to be troops, there are other ways of contributing." Or at least, of not standing in the way.

Amendment 36 News 

The Rocky's Jim Tankersley has two articles about Amendment 36 this morning, one of them oddly, albeit obliquely, criticizing the lack of discussion of the issue. (Earth to Rocky: You guys decide what goes on the front page.)

The poll numbers aren't good: 47-35 in Favor, but only 22-21 in favor among those paying attention. It suggests that casual voters are intrigued by the idea of "fairness," whatever that means. Do they fall away as they learn more, and consider the possibilities? Or are the activists, the ones who are more likely to recognize the partisan impllications, the only ones who are firmly committed at this point? I guess we'll find out. Do remember, though, that this is part of the same POS poll that had Salazar up by 11, so I'd like to see some confirmation before I decide if this is real.

(One small media note. Katy Atkinson and Rick Ridder are political consultants working opposite sides of this issues, and each is cited in both articles. Atkinson is identified as a Republican both times; Ridder is never identified as a Democrat.)

Independent analysts say the issue forces Colorado voters to think strategically: Whom do I pick for president, when do I vote for him (early, absentee or on Election Day) and how do I vote on Amendment 36 to best help my candidate?

"The logic is, every voter in Colorado should be thinking strategically, depending on his preferences," said Jack Rakove, a Stanford University history professor who has written extensively on the Electoral College and the Constitution.

"But to do that, you have to go down to the wire. You have to look at both local and national polls. That's a lot to ask most people to do."

Maybe. I plan to vote against this thing even if Kerry is up 14 points in the state on November 1. It's bad for Colorado, it undermines the notion of the Electoral College. If adopted nationally, it would place much too much emphasis on urban areas at the expense of rural and suburban districts, and it would eviscerate the political power of the flyover states.

I think most Republicans, conservative by nature, would vote the way I will. But let's assume I'm in the minority. Let's assume that everyone who goes to the polls has to vote tactically. If somebody thinks his candidate wins the state, he votes against 36. If someone thinks his candidate loses, he votes for. If he thinks it's too close to call, it comes down to his risk-aversion. Isn't it more than faintly ridiculous to ask people to go to the polls to choose electors not knowing the system they're voting under?

I know redistricting is goverened, in theory, by its own set of rules. But suppose we went to the polls, picked a party, and then voted for one redistricting plan or another. We could just apply our party-votes to the candidate of whatever district we ended up in. Absurd? Of course it is. But it's no more absurd than asking candidates to campaign in a state not knowing what the prize is. Or asking people to choose a system not knowing what the result would be in that very election.

The Rocky goes on to assert that:

Constitutional scholars say the biggest lawsuit potential lies in Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors" for president.

The key word is "legislature." The question is whether a ballot initiative is the same as a "legislature" under the Constitution - in other words, whether voters themselves can choose how electoral votes are allocated.

Well, maybe. I think this is a dodge, and agree with a later poli sci. professor that if the legislature sets up a process whereby people can legislate, and the Court approves whatever measures come up under the rules, that Article II wouldn't seem to be much of an obstacle.

However, Title III Section 5 of the U.S. Code reads:

If any State shall have provided, by laws enacted prior to the day fixed for the appointment of the electors, for its final determination of any controversy or contest concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors of such State, by judicial or other methods or procedures, and such determination shall have been made at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors, such determination made pursuant to such law so existing on said day, and made at least six days prior to said time of meeting of the electors, shall be conclusive, and shall govern in the counting of the electoral votes as provided in the Constitution, and as hereinafter regulated, so far as the ascertainment of the electors appointed by such State is concerned.

On its face, this is pretty clear. People shouldn't be asked to vote not knowing the rules they're voting under. I can think of two meaning to the "day fixed for the appointment." One is Election Day, the other is the deadline for the Secretary of State to certify the results. The latter makes no sense. Suppose a special session of the legislature were to decide to change the rules in-between Election Day and the certification. If the "day" in question is Election Day, the law doesn't say "on the day," or "near the day," or "after the day, but everyone knew it was coming," it says "prior to the day."

This is the essence of fairness. Everyone knowing the rules going in, playing by those rules, and someone winning. Florida turned into a circus because everyone decided that the rules didn't matter. (Rather, one side decided that. But when the state courts agree, it amounts to the same thing.) The rules for how a ballot worked didn't matter. The rules for how ballots got counted didn't matter. The rules for deadlines didn't matter. The reason Robert Bork wanted the Court to rule on 3 USC 5 rather than Amendment 14 was that rules make things clear. Fuzzy ideas about "fairness" lead to fistfights.

The only good thing about this election in Colorado is that Republicans control enough state House delegations that if Kerry and Bush do tie, 269-269, even if Democrats carry both the 3rd and the 7th, and win the state delegation 4-3, it won't be enough to elect Kerry. So at least we won't be looking at more than one legal circus on November 3rd.

Hidden Polls 

Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli has a Presidential poll out which directly contradicts the results of the POS poll we've been talking about recently. Peter Roper at the Pueblo Chieftain reports that Ciruli has Bush up by 12 points, leading or tied on every issue of importance, and ahead among independents. The poll doesn't appear to oversample Republicans or Democrats.

Now before we all get too excited, we should remember that this poll is out of line with other polls almost exactly the same way that the POS poll was at the Senate level. Ciruli has Bush up 12, while most others have him up 1. POS had Salazar up 11, while four other polls averaged him up 4. So this could be an outlier.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

We're No. 9! We're No. 9! 

Last year, DU's Daniels School of Business came in 44th in the Wall Street Journal rankings. They threw all the schools together, and polled recruiters on various attributes of the graduates. This is different from a traditional ranking survey, which tends to use student polls and numbers like selectivity and GMAT scores.

This year, the Journal broke the rankings up into National, Regional, and International programs, and DU came in 9th in the country in the Regional category, ahead of some pretty serious programs: Emory, Wake, USC, and UT Knoxville (sorry, professor).

The paper also polled about specific qualities, and I'm happy to say that DU students only cheat more than 4 other school, one of which is U.Va.'s Darden, which placed 4th.


Last year, I started to notice some disturbing things. Like I would get winded sitting at the dinner table. Like I was buying new clothes because I couldn't breathe wearing the old ones. Like I was running out of holes on my belt.

I had seen this show before. My dad had lost a ton of weight running, then had put some back on, and then had a heart attack at 53. My grandfather died of heart disease. My dad is still with us, but the whole thing seemed like an extraordinarily scary waste of time.

About the same time I noticed that sitting on a park bench was taxing my stamina, I was doing just that, reading Peter Robinson's character study of Ronald Reagan. After John Hinckley tried to kill him, Reagan had a small weight room installed in the White House. He worked out so assiduously on them that this 70-year-old added an inch to his chest.

So much for excuses. It was back to the recumbent bike, and time to keep an eye on how many trips to Pete's Pizza I was making each week. Start out at 20 minutes a day, and add 5 minutes each week, building to an hour a day.

Last week, I officially hit 15 pounds lost since I started this daily routine. This week, I've done 60 minutes both Monday and Tuesday mornings. Today, I hit 840 "calories burned," my goal. I put "calories burned" in scare quotes, because I have about as much faith in that number as I do in Dan Rather-certified documents. But it's still a measure of how hard I'm working, so it's worth something.

I'm fitting back into that interview suit I bought in February of last year. I've lost two holes on the belt. I breathe much easier. Target: 40 pounds by the end of February. That's about 5 pounds a month between now and then, and it'll mean that I can start working on endurance. Maybe switch over to the stair-stepper at the school gym, maybe add some weights.

The trick is to do this each morning. Every morning.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Hell Hath No Fury Like an Associate Editor Scorned 

On September 9, Washington Post Associate Editor (former managing editor) Robert Kaiser appeared in an online chat session with readers. Reading the following questions & responses, I can't help but wonder if part of the Post's ferocity in pursuing RatherGate is based on his having been a little embarassed by being taken in. Remember, even as he was answering these questions, the documents were being shown up as forgeries.

Annapolis, Md.: It might be too early to say, but what impact do you think this National Guard story will have on the campaign? It seems to me that Clinton made actual service in Viet Nam irrelevant (he survived criticism of being a draft-dodger). Kerry invited criticism by making Viet Nam a centerpiece of his campaign. What about Bush?

Robert G. Kaiser: Hello and welcome. This is Topic A for today, and the two campaigns have to be wonderfin gjust what you are wondering. I of course don't know the answer. Bush is a member of my generation, he's a few years younger than I in fact, and we all know friends and relations who used various maneuvers to stay out of Vietnam if they could. And we all know people like John kerry or my friend John Wilbur who did everything they could to get into the war and fight.

Personally I think Bush has never fully fessed up to what he did and how he did it. Today's stories make this a little clearer, I think. He was a young man at the time. Will voters hold it against him? Stay tuned.(Note the assumption that the documents are real, and that the White House has the burden of proof. -ed.)

Culpeper, Va.: The attacks on John Kerry's service, fair or not, have gotten so much traction because he made his service such a centerpiece of his campaign.

The President, on the other hand, has not made his national guard service the center piece of anything, in fact, he has never said boo about it.

Wouldn't you agree that for that reason, as well as the fact that this has the appearance of a "response" rather than an issue in its own right, these attacks will have far less impact notwithstanding the efforts of the press to be "fair" and cover it just as vigorously as the Swifty allegations?

Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting question. I've always thought that negative attacks are most relevant when they resonate with, and re-enforce, impressions voters may already have of a candidate. I have thought from the beginning of the Swift Boat controversy that it would not damage Kerry with open-minded independent voters, because the accusations against Kerry are so flimsy, and so clearly contradicted by the available record. Might image of Bush as a service-dodger alter such voters' views of him? Maybe. I just don't know.(Remember that re:Kerry, Kerry himself has defined the available record. -ed.)

Reading, Mass.: Would you agree that the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy is that the documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying and that President Bush did not live up to his sworn committment?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, that's one difference. But I still want more facts about Bush.(Note, Bush, not Kerry. -ed.)

A series of editorial comments, rather than questions, are followed by a polite "thank you" from Mr. Kaiser. Then this:

Alexandria, Va.: In your shameless, left-leaning defense of Kerry you wrote, "because the accusations against Kerry are so flimsy, and so clearly contradicted by the available record." Do you know what an honorable discharge is? For those of us who have served, it actually means something and it IS documentary evidence that someone did live up to his sworn commitment.

Robert G. Kaiser: Oh.(Surely the moderator could have found someone who asked this question politely. Surely Kaiser could knows this. -ed.)

We'll see if he ever remembers that the Kerry Record is far from complete. What we've seen has been very selectively edited, or even written by Kerry himself. What we haven't, full war records, medical records, diaries, and tax records, has been blocked by Kerry himself.

The Rocky Poll 

I want to thank Lynn Bartels of the Rocky and Lori Weichel of Public Opinion Strategies for being so helpful with this post. Lynn tried valiently to answer my questions. When they exceeded the data she had in front of her, she passed me over to Lori, who spent way too much time on the phone explaining POS's methodology to me.

They both know I'm a blogger, so they both expect this information to show up on the sites. (Lori didn't know this at first, and assumed from the forwarded emails that I had some background in polling. So I guess the Pajamahudeen is making great strides in self-education.)

The answer to question #1 is: 39% Republican, 35% Democrat, 24% Independent, 2% Not Telling. This appears to oversample Republicans and especially Democrats, at the expense of Unaffiliateds. (It's worth noting that re-adjusting doesn't help Coors much, since he's still down 55-38 among unaffiliated voters.)

Here's what Lori had to say about that. I'll let you be the judge.

  • Independents tend to shrink in number as you approach the election. They consider this to be a result rather than a demographic to be adjusted for, since it's a self-identification. (Dick Morris uses this method himself. -ed.)

  • Democrats seem to be more motivated than Republicans. This is consistent with their new registrations, and with a higher-than-normal level of interest since February.

  • This suggests that Democrats will be more likely to vote than Republicans. Also, going back to 2000, exit polling showed only a 1-point edge to Republicans in actual turnout.

  • POS uses a random-digit phone call, rather than voter lists. They believe this lets them capture new voters, and voters in places like Weld County which don't require phone numbers to register. The latter helps preserve geographic balance. If other polls are using voter rolls, that could account for some of the difference.

  • Lori also suggested that the presence of Nader may help Bush, but hurt Coors, since there's no Green running in the Senate race, but there is a Libertarian.

  • Coloradoans are sophisticated voters. Sophisticated enough to feel comfortable splitting their ballot not only for elected office, but also for ballot initiatives and taxes.

So, we learn that POS interprets the oversampling of Democrats as a real phenomenon, indicative of Likely Voter status, rather than a quirk to be corrected, at this point in the election cycle. Even if we do correct for it, it doesn't help Coors much. He's getting killed among unaffiliateds. And POS has usually been identified as a Republican polling firm.

Looks, it's a small sample, it's at odds with four recent polls. The Republicans have tended to run ahead of the polls here for a few election cycles. Their GOTV effort now matches the Democrats'. If you assume that Coors has to make up four points rather than 11, it's very doable.

Going back to 2000, the Republican turnout exit-polled at one point better than the Dems', but Bush carried the state by 5 points. Perhaps that exit-poll followed a pattern where Republicans were less likely to answer the pollsters. Lori did say that most of the "Refused to Tell Party Affiliation" were Republicans. If so, the demographics in this poll may not be as reflective of actual turnout as Lori suggested.

We report. You decide.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Another Reason to Finish Fallujah 

Casualty numbers include more than KIA. They also include wounded. Right now, we've had about 7000 injuries to soldiers, ranging from John Kerry-types all the way to seriously debilitating. I don't think all those soldiers have had to leave Iraq, but you can't simply drop new guys into a unit.

All of this degrades the fighting capabilities of a division, and if we are planning anything against Iran (preferably) or Syria (less-preferably) for after the election, we had better well have both those divisions, as well as whatever else we send in, at full readiness, strength, and cohesion.

Coors and the Hispanic Vote 

One of the realistic assertions from the Rocky's poll was that Coors is getting crushed among Hispanic voters, 68-23. Coors has, in fact, constantly been behind the curve with this demographic:

  • Coors has no Spanish-language version of his website

  • He has allowed Salazar to define the election in terms of health care and education, two issues key to Hispanic voters

  • He hasn't confronted Salazar on judges; a key victim of Democratic filibusters was Manuel Estrada

  • Neither Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera nor 1st House District nominee Roland Chicas has been featured in the campaign

Even the war could be used effectively. While Hispanics tend to be more skeptical of the war, it doesn't seem to be a defining issue for them. (I backed out the numbers from a recent Gallup survey, comparing Black and Non-hispanic White attitudes on the war; Hispanics seem about evenly split on the war.)

Nobody expects Coors to win the Hispanic vote, but he needs to make better use of what assets he does have if he expects to win the state.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

The "Democratic" Party 

Democratic activists all over the country have been filing challenges to Ralph Nader's appearance on the ballot for the Green Party, or as an independent. Libertarians have been costing Republicans elections all over the country for year. Can anyone cite any examples this year of Republicans filing to keep Libertarians off the ballot? Especially in any statewide races? Especially at the Presidential level?

More Senate Polling 

With this new Rasmussen poll showing Coors ahead, 49-48, it begins to appear as though the Rocky poll showing Salazar up by 11 points was an outlier. Coors had released a Tarrance poll showing him down by 2, following a Tarrance survey showing him down by 4. Salazar's internal poll had him up by 5, so it's possible that the Rasmussem poll, too, is a little over-optimistic.

Still, the poll was conducted on one day, September 16, after the first debate but before the Saturday appearances and debate, and would confirm a trends in Coors's direction, or at least a tightening of the race. (The distinction is important. The state-by-state Rasmussen presidential polls are compilations over a month of data from that state, collected during the national presidential survey.) Interestingly, the Rocky poll claims a +/- of 4.33%, while Rasmussen claims 3% accuracy.

Only the Salazar poll released its party registration numbers, which seemed to accurately reflect the state's balance. I've emailed the Rocky's reporter, Lynn Bartels, and asked her where I might be able to get those internals.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Times Does Prayer 

From today's New York Times Corrections:

An article on Aug. 29 about melodies for the prayers sung during the Jewish High Holy Days included an incomplete quotation from Debbie Friedman, a cantor who discusses nusach, the traditional mode of chanting the liturgy, in an unreleased documentary called "A Cantor's Tale." Ms. Friedman said in full: "We should preserve nusach, and I'm a firm believer that we should do what we can to preserve it. But if we do that exclusively, then we can forget about preserving it at all, because no one's going to show up." The abbreviated quotation read "Forget about preserving nusach. No one is going to show up."

Traditional Jewish prayer services are long. Shabbat morning runs abour 3 hours. Rosh Hashanah can go 5 or 6 hours, and Yom Kippur goes all day. There's a great deal of interaction, and the traditional nusach provides for some singing. But for long stretches, you're sitting there listening.

There's plenty of room for the traditional tunes to be mixed in with tunes that the congregation can sing along to, so Ms. Friedman's comments make sense: sacrifice a little of the cantor luxuriating in his own voice, and make some room for the congregation. The Times reporter completely butchers the quote, turning Ms. Friedman from a preservationist into a radical.

Rathergate Enters the Pop Culture 

In his generally negative review of Sky Captain, the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter tells us that Jude Law's and Gwyneth Paltrow's characters are as unconvincing as "Xeroxes of Xeroxes of Xeroxes."

So it's come to this, the Tiffany Network's news department is the butt of jokes by a center-left movie-reviewer. At least he didn't call the computer-geneated backgrounds "fake but inaccurate."

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shanah Tovah 

Tonight starts Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, so there will be no blogging for the next three days. (The holiday last 2 days, but the third day is Shabbat.) This marks the beginning of the 10 Days of Penitence, a time of personal and communal introspection, but also of celebration of God's role as King. Interestingly, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the birth of the world, but occurs on the anniversary of the 5th day of Creation, when Man and Woman were created. After all, the notion of Kingship is meaningless without subjects. Judaism, while respectful of nature, regards mankind as the pinnacle and purpose of Creation, not Nature.

I'll probably write more about this during the upcoming week, along with the Jewish notion of repentance.

See you Sunday.

Rally Report 

No pix, I'm afraid, but that's just incentive to get a digital camera worthy of the name.

Just a few quick points. First, I got there at 6:30, and most of the seating was already taken. By the time it was over, 18,000 people had shown up, the lawn was mostly full. Contrast that with Kerry holding his event in a high school gym.

Sen. Campbell MC'd the thing, speaking crisply and to the point, and a local group called Mission 19 provided the live entertainment. They've got a good sound, played around a little with the lyrics to their songs, and deserve your support on the road.

State House candidate E.C. Gaffney gave the invocation, and my friend Karen Kataline sang the national anthem brilliantly. Rev. Gaffney is running in a district that was actually well-contested last time around, so he might have a shot.

Pete Coors did speak, and focused mostly on economic, tax, and business issues. I won't say he was inspired - a lot of what he said was stuff that sounded fresh when Reagan was running. And it was clear from his remarks about his family being there "since this whole thing started," that he's not thrilled with campaigning. But he looked and sounded comfortable, didn't stumble or read through his remarks like he did at that first debate back at the NFIB.

Bush is a rock star at these events. The 60-year-old woman sitting next to me, who had driven in from Grand Junction just for this event, was jumping up and down like a bobby-soxer at the Ed Sulivan show in 1964. While he spent most of his time on defense and terrorism, he did kick up the health-care rhetoric a little. He spent a whole paragraph on Health Savings Accounts, for instance. It's clear that he's trying to push market-based reforms to these programs, and it's an ideological battle I think we can win.

For more, I think the Rocky's Tankersley gets it about right.

Stale Cookies 

On Imus this morning, Kerry was back at it, claiming that the Air Force (or in this case, the Army) really did have to hold a bake sale for its equipment:

IMUS: They can't get this equipment for these troops if people like you won't vote for the funding though.

KERRY: We did vote for the funding. We voted for the funding. I voted for the largest defense budgets in the history of our country. And I voted— this is long after the war, that $87 billion vote. The war had started. These people were sent over there without the equipment and they still don't have the equipment. And I've met families across America who are struggling, you know, they go out and they hold a bake auction or they do some charity effort in order to buy the armor on the Internet, send it to their kids. That's not the way you send young Americans into war.

This thing was debunked two months ago by Eliana Johnson, alias Little Trunk, daughter of Scott Johnson and substation on the Powerline:

I found only two references to the bake sales supposedly launched to purchase this armor. The first was in Washington's Spokesman Review; the reporter quoted a woman who claimed that "parents in the Midwest were doing carwashes and bake sales." I was unable to contact her, but the reporter told me that he had not verified her claim, nor was he sure whether her reference was to bake sales for body armor specifically or to support-the-troops bake sales generally. The second bake-sale reference came from an editorial in the Amador Ledger Dispatch. Its outraged author cited the "several hundred bake sales by moms and wives to provide body armor for their sons and daughters, wives and husbands." The paper's editor, who himself wrote a story rebutting the piece in question, told me that he could not verify that one such bake sale — let alone "hundreds" — had taken place.

Note that Kerry doesn't say he's heard of bake sales, or that he knows of bake sales, or that someone sent him leftover cake from one of the bakesales, or that he sent along some cake mix with Teresa's cake recipe to be used at a bake sale. He says he's personally met families who have had to hold Bake Sales for Body Armor.

Maybe we've solved a mystery here: could it be that some "foreign leaders" are holding bake sales to supply their militaries?

Kerry Sinking Western Slope 

The area between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada used to be a vast inland sea, the main remnant of which is the Great Salt Lake. Kerry's hopes in that region are starting to look about the same, and he may be taking down some of his less sea-worthy Democrats. According to the Grand Junction Times-Sentinal, Republican 3rd District Congressional candidate Greg Walcher is accusing John Salazar of throwing Kerry overboard, Jonah-like.

Walcher based his comment on Salazar’s refusal to outright endorse Kerry during a Monday night debate in Snowmass.

When questioned about where he stood on “that man” — Kerry — Salazar gave a hazy response. “First of all, I didn’t say I was supporting him. Second of all, you know, for you to tell me that I am, well, I guess you are reading my mind,” Salazar said, according to a Walcher press release and audio recording of the debate supplied by the Walcher campaign.

Reeves Brown, executive director of the nonpartisan Club 20 and moderator of the debate on behalf of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said Salazar clearly was in a difficult position, trapped between party loyalty and the generally conservative political realities of the congressional district.

“I just kind of winced” at Salazar’s response, Brown said.

Brown winced? Heck, I'm pulling for Walcher, and I winced.
Now Salazar says he was just a little confused by the question. If you believe that, I'm sure the campaign has some oceanfront property out in Grand Junction they'd like to sell you. Because when someone mentions the name of your presidential candidate, you don't mutter platitudes about the sanctity of the private ballot. You gave that up when you ran for office on a party's ticket, using that party's resources. If there's a specific issue you disagree with him on, it's a wonderful time to stand up and demonstrate your independence. This is probably easier to do in the Senate, but the whole notion is pretty popular here in Colorado, and Tom Tancredo has managed all right for himself in the House.

His campaign and the Kerry campaign referred reporters back to Salazar's comments at an August Democratic Unity rally in Pueblo. But then, Salazar's campaign spokesman Jeff Bridges said that people didn't really care if he was supporting Kerry or not. That's the response you give when you don't want to be tied to the national ticket. Walcher can keep reminding people of this, gently, and force Salazar to mention his support for Kerry more often.

Here's the other question, though: John's younger brother Ken has run his campaign against the President and with Kerry, the more explicitly, the better. There's now some indirect evidence that that's hurting him in the western part of the state, where conventional wisdom has him connecting well with the farmers and ranchers out there.

Life and Death 

Ehud Olmert is the Vice Prime-Minister of Israel, but rose to prominence as Mayor of Jerusalem after the legendary Teddy Kollek. In today's Wall Street Journal, on the Eve of Rosh Hashanah, Olmert unflinchingly discusses the War on Islamofascism in Jewish and Israeli terms.

One might have imagined that we Israelis, after having endured more than four years of brutal terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians, would have become immune to the horrific tragedy that unfolded in Beslan. Indeed, the televised scenes of the tiny coffins and grieving families seem far too familiar, just as the boilerplate speeches of the politicians and standard condemnations by world bodies feels like the routine drill. Yet the fact that we still find ourselves distraught, and can so readily identify with the suffering of the Russian victims, shows that the world today is divided into two distinct camps -- the first which seeks to affirm life, the second hell bent on avowing vengeance, martyrdom and death regardless of its victims.

In 1974, as a newly elected Knesset member, I watched the terrorist assault on a school in Ma'alot as it played out along Israel's northern border. Palestinian gunmen, ironically from a PLO faction funded by the Russians, infiltrated a high school and took dozens of students hostage. Before the army could free the children, the terrorists managed to kill 26 of them. At the time, the idea that a ruthless terrorist could deliberately murder Israeli children seemed almost beyond even our belief. What sort of desperate animals, we demanded, seek to advance their political agendas by slaughtering children? Surely the international order would insist that all the culprits be hunted down and punished.

The seeds of Beslan were sown in Ma'alot, Israel, in 1974.

But the world voiced only silence, and business went on as usual. Israelis were forced to learn that our tragedies were always going to be personal affairs, and that there would be no united international response to terror. Indeed, the democratic states in Europe provided the first cracks in the front, insisting on maintaining relations with the PLO after Ma'alot while accepting that there were no real consequences when it comes to Arab terror.

The distance from the school in Ma'alot to the school in Beslan should be measured not in miles but in historical perspective. The seeds of terror planted by the Palestinians in 1974 has come to complete fruition in a school house in Russia 30 years on. Terror attacks like the recent ones in Madrid, Jakarta, Be'er Sheva and Bali, as well as the genocide of African Muslims by Arab Islamic extremist in Darfur should all be seen as Yasser Arafat's legacy.

Last week marked three years since America was viciously attacked by radicals bent on the destruction of America's cornerstone values of freedom and justice. The images of 9/11 have left a permanent mark on Americans and freedom-loving people around the world, including myself. They seek to remind us of the dire consequences of terror and reinforce the need to never again allow terror to go unabated.

This week, Jewish communities everywhere will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our inauguration of the New Year. But more than merely noting another year on the Hebrew calendar, Israel's sages teach that Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the actual birth of the world. It is interesting to understand that according to our tradition, the recorded date of the start of time is not when the Creator fashioned the Earth and stars, but rather on the fifth day of creation, when Adam and Eve were brought into being. So cherished is human life that only on the birthday of the first couple are we told that the world truly began to exist.

The stark moral contrast between the ushering out of this past year with images of murdered school children and our high hopes for the New Year and the future of humanity is difficult to assimilate. However, these days, the two seem to be relentlessly entwined. Countries that are determined to protect their citizens and safeguard their security now understand that they can no longer remain passive in the face of evil. The threat of terrorism no longer recognizes national borders and no country remains immune. Either democratic states will bury the terrorists and their patrons, or they will bury us.

Although human-rights groups are quick to point out infringements of civil liberties as security services, law-enforcement agencies and armies around the globe engage the terrorists, they have no answers or words of consolation for the victims and their families. Indeed, those innocents maimed and killed also once had rights that were violated and can never be restored. In the balance of things, the temporary difficulties caused by fences, administrative detentions and interrogation techniques pale in the face of a tragedy like Beslan. It is easy to isolate and paint lifesaving government policies as "draconian." But the larger peril cannot be ignored.

As outlaw regimes such as Iran and North Korea race to acquire nuclear arms, the terrorist danger escalates. The camp of nations that chooses to hold life sacred must actively engage and disarm the camp of terrorist regimes and organizations at all costs. In Israel, we have learned that you can either fight the perpetrators in their cities and villages or you can turn your own streets and schools into a war zone. Pre-emptive operations can be utilized effectively in pinpoint strikes against terrorists and can incapacitate their leadership.

All those concerned with the freedom and survival of humanity must join in this struggle against the terrorists. Indeed, we must act to eradicate these organizations and never permit them to threaten us again. On this Jewish New Year, we are commemorating the birthday of humanity. We are also painfully reminded of the forces of destruction. Let us work to ensure humanity's survival -- and let us not fail.

Hiring Outlook 

One of the largest placement companies, Manpower, Inc., conducts a quarterly survey of hiring managers. Like the ISM supply managers survey, they use simple +/0/- questionnaire: is your company planning on hiring, laying off, or neither, during the coming quarter?

The news on this front continues to be good (sorry, Senator Kerry), with a seasonally adjusted net of +20. You get this number by subtracting the % of companies firing from the % of companies hiring. Most companies usually say they're doing no net hiring or firing, even in good or bad times, so the number represents a measure of the net new jobs expected to come on the market. As with all predictive surveys, your mileage may vary.

The +20 number is quite good, higher than every quarter from 1989 to 1997, although not as high as the go-go late 90s.

What's with this "seasonally-adjusted" stuff? Some industries are very seasonal, such as retailing and construction. (Except here in Colorado, where we enjoy 300 annual days of sunshine.) People in these industries, know this and plan accordingly. Just because a homebuilding company is slowing their February construction doesn't mean that business is bad. It just means the ground's too hard to dig. So you adjust for that, and compare year-to-year, rather than quarter-to-quarter.

Colorado's situation is slightly better than the rest of the country's. We're starting with a lower unemployment rate, and expect to hire at a slightly higher rate.

These numbers almost certainly come too late to affect the election. People's impressions of the economy are probably already fixed. They could affect squishy numbers like consumer confidence, if anyone were paying attention.

They are, however, evidence of a strenthening recovery. Businesses now tend to think of employees as investments, rather than labor as a commodity. This notion tends to stretch out the hiring cycle, implying as it does a longer-term commitment to employees, rather than just a pension deposit and a paycheck. For what it's worth, and keep in mind that you're not paying for this blog, I would expect over time to see closer correlations between capital expenditures and hiring.

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