My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Unambitious State Education Plan

The Democrat chairpersons of the two Education Committees down at the statehouse announced their intentions for the upcoming sessions today.

"We're not looking to throw everything out and start over again," said incoming Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sue Windels, D-Arvada. "We'll fix anything that doesn't make sense, that isn't fair, that isn't logical."

Hmm. Sounds suspiciously reasonable. What about the House?

"The atmosphere will be different," he said. "We will be treating each other, members of the committee, members of the audience, with respect."

Also, suspiciously reasonable.

Is anybody else starting to see a pattern here?

Consider these statements, which notably completely ignore the CSAP, a test which the education lobby would love to see eliminated. Also consider recent statements about TABOR and other taxes, and with regards to other issues, and you see a systematic effort by the Dems. To do what? you might ask.

To appear reasonable. To claim the center of the road. To capitalize on their gains in the last election by firmly claiming the middle of Colorado politics. Perhaps they learned their lesson of 2002: when the Dem Senate fought with a distincly partisan tinge, they managed to lose power in 2002. So this time around, they're trying to come across in a very different light--and, by the way, in a fashion that they will be able to say draws a stark contrast between them and how the GOP did things.

Does anybody really think the Dems in the statehouse are really center of the road? Not likely, I should think. But as a political strategem it has a lot of merit. I suspect any attempt at a grand liberal piece of legislation will be put out very quietly and run through with little to-do. In the meantime, they position themselves to maintain control of the legislature, and maybe even strengthen their hand for re-gaining the Governor's Mansion in 2006.

That would when they push their serious legislation through. We bloggers have much work to do over the next two years.


From the Depaartment of Stupid Ideas Based On Old Numbers. . .

The New York Times is running a brilliant editorial this morning. I know I shouldn't be surprised or get at all worked up about the Grey Lady's stupidity, but this one couldn't go by.

President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy." "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.

We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

First of all, by the time this runs, it will be two days that the number has been sitting at $35 million, a number which is still DWARFED by the independent giving of Americans, which so far have pledged into the hundreds of millions. Add to this the non-monetary aid of US military transport planes, ships and personnel, and the picture is of a far more generous giving than the NYTimes can possibly comprehend.

Of course, this sort of thing wouldn't fit in with the meme of "USA bad"; but you would hope that they would at least try to get the numbers right.

Oh, and the little slap towards the inauguration? That's PRIVATE MONEY, you nitwits; and, once given to a political party, fairly strictly controlled as to its appropriate uses. Perhaps you ought to be questioning George Soros about whether some of his vast personal wealth could be appropriately spent helping out the disaster victims.


On A Lighter Note

The Denver Nuggets fired their coach tonight after a stretch which has seen them lose 7 out of 10.

The Nuggets announced the decision at a press conference this morning. Michael Cooper will step in as interim coach.

While I'm not sure too much can be laid at Bzdelik's feet for this season, especially after the injury to Carmello Anthony about a week ago, it was widely speculated before the season the Denver's future and Bzdelik's did not run together.

I also like the hire of Michael Cooper, a man who gained fame as a player in the offensive system known as "showtime." At the very least, one can expect the Nuggets under Cooper to play an entertaining brand of basketball.

Which is refreshing, given the generally miserable entertainment value of most NBA action.

Beyond Comprehension

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Desperate refugees foraged for coconuts or looted food on battered Sumatra island Tuesday, as the number killed in a mammoth earthquake and tsunami (search) soared above 55,000 and tens of thousands still were missing. Grieving survivors buried their dead by hand, trying to ward off an epidemic that the U.N. health agency warned could double the toll yet again.

I have no capacity to get my arms around the staggering cost of human life in this tragedy. The possibility that the number may double due to disease is daunting.

And so I pray for the people, the governments, and the relief workers on whose courage and strength thousands more lives will turn.

I also thank God to be living in America. Not to diminish the scope of the disaster, or to undervalue the power of Nature, but had such an event happened in America, we might only be talking about hundreds dead. Just another byproduct of living in this country.


Just For A Laugh

If you want to read an extraordinary exercise in statistical and rhetorical gymnastics, read this piece in Slate (courtesy RCP) titled "Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966).

First of all, the authors, Philip Carter and Owen West, delay pointing out the nearly 5 to 1 ratio of U.S. combat deaths between 1966 and 2004 until the sixth paragraph--kinda late for a piece about numbers:

In 1966, for example, 5,008 U.S. servicemen were killed in action in Vietnam. Another 1,045 died of "non-hostile" wounds (17 percent of the total fatalities). Since Jan. 1, 2004, 754 U.S. servicemen and -women have been killed in action in Iraq, and 142 more soldiers died in "non-hostile" mishaps (16 percent of the fatalities, similar to Vietnam).

But what they give the reader in the third graf shows where they're really going with this:

But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966—and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today's grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia.

Got that? Because of changes in how we treat wounds, approach battlefield treatment of wounds, and fight wars (?), we're allowed to tinker with the numbers, and what we're going to demonstrate is that this war is just as bad as Vietnam 1966.

What follows is a laughable application of numbers and statistics to pull the relative deaths into a virtual tie, thus forwarding the meme that Iraq is Vietnam. Never mind that there's still that pesky 5-1 ratio, or that in 1966 North Vietnam was completely outside American control, not to mention that the Vietcong were being supported by China (a major power) while Iraq's insurgency is being supported on the QT by Syria and Iran (minor powers). Oh, and, let's not forget that there's that little issue of the handover of power and elections on the horizon.

At least they attempt to conclude with a head fake towards balance:

Critics of the war may use this analysis as one more piece of ammunition to attack the effort; some supporters may continue to refer to casualties as "light," noting that typically tens of thousands of Americans must die in war before domestic support crumbles. Both miss the point.

I think the "both" in question is actually West and Carter.

Don't Expect To See This In MSM

This survey in the Military Times, via Powerline via USA Today, shows that the men and women in harm's way are more on board with this war than the general public.

Sixty-three percent of respondents approve of the way President Bush (news - web sites) is handling the war, and 60% remain convinced it is a war worth fighting. Support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting.

I suppose this doesn't really surprise me very much. My sense, from the limited exposure I do have to military personnel, is that they love doing their jobs and think of their jobs as important, regardless of where they have to do that job.

But this one does surprise me, and brings a little chuckle:

60% blame Congress for the shortage of body armor in the combat zone.

Now, what would surprise me even more would be to find a report on this survey anywhere near the front page of a newspaper or in the first five minutes of a broadcast tomorrow night. Of course, we all know how big the headline would be if the survey brought up the opposite result; let's see what the MSM does with this particular information.


Teacher Turnover, Test Scores, and Bad Reporting

The Friday Rocky Mountain News ran this story about teacher turnover. It starts out well enough:

About one in five Colorado teachers changes schools in a typical year, a rate of flux that is above the national average . . .

but within the first paragraph begins to unravel:

. . .and one that appears to be directly linked to student achievement on state exams.

• Teacher turnover or "churn" is higher where test scores are lower, with a 17 percent churn rate in schools rated excellent by the state and spiking to 23 percent in schools rated low and unsatisfactory.

What the data here is reflecting is a COROLLARY relationship between teacher turnover and student achievement; that is, these two occurrences are happening simultaneously. What the story is trying to suggest is a CAUSAL relationship, saying that teacher turnover is the cause of low student achievement. Any person who has ever taken a statistics class, the difference is pretty significant. It's akin to saying that being married is the cause of divorce; of course the one exists in relation to the other, but it's much harder to say that one is the cause of the other.

In this case, the causes of low achievement and teacher turnover could easily--and likely--be factors completely outside of the school. Issues of student mobility, discipline, and support from home have enormous effects on both student achievement AND teacher job satisfaction (and thus, retention). There is also the external factor of difficulty attracting teachers to "difficult" schools, and thus these schools needing to hire from the ranks of the young and inexperienced. Such teachers leave the field at a far greater rate than older teachers, and for many different reasons, not the least of which is discovering that they don't like teaching.

It isn't, to me, that the story is dealing in with turnover; it's that it's doing it in a way that is misleading from a strictly statistical standpoint. I should think that this case could be made using better numbers or more accurate reporting of numbers.

All that said, this IS an interesting story. That there exists a correlational link between turnover and achievement is only half of the story; the next obvious question is "what are school districts doing to attract and retain teachers in low achieving schools?". Fortunately, Denver has at least begun to address the problem:

He said he expects to propose early next year the creation of school "zones" free from some contract restrictions. He cited initiatives elsewhere, including New York and San Francisco, where school leaders have identified groups of underperforming schools for special interventions.

In San Francisco, for example, some low-achieving schools are being converted to "Dream Schools" with tougher curriculums, longer school days and student uniforms. Teachers in those schools are being asked to reapply for their jobs, which has touched off union protests.

I would have never guessed that the Denver School system would become the incubator of serious education reform in the state, but between this idea and the performance-pay initiative last year, this district is quickly leaping to the head of the class for education reform. I wonder if other school districts--and, more importantly--teacher unions are watching (ahem. . .calling Jefferson County Education Association).

In one other little note, the article points out:

• Teachers in charter schools posted higher turnover rates than teachers in traditional schools in each of the four years studied.

I saw numbers last year that showed the same sort of phenomenon is even more pronounced for charter school administrators. Surely, this data tracks correlationally to the data that seems to be coming out about charter school test scores. I've also seen data that shows charter school employees citing "intrusive" and "interfering" parents as the biggest source of job dissatisfaction, leading to this kind of turnover. Not coincidentally, I think it's also that sort of thing which leads "traditional" schools and educators to turn their noses up at charter schools. Perhaps part of the long-term solution for charter schools should include efforts to retain teachers by buffering the staff from parents.

I know, that fundamentally alters what charter schools are supposed to be about. On the other hand, failure will also fundamentally alter charter schools, as will continued reliance on new teachers who are not invested in a philosophy and self-serving parents who either want what's best for only their child or who only want to get their hands on a little fiefdom.

I like charter schools, and would like nothing better than for them to prove that different models can be remarkably effective; but I think the movement needs to address a few things to make the whole thing work just a bit better.


Speaking of Bold. . .

From the NYTimes:

President Bush said Thursday that when the new Congress convenes next month he will renominate 12 candidates to the federal appeals courts who were denied confirmation in his first term.

Two nights ago I blogged that I thought one of the hallmarks of this President was his willingness to confront difficult issues. This is a case in point. I love the idea that the President is going to throw a gauntlet down before he's even been inaugurated. I would hope that he does a better job of selling this to the public than during his first term, even if he ignores the individual judges and just makes the case that they deserve an up or down vote, one way or the other. I also like the maneuvering--last week Sen. Frist talks a little about the "nuclear option," and this week the Pres jumps onto the battle field with both feet. I think the message to the Dems is pretty clear: here we come, stop us if you want to, but keep playing games and we'll run you over.

And the Dem response? From Sen. Chuck Schumer:

"In this opening shot, the White House is making it clear that they are not interested in bipartisanship when it comes to nominating judges. This starts to poison the well when everyone on our side was hoping to make a new start."

Yep, EVERYBODY on your side was hoping to make a new start. Here's your new start--DO YOUR JOB!

Oh, and from the "No good deed goes unpunished" department:

It has been my hope that we might be able to approach this whole issue with some cooler perspective. I would have preferred to have some time in the 109th Congress to improve the climate to avoid judicial gridlock and future filibusters."

Who else but Arlen Specter? That's chutzpah for you. On the other hand, if he expresses these reservations, but then shepherds all of these through the committee and to a real floor vote, that would be quite a feat of political gamesmanship.

For me, in this election, the Judiciary was THE number one issue in the Senate race. I think for everyone out there like me, who was outraged by the treatment Bush nominees got by Senate Dems, this is a very gratifying act on the President's part. It more than justifies our efforts on his behalf on this issue.

Now, holding together that majority and getting anything done with these. . .that may be the real trick.


Continuing to Move The Debate

President Bush has, to my mind, two signature characteristics through which he governs: one is a willingness to be bold and tackle serious issues in ways that used to be considered "dangerous;" and the second is his ability to move issues down the field through his persistence.

For example, in 2000 one of the key components of the political playing field was the budget surplus--W wanted to return that to the people through a tax cut. When the surplus melted away with the Clinton recession, the President wanted to bolster the economy through a . . . tax cut. One year later, the economy rocked by 9/11, the President moved to stabilize Americans' wallets through a . . . tax cut. As a result, what was one key feature of John Kerry's economic plan this past year. That's right--a middle-class tax cut. But sticking to his guns and persisting in the idea that cutting taxes is good under any circumstances, this President reshaped the field so that his opposition was no longer to tax cuts, but to the specifics of how to cut taxes.

And now, W's doing it with Social Security. From the WaPo:

Note: the following quotes contain only factual information, and have been edited to remove all WaPo (read: Dana Milbank) editorializing

President Bush has wide support for his argument that Social Security needs dramatic change to meet its obligations to future retirees . . .63 percent, do not think Social Security will have enough money to pay the benefits they are entitled to, and 74 percent think the system faces either major problems or is in crisis -- as Bush has asserted. The president also has at least general support from 53 percent of the public for the concept of letting people control some of their contributions to invest in the market.

This President has, once again, managed to take a dangerous issue and move the ball down the field by--of all the crazy ideas--actually TALKING TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC about it. And it is paying off, both in the survey, and with the direction of the discourse.

Some people described the Democratic options toward Bush's plan as either "yes, but" or "hell, no." Reflecting the first approach, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has endorsed individual investment accounts, but as a supplement to Social Security that would leave the traditional benefit intact. "The best critique is a plan of our own rather than a defense of the status quo, and our plan must reveal the weaknesses in Bush's own plan," he said.

If somebody as smart and as politically savvy--in a safe district--as Emanuel comes around to the idea of partial privatization, the Democrats should pay attention.

And here comes that word again--LEADERSHIP. This President, for all his syntactic foibles, is the strongest leader of my lifetime, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan.

Gregoire Successfully Steals Election!!

Or, at least, that's the headline I would have put on this story.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The head of the state Democratic Party said late Tuesday that recount results from King County give Democrat Christine Gregoire an eight-vote victory in the closest governor's race in state history.

Neither King County nor the Republican party could confirm the hand recount results on Tuesday night. But if the Democrats' analysis is correct, it's a stunning reversal in the gubernatorial race, which has been hotly contested ever since election day.

I don't know how much I really care about this, except that it's yet another example of Democrats pushing through the courts what they couldn't win at the ballot box. Just on that principle alone, I was pulling for Dino Rossi.

On the other hand, Washington state's ports could play a crucial role in Homeland Security, so it would be nice if responsible people were in charge of state government there.

Whatever the results, it should make for somewhat amusing reading over the next several days. Stay tuned. . .


It just occurred to me that I passed the one-year mark for maintaining this blog about two days ago.

Thank you, everybody who happens to chck in occassionally to see what's on my mind. I hope, in some tiny way, that I have added to the discourse, caused a few people to think a little, or given ammunition to those who share my viewpoint.

As for me, blogging has caused me to be better informed than I otherwise would be--because, let's face it, putting something in writing begs for a certain clarity of information that I might eschew if my conversations were just with me and my friends. It has also given me the opportunity to clarify my thoughts and improve my writing--doing it every day is like exercise for my brain.

But the best part of blogging is, by far, the new relationships I have formed with members of the Rocky Mountain Alliance and with readers who regularly contribute thoughts to my blog. I am truly appreciative of the opportunity to "spout off" and be "spouted" at in return.

And how, might you ask, am I going to celebrate my blogiverary? By trying to find a way off of blogger. It's been a great startup tool, but it's time to move on. Any thoughts? Keep in mind my skills (limited as they are) run to the creative, not the technical.

Old Math, New Math, Red Math, Blue Math

I always have an eye out for education stories, particularly ones that show the folly of "modern" approaches to education--most of which turn out to be philosophically dubious and largely ineffective.

So this story buried in the WaPo caught my eye. Read the whole article and learn little, until you get to this paragraph:

In an effort to help bring clarity to the math wars, the Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 147 studies done on the effectiveness of 19 math programs used in schools today. The conclusion, released this summer: Not one study had been carried out well enough to prove a program's effectiveness.

"Don't believe a thing said to you associated with the phrase 'research shows,' " said W. Stephen Wilson, a Johns Hopkins University mathematics professor.

Gotta tell ya, from an educator's standpoint, that's not very encouraging news. So, really, what makes the difference?

There are programs successful in some schools, but there isn't a single best one, according to experts, who emphasize it often comes down to teachers: how well they understand math and how much they have been taught about the program their school is using.

"All the program can do in the best case is be correct, efficient and accessible. Then it is up to the teacher," Schmid said.

Oh. So, teaching is actually important? It's not just something for people who can't make it in the real world? And it matters whether they're good or not?

While this article is about math, it's lesson can be applied across the curriculum--There Is No Magic Bullet. Period. The best planned curriculum in the world still has to be delivered in an effective way by a highly skilled and motivated teacher who is often grossly underpaid (though the benefits, I gotta say, are killer good!) for what they are asked to do.

And perhaps this is where charter schools have a great advantage over the more conventional public school: a charter school teacher may have the opportunity to select materials and curriculum that suits them and their teaching style best to convey to the students their materials. And while public school teachers have learned to be much more creative since the advent of required testing, I think there are still a great many restrictions--both structurally and culturally--to real innovation.

By the way, one innovation that charter schools can implement if they choose which would make all the difference: merit pay. Just a thought.


Education Agenda

I happen to be on the mailing list of my State Senator, Sue Windels, who will be the chairperson of the Senate Education Committee this time around. This week's missive includes these tidbits:

My five bill titles have been submitted. Four of them deal with education issues. The fifth concerns penalties for failure to reveal a positive HIV status. My education bills are efforts to refine, correct, and make fair and logical our state's current public policy in some of the major education areas. The four areas, each with a bill title, are: (1) School Accountability (making one report rather than the three conflicting reports we currently have with the School Report Card, No Child Left Behind and Accreditation) -- (2) Charter Schools -- (3) Online Education Accountability --- and (4) Higher Education's Voucher Program passed last session. I will write more about each of these in subsequent messages.

Keep a close eye on this space. I don't particularly have a position on a couple of these, but that #2 could be a big issue. With the recent attacks on Charter Schools through the NAEP and teachers' unions, I suspect that this bill will be one that reins in some of the autonomy (and thus, effectiveness) of charter schools.

Leadership and Competition--and Losing

I have a few quick thoughts on the Denver Broncos' demise of late.

A friend of mine, who lived in Arizona for several years, has been trying to tell me for over a year that you cannot win with Jake Plummer behind center. And, slowly, I have been coming around to that very realization.

If you look at the kinds of losses the Broncos have suffered this year--anything from this weekend's debacle to the San Diego loss--the key ingredient that seems to be missing from the team is not talent, not scheme, not effort, but leadership.

Think about it. What set John Elway apart? It wasn't his arm--his earlier years when his arm was strongest were among his worst in terms of wins and losses. It wasn't his ability to scramble--he didn't win Super Bowls until his slower years. John Elway did not start winning until the team was his--until he was not only the titular leader of the team but the field general, as well. Who can forget the famous line "we've got them right where we want them" as teh team was staring down a 98-yard field with less than 4 minutes to play in a cold and hostile Cleveland Municipal Stadium? That is leadership--conveying to your team at all times the belief that the task can be done, and, if not by everybody, than by you personally. I would submit that that is the same characteristic which sets apart Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Brett Farvre. .er. . and any other massively successful NFL QB.

And why Jake Plummer will never belong in that category.

In the most crucial game of the year, with the game on the line and all the momentum in his team's favor, Jake lobs a weak pass to the wrong part of the end zone, giving San Diego a chance to make a great play, which they did. This week, when the game was still a little in doubt, Denver driving for a momentum-shifting score, Plummer lobs a weak pass towards the sideline--where his receiver used to be but where the defensive back is. Crucial moments, major mistakes--not the sort of thing that inspires confidence.

Don't get me wrong--I don't think all the problems with the Broncos start and end with the QB. What I do think is that there is no way a man who makes that many mistakes will ever be able to steal the one or two games that set a great team apart from a decent team.


Charter Schools and the NAEP

From Diana Jean Schemo in the NYTimes:

A federal Education Department analysis of test scores from 2003 shows that children in charter schools generally did not perform as well on exams as those in regular public schools. The analysis, released Wednesday, largely confirms an earlier report on the same statistics by the American Federation of Teachers.

The department, analyzing the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test for fourth graders, found charter students scoring significantly lower than regular public school students in math, even when the results are broken down for low-income children and those in cities.

Then, from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce:

U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) today called attention to a new report that refutes claims made by charter school opponents about student academic performance in the nation's fledging charter schools. The report, released today by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), shows there is no measurable difference between white, African-American and Hispanic fourth graders enrolled in charter schools and students of similar backgrounds in traditional public schools in mathematics and reading scores on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

"This is the second major report released in recent days showing that charter schools are not 'falling short' by comparison to their traditional public school counterparts, as some charter school opponents have claimed," said Boehner.

According to the report, there was no measurable difference in mathematics between the performance of white, African-American and Hispanic fourth-graders enrolled in charter schools and traditional public schools. In reading, there was no measurable difference between students with similar ethnic backgrounds in charter schools and traditional public schools, despite the fact that "charter schools have higher proportions of students from groups that typically perform lower on NAEP than other public schools have."

So which "report" is right?

Maddeningly, it is very likely that both reports are correct. That is the problem with isolated raw datae--without context, they tend only to reveal what somebody wants them to reveal.

For instance, to pick up on the point at the end of the House quote: it is entirely possible that charter schools do perform at a level slightly below the average public school. For instance, little Charlie Charter, a fourth grader, may be reading at only a second grade level, while Peter Public, also a fourth grader, is reading at a third grade level. At a surface glance, CC is behind PP.

But that doesn't interest me very much. Suppose the reason Charlie is in a charter school is because his parents recognized that he was not getting the type of instruction he needed in third grade--a very reasonable supposition. Further suppose that what brought Mr. & Mrs. Charter to this conclusion was that at the end of third grade Charlie was barely reading at a Kindergarten level.

Looked at that way, Charlie has made remarkable progress in the charter school, even though the raw data suggests that the charter school is being "outperformed" by the traditional school.

The question should not be how do charter schools perform in relation to public schools--the question should be how do charter STUDENTS perform in relation to how they could reasonably be expected to perform in a traditional school.

But that's not the end of the contradictions. First, from the Times:

Also, schools that were not chartered by a school district but functioned as independent districts tended to do worse than those over which districts exercised some oversight.

Then from the House Committee Report:

Students attending charter schools where schools administrators had control over teacher and staff employment decisions scored three points higher on average than students who attended charter schools without the ability to make employment decisions.

---At charter schools where administrators had control over curriculum requirements, students scored eighteen points higher on average than students attending charter schools without this leeway.

---Students attending charter schools where administrators had control of finances and autonomous budget authority scored twelve points higher on average than students attending charter schools where administrators did not have this option.

So, how to resolve this apparent contradiction? Well, the Times cites no numbers, employs no expert analysis, and does nothing to demonstrate its point. The House Committee, on the other hand, puts out three very specific, measureable indicators which support its position. Score that argument point for the Charter Schools.

The Times article does reference the House Committee's work, but immediately follows it up with a rebuttal by--surprise, surprise--a teachers' union representative.

Look, I've had some very close dealings with charter schools, and I find them a mixed bag. In some cases they are a wonderful niche environment to serve a population that needs a different approach. I also found it astounding how many resources the charter schoool had at its disposal compared to traditional schools. For a teacher or administrator looking to do something innovative, a charter school is really a great way to go--still within the public system, but (in many cases) largely autonomous and self-governing.

However, charter schools are not a panacea for all that ills education. Many charter schools are subject to abyssmal fiscal management, and many of them fail to ever articulate a clear purpose for their existence. There is also data that suggest schools run by parent oversight committees--as charter schools often are--tend to have staff and administrator turnover rates between three and five times higher than a traditional school. And, believe me, students appreciate and respond to a stable environment. So, in many cases, schools that start out doing extraordinary things become quite ordinary after a few years when they lose all the people who created the school to start with (this tracks with another quote in the Times' piece: the only charter schools that outperformed regular public schools in reading were those that had been in operation for less than a year. Otherwise, test scores generally declined the longer a school had been operating as a charter.

The one thing that all of these contradictions should lead us all to do is to go to the next level--read the NAEP data and research, and take the middle men (Schemo and the House) out.

We should also all recognize what is most often true of every "innovation": charter schools are neither a "magic bullet" (as charter advocates sometimes argue), nor are they the fall of Western Civilization (as teachers unions tend to argue). The beauty of charter schools is that each one of them is, or, at least, CAN and SHOULD be, unique. If a certain charter school meshes with a certain students' need, it can be a wonderful thing. But square students cannot be forced into round schools and expect to thrive.

Sadly, most traditional public schools are round, and students come in many shapes and sizes.


Bad Science From The U.N.

On the MSNBC website tonight's headline story is 2004 was fourth-warmest year on record--U.N. conference seeks cuts in greenhouse gases .

While I thought it was a rather mild year in the Mile High City, I understand that conditions were a little harsher elsewhere. But I think the immediate jump to curb "greenhouse gases" is what is so amusing. From the bulk of the text:

The year 2004, punctuated by four powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and deadly typhoons lashing Asia, was the fourth-hottest on record, extending a trend since 1990 that has registered the 10 warmest years, a U.N. weather agency said Wednesday. . .

The release of the report by the World Meteorological Organization came as environmental ministers from some 80 countries gathered in Buenos Aires for a United Nations conference on climate change, looking at ways to cut down on greenhouse gases that some say contribute heavily to Earth’s warming.

Note how they throw that little nugget in at the very end of a thought--"that some say contribute heavily to Earth's warming." You might think that would lead in to at least a tiny inquiry into what others say contribute to the earth's warming.

You would be wrong. Nowhere in the article is a dissenting opinion cited; instead, MSNBC spends its ink citing the recent string of unusual climate behaviors and implicitly blaming the whole thing on global waring=greenhouse gases=human activity.

Would it have been too much to ask for the MSNBC-ers to find just one dissent? Perhaps--I had to go all the way down to the fifth citation on the first page of a Google search of "global warming sun temperatures." There I find a paper by the National Center for Public Policy Research titled "Sun To Blame For Global Warming." And this paper was written in 1998, when National Centers were more or less under the control of the Clinton Administration, so I think there may be a bit more than the usual credibility here. And, from the outset, this paper makes it clear that the NCPPR finds global warming arguments unpersuasive:

Those looking for the culprit responsible for global warming have missed the obvious choice - the sun. While it may come as a newsflash to some, scientific evidence conclusively shows that the sun plays a far more important role in causing global warming and global cooling than any other factor, natural or man-made.

Further in:

It wasn't until 1980, with the aid of NASA satellites, that scientists definitively proved that the sun's brightness - or radiance - varies in intensity, and that these variations occur in predictable cyclical patterns. This was a crucial discovery because the climate models used by greenhouse theory proponents always assumed that the sun's radiance was constant. With that assumption in hand, they could ignore solar influences and focus on other influences, including human.

That turned out to be a reckless assumption. Further investigation revealed that there is a strong correlation between the variations in solar irradiance and fluctuations in the Earth's temperature. When the sun gets dimmer, the Earth gets cooler; when the sun gets brighter, the Earth gets hotter. So important is the sun in climate change that half of the 1.5° F temperature increase since 1850 is directly attributable to changes in the sun. According to NASA scientists David Lind and Judith Lean, only one-quarter of a degree can be ascribed to other causes, such as greenhouse gases, through which human activities can theoretically exert some influence.

So what does MSNBC--or, to be more specific, THE U.N.--think about global warming?

Scientists say a sustained increase in temperature is likely to continue disrupting the global climate, increasing the intensity of storms, potentially drying up farmlands and raising ocean levels, among other things. . . .

The World Meteorological Organization said it expects Earth’s average surface temperature to rise 0.8 degrees above the normal 57 degrees Fahrenheit in 2004, adding this year to a recent pattern that included the four warmest years on record, with the hottest being 1998

And from the NCPPR:

There is no reason to believe that this 10,000-year-old cycle of solar-induced warming and cooling will change. Dr. Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and one of the nation's leading experts on global climate change, believes that we may be nearing the end of a solar warming cycle. Since the last minimum ended in 1715, Baliunas says there is a strong possibility that the Earth will start cooling off in the early part of the 21st Century.

Indeed, it could already be happening. Of the 1.5° F in warming the planet experienced over the last 150 years, two-thirds of that increase, or one degree, occurred between 1850 and 1940. In the last 50 years, the planetary temperature increased at a significantly slower rate of 0.5° F - precisely when dramatically increasing amounts of man-made carbon dioxide emissions should have been accelerating warming. Further buttressing the arguments for future cooling is the evidence from NASA satellites that the global temperature has actually fallen 0.04° F since 1979.

It seems that it's entirely possible that we may be headed into quite a different climatological period than the conventional wisdom is pushing us to. Or not. I think it's important to note that NOBODY KNOWS.

What is interesting and compelling is that one side of the argument rather studiously avoids dealing with actual, measured, measurable scientific data so that their argument can go forward. It's the same side of the argument that pushes this belief on us, and really works to indoctrinate students at all levels into this way of thinking.

It's not the conclusions that bother me--it's the science. I'm not sure exactly when we, as a country, stopped asking for our scientists to behave in a scientific way, and when we started accepting junk science as fact. But it bothers me a lot.

Look, I don't really know what the status is on global warming. I'd be a fool not to notice that the world is a slightly more violent weather-place than it seems it ever was. But then, I also remember summers growing up around here when the thermometer pushed well above 90 every day for what seems like a month.

The point is that one side is using really bad science and rhetoric to makes its case. And that side has a complicit media to push its story. And, generally speaking, given the choice, I avoid drawing ANY conclusions based on bad data.

And A Serious Story About Education

Also from the NYTimes: Headline:

A Second Report Shows Charter School Students Not Performing as Well as Other Students

I don't have time tonight to do the necessary research and thinking on this to comment intelligently--hopefully I can do that tomorrow (why would tomorrow be any different than any other day? I hear you ask. . . .). I just wanted to be sure to put this out there to start a discussion.

It's Not Just American Teachers

from the NYTimes:

TOKYO - Toru Kondo, an English teacher at a public high school here, had never before been reprimanded in his 32-year career. But he was recently required to take a two-hour "special retraining course," lectured on his mistaken ways and given a sheet of paper on which to engage in half an hour of written self-examination.

His offense was to defy the Tokyo Board of Education's new regulation requiring teachers to sing the national anthem while standing and facing the national flag. He and scores of colleagues refused, because for them the rising-sun flag and the anthem, "Kimigayo," or "His Majesty's Reign," are symbols of imperialism.

I guess the difference is that Japanese students are still fairly likely to learn to do math and science and use their native language proficiently.

Now, would that be evidence that goofy ideology can actually co-exist with effective instruction? Hmmmmm. Might be worth pondering.


A Useful Tool For Measuring Education

From this morning's WaPo:

Most days, whenever he has a free moment, Mark Twain Elementary School Principal Scott Ebbrecht can be found peering at the screen of the gray computer on his desk, trying to see exactly how well each student at his Westerville, Ohio, school is doing.

He is using something called value-added assessment, the hottest new tool in the national effort to improve public schools. At 485-student Mark Twain Elementary, a one-story modern brick building on East Walnut Street, the method has already brought results. Ebbrecht recently discovered that his top students, despite their high scores, were not improving as much as the value-added equations predicted, and he quickly made changes.

Value-added, which uses test scores to compare each child's progress to predictions based on past performance, has its critics. Some experts say that the tests are too narrow and that the analysis ignores differences in subject matter. But 16 state school chiefs have asked U.S. Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige to let them use the system or similar measures to meet federal requirements, and districts in at least 35 states have shown interest in using it.

If you ask me, this is the only way to make standardized testing a useful tool for measuring student performance and, by extension, school performance. In fact, Gov. Owens just signed into law a few months ago a bill that would change how Colorado schools get graded on test performance. They are no longer evaluated strictly on raw numbers but rather on the improvement within cohort groups from year to year (that is, same-student performances).

To illustrate the difference, the normal way tests are evaluated is to have the students take the test in, say, fourth grade. You then compare those tests to the performance of last years' fourth graders and make a conclusion about whether the school is getting better or not. See a problem here? In this model, you are comparing apples with green apples; that is, different sets of students at the same school. How do you compensate for strange performace factors in one group that weren't present in the other group? In other words, the scientific design of this model is very weak, and would be tossed out by most Ph.D. boards on the basis of poor baseline comparison value.

In the value-added equation, you evaluate those fourth graders' tests in comparison to LAST YEAR'S third grade tests--that is, with the same student group--and see if they are performing any better as fourth graders than they were as third graders. This allows you to draw some reasonable conclusions about the quality of instruction, and allows you to pinpoint key aspects of education because the controls on that experiment are much tighter. Tennessee has had a model in place for years that works like this, and it is often singled out as the most useful measure of student achievement in the country on a state-wide basis.

Of course, the usual suspects are going to fight this:

Value-added assessment has also become a political irritant because some school boards and superintendents want to pay teachers based on how much value they are adding, as measured by individual student test scores, for students in their classes. In Ohio and most other states, the system is being used only to diagnose student needs, leaving the question of teacher pay for later.

"We use it to improve instruction, not to evaluate teachers," Ebbrecht said. Among his teachers, however, its potential for affecting salaries "is a big fear," he said.

Once again, the teacher's union demonstrates how its first, second, and third priorities are NOT the students and the quality of education, but rather the protection of weak teachers and the assurance of perpetual existence. If this President really wanted to draw a line in the sand with a union, in much the same way that Reagan did with the Air Traffic Controllers, he should try with all his might to push this small reform through.

Value-added assessments do a lot more to pinpoint the accountability that is lacking in public education. Of course, that's why teachers oppose it, and why it must be a pretty smart idea.

Quick Hits

:Scott Peterson Jury Recommends Death. This comes as no surprise at all to me. Knowing the horrific nature of how Lacy and their unborn son died, I had the feeling all along that once the jury was able to conclude that Scott did it, it would have no real choice but to recommend the death penalty.

:Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Others Admit To Using Steroids. Really?? You're kiddin', right? You mean it's not natural to gain fifty pounds of muscle weight AFTER age 35? That's not normal? Look, I'm not sure how much difference it makes in Bonds' stature in the game--he was a pretty prolific home run hitter when he was basically a twig fifteen years ago. But I do know that strength makes up for a few things at the plate, and maybe that one pitch that fooled him might have snuck by except for his enhanced musculature. But that doesn't change the fact that 99.7 percent of the population on the most strenuous steroid regimen still couldn't hit a major league curveball, much less a Randy Johnson fastball. This may tarnish his reputation, and some single-season records (ahem. . .calling Mr. McGwire), but 700 home runs is a remarkable feat, no matter how you do it.

:Kerik Withdraws His Nomination for Homeland Security. Well, yeah, a little immigration problem should be a big deal for the person in this position. But the other stuff . . .? Every once in a while, not always, mind you, but every once in a while this White House pulls something unbelievably amateurish. I wonder who was responsible for vetting this one. Think they still have a job?

:Ukrainian Presidential Candidate Poisoned. I guess it's time for some campaign reforms over there. Sens. McCain? Feingold? Any interest in helping them out? Given the resounding succuss your last "reform" was, we thought. . . Oh, never mind.


Just Coincidence??

Cover story of this week's Time Magazine: "Secrets of the Nativity."

Cover story of this week's Newsweek Magazine: "The Birth of Jesus."

This seemed a little TOO coincidental to me, so I bothered to read the Newsweek article (I couldn't get to the Time article because, to be honest, it isn't worth subscribing).

And the point of the story? To cast a suspicious eye on the story of the virgin Birth, the Star of Bethlehem, and many other aspects of the birth of Christ, as told in the Bible.

First, to deal with some of the people Jon Meacham quotes as "experts". Working back from the end of the article, he quotes from Elaine Pagels, a "professor of religion at Princeton and the best-selling author of "The Gnostic Gospels". . . From that description, you might infer that Ms Pagels is merely a historian with a specialty in religions. But a quick Google search of Ms Pagels reveals a slightly different type of scholar:

[from an October, 2003 PBS interview] Ms. Pagels: I realized that conventional views of Christian faith that I'd heard when I was growing up were simply made up -- and I realized that many parts of the story of the early Christian movement had been left out.

And further, from the same interview:

Do you think that belief in Jesus as God has been overemphasized in Christianity?

Ms. PAGELS: I think it has. Most people think that if you're talking -- if you and I are talking about religion, we're talking about, "Do you believe in God?" "Do you believe in Jesus as the son of God?" It's not all about what you believe. It's about what values we share. It's about what commitments we have to the sacredness of life, for example.

So right off, Meacham is quoting as a source and expert someone who has a history of being, at best, skeptical of traditional Christianity, if not completely hostile to it. So who else does he talk to?

How about Raymond E. Brown, a "distinguished scholar and Roman Catholic Priest who taught at Union Theological Seminary." Do his credentials hold up?

[from the American Catholic]

Brown, a Sulpician priest, was Auburn Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary, New York. He was twice appointed a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, by Pope Paul VI in 1972 and by Pope John Paul II in 1996. He wrote extensively on the Bible

Okay, I'll grant Fr. Brown his bona fides. Anyone else?

No. Sure, there are a handful of others quoted for various purposes in the text, but they do nothing to move the argument forward. For instance, one John P Meier notes that Jesus himself did not refer to his birth in his teachings. Not exactly groundbreaking, that one, but perhaps it does serve to place a little more doubt on the accuracy of the Nativity story. Never mind that Jesus does, on more than one occasion, claim his mantle of "savior and redeemer" and refers to God and God alone as "father."

One other source widely quoted in this article is the 2nd century A.D. Roman author Celsus. Among his highly credible contributions to the article:

As startling as the allegation is for many, it dates from at least the second century, and maybe as early as Jesus' lifetime. "It was Jesus himself who fabricated the story that he had been born of a virgin," Celsus wrote in A.D. 180. "In fact, however, his mother was a poor country woman who earned her living by spinning. She had been driven out by her carpenter-husband when she was convicted of adultery with a soldier named Panthera. She then wandered about and secretly gave birth to Jesus. Later, because he was poor, he hired himself out in Egypt where he became adept in magical powers. Puffed up by these, he claimed for himself the title of God."

I'm not sure what that 1800 year-old quote does for the real debate here, considering the strong history of Roman openness to Christianity.

So why write this article? In my opinion, having read it a couple times, Meacham is trying to, in a very public way, use dubious research and history to reduce this central tenet of Christianity to the status of myth--on a par with tales such as Hercules' birth when Zeus got a little randy with a mortal woman.

It may be the first in what I think we should expect is a long string of efforts by the MSM to discredit Christians--and all people of faith--as simple, dull-witted, incurious people. Having acknowledged the importance of this voting bloc in the last election, it is now time to make them ashamed of themselves for coming out to vote in numbers.

As I acknowledged earlier, I did not read the Time article. If anyone out there has, I'd welcome a little insight into it. I'll admit, I'm pretty much expecting a parallel sort of work.

This Seems About Right

PONTIAC, Mich. -- Five Indiana Pacers and seven fans were charged Wednesday in the melee that broke out at the end of a nationally televised game against the Detroit Pistons last month, one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.

All the charges filed were for misdemeanor offenses, with the exception of the one idio. . . fan who threw a chair--he got charged with a felony count.

This is the sort of response that society should take in a case such as this. It was wrong for the fans to start throwing stuff on the court, but it was stupid and dangerous for the players to wade into the crowd to exact "respect." And, for the one with the chair, I hope he spends a lot of time in a small cell with a large fan of NBA basketball.

My one worry is that everybody involved will manage to plead it out in some meaningless way. In particular, for the players a $5,000 fine and some community service is nothing, but to Joe Sixpack that could be a major portion of their salary and free time. In other words, I hope the judges involved keep in mind the relative impact of whatever sentence on the people involved, and makes it appropriately painful for the players.

More Colorado Post-Mortems

Outgoing State Senate Leader Jon Andrews has an analysis of the Colorado GOP defeat in the Weekly Standard today. I think he demonstrates a refreshing ability to look at root causes, not simply falling back on "we got outspent." To wit:

But to really explain what happened you have to look at the 3 M's--money, message, and motivation--of which the finances are actually the least important.

It was motivation, above all, that powered this Democrat victory. Democrats were driven and hungry from decades in the political wilderness. Republicans were complacent and soft from too long in power. Their motive for winning was to get in there and do things. Ours, it often seemed, was merely to stay in there. These attitudes translated into discipline and unity for Democrats, indulgence and disunity for Republicans. GOP factionalism was endemic and fatal.

Now, I will take some exception with his assertion that of the "decades in the political wilderness." The Dems controlled the State Senate in 2001 and 2002, which is why the redistricting became such an issue (had the GOP controlled the Senate, a plan which would have rendered congressional districts 3 and 7 safe for the GOP would be in place).

But beyond that quibble, I think Andrews has touched on an important point. It does seem as if the GOP, in many ways, got stuck playing a defensive gameplan, as in defending what has gone on for the last two years. The Dems, on the other hand, had really nothing to lose and endless resources to use, so they could unleash a withering barrage of attacks while still having the ability to articulate a clear plan. Okay. . .so they could articulate A plan. Nonetheless, that is still better than what the GOP had.

In many ways, I think the factionalism Andrews speaks of is a long-term problem for the Colorado GOP. Start with this question: what is a major priority of the Colorado GOP? One of the first things that jumps to mind is school vouchers. Okay, now think of a topic the RMA has been writing about since the election: Bob Schaffer's (and others') involvement in a unequivocally and unapologetic pro-voucher group which launched attacks against GOP candidates. The voucher movement has tried three times (I think that's the right number) to get the public to agree to a voucher program in Colorado, and three times it has been soundly beaten. But that is still what's at the top of the agenda.

It's not that it's a bad idea. It's that it's an idea that's already been beaten, has not been significantly retooled to be more palatable, and, more importantly, IS FROM THE PAST. Just the politics of it are bull-headed and myopic, and refuses to acknowledge the message the public has delivered pretty clearly.

But that faction of the GOP is strong, it's vocal, and it's committed to playing a role in defeating anti-voucher candidates of either party. Not helpful.

Andrews concludes smartly:

The dollar disparity hurt, sure, but it was a symptom of a much deeper problem for Colorado's GOP. A political party is an idea before it's a checkbook, an organization, or a platform. The idea that has inspired Republicans from Lincoln to Reagan to George W. Bush is an optimistic, assertive defense of ordered liberty and traditional values. That idea lost its voice in the Centennial State. Recovering it will be Job One for us in 2005.

Job one, indeed. We will have much work ahead of us just to block the Dem agenda, but strong leadership from the Governor could accomplish this single-handedly. The young GOP leaders-in-waiting need to focus on the future and the message.

And, by the way, this might be a useful lesson for national Republicans to pay some attention to.

Interesting Historical Perspective

Charles Krauthammer has an interesting column in the Guardian today. The basic premise of the article is that Iraq is already in the midst of a civil war, it's just that the Americans are the only ones fighting on this side. But, just like America emerged from its Civil War to rise to greatness, Iraq can envision a great future IF the Shia and Kurd majorities start fighting for it. That synopsis might be too "Cliff Notes," but will serve for my purposes.

Because that wasn't the part of the column that got my attention. Krauthammer grabbed me with these three opening paragraphs:

In 1864, 11 of the 36 states did not participate in the American presidential election. Was Lincoln's election therefore illegitimate?

In 1868, three years after the security situation had, shall we say, stabilised, three states (and not insignificant ones: Texas, Virginia and Mississippi) did not participate in the election. Was Grant's election illegitimate?

There has been much talk that if the Iraqi election is held and some Sunni Arab provinces (perhaps three of the 18) do not participate, the election will be illegitimate. Nonsense. The election should be held. It should be open to everyone. If Iraq's Sunni Arabs - barely 20% of the population - decide that they cannot abide giving up their 80 years of minority rule, which ended with 30 years of Saddam Hussein's atrocious tyranny, then tough luck.

Of course, it would have to be true that Lincoln's re-election was not by the country as a whole; and I am shamed by lack of historical knowledge to learn that Virginia, among others, did not participate in the 1868 elections. Clearly, these two elections were pivotal and have almost no historical consequence due to lack of participation.

And that is why pushing forward with an Iraqi election in six weeks is an imperative. If America can do it, and Afghanistan can do it, we have to send the message to the Iraqis that they can do it too.

Now, if only we could get the U.N. and Jimmy Carter to get onboard and, for lack of a better term, shut up.


Too Good To Pass Up

I hadn't intended to blog tonight, but I couldn't let this go by. Thanks to Captain Ed.

Police at Paris' top airport lost track of a passenger's bag in which plastic explosives were placed to train bomb-sniffing dogs, police said Saturday. Warned that the bag may have gotten on any of nearly 90 flights from Charles de Gaulle, authorities searched planes upon arrival in Los Angeles and New York. ...

French police at Charles de Gaulle deliberately placed up to five ounces of plastic explosives into a passenger's luggage Friday evening, police spokesman Pierre Bouquin said.

But a "momentary lack of surveillance" led to the bag being lost on a conveyor belt carrying luggage from check-in to planes, he said.

Could somebody, please, tell me why this country has a permanent seat and a veto on the U.N. Security Council. "Oh, sorry, sorry. . .could I just look through this bag of yours, sir. Yes, yes, it seems, well, we've. . .um. . .misplaced. . er, um, well. . .these explosives. And I was just wondering.. . "

For some reason that script works better with a Hugh Grant sort of stutter/accent. Trying to picture Peter Sellers, but it's just not coming to me. Oh well.


Last Update on This Topic

Tonight was the Parade of Lights--at least, the first of the two nights.

Very conspicuous in the actual coverage of the event was the studious avoidance of mentioning any aspect of the controversy. There was no mentioning of the church groups which met along the parade route to pass out hot chocolate and sing Christmas carols. There was no mention of what the real nature of the "Two Spirit Society"--that is, that their role is to celebrate the "holiness" of gay and lesbian American Indians. No mention of the real purpose of the Chinese dragon dance--that is, to ward off evil spirits in the new year.

Nope. We were all one big, happy city tonight, according to 9News. There was also no mention of the controversy in the lead-in to the 10 pm news broadcast (I didn't sick around to see if it was a part of the body of the newscast). However, Channel 7 News (the local ABC affiliate)did cover the counter-parade extensively, and even interviewed a few parade onlookers who agreed that the religious-themed--scratch that. . .CHRISTIAN-themed floats had a place in the parade. So, kudos to Channel 7.

One final tidbit on this story. . .I thought I heard Dan Caplis talking today (I wasn't in the car very long) about he Parade of Lights seeking out the Two Spirit Society and inviting them to be a part of the parade. And on the website of the Society, they twice say "have been asked to participate in the Parade," though it is unclear who did the asking. Anybody want to venture a guess??

Wait, wait. . .what's that smell?? Ah, yes--the pungent, putrid odor of leftist hypocrisy.

Update: Denvier Insanity

Mayor Hickenlooper has, apparently, clarified his position vis-a-vis the "Merry Christmas" lights on the City and County building. From the 9News website:

"Over the past several days, it has become clear to me that there is strong community sentiment to maintain the "Merry Christmas" sign and I am glad to oblige.

Due credit to the mayor. He strikes me as a savvy enough politician to recognize that his position was untenable (not to mention goofy), and he responded to the outcry in time to save himself some pointless heartache. Nonetheless, let's all keep this in mind in the months to come, and keep a little closer eye on the good mayor.

Unfortunately, the Downtown Denver Partnership has failed to demonstrate the same sort of sensibility with regard to the Parade of Lights (by the way, is "Parade of Lights" skewed to the Jewish Festival of the same name--should I be offended?). From the same website:

The Partnership offered an apology Thursday to anyone offended by the decision. The parade organizers say they are saddened that an event that has brought the community together for the past 30 years is now one that is divisive.

We're sorry, they say, but we're not going to change. Instead, they're going to meet with the Pastor of Faith Bible Chapel next week to discuss changes for next year.

Of course, the Pastor still intends to be a part of this weekend's festivities--by marching the parade route one hour before the Parade to hand out hot chocolate and be "Merry." My suggestion, for all those who feel strongly about this but feel compelled to be a part of the event, is to get there one hour early, armed with your brightest "Merry Christmas" sign. Then, as the Parade proper does its thing, stand in the crowd holding up same sign (please, not in front of some poor little kid--we want them to enjoy) and make sure you don't spend any money in downtown. If the motivation for the Parade is to bring people downtown where they will, ostensibly, spend money, then the only things that will make a point are peaceful disobedience and frugality.


Reminded of Worthwhile Television

Most of what's on TV is garbage. I try to turn it off as often as possible, but largely fail.

So I'm very happy to report that, as I sit here writing this blog tonight, I have on the tube as background and distraction "Band of Brothers," courtesy of the History Channel.

If there's a better tribute to the fighting men of this country, or a better representation of war out there, I am unaware of it. If you haven't seen this series yet, it is ABSOLUTELY worth the ten- to twelve-hour investment it takes to get through it.

More "Inclusiveness" in Denver

Once more, some goofball in a position of power has decided that letting the majority celebrate Christmas in public is "disrespectful" of those in the minority.Here's the story in the RMN by Jean Torkelson.

"We want to avoid that specific religious message out of respect for other religions in the region," [Michael] Krikorian [Downtown Partnership spokesman] said. "It could be construed as disrespectful to other people who enjoy a parade each year.

I wonder if he considered that his position could be considered disrespectful to the Christians in the audience.

So no singing or playing of Christmas hymns, and no displays of directly religious themes or signs such as "Merry Christmas." However,

This year, the "international procession" includes the Two Spirit Society, which honors gay and lesbian American Indians as holy people; a German folk dance group; and performers of the Lion Dance, a Chinese New Year tradition "meant to chase away evil spirits and welcome good luck and good fortune for the year."

Um. . . the "Two Spirit Society"??

So the vast majority is denied its right to express its belief and celebration of the birth of the Messiah, but gay and lesbian American Indians are allowed to be celebrated as "holy people" because they represent "ethnicity."

Seriously, what percentage of the total population do you suppose fits the description "gay and lesbian American Indians"? And of that percentage, what do you suppose is the subset that considers them holy?

Geez, I'm glad I wrote "Winter Wonderland" for one of the bands in the Parade instead of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "Joy To The World."

But, more importantly, couple this story with the one I blogged on on Saturday about the mayor, and you get the sense that the city and county of Denver has suddenly, and dramatically, become as hostile to Christianity as the Ninth Circuit or the State Department. I welcome any and all suggestions as to a plan of action to make my displeasure known, and what to do about it.

Consider: if Hannukah (and I apologize to my Jewish friends for both the spelling (I have no idea) and the thought (absolutely no disrespect intended)) were the only holiday being celebrated around the Winter Solstice, would we, as a society, be anything near "festive"? Would, for instance, I have been able to sit on the couch with my girls tonight and watch "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? Of course not.

This season is festive, and society-wide, because the Christian majority sees it as one of the two most important times in our belief system. And while being fully aware of the beauty of the Festival of Lights, if it were only for that, December would largely pass as only preparation for the New Year.


The Folly of The Entitlement Society

Let's try an experiment. Right now, I get paid every month by my employer; in exchange I do a specific job with specific expectations for performance and comportment. Let's say my employer does something I disagree with--frankly, not a big leap of imagination--and so I stop doing whatever it is that compels my employer to write me a check every month.

So let's see how far I get making the argument that I should continue to get a paycheck.

Unless, of course, I could get my complaint heard by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that colleges could ban USArmy recruiters from visiting their campus, but still recieve funds from the federal government. This decision struck down the Solomon Amendment, which empowered the Feds to withhold federal monies from colleges that blocked recruiters.

In other words, from the perspective of the college, "Screw You. But gimme."

Seriously. I want to not do a thing to earn money, but to continue to recieve a paycheck. In what way is this any different? Since when did federal monies to private institutions become an entitlement?

And, for Pete's Sake, what can we do to put an end to this entitlement mentality? I understand that most individuals don't share that mentality, but any time someone gets tied to a group they stop thinking and ride the herd.


And, as for the Third Circuit. . . I haven't read the decision yet, so I don't know exactly what it says. But how much do you want to bet that "Free Speech" is an issue? So tell me, what is the government doing to limit speech? Not rewarding something is a very different thing than imposing infringements.

But I guess that thinking is anachronistic.

It Was Only A Matter Of Time

This story just sickens me. And yet, sadly, it really doesn't surprise me very much.

To the European left--the ones who have passed beyond "liberal" to merely "licentious"--the distance from killing a baby in the womb to killing a baby out of the womb could not seem like such a big journey. When you consider that part of the logic has always been the maintenance of the lifestyle of the mother, could it really have been very hard to conclude that the lifestyle of the mother would be irreparably affected by a child with special needs?

Keep this in mind when you talk to people from the American left about abortion. When they try to press the distinction that the child in womb is not viable, press them to define when, exactly, it would be viable. My daughters both breathed on their own at 2 days. . .5 days. . .three weeks. . . but beyond that, they had no ability to seek their own shelter, to feed themselves, or to do any of the other crucial tasks necessary for survival. So at what point did they become "viable?" And at what point did some arbitrary third party imbue upon them official status as "person?" For myself, the moment I knew my wife was pregnant, they were both "the baby"--never, not once, not ever, "the fetus."

If the growing fetus is meaningless, then a full-grown fetus is meaningless; if a full-grown fetus that has only been partially delivered is worth less than another person, then there's no logical explanation for a fully-delivered fetus being more valuable; extend that line of thought, and there is no end of the loop of logic that would justify the taking of any life at any time. Unless, of course, they committed a crime, which would grant them protected status as a "victim of society."

So Holland is just a little ahead of the American left. Yippee for them.

God Help Us All.

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