Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Xcellent Journalism

The Denver Post's Vincent Carroll should win some sort of journalism award for his series of columns -- here's the latest -- exposing the incestuous, three-way relationship between Xcel Energy, the Ritter Administration and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Spawned of this unholy trinity was a “green energy” bill passed in the last session, HB-1365, which puts the screws to Xcel customers in order to bankroll an unnecessary technology shift for the company, from coal-fired to natural gas-fired plants. This was also a huge gift to natural gas companies, while potentially putting coal producers on the ropes.

It all gives off a strong whiff of conspiracy -- an impression reinforced by the reluctance of key players to document the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. Carroll already has written several columns (including this one) about how Xcel and the PUC are using a new two-tiered rate structure to gouge electricity users with what Mike Rosen has dubbed the "air conditioning tax," in the name of encouraging energy efficiency. Now he’s taking a closer look at the coal-to-gas deal – and doing the public a huge service by staying on the scent.

Cloakroom collaborations between businesses and politicians aren't exactly new, or newsworthy. But what makes the PUC's behind-the-scenes involvement so troubling is the organization’s critical role in implementing legislation that it secretly helped craft. PUC Chairman Ron Binz, a social engineer with a strong green streak, told Carroll the PUC became involved in bill-crafting very late in the game. But any involvement is too much involvement, in my opinion.

The PUC is supposed to serve as an impartial and independent regulatory and rate-setting entity that primarily looks out for the public interest. It shouldn’t be a backroom deal-maker, or involved in drafting legislation it will later have to implement. The collaboration between Ritter, Xcel and the PUC (private environmental groups were also involved) ought to be investigated (and not just by one intrepid columnist), and implementation of the law should be suspended, if that’s possible, until the public knows everything that happened behind the scenes.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Washington Post's Poop Scoop

Washington Posties finally got on the Arlington National Cemetery scandal today, playing it as a scoop, even though it had been unfolding for several decades right beneath their noses, with nary a word. Other publications began writing about a chronic pattern of mismanagement at the storied facility about a year ago, but one intrepid reporter had the real scoop back in 1998, when he was writing for The Washington Times.

That nothing was done about problems that dated back 20 years, and that were known about, documented and reported on more than 12 years ago, is the scandal within the scandal. And it shows just how impossible it is to really change the way the federal bureaucracy works -- or doesn't work, as the case may be.

That The Post didn't pick up on the story for 20 years, when it was occurring in the paper's backyard, shows how inured the city's self-styled watchdogs can be to the chronic bureaucratic bumbling that swirls all around them, like a cesspool. That's the other scandal within the scandal.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Proper Care and Feeding of Politicians

When the puppy does the trick, the puppy gets a treat. The training of most politicians is no different.

Third District Rep. John Salazar last week went out and made his annual show of cutting-off funding for any study of Fort Carson expansion, declaring that it will never happen while he's in Congress. And for performing this annual trick he gets a treat: a nice pat on the head from the editorial page of The Pueblo Chieftain, whose guiding philosophy on this and all other issues is that if it can benefit Colorado Springs, it must be bad.

Atta boy, Fido. Now lay down and roll over.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Air Farce One

It's certainly no vacation for taxpayers when the imperial president takes time for a little R & R, given the obscenely regal manner in which the First Family travels. But this is the first report I've seen of the First Pet flying solo, in a separate jet:

"Arriving in a small jet before the Obamas was the first dog, Bo, a Portuguese water dog given as a present by the late U.S. Sen Ted Kennedy, D-Mass."

Don't know about you, but reading that sentence makes me want to woof.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paige on Porkulus

Sister Leslie was on Fox Business News today, highlighting some of the most stupid and wasteful spending items in Obama's porkulus package. No need to analyze or editorialize: She can speak for herself: link

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beware the Wily Hicken-gipper

I ran across a quote today I thought would make a good pop quiz.

So, who said the following?

“I believe we should be providing the best quality government in the most efficient manner. The cornerstones for good government are engaged citizen feedback, dedicated customer service and continuous improvement. It is not the role of government to solve every challenge. The role of government is to create a collaborative environment and to provide the resources to facilitate solutions that spring from the community itself.”

Was it:

A.) Ronald Reagan?

B.) Calvin Coolidge?

C.) Barack Obama?

D.) Barry Goldwater?

Actually, it was none of the above.

The quote comes from yesterday's State of the City speech by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (which may be his last such speech if Republicans can't get their act together), though it could easily be confused with something that Reagan or Goldwater might have said. Hickenlooper is no conservative. Not by a long shot. But his use of such rhetoric (and it may be empty rhetoric, to be sure) increases the chance that he can sell himself as a centrist between now and election day.

The first two sentences are boilerplate for most politicians, at least since the Reagan era, but it's the second two that really grab me, since they pretty well describe the approach we've traditionally taken in Colorado Springs -- a model we've been relying on even more during this fiscal crisis:

"It is not the role of government to solve every challenge. The role of government is to create a collaborative environment and to provide the resources to facilitate solutions that spring from the community itself.”

The leftist in Hickenlooper betrays himself, just a bit, when he asserts that it's the city's function to "provide the resources to facilitate solutions," since that still gives government a too-central role in true, community-based solutions, in my opinion. These efforts should rely, to the greatest extent possible, on private funding sources. Had I been giving the speech, or writing it for the mayor, I would have made the following changes:

"It is not the role of government to solve every challenge. The role of government is to create a collaborative environment that facilitates solutions that spring from the community itself.”

That's the way we've been doing things in Colorado Springs for years. It's the secret strength that will help this city through these challenging times. If Mayor Hickenlooper really wants to turn that Reaganesque rhetoric into action, and see how it works in practice, we should come on down. We'd be happy to show him around.

Friday, July 9, 2010

B-Ballnomics 101

You know you're officially a "policy wonk" when you begin seeing economic lessons in the LeBron James team-jumping story.

Who really cares whether he plays basketball in Miami, Cleveland or some other city?

Aren't the tax policy implications the really important point?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kiss of Death

It's the kind of fawning media treatment any politician would die for -- in any normal election year. But it might just be the kiss of death for Sen. Michael Bennet, given the angry, anti-Washington mood that prevails.

I'm talking about the swooning coverage Bennet recently received not from one, but from two Washington Post columnists; first from Dana Milbank, then from Richard Cohen. True, Milbank's column was as much an attack on Andrew Romanoff as a valentine to Bennet (Milbank seems to be holding some grudge against Romanoff, dating back to their days as Yalies, sniff, sniff), and Cohen's piece was also a pompous elegiac to the golden days when "elites" (like Cohen, presumably) ruled Washington. But no matter. Given the distance most members of Congress are trying to put between themselves and the Potomac River, having columnists at the capital city's company paper singing your praises might as well be a funeral dirge.

Especially damning is Cohen's scolding of Bennet for the senator's attempt to pass himself off in campaign ads as a commoner, when he's really one of the chosen people, according to Cohen -- and thus someone who belongs among the "elite" in Washington. Don't be afraid to put yourself up on a pedestal, Cohen tells Bennet; stop trying to pass yourself off as a yahoo. All this slumming with the stooges is unseemly.

Here's an excerpt from a column so insufferably arrogant -- so typically Washington -- that it has to be read to be believed:

"Bennet's reticence about his stellar qualifications represents something sad: the collapse of the elite. People who should know better -- who, in fact, do know better -- slum with political primitives, thinking they can be wallflowers at the tea party and still go home with their integrity intact. The elite -- often wrong, often unwise -- are scorned not for their mistakes but for their very credentials. It is somehow better to know a little than a lot. In this way, the average person gets a government in his own image -- a standard no one would seek in a dentist."

What fun campaign ads a smart challenger could turn this into. Let's call the following spot "Love Affair":

Voice over:

"Michael Bennet wants you to think he's a Washington outsider. But for an outsider, Michael Bennet sure has a lot of fans at the ultimate insider newspaper, The Washington Post. One liberal Post writer calls Michael Bennet "one of the good guys." Another says he's "the perfect senatorial candidate." If the liberal Washington Post thinks so highly of Michael Bennet, how much of a Washington outsider can Bennet be? If the liberal media elite want to keep Michael Bennet in Washington, isn't that one more reason why we in Colorado shouldn't?"

Not bad for an old political hand, if I may say so. I'll sell any Bennet rival the rights for $45.00 and a lotto ticket.

But here's the point: If Michael Bennet really is friendly with folks at The Washington Post, he ought to call them up and tell them to knock it off. Any more damning praise from that newspaper will be the kiss of death for his political career.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Acronym Soup

It's not exactly a confidence builder to see the newest federal agency stumbling out of the starting blocks. The Agency Formerly Known as the Minerals Management Service (or AFKMMS) can't seem to settle on the right acronym, according to The Washington Post. All the good ones seem to have been taken.

Where There's a Will

Government will probably grab the crab shack, one way or another.

The owners survived eminent domain; now comes civil forfeiture, stemming from a pot bust. Might as well draw the curtains on Johnson's Crab House. The government always has another card to play.