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


Terri Schiavo, RIP

First, a prayer for the soul of Terri Schiavo, and for God's Blessings on Terri's parents and brother and sister. May God grant them the peace that they have been deprived of these last 15 years, the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

As for Terri, I take hope from the understanding that she has been made new again.

As for the rest of us, I suspect two things will come of this (and keep in mind, I know nothing):

First, culturally, it is interesting that, in the end, what the courts actually affirmed was Michael Schiavo's property rights over his wife--his distantly estranged wife. If, absent evidence to the contrary, he was given complete control over Terri's destiny, then what is there to stop that property right from being extended towards someone who is of diminished capacity?

Secondly, Judicially, I think the gauntlet has truly been thrown down. If the Courts, from local to federal, feel it's within their powers to ignore the will of the people's representatives, then we have truly devolved into Jefferson's "oligarchy." This is the same sort of extension of judicial power that brought us Dred Scott--and we all know where that took us.

I find deep irony in the contrast between this case and the ongoing struggle the Pope is putting up to remain alive, active, and responsible for his flock. His is truly a death with dignity, though I pray that that death is still years away.


I'd Have Just Kept This To Myself

First, the headline (which has managed to make both the Michael Medved show and FoxNews' Special Report): GOP aide ousted three--
At Bush speech, they were told man was with Secret Service

Okay. Fine. Then there's the first paragraph:

A Republican Party staffer dressed like a Secret Service agent forcibly removed three people from President Bush's speech in Denver last week after they arrived in a car with a "No more blood for oil" bumper sticker.

Now let's read down a little and find the facts.

The three people said the man wore a lapel pin and an earpiece, and they were told he was with the Secret Service. Great, BUT. . . At the metal detector, a man checked the women's drivers' licenses against a paper, then asked them to stand aside.

Another man wearing a smiley-face tie said, "'We're waiting for the Secret Service to come and talk to you.' And then this guy comes," said Weise.

He was dressed in a dark suit, with an earpiece and a red lapel pin, Bauer said. "He said, 'You two have been ID'd, and if you have any ill intention, you will be arrested and jailed."

And further: Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur said that a real Secret Service agent would have identified himself as an agent. But he added, "It's my understanding there was no impersonation. No one ever identified himself as a Secret Service agent."

AHA!!! So this guy in a nice suit with a oh-so-rare and special lapel pin and Mon Dieu!! an earpiece (probably listening to Hugh Hewitt) came up and asked them to leave.

Why, this impersonation has all the sophistication of Clark Kent's reading glasses!! No wonder they were fooled!! And one of them is a lawyer--you'd think she'd be really easily fooled by this Wonder Woman-esque subterfuge!! I should be careful around intelligence of this keenness--my height alone might get me confused for Bruce Lee, and suddenly I'd have a lawsuit for making threatening "WHOOPAHH" sounds. And, for gosh sakes! Jared should stay away from these people--He might get mistaken for AquaMan, and then he'll have an ESA lawsuit to deal with.

Yeah--if it was me, and I'd been duped this easily, I think I might just shut up about the whole thing.

More CSAP Follies

A Bennett School District policy that keeps students from advancing to the next grade if they refuse to take the CSAP or don’t try hard enough goes too far, a state education official said Tuesday.

“To use the CSAP test a criteria for retention seems to me to be pretty much over the edge,” said Roscoe Davidson, Colorado’s deputy education commissioner.

How sad that a district which tried to hold its students accountable is being called on the carpet. Again, I say, this is the one most serious flaw of the CSAP. To quote one of the parents quoted in the article:

Furthermore, he said there is no good reason for students to be forced to take the test.

“It’s just a labeling mechanism, . . . It’s not a requirement for anything.”

Another Plan On The Table

State Treasurer Mike Coffman will toss a new plan into Colorado’s budget debate today, which he calls a more conservative alternative to the compromise between Gov Bill Owens and the majority of legislators.

The key point of Coffman’s plan would be the creation of the “Colorado Reserve Fund”—basically, a rainy day fund: when times are tough, the legislature could dip into this fund to help balance the books. This fund would be filled initially by monies from the sell-off of the tobacco settlement. Pulling too much out of this fund would trigger limits on Amendment 23 spending.

In other words, it creates a savings account; when the legislature starts dipping into that account, they will be required to pull back on their spending.

I doubt this plan will get very far; I doubt this plan will get out of committee. But it was a good idea –especially from someone who wants to be Governor.

Urging A Veto

I join the Rocky Mountain News editorial page in calling for Gov. Owens to veto House Bill 1042, which would require hospitals to provide information about emergency contraception to rape victims.

Mind you, I don’t think providing such information is a bad idea—in fact, rape is one of the few exceptions I allow in my personal stance regarding abortion. And emergency contraception, which prevents implantation of the fetus in the uterine lining if taken in the first 120 hours (with varying degrees of certainty), seems to me a much less violent, intrusive means to allow a woman to retain her legitimate “choice” with regard to her body.

My problem is that this bill REQUIRES that information be given out. And given the number of hospitals that are run at least in part by the Catholic Church, the likely effect of this bill would be to compel a health professional to give out information on how to obtain a means to murder. Even with the conscience provision of the bill, allowing individual care providers to pass the responsibility for this on to another, there is a likelihood that someone will get pinned in a situation where their own rights of speech and privacy are infringed upon. This is clearly an overreach on the part of the legislature.

Rewrite this law to allow a different means of achieving the same end, and I would have no problem with it.

By the way, here's how hard the spin is coming out from those on the far left in support of this bill, in the form of a poll question:

Should Governor Owens allow victims of rape to receive information to avoid an unwanted pregnancy?

When the spin is that far removed from the truth, you know the truth must be a little disturbing.

Tune In

to Frind of the Alliance and Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi filling in for Dan Caplis this afternoon on KHOW 630 from 3-7.


Busy Day for the Colorado Supremes

The Colorado Supreme Court handed down a couple high-profile decisions yesterday. In one, the 3-2 Court overturned a jury’s sentence of death for Robert Harlan and ordered life imprisonment without parole. In the other, the Court by 4-1 tossed out a conviction of Felony Murder for Lisl Auman, and ordered a new trial for her

While I find the nature of Robert Harlan’s crime—-the repeated raping of Rhonda Maloney, the shooting and paralyzing of Jaquie Creazzo when she tried to get Maloney to a police station, and the subsequent murder and abandonment of Moloney—-heinous enough to fit the statutory threshold for the death sentence, and while I think the assumption that a Christian juror was unduly influenced by another juror’s reading of Leviticus to be laughable (what? A Christian who could be influenced by Scripture wouldn’t already know “an eye for an eye”?), there is, from a strictly legal sense, good grounds for this decision. Given that the Court has acted before to stop jurors from consulting a dictionary or the internet during deliberations, I think it is fair to assume that typical Colorado jury instructions to limit your consideration to evidence presented during trial actually mean just that. Unfortunate, perhaps, but those are the rules, and this jury did operate outside those rules.

However, I am not quite so at ease with the decision in the Auman case. To recap the crime: Auman recruited a couple friends to help her break into an ex-boyfriend’s room to get back some of her stuff; when the police were alerted, Auman and Matthaeus Jaehnig fled in a stolen Trans Am; during the pursuit, Jaehnig took out an assault rifle and fired on the police while Auman took the wheel; they eventually stopped at a friend’s apartment and hid; when the police arrived Auman gave herself up, but refused to tell the police where her accomplice was hidden; so when Officer Bruce VanderJagt peered around a corner to look for Jaehnig, he had no forewarning of Jaehnig’s presence and was shot dead. The Court overturned the Felony Murder conviction because, it said, “the proof of the predicate crime is just as important an element . . . as proof of the murder.” Therefore “. . .the erroneous theft instruction may have deprived Auman to her right to a full and fair jury consideration of her defense to burglary.”

Now, I understand the Felony Murder law is fairly narrowly constructed to limit the number of predicate crimes which could be considered a precedent to murder, and so certainly a proper consideration of the burglary would be important. IF THAT WERE THE ONLY PREDICATE CRIME! It seems to me that Auman should have also been held for conspiracy, possession of a stolen vehicle, fleeing the scene of a crime, failure to obey a lawfully given order, probably reckless driving, conspiracy to aid in the commission of attempted murder (if holding the wheel while Jaehnig is shooting isn’t “aid”, I’m note sure what would be), and aiding and abetting a suspect by not revealing his location to police. At some point I’m sure a couple weapons charges could be thrown in the mix, as well. So it would seem to me that, even though the jury instructions transposed a word or two, there was still plenty of reason to think that Auman was FULLY complicit and should be held FULLY culpable for the murder of Officer Bruce VanderJagt.

Also of disturbing nature is the fawning coverage the News gave to Auman and to Auman’s family in today’s edition. I realize this had become a bit of a causus celebre, but could we maybe, just a little, realize that the VanderJagt family has been through a much more horrible ordeal, and that Auman is hardly an innocent in this whole affair.


Schiavo Update

For some reason Blogger won't let me edit my previous post on this issue, so . . .

Apparently,Michael acquiesced to the family's request to allow Terri to receive Communion. Hopefully, whatever Grace comes with that Sacrament will help bring peace to Terri's soul.

I wonder what the internal debate was in Michael's camp. Why did this decision take time?

Schiavo Update

For some reason Blogger won't let me edit my previous post on this issue, so . . .

Apparently,Michael acquiesced to the family's request to allow Terri to receive Communion. Hopefully, whatever Grace comes with that Sacrament will help bring peace to Terri's soul.


No To Be Judgmental, But . . .

I have tried to be measured in my commentary regarding Michael Sciavo. I have no idea what the nature of their personal conversations were, I don't know his heart or mind, and I hesitate to be hard on a man in his circumstances. I have said that I think his motivations appear suspect, given his life since 1993, and I have prayed that he would reconsider the monstrosity he is visiting upon his "wife."

But after this story came out tonight, I might be less inclined to treat him at all charitably.

Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, said the family unsuccessfully urged Michael Schiavo to allow his wife the sacrament of communion during the holiest feast of the Catholic year . . .

The family had asked for Schiavo, who cannot swallow, to have a minuscule piece of bread and a drop of wine placed in her mouth.
And he said no.

Not only would such complete fail to provide any "nourishment" to Terri's body, but denying her communion serves absolutely NO practical end. It is conceivable that denying this woman's body nourishment is in compliance with her wishes; it is absurd to think that denying this woman's soul any nourishment would be anything close to her wishes.

Movie Review: Robots

Early this week I had the opportunity to take my daughters to see "Robots." By the way, in a later post I will discuss the perils of "dad" taking two young girls to the movies.

For the most part the movie was quite enjoyable. Nothing great, certainly not as compelling a story line as "Finding Nemo" or even "The Incredibles", but it was pretty entertaining. The best part of the movie proper, however, was the animation. There were genuinely dizzying scenes in the movie, ones that were reminiscent of the opening scenes of "The Fellowship of the Ring" for their ability to induce vertigo in the audience. And that was certainly enhanced by the big screen at Colorado Mills Theater. Beyond that, though, the characters were likable, though not particularly gripping, and the humor was mild, but never laugh-out-loud hilarious. I was disappointed that this kids movie felt the need to include a little crotch humor and what seems to be obligatory bodily noises humor.

I always take my guide in kids' movie reviews from my kids. The older one seemed mildly amused and entertained, but I don't think she'll be bugging me to buy the DVD any time soon; and the little one (age 3) was at least as interested in the "windows up there" (the projection room) as in the movie itself. So that's not a great sign, either.

On the big plus side, this was the first time I'd seen the trailer for "Star Wars Episode III--The Revenge of the Sith." This looks like one very cool movie!! If the story lives up to the visuals that the trailer had, it could be the best since "The Empire Strikes Back." It also seems to have much of the darkness and hidden menace that made Episode V the most compelling of the first trilogy.

Before You Get Too Excited About the Budget Deal . . .

Colorado Democratic leaders and Governor Owens announced last week that they had reached a compromise on a plan to put to the voters this Fall to adjust TABOR to allow the state to return to pre-recession levels, and so forth. I blogged about this before, including criticizing the Governor for his tone in chiding Rep. Joe Stengel for seemingly withdrawing his support of the plan.

But today, a few new factoids have come to my attention which make me more hesitant in my support of this compromise, and starting to entertain the idea that the Governor may have gotten hoodwinked. And in the process, he may have handed the Governor's mansion to the Dems in 2006.

Some of those factoids:

:the "tax cut" included as part of the plan reduces the rate from the current 4.65% to 4.5% does not kick in until year six of the plan
:this "tax cut" represents about $43 per taxpayer per year
:in the meantime, forgoing the TABOR-induced taxpayer refunds amounts to about $200 per taxpayer per year
:in the last couple weeks, thanks to some accounting "issues," the state has found about $363 million it can use to defray expenses (as an aside, the next time the state "loses" money somewhere, could it shoot a little of it my way?)

In other words, the state isn't in as bad a shape as you've been led to believe, but it still wants to keep your money for the next five years. In exchange, it will give back to you a tiny fraction of your money starting in six years.

This isn't sounding so great any more.

Before You Get Too Excited About the Budget Deal . . .

Colorado Democratic leaders and Governor Owens announced last week that they had reached a compromise on a plan to put to the voters this Fall to adjust TABOR to allow the state to return to pre-recession levels, and so forth. I blogged about this before, including criticizing the Governor for his tone in chiding Rep. Joe Stengel for seemingly withdrawing his support of the plan.

But today, a few new factoids have come to my attention which make me more hesitant in my support of this compromise, and starting to entertain the idea that the Governor may have gotten hoodwinked. And in the process, he may have handed the Governor's mansion to the Dems in 2006.

Some of those factoids:

:the "tax cut" included as part of the plan reduces the rate from the current 4.65% to 4.5% does not kick in until year six of the plan
:this "tax cut" represents about $43 per taxpayer per year
:in the meantime, forgoing the TABOR-induced taxpayer refunds amounts to about $200 per taxpayer per year
:in the last couple weeks, thanks to some accounting "issues," the state has found about $363 million it can use to defray expenses (as an aside, the next time the state "loses" money somewhere, could it shoot a little of it my way?)

In other words, the state isn't in as bad a shape as you've been led to believe, but it still wants to keep your money for the next five years. In exchange, it will give back to you a tiny fraction of your money starting in six years.

This isn't sounding so great any more.


And Speaking Of Popular Demonstrations . . .

Keep an eye on Taiwan tomorrow.

Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese will take to the streets in our country to peacefully express their opposition to China's most recent threat to the freedom of Taiwan. This month the National People's Congress passed a so-called "Anti-Secession Law" that threatens the use of military force against our country. The demonstrators will mobilize to oppose the idea that China has a "right" to use force to subjugate the people of Taiwan -- and they will protest the notion that some 2,900 unelected and unaccountable Chinese "parliamentarians" have the right to determine the future of the 23 million people of Taiwan.

This WaPo op-ed, by the Premier of the Republic of China (i.e., Taiwan)is an important statement in defense of Taiwan's right of exitence in the face of hostility from mainland China. It argues, admittedly one-sidedly, that Taiwan has made extensive efforts to co-exist with China, while China has continually rebuffed those overtures and flexed its muscle towards Taiwan.

By the way, when I say "admittedly, one-sidedly", I also recognize that when it comes to the spread of freedom and liberty, there is only one side on that debate.

For all the efforts to "engage" China and help it become a "responsible" power, the reality is that it continues to stifle the democratic aspirations of its own people and to threaten Taiwan's democracy with military force. Unless the great democracies of the world say this behavior is not tolerable, we will only be inviting Beijing to believe it is.

If I'm not mistaken, the U.S. has a defense treaty with Taiwan; and China has recently started buying arms from Europe again; and market analysts keep citing Chinese demand for oil as a primary catalyst of the recent oil price explosion; and that oil increase has had a demonstrable effect on the U.S. economy.

I don't know if that stream of thoughts is going anywhere--I'm just trying to keep all the pieces in sight.


Freedom's Breaking Out All Over

Much like the waters when they first break through the dam.

Protesters alleging corruption, repression and electoral fraud forced the longtime president of this central Asian country to flee his palace on Thursday, the third time a government of a former Soviet republic has been toppled in a popular uprising in a year and a half.

President Askar Akayev and his family fled Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, after crowds at a large opposition rally seized control of the presidential palace and began looting it. Kyrgyzstan's Parliament elected a former opposition lawmaker, Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, as the country's interim president. It was unclear whether the decision was legally binding, in part because of uncertainty over whether Mr. Akayev, whose whereabouts were unknown, had stepped down.

While I'm as much in favor of free and fair elections as the next guy, this is starting to be a pattern. At what point does an uprising become a coup? And why is it all happening in the former Soviet Union? Never mind--I know the answer to that.

A Slap From A Normally Reliable Democratic Source

Tomorrow's WashPost Editorial Page takes a big swing at Congressional Democrats. Of course, it sideswipes the Republicans in the process, but it's a lot more forceful with the Democrats. A teaser, to draw you in:

But it's hard to take seriously the Democrats who say that Mr. Bush should switch focus from Social Security to the much bigger problem of Medicare: If they aren't willing to play a constructive role on the supposedly "minor" challenge of Social Security, why should anyone believe that they would behave constructively if the administration wanted to fix Medicare?

The nation faces a severe economic threat from the aging of its population combined with escalating health costs. The sooner it begins to grapple with this problem, the less painful the solution will be. For Mr. Bush, that would mean acknowledging the need for more revenue. For the Democrats, it would require for a smidgeon of honesty about Social Security's state.

I don't know if the ball is making its way down the field yet, but the field itself may be changing colors.

Gov. Owens Showing Party Leadership?

The budget compromise struck between the Governor and the statehouse Dems passed its first floor vote in the House yesterday. This, in itself isn't news; first readings are often formalities. Several major Republicans did not vote yes on the plan though--that also isn't news.

Gov. Owens responded to those Republican defectors with a personal slap in the face. That is news:

When the next volume of Profiles in Courage is written, there won't be a chapter about Joe Stengel," Owens said. "I was amazed. He knew exactly what was in it. There were no surprises."

Surprise or no, it seems counterintuitive that a personal attack on part of the leadership of a party that Owens is trying to rebuild would do anything to strengthen the party for the future. And a few pretty important details were left out of the discussion:

Stengel and other GOP opponents of the plan, including Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, and Sen. John Evans, R-Parker, voted for more expensive budget bills last year. One would have asked voters to forgo eight years of refunds . . .

Evans and others defended their votes during the Senate debate, saying they were part of packages that included changes to Amendment 23, which mandates spending increases on K-12 education. Owens on Wednesday called those proposed changes "cosmetic."

The current plan doesn't touch Amendment 23.

And let's remember, everyone, this compromise, and the legislation that follows it, are only designed to get a measure on the ballot in the Fall. If the voters reject this, it doesn't matter what the margin is at the StateHouse. And personal attacks of this sort are hardly the way the garner the broad base of support to get this thing passed.

Maybe It's Not Just Us

or, Maybe This Guy's Just A Great Big Jerk.

Chirac Betrays Blair On Britain's Rebate

Tony Blair was humiliated yesterday when Jacques Chirac attacked Britain's £3 billion EU rebate hours after the Prime Minister had come to his aid in a row over economic reform.

In the latest clash between the leaders, the French president pocketed a deal designed to help him win a Yes vote in France's referendum on the EU constitution on May 29.

But instead of repaying the Prime Minister by avoiding sensitive issues before a likely May election in Britain, he went out of his way to complain about the rebate Margaret Thatcher won in 1984.

He launched his attack - in response to a question about the shape of the budget from 2007 to 2013 - during a press conference soon after Mr Blair left an EU summit in Brussels.

So not only does Chirac repay a major political favor with a knife in the back; not only does he wait until Blair leaves the summit and can't defend himself; but the issue itself is OVER TWENTY YEARS OLD!

Again, to quote Dennis Miller, F&^#*!^ Frogs!


How In The World, In A Post-Columbine World, Did We Miss This?

From the NYTimes:

Looking back at all the pieces, some who knew Jeff Weise say they wonder why someone did not see his eruption coming months, or even years, ago.

There was the threat Mr. Weise, 16, once made on his own life, sending him away from his home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation for psychiatric treatment. There were the pictures of bloodied bodies and guns he drew and shared freely with classmates. There was the story he apparently wrote about a shooting spree at a school in a small town.

"The clues were all there," said Kim DesJarlait, Mr. Weise's stepaunt, who lives in Minneapolis. "Everything was laid out, right there, for the school or the authorities in Red Lake to see it coming. I don't want to blame Red Lake, but did they not put two and two together? This kid was crying out, and those guys chose to ignore it. They need to start focusing on their kids."

First of all, and not to be glib, but. . . Where were you, Miss DesJarlait? If all the signs were, indeed, there, why did a family member not notice?

And that's not to absolve the school. If he shared his drawings freely with his classmates, it is more than likely that one or more of his teachers knew about them, as well. I cannot say with any certainty that any one person missed the signs, but perhaps this should be taken as a reminder to keep our eyes out in the schools.

I Don't See This As Optional For A GOP Senator

Also from the WashTimes:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist does not have firm support among his caucus to employ the so-called "nuclear option" for dislodging the Democratic filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees.

Of the 55 Republicans in the chamber, at least six are undecided or adamantly opposed to the plan of using the rare parliamentary procedure to end the filibusters with a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes normally required.

The article goes on to cite two GOP Senators firmly against--Snowe of Maine and Chaffee of Rhode Island (no surprises there). It then notes six Senators as either "unknowns" or as "undecideds": Hagel of Nebraska, McCain of Arizona, Warner of Virginia, Voinovich of Ohio, Cochran of Mississippi, and Sununu of New Hampshire. Of these six, four are from firmly red states: Hagel, McCain, Warner and Cochran. I would expect it would be fairly easy to pressure them into getting on board, given their states' support of this President. The other two, Voinovich and Sununu, are from weak states, and the President's ability to pressure them seems pretty limited.

But it shouldn't matter. If the red-staters come along, that would give Frist 51 votes to do the rules change, and that would be plenty. Even if McCain jumps the fence, 50 votes plus Cheney should get the job done.

The problem is that stories like this give the Democrats encouragement. I thought I had perceived an unwillingness on the part of the Dems to maintain their filibusters given the strength of the GOP caucus on this issue. You know this story has to have the Dem leadership huddling to consider how to keep the nominations bottled up.

I think the trick might actually be to pressure red-state Dems (ahem, Mr. Salazar) to forego the filibuster in the hopes that this would never have to come to pass. At any rate, I'm less confident of getting judges now than I was yesterday.

Which is troubling, given the recent string of bad jurisprudence.

This Is What I'm Talking About

From the Washington Times this morning:

Shopkeepers and residents on one of Baghdad's main streets pulled out their own guns yesterday and killed three hooded terrorists who were shooting at passers-by, giving a rare victory to civilians increasingly frustrated by the violence bleeding Iraq.

Perhaps this will start a trend. How nice would it be for that country if the terrorists had to watch their back while they were perpetrating their evil, and the residents and military were able to feel as if someone had their back? This is the kind of thing that could end the "insurgency" fairly quickly.

Now if someone would just point to the spider-hole that's housing Zarqawi.

Good Economic News For Colorado

"Strong figures on jobs growth, profits surprise economists" says the caption to the headline story in Tuesday's Rocky.

Legislative economists predicted corporate income tax revenues will rise 34 percent in fiscal year 2004-05. That's 20 percent higher than the legislature's December forecast. Gov. Bill Owens' staff projected similar growth in a separate report on Monday.

The economists also predicted the state will employ as many workers by the end of this year as it did before 9/11 and that hiring will pick up even more in months to come as productivity gains decline, forcing companies to add workers to meet demand

"But they're BAD jobs" say the nay-sayers.

In the past three months, including January, 45,000 more jobs were created in Colorado as compared with one year before.

Of those new jobs, 12,000 are in the relatively high-paying business and professional services sector. Another 6,100 new jobs are in education and health services. The leisure and hospitality and natural resources/mining categories also showed gains.

The January-over-January growth of 2.1 percent outpaced national employment growth of 1.7 percent for the same period.

And all of this while the state was "fiscally crippled" by TABOR. Tell you what, if this is the result of a business sector learning to stand on its own away from a "weak" state government, then I say let's have more of it.

Of Course I Know This--UPDATED

Last night I wrote at some length about the nature of Terri Schiavo's death, and noted that this, surely, would qualify as cruel and unusual, and therefore be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Of course, the Eighth Amendment speaks to Cruel and Unusual PUNISHMENT; Terri Schiavo's court-mandated, state trooper-enforced starvation is not, I suppose, punishment. No, what she is suffering through is laughably called "treatment", referred to in medical terms as an "exit protocol", and not, in strictest terms, a punishment. Therefore, the logic goes, the Eight Amendment does not apply to this case.

And here, I hate say it, is where a morally bankrupt argument finally arrives. That a person being dealt a PUNISHMENT is afforded more civility, more protection, and more consideration by our laws than a person being administered a TREATMENT is wrong. Pure and simply, wrong.

But what would Terri want? Of course, the whole case hinges on that one question. And, again, the system affords more protections to a murder defendant than to a victim of a brain trauma. On what grounds have the courts based their decisions regarding Terri's wishes? On the hearsay evidence presented by Michael Schiavo. Hearsay evidence that would not be allowed in court in a murder trial; evidence presented by a witness who is, at best, of suspect credibility; and evidence for which there is simply no corroborating evidence. In the meantime, negatory evidence was not allowed into court in the original trial, and, with medical technology being so much more advanced than it was fifteen years ago, new evidence has also not been allowed into court.

I am willing to allow for the possibility that Terri Schiavo would have wanted for her life to be ended. But it seems that for that to happen, firm and convincing evidence would have to presented. Absent that--and I believe this case IS absent that--I should hope that the courts would act with a presumption of life. Unfortunately, the case for removing Terri's nourishment proceeds from a predisposition towards death, and that seems to be carrying the day.

And I am losing hope, at this point. Given that the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta did not issue a preliminary injunction ordering her feeding to be reinstated pending review, I suspect that the 11 C.C. will side with Judge Wittemoore.

UPDATE As I suspected, the 11th Circuit Court rejected the Schindler's appeal last night right before I went to bed, setting up a final showdown before the United States Supreme Court. I'm fairly certain that this appeal will also be rejected.

I can only hope that Michael Schiavo is right--that Terri's sould has left her body, and is unaware of the horrors her body is suffering through right now. Of course, that does nothing for the family, who seem to be leaning very heavily on their faith right now. Pray for them.


Town Hall With the President

I had the wonderful opportunity to go see the President this afternoon out at the Air And Space Museum for his Town Hall meeting on Social Security reform. And, thanks to the efforts of Sean Duffy and Michele Austin, I HAD GREAT SEATS. Up on the stage, about fifteen feet behind and to the right of the President. What a trip!! My daughter even got to shake hands with Sen. McCain as he came around and worked the line.

Yes, you read that right--Senator McCain was with the President to pitch the Social Security plan. And, in truth, he said the two most interesting things of the day. One, referring to his recent trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, that we should all be proud of the leadership of this President. "The winds of democracy and change are sweeping across the world" and "Europe is on the wrong side of history. And two, "To my friends at the AARP, if you don't like our solution, GIVE US ONE!"

From a political standpoint, for the President to have John McCain on his side in this one, and to make him visible in this campaign, is a billiant stroke--from both sides. For the President it makes it easier to get to the "moderates" and say that he has the support of one of their heroes and this issue is a winner. From McCain's standpoint, if he helps the President achieve his primary domestic policy goal in this term, it would go a long way towards smoothing the ruffled feathers of a base that isn't very happy with "the Democrats favorite Republican."

As to the substance, this wasn't anything new, particularly. It does seem like W's going to push a couple of points pretty hard in the near future--that people over fifty will see no difference in their benefits, and that this is a voluntary plan. The more he can hammer those two points, and also pointing out that every federal employee (including Reps and Senators) already belongs in a system such as this, it should help move this argument forward. I hope.

Sometimes, in politics, it isn't good enough to be right. Being able to sell it is at least as important, if not more so, and so far the President's team hasn't been all that successful getting this message out there. And he seems very confident in this idea, so I hope he gets out there on TV and elsewhere to sell this.


If This Doesn't Qualify As Cruel And Unusual, I Don't Know What Would

By now, we've all become, to some degree, inured to the pictures of Terri Schiavo--she appears, at this point, to be not much different than many unfortunates we have all known who suffered through brain trauma. But I (admittedly, morbidly) have been curious about what these pictures will start to look like--if we're allowed to see them--as she progresses through the next 7 - 10 days dying of dehydration and starvation. And I found a site that answers some of those questions. Admittedly, this site quotes a nurse who has worked with Terri, and who does not support the "Exit Protocol", as it is called.

The site is hard to read, so I'm going to extract some of the "highlights", but here's what poor Terri is in for:

:obviously, extreme hunger pain is going to be a constant part of her life--excuse me, HAS BEEN a part of her life for the last 81 hours or so.
:as dehydration advances, her electrolyte balance will be off, causing her to writhe
:Advance a couple days without food or water. Now her mouth is parched, her lips, her gums, her tongue will start to crack and bleed. The nasal cavities will start to dry, crack and bleed. The stomach will get dry and shrink, causing vomiting and heaving
:she will begin to experience difficulty breathing
:In seven to nine days, as most of her body fluids are lost, her blood pressure will go down and her heart rate will rise. The blood will be shunted to the central part of the body from the periphery of the body, so that usually two to three days prior to death, the hands and feet become extremely cold. They become mottled and have a bluish appearance. The eyes will become so dry the patient can't move them anymore because there will be fluid in them.
:she will begin to have isolated seizures, which may or may not progress into Grand Mal seizures.
:at this point, death is imminent.

And, I note, this site doesn't go into detail on the damage that will be done to the internal organs, what will shut down first and so forth. Let's suppose that an injunction comes in on Wednesday night--how much irreparable damage will have already taken place?

So, as I am preparing to take my family to Good Friday services, Terri will be cold, mottled and blue, with fixed eyes and in extraordinary pain. And she may not die until I'm preparing to take my family to Easter services.

I would not wish this death on Osama bin Laden. And if we, as a society, cannot recognize this for what it is and find a way to prevent it, than we only barely deserve every other right God has granted us and our founding fathers codified for us. While the logic of the legal wrangling can leave some people I respect immensely on the other side of this issue, I'm convinced logic is inadequate to this topic. Logic is only useful when it serves our humanity; the law is only useful when it enlarges our humanity; and when the two brought together serve our better angels, we have the hope of creating a brighter tomorrow.

When the two brought together serve to destroy our most defenseless, then our humanity is a subject of pointless, hypothetical debate.

To be clear: if our Judiciary cannot come to the conclusion that this death violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on Cruel and Unusual and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of Equal Protection, then this Judiciary is not worth the trouble it takes to employ them, and any other ruling they ever hand down is not worth the paper it is printed on.


Is This Really A Loss?

The MSM made much ado about this:

Senate Rejects GOP Budget Cuts
House Deficit-Reduction Moves Thwarted

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 18, 2005; Page A04

The Senate last night dealt a slap to President Bush and the Republican leadership, approving a 2006 budget that would gut much of the GOP's deficit-reduction efforts by restoring requested cuts to Medicaid, education, community development and other programs.

But what you--or, at least, I--heard almost nothing about, is this:

Senate Republicans also nearly doubled the budget plan's tax cuts to $134 billion over five years

Now, it seems this can be read one of two ways. First, that the GOP decided it didn't have the stomach for the spending cuts, but knew it needed to give something to its base, so it went for a tax cut. Or, second, that the GOP decided it couldn't get the spending cuts, so it sure as hell had to get something, so it went for the tax cut. Either way, it seems to me like a perfectly normal bit of Potomac two-step.

On the other hand, from the fiscally conservative standpoint, we've managed to reduce direct inputs (taxes) while failing to reduce outlays (spending), all of which leaves the bottom line in a little bit uglier place than it was before. Let's just hope the growth spurred by the cuts offsets the spending.

And let's also remember that it has to be reconciled to the House version, which will probably leave it looking pretty different.

By the bye, here are the GOP Senators who voted against the spending cuts: Smith (Ore), Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.), Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins (Maine), Norm Coleman (Minn.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), and Arlen Specter (Pa.). Didn't you just have to know that Specter's name would show up on this list?

How To Scare The Bejeezus Out Of A Whole State In Just Four Words


So read the front page of Saturday's Rocky Mountain News. And in four little words an entire state and a major industry takes a giant in breath and holds it.

Colorado's $2 billion ski industry could be dead by 2050 unless radical steps are taken to address global warming and save the state's prized champagne powder.

This is not a line from the latest Hollywood disaster flick about the impending climate apocalypse. And it's not the Chicken Little ravings of some kook on late-night talk radio.

This gloomy pronouncement comes from an executive at the Aspen Skiing Co., operators of a four-mountain ski mecca in one of the world's best-known and poshest destination resorts.

"Things look bleak," said Auden Schendler, the company's director of environmental affairs.

The most likely scenario for Colorado's 25 ski resorts, unless global emissions of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases are reined in: "Gone in 2050 . . . Maybe - good case scenario - gone by 2100," he said.

But just read down and see how many qualifiers and modifications the News has to include in its story just to be within spitting distance of credible:

But uncertainty about the amount of warming, the reliability of computerized climate models used in such studies - and especially about how precipitation patterns will change in the Colorado Rockies - leaves plenty of room for speculation. . .

In the Colorado ski industry, opinions about the likely impacts of climate change run the gamut, and some observers reject Schendler's views as overly negative and unjustified. . .

"But I'm not as pessimistic as Auden," he said. "I think we'll be able to adapt.". .

Scientists acknowledge the limits of the computer models used to project future climate at the regional level. . .

"I can't say that this is absolute certainty, nor put a probability figure on it, but I think it's a distinct possibility that we're going to lose the snowpacks in the West and with that the ski industry," Wagner said. . .

The latest version of the Community Climate Systems Model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, for example, calls for a "slight annual increase" in precipitation over the Colorado Rockies by 2100, said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the lab. . .

But no one knows for sure what will happen. . .

In fact, a temperature increase of 4 degrees could result in higher snowfall totals during the coldest winter months at Vail and other Colorado resorts, said Jensen, who has worked in the industry for 31 years.

You would think uncertainty of this type would be enough to moderate the front page, 190-point font that this headline came out in. And if not that, how about this (my personal favorite):

The two computerized climate models used in the regional assessment, known informally as the Hadley and Canadian models, project a 4.5- to 14.4-degree warming in the Rocky Mountains and Great Basin by 2100.

But most of the latest models suggest the West will warm between 3.6 and 10.8 degrees by 2100 as levels of heat-trapping gases continue to rise, according to Daniel Cayan, director of the climate research division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Now, as I recall from my Physics labs oh, those many years ago, when we were trying to measure something, we would rarely accept a margin of error of greater than 10%, and that only because of the limits of our measuring equipment in a 1987-era high school Physics class. So when the range projected by the primary climate model used for this article allows for a margin of error of over 100 percent (if you start from the median and work to the extremes), I get a little bit skeptical. Even when the more moderate of the models has a MOE of exactly 100%, it has to make you wonder if there's any credibility to these climate models. And if you consider that the two models are different by over 20% on their medians, the wonder has to increase a bit.

No, scratch that. It doesn't make you wonder--of course they have no credibility.

As somebody smart said only recently, these same computer models can't even predict the weather tomorrow or next week; how should we trust what they think is going to happen in 100 years?

And, more importantly, why in the world would the News run with that headline? And this is the "conservative" paper in the Denver metro area.


I Love "Raymond"

I have thoroughly enjoyed "Everybody Loves Raymond" for several years now. All the other things about the family aside, it seems that the writers have managed to capture the dynamic of a young marriage exceptionally well. And the chemistry between Raymond and Patricia Heaton, his wife, seems very genuine.

I now have more reasons to like this show, and support its (and its leading actress's) success:

Two-time Emmy winner and New York Times best-selling author Patricia Heaton pled for the life of Terri Schiavo today as Terri's life-sustaining feeding tube was removed. Heaton serves as Honorary Chair of Feminists for Life of America.

"We must not let Terri Schiavo be starved to death," said Heaton. "This deliberate and painful destruction of a woman's life cannot be justified or tolerated. Terri deserves better."

"By his actions Michael Schiavo has demonstrated that he should not be the one making the ultimate life or death decisions for a woman who, only in legal terms, remains his wife. His belief that this was Terri's wish counters the views of Terri's family who, no doubt, know Terri well. Removal of a feeding tube will result in a slow starvation that is cruel and painful."

"Feminists have always challenged the idea that married women have no rights of their own," said Heaton. "A husband should not be granted absolute control over his wife's fate, especially a disaffected husband with dubious motives."

This kind of talk isn't gonna do much for her post-Raymond Hollywood career. But you gotta love a Hollywood starlet who has a grip on reality.

UPDATE: my wife does not necessarily agree with me. She is of the opinion that leaving a person living in that condition is cruel. This, of course, is before she learns of Michael Schiavo's denial of testing and denial of care for his "in sickness and in health" wife. Look, under normal circumstances, I would agree that if her life were dependent on machinery, then hanging on would be a disservice. But, until ALL care options have been exhausted, how does anybody really know? And can you make a death decision based on incomplete or potentially faulty data? Isn't this the same argument anti-death penalty types have adopted lately? Many of whom, by the way, line up on the side of Michael Schiavo. So it's cruel to end the life of a murderer because there's the chance that the system failed him and we didn't get all the facts, but it's okay to let a woman starve to death because her husband decides--based on incomplete medical evidence--that her life is effectively over? Once again, more incoherence from the left.

By the way, my wife came around pretty quickly--with an acknowledgement that the news has been pathetically incompetent in its coverage of the case.

Just to Introduce Some Skepticism

The WashPost runs a story in this morning's paper about the Galveston, TX experience with leaving the Social Security system.

County workers here were confronted with a momentous choice nearly a quarter-century ago when Social Security's financial problems prompted ominous warnings that the program was headed toward bankruptcy. The employees could either ride out the federal retirement program's problems or leave the system altogether.

After a series of emotional meetings, Galveston County's 2,000 workers voted overwhelmingly to abandon Social Security in 1981. They replaced the venerable program with a private package of life, disability and annuity benefits run by a Houston firm that promised appreciably higher payouts than they would earn from Social Security. Public employees in two other Texas Gulf Coast counties, Matagorda and Brazoria, soon followed, joining millions of other public employees across the country who did not participate in the federal plan

The Texas plan has proved to be a boon to most middle- and upper-income workers, who enjoy more flexibility and greater benefits than they would have under Social Security. But independent studies have concluded that low-income workers often do worse than they would have under Social Security.

And here is where the Post tips the hand on the Dems' next strategy with regards to SS reform: class warfare. The article is very good at citing statistics on the strength of those who benefitted from the Galveston Plaque:

Still, Gornto said, most workers come out ahead. Projections developed by his company show that, assuming a 5 percent annual investment return over 40 years , a worker earning $25,596 a year could receive retirement benefits of $1,549 a month -- far more than the $853 a month the worker would get from Social Security on retirement. A worker earning $75,000 a year over a 40-year career would be entitled to a monthly retirement benefit of $4,540 -- nearly three times the $1,645 a month that Social Security would provide, according to the company's figures.

But when putting the argument against the plan, it's all vague "experts" and no numbers to back up their argument:

But the advantages are less clear for lower-paid workers. Outside experts, including researchers for the Government Accountability Office and the Social Security Administration, have found that workers earning less than $17,100 a year in 1999 would have done better under Social Security, mainly because of annual cost-of-living adjustments. The Galveston plan offers no such increases.

I will be very curious to see how the President styles his argument on Monday. This seems like it should be a no-brainer if he can manage to overcome the inevitable demagoguery from the left.

Budget Deal

Here's the lead from the Denver Post story:

Republican Gov. Bill Owens and Democratic legislative leaders stood together Thursday and asked voters to approve a budget reform measure they said would help solve the state's money problems.

The announcement marked a landmark deal among Owens, Democratic Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and House Speaker Andrew Romanoff that all sides said they will stump hard to sell to voters in November.

The deal would let state government keep about $3.1 billion more over five years than constitutional limits currently allow. It would also include a temporary tax cut.

On first look, and not knowing any of the details, it looks like a win-win for the politicians: the Dems get to spend more money and the Governor gets a five year time limit and a small, temporary tax cut. This, I believe, is how you have to get things done when you're the minority. Unfortunately, this does nothing to ease the pressures on the budget mandated by Amendment 23, but we knew that wasn't going to happen this time around, anyway.

Of course, this is still going to be a pretty tough sell to the public, which has to approve the deal.

The new allies have about eight months to convince the state's voters to pass the plan, which campaign strategists say is a big challenge.

"Any discussion about the budget is mind-numbing, so what you need to do is show how it affects people," said Steve Welchert, a Denver consultant. "What you need to show are classroom teachers, firefighters, nurses at the university hospital, paramedics out in Fort Morgan."

It's not going to be cheap. Romanoff predicted a multimillion-dollar campaign. Last fall, supporters and opponents spent $11.5 million on four citizen-sponsored initiatives - more money than raised by either of the Colorado candidates running for U.S. Senate.

And, indeed, in early jockeying Douglas Bruce has denounced the plan and called out the Governor:

Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, on Thursday called Gov. Bill Owens "a Republican impostor who is trying to win the hearts of liberal voters as he heads out of office."

In fact, Bruce said, he is willing to bet Owens $1,000 that the deal will fall flat on its face, should it come down to a vote in November.

"He can make his case for state socialism and I can make my case for limited government," Bruce said. "Clearly, we are going to fight this."

Certainly, there are no guarantees on this one. This should be an interesting one to watch play out.

As for my personal opinion, I'll hold out until I see some of the details. On its face, I would say it goes to far--it seems to go beyond letting the state get back to pre-recession levels of service. But again, this is how you get things done from a minority position. I welcome commentary from those more informed on budget issues.

Death Watch

The feeding tube has been ordered removed from Terri Schiavo; now it's just a matter of time before she dies of starvation while her parents have to sit by and watch and suffer.

If it were me, and the only way to save my child were to, um, remove my child's legal guardian from the picture, I'm not sure I would have the patience and courage the family has had. I'm not saying anything, and I'm certainly not advocating anything in particular, I'm just saying that I cannot imagine a circumstance where accepting the slow death of my child would not drive me to madness.

In that vein, pray for the family, that they receive some measure of comfort and peace from God during these next many days; pray for Terri's soul and body; for that matter, pray for a miracle from Terri to demonstrate the correctness of keeping her alive.

And pray for her husband, that he see the despicable nature of what he's doing, that perhaps he has a change of heart, or that at some point he recognizes what he's doing and asks God for forgiveness.


More From the MoveOn.org Delusion-Fest

Radioblogger didn't post the transcript of Ted Kennedy's remarks yesterday. And I didn't hear them until I caught a "tape-delay" of the Hugh Hewitt Show. But they are well worth hearing and dissecting, so I will do a partial transcription now. . . for your amusement.

The United States of America is universally respected around the world for its democracy. And one of the principal reasons that we are respected is because of the checks and balances. The President of the United States has the veto, and we have unlimited debate and discussion. And that is very basic and fundamental.

Now, granted, I was educated in the public schools, but I seem to recall that the system of checks and balances between the Legislature and the Executive was based on the veto and the override by 2/3, and on the power of impeachment, and on the exclusive right for the Executive to nominate and the Senate to "advise and consent." In fact, it is even in the exact article of the Constitution that the founding fathers designed a supermajority, for the purpose of approving treaties, but made no mention of it with respect to the Judiciary. Unlimited debate and discussion was a Senate rule put in during the first few sessions of Congress. The filibuster is not mentioned in the Constitution, and I'm pretty sure the founding fathers would not have thought too highly of "interminable debate."

I would say to my Republican friends that are thinking about closing off the Senate of the United States from considering these justices "Read the debates in the Constitutional Convention." On three different occassions the founding fathers addressed the appointment power to the federal judiciary, and on two of those three they gave the complete power, complete power, to the United States Senate. And the last great decision of the Constitutional Convention, eight days before it adjourned, said it will be a divided power--an equal power between the Executive, between, uh, between the Senate of the United States. And that is the reason that Bob Byrd, Barbara McCulskey, and Chuck Schumer do not believe that we ought to be rubber stamps for this President of the United States.

Now, it just so happens that I just finished reading James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787(I know--seemed like a good idea at the time). The Convention adjourned on Monday, September 17, 1787; that would make eight days before that Sunday, September 9. THE CONVENTION DID NOT MEET ON SUNDAYS. So, let's give the drunka . . Senator the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant eight days of debate prior to adjournment, which would have been Friday, September 7. And, indeed, on this day the Convention did discuss the appointment power--for about 15 minutes. I will copy just a portion of this debate (it takes up less than a page in the book, but still . . .) for your perusal.

"He shall nominate &c Appoint Ambassadors &c."

MR WILSON objected to the mode of appointing, as blending a branch of the Legislature with the Executive. Good laws are of no effect without a good Executive; and there can be no good Executive without a responsible appointment of officers to execute. Responsibility is in a manner destroyed by such an agency of the Senate.(emphasis mine). . .

MR PINKNEY was against joining the Senate in these appointments, except in the instance of Ambassadors whom he thought ought not be appointed by the President. . .

On the question. . . Agreed to nem: con:

Now, whether or not the Convention debated such appointment powers twice before and granted it to the Senate is unclear from this excerpt (by the way, they didn't), but several things ARE clear from this excerpt. One: the Founders were actually suspicious of Senate involvement in these matters. Two: it was never intended to be an equal power. Three: given the lengthy debates elsewhere about the supermajority for Ambassadors and Treaties, the relatively quick debate on this issue without mention of a supermajority lays bare the lie that the Senate has a right to expect a supermajority.

And Four: Sen. Kennedy needs to get a better grip on history. If he really wants to put out there arguments that can be readily checked against an authoritative record, he should really do a better job of disguising his lies. That, or continue to look like a foolish, old anachronism rapidly losing his grip on the one thing he cares about: power.

And, by the way, several other great decisions came after this relatively easy one for the Convention. Among them, many contentious questions about duties on imports and exports, and the proper mode for ratification. Compared to the actual debates on these issues, the issue of appointments was barely a blip on the record.



Come out tomorrow and listen to a live broadcast of Hugh Hewitt at the Border's in COlorado Mills starting at 4 pm. In the process, get your copies of "Blog" signed by the author, and get some tips from bloggers who know (that is, the Rocky Mountain Alliance) on setting up your own blog and getting started sharpening your rhetoric and research skills.

And, when I note that there will be "bloggers who know" there, I note that I will be unable to attend. So the relative Blog-Q of the room will be a little higher.


Or something like that. I, for one, enjoyed a grand lunch at Clancy's Irish Pub in Wheat Ridge today (sadly, minus the Bushmill's and Guiness) to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I hope all of you out there found some way to celebrate, as well.

Barbara Boxer, Turn In Your Playbook

With a big hat tip to Hugh Hewitt and Gen.o Duane, I draw your attention to the MoveOn.org rally yesterday in which several Dem Senators tried to defend their filibuster strategy.

First, Harry Reid: This is not about judges. It's about arrogance of power. Eli (the founder of MoveOn) was right in everything, except he said for 200 years, this country has had the procedures that we're trying to make sure are not eliminated. He's wrong, because it's been 217 years.

But for you, our voices would be drowned out by the shrill right of right-wing radio. But you're not going to let this happen. We are depending on you. We are depending on you to make sure that this country stands for what we learned many years ago when Mr. Smith went to Washington.

Of course it's about judges, in the same way that "academic freedom" is about indoctrination of youth. The left has long seen the route to their power through controlling the long-term instruments of public policy: academia and the courts. Let's face it--they've been much better at this and about this than the right has. It's rather remarkable that the GOP holds majorities given the stranglehold on public policy and higher learning that the Dems have held. But what you are hearing in their voice is desperate screams of Don Giovanni at the sight of Hell: if the GOP gets a hold of the courts, it would be "game over" for their little run of social reconstruction. And secondly, Senator, "Mr. Smith" is a movie character--there's very few of us who either a. saw that movie or b. look on it as a major Civics lesson.

Then, Sen. Durbin: This historic debate is about more than the rights of Senators on the floor of the Senate. It's about the rights of the American people. It's about the solemn oath each of us has taken to uphold and defend the Constitution. . . This is not the first president to come forward, believing that he had so much power, he could change America. He could change the Constitution. That he could change the way we choose judges. It happened before. Thomas Jefferson, this venerable name in American history, in his second term, tried to impeach a Supreme Court justice by the name of Samuel Chase, at a time when Thomas Jefferson's party controlled the Senate. And those Senators, six of those Republican Senators, said no. The Constitution is more important than even Thomas Jefferson.

Once again, Senator, please, I pray you, find the word "filibuster" in the Constitution for me. This is not about the Constitution, this is about the arbitrary exercise of Senate prerogatives. Well, here's a new prerogative for you: a majority vote! And, by the way, the Republican Party, such as it is today, did not exist in Jefferson's time. Just an aside.

Next, where any good manager puts his strongest hitter, Robert Byrd: Your Honor, I mean, urgh [gurgle] Your Highness, I condemn in the strongest terms--THE STRONGEST terms, this incursion of, of, of . . .these little birdies in our. . .can you hear them CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP. . Your Highness must have seen. . . in the orange juice, no less. . . Actually, just kidding. Not that Byrd's rant was any more coherent than this.

And, finally, batting cleanup, Sen Barbara Boxer. To preface, we've had arguments so far for tradition, congeniality, Constitutionality, power overreaching, and free speech. What does Babs lead with: Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Oh, of course. It's a pretty good gig, so they ought to require a "super" vote.

Way to go, Sen Boxer. Coach wants to see you. And bring your playbook. Close the door, Bricks. This is one part of the job that's never easy . . .


Approaching Critical

Democrats yesterday said they will halt all Senate business except essential operations and national defense if Republicans use the "nuclear option" to unclog President Bush's judicial nominees.

In what was surely one of the most ridiculous pieces of political theater I've ever watched, Minority Leader Reid (or, as I like to think of him, Senator Piglet) tossed off some way over the top rhetoric while standing with 35 of his Senate colleagues.

Wait a second. . . 35? Yep. Not all of the Dems wanted a piece of this action.

Absent from Mr. Reid's side yesterday were nine Democrats, several of whom have expressed reservations about Democratic strategies on judicial nominees.

Hmmmm. That's interesting. Wait a second. . .doesn't Colorado have a Democratic Senator?

But even standing with Mr. Reid yesterday didn't necessarily mean endorsing his strategy. Sen. Ken Salazar, the Colorado Democrat who supported previous Bush nominees, stood on the Senate steps but later refused to say whether he would help grind the Senate to a halt.

"I hope we don't have to get there," Mr. Salazar said as he walked into the Senate chamber after the press conference. "I don't think it's healthy for the Senate or for the country."

Pressed about whether he will support a shutdown, Mr. Salazar said: "I will oppose the power of arrogance. But that doesn't mean I won't vote for individual nominees."

Well, there you go, Coloradans. Clear as mud.

What this does point out, though, is that it is entirely possible that the Dems will not be able to sustain a filibuster at all, much less shut down the Senate should it come to that. Kudos to Bill Frist for playing a good hand of poker. Obviously, it's not over yet, but the Democrats do seem to be becoming more and more divested from the strategy of Obstruct at all Costs.

CD7 Race Taking Shape

According to today's Rocky, the Democrats are starting to line up to challenge for Bob Beauprez's 7th Congressional Seat.

Joanna Conti on Monday became the first of what's expected to be a steady stream of Democrats mounting a challenge for the 7th Congressional District seat held by Republican Bob Beauprez.

Nearly 20 months before the 2006 general election, Conti announced her candidacy at an elementary school in Lakewood.
Other Democrats eyeing the seat are former legislators Peggy Lamm and Renny Fagan.

Another Democrat, banker Jim Polsfut, went as far as setting up an exploratory committee over the weekend to assess a possible run.

If, as is widely reported, Bob vacates that seat to run for Governor, the 7th could have a repeat of the 2000 election, in which Bob beat Mike Feeley by only 121 votes (or so). It also opens up the real possibility that Colorado could send a congressional delegation back to Washington made up of 5 Dems and 4 Republicans. Shudder.

Still, if this is the field they intend to run, the 7th is far from a lost cause.

But [Amy]Walter [Cook Political Report] said the current and prospective pool of Democrats may not be well-connected enough to beat Beauprez.

"I doubt there is much residual name recognition there. None are starting out with an obvious advantage," she said.

Of course, the same could be said of the GOP. In my immediate area, the only currently elected person who comes to mind is state Rep Bill Crane--the rest of the seats in my area are all Dem. That doesn't bode too well for the GOP, either.


Deficits and the Global Economy

For those of you comfortable in the world of numbers and pseudo-science—in other words, economics—Gerard Baker (The Times of London) has penned an interesting essay in the latest edition of Foreign Policy. His thesis is simple:

However it comes, any significant fiscal belt tightening in the United States during thenext four yearsis in the long-term interests of the rest of the world. A reduction in the U.S. fiscal deficit should help stabilize international capital flows, halt the dollar’s slide, and boost exports of economic partners.

But, in the here and now, the political costs will be brutal—and not mainly for Americans. As the U.S. fiscal deficit narrow, government borrowing abroad should increase. And as the United States increases its national savings by consuming less, the rest of the world will need to ease fiscal policy to maintain levels of global saving and investment. Put another way: If the United States is to halve its fiscal deficit in the next four years, it would remove a sizeable chunk of money from the global economy that has driven global growth these last four years.

Some of the repercussions of such a policy Baker writes about include political instability within the EU, rocking an already teetering Japanese economy, and a massive destabilization of Chinese banking practices. An interesting read, for the economically inclined. Also points to an area of major domestic policy that has resonance in foreign policy.

More From Bashar Assad

A couple nights ago I blogged about the Time interview with Bashar Assad (subscription required). I noted that he had mentioned the lessons learned from the Iraq War in relation to his own situation. Here is the exact quote:

Please send this message: I am not Saddam Hussein. I want to cooperate.

The article leaves the impression that, at least in this reporter’s eyes, Assad is in a little bit over his head with the whole Grand Pooh-Bah act. To wit:

Unfortunately, Assad seems unable to make [reforms]. In our interview, he evadedthe question of closing Palestinian “rejectionist” group offices in Damascus. “If you’re an American and I don’t want you here, should I send you to Africa or to the U.S., your country? . . That’s what I told [Assistant Secretary of State William] Burns: Where should I send [the Palestinian radicals]? To the Mediterranean, on a boat?” But he also claimed there were no Palestinian extremist offices in Damascus. “They have houses. They live in the houses meet with people in the houses. That’s what they call offices. . .They don’t have members in Syria; all their members are in Palestine. The only thing they used to do was call in the media to express their position.”

Assad was also firmly evasive about cooperating with the U.S. in rounding up Iraqis supporting the insurgency from Syrian territory. In January the U.S. had given Assad a list of 34 wanted men assumed to be in Syria. “Many of these names we don’t know,” Assad told me. “What does his face look like? What’s his real name? Maybe he’s using a fake name or a fake passport. You should give us precise information because we can’t find them.”

This turned out to be a creatively incomplete answer. A few hours earlier, the Iraqis had announced the Saddam’s half brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tiktriti had been captured in Syria, reportedly with the cooperation of Syrian authorities.

I’m pretty sure pinning our hopes for transformation in the Middle East on this guy would be a mistake. On the other hand, the article does give the impression that this is one regime that may be ripe for toppling.

Then the problem becomes who takes over, and just how bad are they?

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old. . .

In last week’s Time Magazine(subscription required), which I just got around to reading today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sat down for a Q&A with Matt Rees and Jamil Hamad. Parts of the interview seem lucid and engaged, and the photo that accompanies the article certainly gives the impression that Abbas is not nearly as—oh, what’s the word?—eccentric as his predecessor.

Unfortunately, not all of his answers give that same impression:

Time: Who was responsible, then, for the Tel Aviv attack?
Abbas: It was individuals. We arrested five. If you ask me who is responsible, the Israelis are responsible. The bombers came from the suburb of Tulkarem to Tel Aviv, crossing the wall. So who is responsible? The Wall and the Israelis.

I’ve been searching for an analogy to this ludicrous assertion, but it’s so far detached from reality that I’m having a hard time. It’s like blaming the Atlantic Ocean for the 9/11 attacks—the Americans use the Ocean as a barrier, and the existence of that barrier is offensive, so we must attack them.

That analogy doesn’t quite do the trick, but you get the idea. If this incisive mind is what the world is pinning its hopes on for peace in the Middle East, we might be waiting a long time.

More Transformations

There may be enough courage on display in Iraq and Lebanon to fuel a world-wide projection of the power of an ideal: freedom.

Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed the streets yesterday chanting "freedom, sovereignty, independence" in by far the largest of a half-dozen demonstrations held in the past month.
Published estimates put the size of the anti-Syrian crowd at between 800,000 and 1 million -- roughly twice the size of a pro-Syrian rally organized a week ago by the radical movement Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist group.

Sadly, I suspect it is only a matter of time before this becomes violent, but it sshould be obvious to anybody not blinded by ideology that the cry for liberty is ringing out across the region of the middle east.

Re-Alignment Even In Defeat

John Zogby, whose polls have had some very. . .interesting. . .tendencies over the last three election cycles, has penned a very interesting Op-Ed in tomorrow's OJO.

It has been no secret that Mr. Bush and Karl Rove have their sights set on a political realignment not experienced since FDR built a coalition of urban ethnics, liberal ideologues and Southern conservatives under the Democrats' big tent. Like the New Deal, the president's "ownership society" is a compelling new vision and veritable redefinition of a society less dependent on government largess, of a middle class more independent and more capable of securing financial security on its own.

This stunning realignment is possible by virtue of a new class of American voters--the self-identified "investor class"--which is itself a coalition across a broad spectrum of demographic groups. . .

Self-identified investors comprised 46% of the total vote in 2004, a significantly higher figure than pre-election polls suggested. The group is neither dominated by the wealthy nor do members necessarily aspire to become wealthy. According to a series of polls we did on behalf of PBS's "Wall Street Week with Fortune," this group tells us they simply are saving for a retirement that maintains their current lifestyle and for college for their children. Importantly, their worldview remains middle class, modest, and basically conservative. . .

To the Democrats: Just saying no is not a policy and demographics are not destiny. Ignore the "ownership society" at your own peril.

It does, to a degree, seem almost intuitive that the country is moving ever-so-slowly to the right. Consider all the forces arrayed against the President in the last election, and the fact that he still won, and you have to be optimistic that the general electorate has tendencies that defy politics as usual. If Zogby is correct in his assessment of investing as the catalyst to a long-term GOP majoritarian coalition, then the future is very bright.

When even McDonald's advertises its retirment plans, you can be sure that the "investor class" is growing, and will be a central player in the future of the country.


On Calling Out Our Own

Paston John spoke this morning about an odd phenomenon: that of being able to identify the solution, while not being easily able to articulate the problem.

A little context: this sermon was one of a series about Easter--this one addressing the issue of "Why did God Forsake Jesus?" Of course, the point was not that he forsook Jesus, but rather that . . . you know, that's a conversation for another time.

But towards the end of the sermon John reiterated a point that his own son has made to him, as he went through struggles with his own Faith. And that point is this: modern Christians, in their desire to emphasize the positive, are very adept at identifying the solution. That is, salvation through Faith,that believing in God and turning our lives over to Him will bring us strength and peace of mind. Unfortunately, in this approach, modern Christians tend to forget that one of the lessons of the Gospel, and of Paul's life, and many others, is that such Faith often demands extraordinary sacrifice, and even suffering.

I'm not entirely sure why this lesson got juxtaposed in my mind this morning with this story, but it did:

COLORADO SPRINGS - Ten members of a Topeka, Kan., church famous for its demonstrations against the gay community received a rude welcome when they picketed Palmer High School Friday morning.

More than 500 people turned out with banners and chants to condemn the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrators as messengers of hatred, not Christian love. . .

On a swatch of public sidewalk, relatives of church pastor Fred Phelps, who was not present, raised their signs proclaiming, "God Hates Fags," and depicting silhouetted human figures in the act of sodomy.

Now, I know many of you might be thinking to yourself that I'm heading towards a lauding of these members of the Kansas church for taking it onto themselves to go into hostile territory to deliver a message--in effect, for taking on suffering for the sake of Christ.

And, you would be wrong. What I'm doing is actually taking a chance of putting myself in that same boat with members of my own (aleit loosely affiliated) Christian community.

First of all, I find it remarkably arrogant that any peoples, much less those who should be duly humbled before God, purport to speak for God. And in such a manner so completely contrary to the message of the Gospel. As I read it--and, mind you, I'm no theologian--it seems that the whole purpose of Christ's life was to demonstrate God's extraordinary love for all men, even and especially, sinners. Why should God love me with all my faults, weaknesses and sins, but hate people who are gay? It is a non-sensical argument, and one that denies the lessons of the gospel.

But more importantly, I think it is incumbent on those of us who would be grouped with these members of this Kansas church to disassociate ourselves from their message. Not for personal gain, or for a false air of righteousness, but because the best message we have is the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ--not the hatred and rebuke of our brothers. That message will constantly be drowned out by the noise of these who speak of hate, especially as amplified by the mainstream media. I, for one, denounce the tactics and message of the Westboro Baptist Church.

What does that have to do with problems and solutions? First, I hope to focus on the solution--God's healing love. Do not deliver scorn and hate when we should be preaching love, forgiveness and repentance. And secondly, I hope to try to identify a problem in the hopes of putting it in the open and letting us talk about it in a way that does not cause our target audience to dismiss us.

After all, it's pretty difficult to reach out a hand of evangelism when that hand is clenched in a fist.


"I Am Not Saddam"

President Bashar Assad has reassured the U.N. that he intends to comply with their call to get out of Lebanon. In fact, his full statement to Time magazine (no link available yet) goes something like "I am not Saddam Hussein."

So, between elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, a startling turnaround in Palestine, Libya giving up its arms program, Egypt making at least a headfake towards elections, and now Syria giving up its feifdom with a nod towards President Bush's Iraq policy, it would seem this has already been a successful transformational Presidency.

And it's still three and a half years to go.

Even When They're The Only Ones Voting

There must be some sort of a pathological handicap within the ranks of the Democratic Party. Remember in 2000 when the ballots in Florida were too difficult to comprehend? And how about all the bizarre conspiracy theories that the electronic voting machines are too susceptible to hacking (ahem, Mrs. Heinz-Kerry, call your office). Well, it turns out they can't even vote right within their own ranks.

Four of the seven people who tried to vote by proxy for Chris Gates to continue as chairman of the state Democratic Party have complained to national party headquarters that their votes weren't counted.

Gates lost to Pat Waak 187-184.

"I have been advised my vote was not valid and was not counted," Cheyenne County party vice chairman Victor Weed told national party headquarters in a handwritten note. "Since I followed what I thought was proper procedure, this is extremely disappointing," Weed wrote.

Waak declined to respond to the complaints.

Colorado Democratic Party staffers said in a statement after the March 5 election that they believe procedures followed that day affected the outcome. They said that more proxy votes came from rural counties than expected and that volunteers did not efficiently search for people in attendance to cast those proxy votes.

Proxy ballot. . . I wonder if that's like a provsional ballot? Maybe they tried to register to vote on the day of, and then gave their ballot to someone who just. . .

Or perhaps the Dems ought to clue in to how to cast a ballot and stop constantly whining about the system whenever things don't go quite their way.

Every System Has A Flaw

This is the time of year in Colorado public schools when all the talk, all the planning, and all the anxiety is about the CSAP tests. For those outside this state, or those in the state who take only a passing interest in education issues, CSAP stands for Colorado Student Assessment Program. This is the program by which Colorado meets the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation to issue standardized tests to every child and to evaluate schools based on the results of those tests.

Colorado actually instituted the test before NCLB, and the controversy has been nonstop. At first, teachers were insulted at the imposition of state controls over their curriculum and their classroom. There were, as always, the strong educator contingent that dismissed standardized tests as incomplete, random, and unfair. And, I think, by and large, educators fell into one of two camps: let's just pay the king his shilling and get it over with, and those who denied the importance of this reality. Over time, however, a few wonderful side effects started showing up. For one thing, faculty meetings started to focus on student performance and student achievement; in the years before CSAP, faculty meetings tended to be about "self-esteem" and "inclusiveness." For another thing, teachers started seriously talking about best practices, focused instruction, and common curricula.

None of this positive change, however, could mask what I perceived to be two serious--perhaps even fatal--flaws in the CSAP test. First, in what is not fatal, CSAP ends up occupying an extraordinary amount of classroom time. For example, my daughter's 3rd grade class has already dedicated 3 hours to taking a portion of the test, and (if I'm readingmy bulletin right) will be spending no less than 9 more hours of classroom time on taking this assessment. And this is third grade--12 hours. Contrast that with the amount of time high school seniors get to complete their SATs or ACTs--four hours. Are you telling me that it really takes us 12 hours to assess the educational growth of 3rd graders, but it only takes 4 hours to evaluate 12 years worth of learning? This seems to be a tremendous misallocation of education's most precious commodity: time.

But the second flaw is, to my mind, a backbreaker for the CSAP program. This is the flaw whereby the persons actually responsible for performing on the CSAP are not held at all accountable for the results of the CSAP. The school is assessed, and in a few cases the data is useful enough to evaluate individual teachers, but the people who actually have pencil in hand on testing day--the students--pay no price for tanking it, and, likewise, reap no benefit from performing well. And if you think this doesn't effect performance on the test, you NEED to read this article in Friday's Rocky Mtn. News.

"Most (students) would rather eat a golf ball before they try to do well on the CSAPs," Wilson wrote. "Students aren't idiots. We know what the CSAPs are for. They grade the school. They don't grade us."

Wilson, a student at a DPS high school, is one of a handful of students whose parents have signed a waiver form allowing them to opt out of the CSAP. Unfortunately, this "opt-out" counts towards the school's overall average as a 0 (as in zip, zilch, nada. . .). So Wilson gets to miss out on all the fun of taking the test, pays no real consequence for doing so, and manages to damage the results for his school in the process. For most kids, this seems like the ideal circumstance--a couple days off, no stress, AND I get to stick it to my school.

This is the same phenomenon that governs professional sports, it seems. When was the last time you saw a player get fired in mid-season for playing badly (and in Denver, of late, we've seen plenty of bad performances)? Right. Never. Occassionally someone might get benched or traded, but they're still making the same salary. No, what always happens when players are playing badly is that the person responsible (in theory) gets fired--as in, the coach. The difference is that a player underachieving will see some consequence eventually, as they try to negotiate a new contract or attract free agency offers and their worth (monetarily)is so linked to their performance that the market takes care of itself.

But to climb back out of the metaphor, for a high school student who "underperforms", there is no consequence.

And that is a fatal flaw of this design. The coaches (teachers) and organizations (schools) will be evaluated--and evaluated harshly, where appropriate--while the players (students) skate through without so much as a "howdy-doo." And until the CSAP begins being used to evaluate STUDENT achievement ( as the name of the program implies), we will never get a complete picture of how our schools are doing. Or, in economic terms, unless there is an incentive for students to perform, there is no reason at all to expect a positive change in behavior.


This One Would Get My Early Endorsement

From today's Rocky: A staffer from Congressman Bob Beauprez's 2004 campaign has registered the Web site www.beauprezforgovernor.com.

I spent many hours in the offices of Bob Beauprez's re-election campaign last Fall, and I met the man on several occasions. He's a good man, a smart man, and won what was supposed to be a highly contested race by 15 points. I think he would have not just a good chance to win, but would make an excellent Governor. Not to mention that he's got deep experience with the Colorado GOP, having been party chairman for a couple years.

Sure, it's early. But if we're going to hold the Governor's mansion, and do it in a way that might have coattails to regain the legislature, an early and obvious frontrunner would be a good thing.

Obstructionists Are We

From the Wash Post: President Bush's bid to add individual accounts to Social Security faces such formidable opposition in the Senate that its supporters may be unable to bring it to a vote, according to a Washington Post survey of senators.

An overwhelming majority of Democratic senators said they will oppose, under any circumstances, Bush's plan to allow younger workers to divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into individual investment accounts that would follow them into retirement. . .

The Post survey of the Senate's 44 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent indicates there are at least 42 -- and perhaps 44 -- who firmly oppose personal investment accounts, particularly if they are financed with borrowed money.

So, they intend to filibuster judges, they've managed to block the energy plan for four years, and now they're looking at blocking the Social Security thing. At this point, if I were the President, I'd push hard on this--very hard, asking for everything--while telling weak-kneed GOP Senators to hold the line because they're never going to have to vote. Is there anything better politically for the GOP than an extended Dem blockage without voting on the agenda? They never seem to learn--a couple more seats in 2006 and this President can write his own legacy.

Just Missed

Here's another list that I think I just missed out on.

Been Waiting For This For A Long Time

Muslim clerics in Spain issued what they called the world’s first “fatwa,” or Islamic edict, against Osama bin Laden on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, calling him an apostate and urging others of their faith to denounce the al-Qaida leader.

I'm not sure the Muslim Clerics in Spain count as "frontline" or "mainstream" or "influential", but given the complete silence from the rest of the Muslim world, it is encouraging the this "religion of peace" has the capability of recognizing a murderer and calling him such.


They Can Have Him

Jesse Jackson, a thoroughly discredited political hack and extortionist in America, is out searching for a new following:

It opensIn America Jesse Jackson's charisma is renowned. Now he is inspiring young black Britons in search of a leader . . . [contain yourselves, please]

And it closes Whether his words will make a difference in getting more black people to the polling booths or at the boardroom table remains to be seen. But one thing's for certain. Black Britons are looking for a leader and, for one day at least, they found one.

Did he run out of American breweries to blackmail? Or has he taken a liking to Bass or Guiness??

I See He Has Some Spine Domestically, Too

Tony Blair raised the stakes in the battle over anti-terrorism laws last night by declaring his readiness to fight the general election on putting the security of the country before civil liberties.

This is a bold move by Blair, one that could trigger a bit of a poltical problem:

The Government now faces 24 hours of brinkmanship with peers, which could trigger the most serious constitutional clash since Labour came to power in 1997.

If neither side backs down, the Government could lose the Bill, which replaces existing powers to detain foreign terrorist suspects, due to expire on Sunday.

It is, however, passing strange that in England the liberals have to fight over the conservatives to get security measures passed, while it seems to be just the opposite on this side of the pond.

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