Archive for the 'Press' Category

How Syria is Iran’s route to the sea

Posted by on Oct 24 2012 | Counter-Terrorism Policy, Iran, Israel, National Security, Presidency, Press, Terrorism

“Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” So said Mitt Romney at the Monday debate. The Associated PressThe GuardianThe Telegraph, New York, U.S. News,  Brad DeLong, Rachel Maddow’s Maddowblog,  Comedy Central, and The Daily Kos promptly seized the opportunity to show off their superior geographical knowledge, pointing out that Iran has a coastline. The explicit or implicit explanation was that Romney does not even know basic geography. “Romney Flubs Geography” announced the A.P. headline on the Washington Post website. Readers in search of more sophisticated coverage  might have turned to Yahoo! Answers:

Q. Why did Romney say that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea”? …when 1) Iraq stands between Syria and Iran, and 2) Iran already has the Persian Gulf, not to mention the Indian Sea?

A. Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.

Fact-checkers who actually investigate the facts might have started with expert websites such as StrategyPage. A 2006 article titled Syrian Delivery System for Iranian Nukes details the extensive seaborne smuggling operations carried out by Syrian companies operating out of Syrian ports. The article concludes:

Iran was generous with its “foreign aid” because Syria provided support for terrorists Iran backed. Now Iran is keen on getting nuclear weapons. The first ones Iran will get will be large and delicate. The only feasible intercontinental delivery system will be a ship. A ship that is accustomed to moving illicit goods.

Stratfor, which is an outstanding site for the collection and analysis open source intelligence, has the following reports involving Syria/Iran sea-related collaboration: An Iranian ship at the Syrian port of Tartus (also spelled “Tartous”) picked up Syrian oil for delivery to China, to evade the economic sanctions on Syria (Mar. 30, 2012). Iran warships docked at the port of Latakia in early 2012 (Feb. 18, 2012), and in early 2011 (Feb. 22, 2011; Feb. 24, 2011). During the 2011 visit, the Iranian navy’s commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, announced that Iran was ready to help Syria improve its port facilities, and to collaborate on technical projects with Syria. (Feb. 26, 2011). (All the Stratfor articles are behind a paywall.)

So in short, Syria is Iran’s route for the projection into the Mediterranean Sea (and from there, the Atlantic Ocean) of conventional naval power, and, perhaps soon, of nuclear weaponry.

Post-debate, the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler at least made a start towards a serious factcheck of the Romney quote. He published an updated and condensed version of a longer piece he had written last April about Romney’s repeated use of the phrase.

In the April piece, Kessler wondered what difference Syria made, since Iranian ships can enter the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. True, but anyone with even a mild knowledge of naval affairs could explain the utility of a Mediterranean port, as a opposed to a Persian Gulf port, for ships operating in the Mediterranean. In April and in October, Kessler wrote:

We also checked with other experts, many of whom confessed to being puzzled by Romney’s comments.  [DK: Kessler should have named all the "other" experts, and should also have included the explanation of at least one of the experts who was not among the "many" were were confused.] Tehran certainly uses Syria to supply the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, but that has little to do with the water. The relationship with Syria could also effectively allow Iran to project its power to the Mediterranean and the border with Israel. But does that really mean, “a route to the sea”?

The last two sentences are really the buried lede of the story: Romney is raising a very important issue (Syria as the base for the projection of Iranian naval power), but Romney is not explaining himself in a manner which the less well-informed members of the public (e.g., the sources linked in the 1st paragraph of this post) can understand. If Romney were a better communicator, he would have laid out the facts in greater detail, as Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill did in their own time, when warning their countrymen about the military dangers of aggressive totalitarian regimes. As Kessler wrote in April, “If Romney is elected president, he will quickly learn that words have consequences. Precision in language is especially important in diplomacy, and here Romney used a phrase that left people befuddled as to his intent and meaning, especially since he did not even make a distinction between the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.”

If you’re a journalist or a commentator, there’s no reason be ashamed just because a Washington Post writer reported a story much better than you did. But when you find yourself being outclassed by Yahoo! Answers, perhaps it’s time to rethink your assumptions that you’re much smarter and better informed than Mitt Romney.

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Measure 2A: Who Doesn’t Like Denver’s Forever Property Tax Increase?

Posted by on Oct 11 2012 | denver, Denver City Council, Denver Measure 2A, PPC, Press, Taxes

If approved by voters in November, Denver Measure 2A would, among other things, remove property tax revenue limitations imposed by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), resulting in a forever and unlimited tax increase for Denver property owners.

It’s more than obvious who wants this forever tax increase passed. Denver Mayor Hancock and his administration have been out making the case for homeowners to balance the city’s budget for them by raising their own taxes. The Denver Post was editorializing in favor of the idea before it was even referred to the ballot. The Denver Business Journal has reported on support for 2A from the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver (though oddly they couldn’t seem to find any opposition to report on, but more on that later). According to their September campaign finance report, the issue committee behind the Yes on 2A campaign, Moving Denver Forward, has received over $400,000 in donations to help put the squeeze on Denver property owners. The list of donors reads like a political class who’s who of bigger government advocates. $25,000 from the Denver firefighters union, another $25,000 each from the Denver Library Friends Foundation and Democratic Party funder Tim Gill, $10,000 each from VISIT Denver (the convention lobby) and left wing politcal funder Pat Stryker. Even the Teamsters Union managed to scrape up $5,000 for the cause.

Contributions from real estate developers and construction firms run six figures.

In contrast, the issue committee opposing Measure 2A, No Blank Check 2012, has raised a little over $2,500.

So a voter looking for information, or a reporter looking for a favorable comment should have little trouble finding the “pro” side of Measure 2A. But who is out there opposing this thing?

The Independence Institute to begin with. My work for the Institute on why 2A is a bad idea can be found here and here in the Denver Huffington Post, and my recent “pro/con” series with Mayor Hancock in the Wash Park Profile neighborhood newspaper is here:

Measure 2A would also fall hard on senior citizen homeowners living on fixed incomes. Their property taxes will go up, while their income remains flat. The Hancock administration tacitly acknowledges this in their proposal to spend the new tax money, which includes (the phrase): “Increase the city’s property-tax credit from $186/year to $372 for 4,000 low-income senior citizens and persons with disabilities.”

Since this is new general fund money (discretionary spending), there is absolutely no guarantee that this is what it will actually go towards. Even so, what they leave out is that other low-income and fixed-income senior citizens will pay for the tax credits for those 4,000 people.

Writing on behalf of the Independence Institute, Joshua Sharf makes the case against Measure 2A in the Denver Post here. Writes Joshua:

The mayor’s proposal assumes that rising home values necessarily mean rising incomes. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Denver’s weekly income fell nearly 5 percent in 2011. The mayor’s mill levy override scheme would mean an immediate property tax increase of 10 percent for households who are still finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Joshua has also written on Measure 2A at the WhoSaidYouSaid blog.

Measure 2A is also opposed by former Denver City Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt. Here’s what Gelt, a liberal Democrat, had to say in her Denver Post column:

Personnel costs comprise 70 percent of Denver’s operating budget and they escalate yearly. The current proposal restores employee furloughs but avoids long-term systemic changes to an arcane personnel system.

Gelt also had this to say recently on her regular appearance on Colorado Public Television 12:

Denver voters have a choice. Approve a blank check that never expires for higher taxes, or send Mayor Hancock back to the drawing board to craft a balanced initiative with a mix of reduced expenses and tax increases. 2A is bad for jobs, small business and homeowners. Vote NO.

Ben Gelt runs the No Blank Check 2012 campaign, which opposes Measure 2A and whose website states:

There is no limit to how much the City will collect through this tax increase. When property values go up, so will the tax revenue generated. The City ignored its task force by asking for higher taxes with no ceiling, prior to reducing expenses.

The Glendale/Cherry Creek Chronicle, a Denver neighborhood newspaper, recently editorialized against Measure 2A:

The voters are told Denver has a structural deficit which means even in bountiful times the city’s revenues can never meet its expenses. The obvious conclusion to the existence of a structural deficit is that Denver city government is unable to stop spending money it does not have. Why in the world would anyone want to give such a government $68 million per year more to squander?

In a Denver Business Journal guest opinion piece (hidden behind a subscriber pay wall) Tyler Smith and Scott Peterson from the Denver Metropolitan Commercial Association of Realtors (DMCAR) urge readers to “Defeat ballot measures that raise taxes” including Measure 2A.

And in the Denver Post’s Sunday Perspective section, Mark Ver Hoeve makes a compelling case against 2A:

For 2013, Mayor Michael Hancock has proposed a 3.9 percent increase in the General Fund, the city’s operating budget, or $964 million, up from $926 million in 2012. Tax revenue for 2013 is projected to be $945 million, a 3.5 percent increase. That’s right: Tax revenues are up and higher than the previous year’s budget, but the city wants to spend more.

And finally, the No on Denver 2A facebook page can be found here.

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My “last” late night show tonight.

Posted by on Jan 06 2012 | Politics, Popular Culture, PPC, Press, Purely Personal

Tonight at 10 pm mountain I broadcast my last late night edition of my 850 KOA radio show. Sorry to disappoint you, but no, I am not leaving Denver radio. But I will be getting some sleep. I’ll still be filling in for all your favs like Boyles, Rosen, Caplis and gang. Also I be hosting my own show on 630 KHOW Sunday evenings. I’ll tell you all about it tonight.

The important thing is that we stay in touch. My Facebook page is filled to the maximum 5000 friends, so PLEASE “like” my fan page by clicking here.

Also please follow me on Twitter by clicking here.

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Are people with concealed handgun carry permits a menace to society?

Posted by on Dec 28 2011 | guns, Press, Right to carry

According to the New York Times, the answer seems to be “yes.” An article in yesterday’s Times by Michael Luo collects some anecdotes about misbehavior by a few licensees in North Carolina. The Times article has some numbers in it, and it provides the number of North Carolinians with carry permits (240,000). After a thorough search of North Carolina records, the Times finds that about 1% of permitees were convicted of something, other than a traffic offense, over the past five years. Of these 2,400 convictions, by far the largest group is “nearly 900 permit holders were convicted of drunken driving, a potentially volatile circumstance given the link between drinking and violence.”

“Drunk driving” (which, I would guess, the Times uses as a shorthand for lesser offenses such as driving while impaired) is a serious crime in itself. But just because a woman has three glasses of wine with dinner at a restaurant, and then gets caught in a police checkpoint, doesn’t make her some “potentially volatile” person who is going to murder somebody in an inebriated rage.

In any large population (e.g., 240,000) there will be at least a small percentage who over a period of time are found guilty of some crimes. This does not mean that that population as a whole is dangerous. It would have been useful to compare the conviction rates of North Carolinians who have carry licenses with the convictions rates of those who do not. I suspect that the non-licensee crime rate would be much higher, especially for violent gun crimes.

In a 2009 article in the Connecticut Law Review, I collected data from Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. (The state data begin on page 564 of the article.) The data show that concealed carry licensees are much more law-abiding than the general population, and that the rate of gun misuse of any sort (let alone having something to do with violence in  public place) is less than one in one thousand.

Instapundit collects some other responses to the Times‘ effort to foment hysteria and prejudice against the persons who exercise the constitutional right to carry firearms for lawful protection.

[This post was corrected in response to reader comments, including the fact that I wrongly wrote that the Times had not reported the total number of licensees.]

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Prop 103: Colorado’s Job Killing Tax Increase

Posted by on Oct 20 2011 | Economic LIberties, Economics, Economy, Government Largess, PPC, Press, Proposition 103, Taxes

Yesterday the Independence Institute held a press conference here in Golden to illustrate the job destroying results if Proposition 103, Sen. Rollie Heath’s tax hike, passes this November. Like I say in the video below, we wondered, “how in the world can we show the domino effect of job loss if Prop 103 passes? People’s jobs will fall like dominoes! How do we show this???” Well, after much thought and some whiskey, we finally came up with the perfect illustration… LET’S KNOCK THOUSANDS OF DOMINOES DOWN! So I got on the phone and called up 5-time domino world record holder Robert Speca to see if he wanted to come to Colorado to knock some dominoes down. Thankfully, he said yes and within a day, he was out near our offices in Golden setting up thousands upon thousands of dominoes to represent all of the jobs that will be lost if Prop 103 passes.

Yesterday at 2pm, we held the press conference and I was the lucky guy who got to push the first domino over. It was REALLY fun! In total, Robert the “Domino Wizard” set up 5,500 dominoes, with each domino representing TWO jobs lost due to this tax increase. Take a look at the video below to see the job killing destruction Prop 103 will wreak on our economy. Prop 103: Colorado’s job killing tax increase:

Fox31′s political reporter Eli Stokels also covered our event. Here is the article and video they took. You’ll notice in the video that Eli Stokols makes a mistake. He says that only 1,100 jobs will be lost because of Prop 103. Oops. It’s actually 11,000. Eleven thousand. Big difference.

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Suggestions for your periodical reading list

Posted by on Jun 29 2011 | Media, Press, Self-indulgent Academic Rumination

(David Kopel)

Although on-line reading continues to grow, many people still enjoy old-fashioned printed periodicals. In the spirit of gratuitous advice, here are some suggestions for print subscriptions.

First of all, if you’re conscientious about registering for the frequent flyer program every time you step on an airplane, you may accumulate a few thousand points on various airlines which you fly only occasionally. You’ll never get to the level of a free ticket, but the points expire if you don’t use them. So use them for magazine subscriptions. I’ve been enjoying the daily Wall Street Journal that way for several years, and have used low-level points for dozens of other year-long or half-year subscriptions over the past decades.

Second, there’s a lot to be said for trying many different periodicals with one-time subscriptions. You may find a magazine that becomes indispensable for you (as The New Republic was for me, for about 15 years), but just reading something for a year or a half-year can broaden your knowledge, and then you can move on to something else.

Some category recommendations:

Newsweeklies: Back in the olden days of the 1970s, these were truly great. Then, the daily New York Times wasn’t available outside of the New York area, and the Wall Street Journal was sparse on non-business news. Time and Newsweek, and to a lesser extent U.S. News & World Report, provided in-depth, thoroughly-reported stories of the major issue of the week, the deep inside of presidential campaigns, and so on. These days, it’s hard to make a case for reading the remnants of those once-important magazines.

The Economist is still probably the most influential periodical in the world. If you read its U.S. coverage, you’ll quickly discover that the analysis is not nearly so sharp and insightful as the omniscient tone would imply, and that the coverage has numerous blind spots and biases. Knowing how flawed the U.S. coverage is makes me question The Economist’s accuracy on topics for which I don’t know enough to judge the coverage. So in a sense, the less you know about something, the more useful The Economist is. For example, the latest issue had an article explaining that Poland is going full speed ahead with natural gas development via fracking. Because I previously had never thought about Polish natural gas, I learned a lot by reading the article. Overall, The Economist is still a strong source for weekly world news, as long as you don’t take its editorial judgements too seriously.

If you read French, Courrier International is definitely worth a trial subscription. This Paris-based weekly takes stories from newspapers all over the world, and translates them into French. You’ll get acquainted with many fine newspapers. I ultimately gave up on Courrier because their story and source selection leaned so heavily to the official left. If the choice is between a particular nation’s version of The Guardian vs. The Telegraph, Courrier almost always goes with the former. Their special issues were particularly tendentious and one-sided. But since tastes vary, I’d recommend that people who read French give it a try.

Le Figaro, one of the leading French daily newspapers, publishes a weekly edition for a U.S. audience. It’s well-written, and has good coverage of all the Francophone world, including African analysis that is hard to find in U.S. papers. As with The Economist and Courrier International, there’s also plenty of European news that you won’t find in the U.S. dailies. Le Figaro is right-wing by French standards, which places its approximately in the same zone as the New York Times. Le Monde, which is left-wing by French standards, also has a weekly; I’ve read occasional issues, but never subscribed, and, ideology aside, Le Figaro has bigger print and better layout.

Business and Finance: If you’re a law student, or in the same general age group, the time to start learning about business and investing is now. Don’t wait until you’ve saved $50,000 in a 401(k)  and have to figure out where to put it. The sooner you start reading and thinking about investing and business, the more you’ll see fads and bubbles come and go, and the less likely you’ll be to invest foolishly 25 years from now, or to allow yourself to be led around by a self-dealing financial advisor. Besides, whatever kind of lawyer you become (or whatever other career), you’ll almost certainly be more useful to clients and yourself if you have some background knowledge of business–whether you’re serving as a volunteer on the Board of a small non-profit, or urging your friend not to spend his life savings on program trading.

Forbes, Fortune, and Business Week remain the big three of the business magazines. Give each of them a try, and pick your favorite. I life Forbes, for excellent writing, and its pro-capitalist orientation. Barron’s is worth a trial subscription. It’s purely about investing, not about business in general. For a person just starting to think about the stock markets and other financial investments, Barron’s is a good choice. You may not want the avalance of daily information that comes in the Wall Street Journal or Investor’s Business Daily. Rather, in the learning stage, you may be better off with the weekly perspective. Especially useful are the big articles which provide the viewpoints of numerous experts on a major topic (e.g., how will the economy perform in the next 12 months?). As you’ll find, experts, even well-qualified and sincere ones, are often wrong about economic predictions. One of the reasons to start reading the business/finance press early in life is to develop a healthy skepticism about following any single expert’s advice.

Money is OK if you know absolutely nothing about money, and have to start at the very beginning.

New York City:  If you’ve ever lived there, it’s fun to stay in touch. Of course the New York Times takes care of this for plenty of readers who used to live in The City, but there are other options. New York magazine is lively and interesting, and captures the NY feel in a way that the Times doesn’t. It also sometimes has strong reporting on national politics. Also worth trying is the weekly New York Observer newspaper, which has great coverage of state and city politics. As with New York, the political slant is firmly to the left, but the factual reporting can sometimes be very good. The New Yorker remains, for eight decades running, the best cartoon magazine in the world. It has, unfortunately, also become a favorite vehicle for character assassination–sort of a highbrow version of ProgressNow. I’d trust its non-fiction articles only on topics which don’t involve U.S. politics.

Legal newspapers: Especially if you can get a law student discount subscription, the National Law Journal (general national news), Legal Times (D.C. focus), and American Lawyer (corporate lawyers) are all worth trying. The same goes for any local/regional law paper in your area, such as New York Law Journal. Because of the Internet, none of these are probably as influential as they were 20 years ago, but they’re still a good way to diversify your diet of legal news.

Daily newspaper: Coverage of legal issues in the mainstream daily press is typically horrible, with stories tending to concentrate only on who won or lost, while leaving the reader in the dark about the precise legal issue in dispute. But for general coverage of the state where you live, there is still nothing that comes remotely close to the daily newspaper. So if you live in the Denver area, you ought to be a daily reader the Denver Post; in Dallas,  the Dallas Morning News, and so on. Yes, those papers can be biased and selective, but they’re still far superior to any other single source for state and local coverage.

On top of that, I’d recommend a high-quality national newspaper. In other words, the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. The Times has a much larger “news hole,” except for business news. But the Journal’s new stories are much less likely to be DNC opinion essays misplaced in the news section. While both papers are well-written, the Journal is better-written. And the Journal’s Friday/Saturday culture and leisure coverage has gotten quite good. For the Times, I’d recommend a partial weekly subscription (e.g., Monday to Friday), rather than the Sunday paper. You’ll get a better variety of stories in the weekday editions, and the weekly special section on Science and Technology is sometimes excellent.  The Sunday Times does have the Book Review, which is now more important than ever, given the harsh cutbacks in book reviews at almost every other newspaper. But you can always subscribe to the Book Review separately, if it’s important to you.

For a change of pace, London’s Financial Times can sometimes be obtained with airline points. Like the Wall Street Journal, it’s a business newspaper which covers lots of regular news, and some culture. And of course plenty of U.K. news. The editorial viewpoint might, roughly speaking, be considered somewhat similar to The Economist: supportive of free markets and globalization in general, but not at all afraid of big government activism.

Gun Week: Despite the title, published tri-monthly by the Second Amendment Foundation. Pre-Internet, the indispensible source of news on the firearms industry and the gun control issue. Even today, the best single source for people who follow the topic closely.

Bonus on-line reading: One of the big differences between the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times is reporting on the United Nations. The Journal has done excellent investigative reporting on the U.N. The Times has also done some good work, as in coverage of the “peacekeeping” fiasco in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But Times coverage of U.N. HQ often consists of running p.r. interference on behalf of the U.N. For daily coverage of the U.N., by far the best source in the world is the indefatigable Matthew Lee, of the on-line Inner City Press. Lee’s personal viewpoint is definitely from the Left, but he is relentless at digging into the corruption, lies, and human rights abuses perpetrated by an organization which too often escapes serious journalistic scrutiny, all the more so because of budget cuts in international coverage in most of the rest of the media. To his credit, the United Nations Development Programme temporarily convinced Google News to disappear Inner City Press.

p.s.: In response to some of the comments: Legal Times and National Law Journal merged last year; all the more reason for law students to give NLJ a chance, I guess. The above periodicals are only a small fraction of the periodicals to which I subscribe, and those to which I’ve subscribed in the past. Not included are categories including public affairs (e.g., Mother Jones, Natonal Review, Reason), Congress (National Journal etc.), hobby/lifestyle (Sky & Telescope), sports (Field & Stream), or scholarly journals. I’ll write about some of those when mood strikes.


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