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


Did The President Move The Ball?

Apparently, he did.

In response to the press conference on Thursday, in which the President fleshed out his ideas for Social Security reform, the Washington Post has written its lead editorial in favor of reform.

The conclusion of the Post:

the president has presented ideas that are reasonable enough to serve as the starting point for action. Yes, personal accounts pose risks. But they are also likely, albeit not certain, to enrich the retirement of the majority of workers who opt for them; they should not be dismissed as heresy. Yes, cutting the value of future pensions relative to wages might force some middle-class Americans to save more privately or work a bit longer, but the pain is less than under many other proposals. The Social Security system does need fixing. And the longer Congress ducks it, the more the fix will hurt.

While not whole-heartedly endorsing the President's ideas, it is very telling that the Post not only avoids open hostility to the ideas, but turns to Congress with a great big "Now, what have you got?". In fact, the Post itself titled the editorial "The Challenge To Democrats".

But I can't let this small victory go by without pointing out the duplicitous praise. The lead graf tries awful hard to paint the Democrats as being somehow above the fray:

FOR THE past three months Democrats have declined to engage in a debate over Social Security. President Bush proposed a way of giving workers the option, but not the obligation, of saving some of their Social Security money in personal accounts. While he was crisscrossing the country in an attempt to prepare voters for unsettling change, Democrats offered no proposals of their own, saying that Mr. Bush should first come forward with a plan to plug Social Security's long-term deficit.

The Post never mentions the hostility towards the reform, the every-other-day attempts to paint Social Security as safe and "not in crisis," not to mention the more-than-occassional personal attack on the President. Sure, they've declined to engage in a debate--that hasn't stopped them from taking pot shots at the only person who IS engaged in the debate. This, of course, is pretty common territory for a party that is totally out of energy, direction, or ideas.


And In Defense Of Salazar. . .

Come the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News' Mike Littwin.

What's most hilarious about both attempts at the defense is that they both claim that Salazar had the "higher ground". To wit:

DPost:Until this week, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar had taken the high road in defending himself against hard-ball attacks from the conservative group Focus on the Family and its founder James Dobson.

Salazar has opposed GOP threats to eliminate use of the filibuster when judicial nominations are considered. Focus and others, claiming Salazar flip-flopped on a campaign promise, have questioned his faith and attacked him in print and radio ads.

And, Littwin: Politically speaking, though, this was a minor disaster. That's why he apologized. But an apology won't change the fact that Salazar has given away much of the high ground he had gained in his fight with Dobson.

Which leads to the following set of questions:

1. If Salazar had the "high ground," then by implication Dobson must have taken the "low road;" since when has engaging our public officials on matters of policy, and doing so within the context of the public debate, been the "low road"?

2. If it's simply the "hard-ball" approach that has earned Dobson the "low road," then what is one to say about the Democrats approach to the issue, which has included their caucus leader saying such temperate things as "this is just a big wet-kiss to the far right"?

3. And while he did have a right to attack Salazar as a "flip-flopper" (which, for the record, is not a "claim" since it can easily be substantiated by the public record), Dobson never reduced his discourse to name-calling, merely pointing out that Salazar was participating in the "mischief;" so, since Salazar was actually the first one to resort to name-calling (even his apology labeled Dobson as "un-Christian . . .self-serving and selfish), wouldn't Salazar actually be the one who staked out the "low-road" first?

This is a great example of the debate technique of the Left: do a thing; get called on the thing; call those who called you on it something derogatory; then feign shock--SHOCK--at "vitriol" from the other side while issuing a non-apology apology.

And they wonder why they can't win elections any more.


Speaking of Temperament

How often in the last many weeks have we heard Democrats voice concern over somebody's "temperament"? Whether it was the judicial temperament of various Court appointments, or the diplomatic temperament of a certain nominee for U.N. Ambassador, the Democrats have recently made temperament into one of the noblest character qualities a person could possess.

So, what to make of Sen. Ken Salazar.

I spoke about Jim Dobson and his efforts and used the term 'the anti-Christ.' I regret having used that term. . .

Salazar added that his statement came after "being relentlessly attacked" in telephone calls, e-mails, newspapers and radio stations across Colorado.

Poor guy. Imagine that, running for high office, and being the subject of attacks. And, of all things, to come back by calling Focus on the Family "the Anti-Christ."

What does that say about the temperament of Ken Salazar?

And that would be one thing. But then to follow it with the worst apology EVER:

I meant to say this approach was un-Christian, meaning self-serving and selfish.

Oh, well . . . that's much better.

At this rate, if we can keep the pressure up, we ought to be able to get Salazar to completely crack by about the fourth year of his term.

Quick Hits on John Bolton

The now-rejuvenated nomination of John Bolton to the U.N. gets a strong endorsement on the pages of the Opinion Journal Online today.

From the lead editorial:

The real motives are a combination of ideological animus and bureaucratic score-settling. On the latter, we know Mr. Bolton tangled with State Department officials who were profoundly antagonistic to President Bush's agenda on issues ranging from the ABM Treaty to the International Criminal Court, and that he usually got his way. Now it's payback time. . .

None of this, however, quite explains the depth of hostility that Mr. Bolton inspires. The deeper explanation is that he set out to explode the consensus views of the foreign-policy establishment--and succeeded.
This was the consensus that held, or holds, that North Korea and Iran can be bribed away from their nuclear ambitions, that democracy in the Arab world was impossible and probably undesirable, that fighting terrorism merely encourages more terrorism, that countries such as Syria pose no significant threat to U.S. national security, that the U.N. alone confers moral legitimacy on a foreign-policy objective, and that support for Israel explains Islamic hostility to the U.S. Above all, in this view, the job of appointed officials such as Mr. Bolton is to reside benignly in their offices at State while the permanent foreign service bureaucracy goes about applying establishment prescriptions.

John Bolton would have none of this. For this, he has been smeared by his partisan critics and maligned, often anonymously, by his former colleagues. But he has also been vindicated by events, and by his accomplishments, in the last four years. If this makes Mr. Bolton unconfirmable in the eyes of the Senate, then talented Americans have no place in our government.

Ouch. And then Peggy Noonan weighs in:

John Bolton is conceded by all, friends and foes alike, to be very smart, quite earnest, hardworking and experienced (undersecretary of state, former assistant secretary of state, treaty negotiator, international development official and old U.N. hand; he played a major role in getting the U.N. to repeal its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism). He is also known as jocular and tough-minded. He has been highly critical of the United Nations. These are all good things.

If he is confirmed he will walk into the U.N. as a man whose reputation is that he does not play well with the other children. Not all bad. He will not be seen as a pushover. Good. Some may approach him with a certain tentativeness. But Mr. Bolton, having been burned in the media frying pan and embarrassed, will likely moderate those parts of his personal style that have caused him trouble. He may wind up surprising everyone with his openness and friendliness. Fine.

Or he'll be a bull in a china shop.

But the U.N. is a china shop in need of a bull, isn't it?

When Lying and Smearing Get You Nowhere. . .

then, and ONLY then, should you fall back on the merits of an argument.

At least, that seems to be the approach of the New York Times editorial page. Today, after months of flip-floppery support of the filibuster (See Powerline for more on this aspect), the Times finally decides to come around to arguing the merits of Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. A bit laughably so, but still . . .

If war breaks out in the Senate over judicial nominations, the initial battle is likely to center on two women, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. Republicans seem to think that those nominees will come off as so likeable that Democrats will be forced to back down from their threats of a filibuster. But when the American public looks beyond the photo-op, it will be clear why these women do not belong on the federal bench. Both have records of kowtowing to big business and showing contempt for ordinary people who are the victims of injustice.

That's a start. . .but then the Times goes predictably down a broad-ranging attack on Republicans:

Senate Democrats have confirmed almost all of President Bush's judicial nominations, more than 200 of them. But they have balked at a few of the least qualified, most ideologically driven nominees. The Republicans have, shamefully, countered with accusations of ethnic and religious bias. When Democrats blocked one far-right Hispanic, Republicans claimed that he was a victim of anti-Hispanic discrimination - even though Hispanic groups opposed him. An address by Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, was heard last weekend as part of a convention that attacked Senate Democrats as being "against people of faith" for blocking judicial nominees. Now the Republicans appear to be trying to make the opposition look sexist.

Yes, SHAMEFULLY. . . As if resorting to pointing out prima fascia discrimination is an exclusive tool of Republicans. HELLO!?! Jesse Jackson, please phone the office! And let's point out which Hispanic groups opposed Miguel Estrada--oh, no, that might reveal those groups for the liberal political action organizations which they are. But what really cracks me up is the lead of "Senate Democrats have confirmed. . ." Yep. All by themselves. To them is the power and the glory and . . . Well, you get my point.

Times concludes thus: The Republicans are trying to make the fight about process, about whether the Democrats have a right to filibuster judicial nominees. It is a dishonest discussion: Senator Frist does not like to admit that he participated in a filibuster of an appeals court nomination made by President Clinton. But even more important, the discussion of process is crowding out the debate we should be hearing over whether the nominees being fought over would make good federal judges. Justice Owen and Justice Brown have extensive records that point to the inescapable conclusion that they would not.

First of all, throw out the red herring about Frist participating in a filibuster--it didn't happen. Had it happened, you can bet we would know all about it and the Times would be trumpeting it to the rafters. There's a vast difference between a slight delay of a nominee, and the interminable obstruction of nominations which the Dems have been engaged in. And secondly, if these women were "inescapably" bad jurists, then why did the ABA mark Owens "Well Qualified" and mark Brown "Qualified"?

Or is it that the Times is a much better judge of judicial temperament than the ABA? Such arrogance would be consistent.

Potential Governors on Referendum C

Claremont Colorado, in association with Backbone America and John Andrews, has put out a questionnaire to the announced and unannounced candidates for governor in 2006. The results? Referendum C, the current governor's negotiated plan for dealing with the budget problems, is getting lukewarm support from the right side of the aisle.

Of course, keep in mind that only four people answered the questionnaire: Dem Bill Ritter, along with Republicans Tom Weins, Marc Holtzman, and Bob Beauprez. I only mention that to point out that this is hardly what you would call a scientific survey. It does, however, give a little insight into the thinking of the candidates.

The big question is, of course, question 1:

1. Referendum C, the so called Colorado Economic Recovery Act, which would allow state government to retain and spend some $3 billion in scheduled TABOR refunds, should be approved by voters in November. This has the options of "Agree," "Disagree," and "Other," with a space for comments. Here's what they wrote:

Ritter: Agree

Weins: Disagree

Holtzman: But as you know, I have always been a supporter of TABOR and would favor no changes in it. It has been good for our state and already includes adequate provisions for dealing with the sorts of economic downturns we have experienced.

As for Referendum C, I have publicly expressed my concerns about this measure and have said that I could not support it as presently written. Out of respect for Governor Owens, I have said I will reexamine my stance if he and others can justify some specific plan for the use of de-Bruced revenues.

Beauprez: The citizens of Colorado should be thankful for TABOR for several reasons. First of all, TABOR not only didn’t cause our current budget problem, the fiscal discipline it forced upon state government during times of economic prosperity helped prevent a budget catastrophe during recent recessionary times. Secondly, TABOR gives the citizens the authority to determine whether or not they will allow the state to take more or keep more of their taxes. We aren’t at the mercy of politicians to determine how much of our hard earned money the state should be allowed to spend.

As I spend time talking with experts on the state budget, I am increasingly concerned that Referendum C is to our budget problems what a chain saw would be to brain surgery – a blunt instrument for a delicate job. I understand that this Referendum is the result of political compromises rather than a careful analysis of the comprehensive needs of the state. And I do accept the fact that the state has several pressing infrastructure needs that must be addressed in the very near future. But I am not convinced that a $3 billion tax increase is the only way to get the job done.

I will continue to study this matter carefully, and watch and listen as the case is made to the citizens of Colorado. But today, this citizen has serious reservations about Referendum C.

I like that: "I am increasingly concerned that Referendum C is to our budget problems what a chain saw would be to brain surgery – a blunt instrument for a delicate job." What a lovely image.

I, too, have expressed some major reservations about Ref C--this is a $3.1 billion fix for an $800 million problem. Factor in that now the Democrats are talking about how this money will loosen the pursestrings on a whole range of budget items . . .

But up to 80 percent of the $3.1 billion, according to staff estimates, would go to health care and education - and much of it to maintain things the state already does (read: to avoid budget cuts).

Such spending carries a side effect: It frees up other money in the state budget.

For example: The 2005-06 budget gives the Colorado Commission on Higher Education about $77 million from the general fund for financial aid. Legislators could replace that next year with Referendum C dollars - leaving $77 million in the general fund for whatever they want.

This Referendum could easily be painted as a "blank check," and I think will have to overcome some heated opposition to get passed. The question is this: will all the political support of Gov. Owens, along with the near-unanimous support of state Democrats, bring enough Republicans over to C to get it passed? We'll find out.


On Social Security Reform

I missed this article when it was first run in the New York Times, but I caught today's re-printing of it in the Rocky Mountain News.

It seems that Chile has had a system of private accounts available to its citizenry since 1981; it also seems that John Tierney, the author of this article, has a good friend who is a successful economist in Chile. So Tierney asked his friend, Pablo, to run a comparison of his Social Security status with Pablo's retirement in Chile.

After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:

(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.

(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.

(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.

Well, sure--but the system probably works a lot different down in Chile, right?

As it happened, our countries have required our employers to set aside roughly the same portion of our income, a little over 12 percent, which pays for disability insurance as well as the pension program. It also covers, in Pablo's case, the fees charged by the mutual-fund company managing his money.

I visited Pablo, who grew up to become an economist, at his office at the University of Chile and showed him my most recent letter from the Social Security Administration listing my history of earnings and projected pension. Pablo called up his account on his computer and studied the projected retirement options for him, which assume that he'll keep working until age 65 and that the fund will get an annual return of 5 percent (which is lower than its historical average).

Oh, well. . . yes, but Pablo is a successful economist--surely he knows how to game the system, right?

You may suspect that Pablo has prospered only because he's a sophisticated investor, but he simply put his money into one of the most popular mutual funds.

Yeah, but he's wealthy, and that must have something to do with it.

He has more money in it than most Chileans because his salary is above average, but lower-paid workers who contributed to that fund for the same period of time would be in relatively good shape, too, because their projected pension would amount to more than 90 percent of their salaries.

By contrast, Social Security replaces less than 60 percent of your salary - and that's only if you were a low-income worker. Typical recipients get back less than half of their salaries.

Just in case you needed a model to go from. Or, we could look at how Congress invests its retirement monies--very, very far away from Social Security.

On The WMD Thing

Many on the left have claimed that the end of the search for WMD in Iraq means that it's official: Bush lied. Some have even described the intelligence fiasco as "a high crime."

Not likely that those same people are going to bother to read this:

The CIA's chief weapons inspector said he cannot rule out the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were secretly shipped to Syria before the March 2003 invasion, citing "sufficiently credible" evidence that WMDs may have been moved there. . .

"ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war," Mr. Duelfer said in a report posted on the CIA's Web site Monday night.
He cited some evidence of a transfer. "Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined," he said. "There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation."

Anybody else think it took Syria an unusual amount of time to clear out of the Bekaa Valley on their way home? Maybe it's just me.

Bob Dole On The Filibuster

Remember a couple weeks ago how the left was touting Bob Dole's caution in regards to changing the filibuster rule? How that was eveidence that the GOP had wnadered into uncharted, dangerous territory? Well, Bob Dole has spoken again:

I have publicly urged caution in this matter. Amending the Senate rules over the objection of a substantial minority should be the option of last resort. . .

But let's be honest: By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution.

Oh, really? The Democrats have abandoned tradition? Sen. Dole, can you provide us with any evidence of that?

When I was a leader in the Senate, a judicial filibuster was not part of my procedural playbook. Asking a senator to filibuster a judicial nomination was considered an abrogation of some 200 years of Senate tradition.

To be fair, the Democrats have previously refrained from resorting to the filibuster even when confronted with controversial judicial nominees like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Although these men were treated poorly, they were at least given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. At the time, filibustering their nominations was not considered a legitimate option by my Democratic colleagues - if it had been, Justice Thomas might not be on the Supreme Court today, since his nomination was approved with only 52 votes, eight short of the 60 votes needed to close debate.

That's why the current obstruction effort of the Democratic leadership is so extraordinary.

Well, but Senator, wouldn't changing the rules be unConstitutional?

If the majority leader, Bill Frist, is unable to persuade the Democratic leadership to end its obstruction, he may move to change the Senate rules through majority vote. By doing so, he will be acting in accordance with Article I of the Constitution (which gives Congress the power to set its own rules) and consistently with the tradition of altering these rules by establishing new precedents. Senator Frist was right this past weekend when he observed there is nothing "radical" about a procedural technique that gives senators the opportunity to vote on a nominee. (emphasis mine)

This is still an extraordinary step; shouldn't we be afraid of the precedent of messing around with the rules?

In the coming days, I hope changing the Senate's rules won't be necessary, but Senator Frist will be fully justified in doing so if he believes he has exhausted every effort at compromise. Of course, there is an easier solution to the impasse: Democrats can stop playing their obstruction game and let President Bush's judicial nominees receive what they are entitled to: an up-or-down vote on the floor of the world's greatest deliberative body.

Thank you, Senator Dole.

Bet the MSM doesn't cite him anymore.


Bad Poll, part II

Powerline spotted the same problem with the WAPO poll that I did, that of the oversampling.

They also point out one of the poorly worded questions in the poll:

[B]y a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees.

Sounds bad. But here is the question the pollsters asked: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" That is an absurd question, to which I would probably answer "No," too. The way the question is framed, it makes it sound like a one-way street, as though the Republicans wanted to change the rules to benefit only Republican nominees. If they asked a question like, "Do you think that if a majority of Senators support confirmation of a particular nominee, that nominee should be confirmed?" the percentages would probably reverse.

Let me throw in one more nominee for stupid question:

13. Who do you blame for the recent rise in oil and gas prices--other oil producing nations, U.S. oil companies, or the Bush admnistration?

As if the Bush administration plays a role at all similar to those of OPEC or oil companies. For that matter, why not ask about Congress and its inaction on the President's energy plan for the last four years? Unsurprisingly, those who blame the Bush administration number 31%--slightly smaller than the number of those polled who consider themselves Democratic.

Or this:

35. The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Semocrats are right or wrong to block these nominations?

How about we add the little detail that in the history of the Senate, exactly ZERO PERCENT of federal appeals court judges have previously been blocked by the filibuster, and that this rate of blocking judges is distinctly higher than the rate previous Presidents have faced. THAT might have made that a fair question.

Other details in the poll that you're not likely to hear in the MSM:

--depending on who's doing the reporting (oh, yeah--nobody will report this) either 56% think homosexual couples should be granted some form of legal recognition, OR 69% believe that homosexual couples should NOT be allowed to marry.

--only 20% believe that abortion should be legal in all cases

--65% favor the use of the death penalty (and just where is that "emerging consensus," Mr. Justice Kennedy??? Sweden?)

And, from the land of polling curiosities, fully 12% of those polled consider themselves Christian, but non-Protestant and non-Catholic. . . which would make them . . .?


Before You Get Too Worked Up About The Poll

ABCNews/Wash Post has a new poll out. The numbers are mostly bad for the President, and that is certainly what will be most reported in the MSM.

But before you start wringing your hands and flogging yourself with wet parchment, note this pretty important question:

901. Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as:

Democrat: 35%
Republican: 28%
Independent: 32%
Other: 5%

There are many other odd things in this poll, which I will try to tear up in the next couple days. Just keep those numbers in mind--any poll which has only 28% of its sample GOP is not a particularly useful poll.

Well, Duh.

An analysis by a Democratic think tank argues that Democrats are suffering from a severe "parent gap" among married people with children, who say the entertainment industry is lowering the moral standards of the country.
The study, published last week by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), the policy arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, admonishes Democrats to pay more attention to parental concerns about "morally corrosive forces in the culture," and warns that the party will not fare better with this pivotal voting bloc until they do.

Okay, that's all well and good that there's that problem. Indeed, the article goes on to mention Hillary's newfound outreach to pro-life forces, and notes that Howard Dean has started sprinkling Biblical references into his speeches.

The problem for Democrats on this point is twofold: one, they just don't seem credible. How can Howard Dean have any legitimate shot at this idea when he himself stated that he was tired of elections being about "guns, God and gays"? It is not enough to talk the talk of morals when you oppose internet restrictions on pornography and fight to have judges kept off the bench who would limit things like porn. I think Hillary is going to find out soon enough that her talk needs to be followed by deeds--actual, responsible, legislative deeds.

The second problem for Dems is that this approach might just fracture their loose coalition of voting interests.

But an online survey of 11,568 Dean supporters released earlier this month by the Pew Research Center found that such religious or culturally conservative appeals may not play well with liberal Democrats.

Among the Pew findings, 38 percent of Dean supporters polled said they had no religious affiliation, compared with 11 percent of all Americans; 91 percent supported same-sex "marriage," compared with 38 percent of all Democrats; and 80 percent said they were liberals, compared with 27 percent of all Democrats.

Now let's see them go out and talk the talk but then vote against the Protection of Marriage Amendment--or, better yet, vote FOR it. Yeah, I don't see that happening, either.


The First Sign Of Folding?UPDATED AND BUMPED

I have wondered over the past several months if all of the brinksmanship over the filibuster was little more than high-stakes political poker. It did seem that neither side would be very well-served by a "nuclear showdown", so the question seemed to be who would blink first.

David Broder writes today on the subject, and says it should be the Dems who blink.

Here is what should happen: The Democratic Senate leadership should agree voluntarily to set aside the continued threat of filibustering the seven Bush appointees to the federal appeals courts who were blocked in the last Congress and whose names have been resubmitted. In return, they should get a renewed promise from the president that he will not bypass the Senate by offering any more recess appointments to the bench and a pledge from Republican Senate leaders to consider each such nominee individually, carefully and with a guarantee of extensive debate in coming months.

The recess appointment has been used increasingly over the last twenty years as the confirmation process has bogged down, and that is one power ascribed to the President in the Constitution, but I would be okay with setting that aside if real appointments got their day in court.

But what is key here is not Broder's solution, it is his justification:

Why should the Democrats be the first to step back from the abyss of the "nuclear option," the possible rules change that would eliminate all judicial nomination filibusters and thereby make confirmation possible with 51 -- not 60 -- votes?

The principled answer is that elections matter. Voters placed Republicans in control of the White House and the Senate . . .
(emphasis mine)

Really? You mean it meant something when Tom Daschle got voted out of office largely because of his pointless obstructionism? Three consecutive Congressional elections hold a message? Really?

What remains to be seen is whether David Broder matters to the political left, or if the left has any ability to stick to a deal they make. But if both if those "ifs" work out, then this idea could pull everybody back from the brink a few steps.

UPDATE AND BUMP: Thanks to Powerline for doing the dirty work of listening to "This Week", especially when it features Joe Biden.

More important, because Joe Biden is offering a compromise. Earlier today, Biden said on "This Week":

I think we should compromise and say to them that we're willing to -- of the seven judges -- we'll let a number of them go through, the two most extreme not go through and put off this vote [to end the filibuster].

Democrats play to win--unlike, sometimes, Republicans--and if they had a winning hand on judges, a subject dear to the hearts of their richest supporters, they would play it. Biden's willingness to compromise means they don't have the votes.

And Now, Sports. . .

The Denver Nuggets actually are a real basketball team!! After years of fruitless rebuilding, things looked okay last year, only to fall apart in the first part of this year. Enter George Karl, start a 24-4 run to end the season, and the Nuggets find themselves in a playoff series against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. And, lo and behold, WE WON GAME ONE!! And, as they pointed out on the broadcast tonight, the team that wins game one wins 79% of seven-game series, so I'm optimistic.

The Broncos became the talk of the sports world by drafting Maurice Clarett with the last pick of the third round of the NFL draft. My take? Eh. You know, it was their third third-round pick, and I figure why not? It's certainly bold--kinda shootin' the moon. If it works, it's brilliant, if it doesn't, it's not very important. But, given Denver's recent record on running backs, it has the potential to be very good.

And the Rockies forgot the lessons of the past two days' victories by handing the ball over to a reliever today. After Brian Fuentes plunked the leadoff batter in the eighth on an 0-2 pitch, I shut it off--that bode very ill. And, true to form the next relievers came on and gave up 5 runs, and the Rockies lost after being ahead 5-3 in the eighth. Oh well--maybe the owners could threaten to move the franchise to Florida (anyone? anyone? dangling movie reference, anyone?)

Book Review

Tom Clancy's "The Teeth of the Tiger"

I know this book actually came out about two years ago, but I just got around to it, so. . .

Clancy returns to the Jack Ryan story line--sort of. This time around, it's several years after "The Bear and the Dragon" (which, for the record, I thought was the weakest of the whole series), and Jack has resigned the Presidency, but managed to create a special "private" agency on the way out. This is called The Campus, and it works off if intercepted CIA/NSA chatter, complete with its own analysis wing and an operations piece.

By the way, no, the whole resignation is not very well explained. In fact, there are a lot of gaps in the history of this story, but they don't get in the way too much.

At any rate, the story picks up when, through a plausible run of coincidences, Jack Ryan, Jr. and his two Caruso cousins, Brian and Dominic, come to work at The Campus. The cousins are brought on to be the operations arm of The Campus, while Jack is brought in on the analysis side. The story gets moving when four separate bands of terrorists each shoot up malls in different cities in "middle America." From there, we get to watch the fun of the intelligence gathering and analysis game, as well as the counter-terrorist measures The Campus is capable of. And when I say "counter-terrorist," I might be underselling the process a bit.

As an aside, given Clancy's history of predicting terrorist strikes (at the conclusion of "Debt of Honor" an airliner is flown into the U.S. capitol), I'm disturbed by the terrorist scenario proposed here. My worst fear is not the "big strike" from the terrorists, but the drip, drip, trickle of the small but horrific attacks on malls, weddings, and buses that have plagued Israel. I hope he was wrong about this one.

I rather enjoyed this book. Clancy is returning to the intel/counter-espionage roots that first drew me into the Jack Ryan saga, and this story line is both reasonably plausible and just imaginative enough to keep you interested. As with most good Clancy, it reads pretty quickly, and doesn't bog down in the details at any point.

On the down side, the dialogue between the young stars of the book does not ring at all true. It's as if Clancy only knows youth culture from the drone training scene in "Scooby Doo." Luckily, that dialogue is fairly limited.

All in all, a very good read. Not going to increase your deep thinking or knowledge of history, but will manage to pass the time for you.


The Law of Unintended Consequences

At the time, I thought this was a great idea:

The Bush White House Thursday formally ended the American Bar Association's role as an early arbiter of the qualifications for nominees to the federal bench and the Supreme Court.

Coming in March, 2003, barely two months into his term, I thought the President had removed from the confirmation process a group that was openly hostile to him, and I assumed it would make it all that much easier to get his judges confirmed.

In retrospect, I wonder if the White House didn't make a huge miscalculation, as in removing the ABA, they have also managed to remove one of their own best arguments for many of these judges. Below is a list of ABA ratings for some of the judges who have been filibustered:

--John Roberts rated Well-Qualified (the highest rating)
--Priscilla Owen rated Well-Qualified
--Miguel Estrada rated Well-Qualified
--Charles Pickering rated Well-Qualified by a substantial majority
--Caroly Kuhl rated Well-Qualified by a substantial majority
--William Pryor rated Qualified by a substantial majority
--William Myers rated Qualified by a substantial majority
--Janice Rogers Brown rated Qualified by a majority

I know this list is incomplete, mostly just because I came up with these names from memory, but you get the picture.

I wonder if, had the administration kept the ABA involvement, it would have been able to make a better public case for the confirmation of these judges. Or if the ABA would have simply changed its process to reflect more poorly on these judges.

At any rate, it's hard to imagine that the public relations piece could have been handled any worse than the White House has handled the issue of judges. In truth, the Senate should not have to even consider the "nuclear option," but since the PR machine in the White House has been so inept, that's the only choice left.

You know, we've watched for four years as this White House has won two elections and passed a substantial legislative record. And through it all, it always seems as if they've bungled the PR piece. Some of both records can be attributed to 9/11, but we don't have that to fall back on any more. A group this good at winning ought to be much more successful at governing.


Sometimes I Just Couldn't Be Prouder To Be An Educator

"One nation, under 'your belief system.' "

Bailey said that guidance counselor Margo Lucero substituted the phrase for "under God" while leading the morning pledge at Everitt Middle School on Wednesday.

And educators often wonder why conservatives don't trust them with their children. Sheesh.

Obviously, the first issue with this is the complete inappropriateness of an adult in a position of trust using that trust to make a personal, political statement. And, for what it's worth, both th principal and the superintendant said the right things along those lines.

But, I think what bothers me most is the complete self-absorption of the type of person who would do this. That moment in the school day DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU. Have your beliefs, act on your beliefs in your personal life, but when you are on the taxpayers' dime, do your job and leave the rest out of it.

Lucero said she didn't intend to be offensive but rather wanted to mark the sixth anniversary of the Columbine High School slayings by evoking a sense of tolerance.

"Given the anniversary of Columbine, it was a spur-of-the- moment choice that I made, intended to acknowledge differences that lie in our society," Lucero said. "It's not a reflection of the district, and it was not my intention to offend anyone, rather to include (everyone)."
(emphasis mine)

And, once again, we are confronted with the illogic of the left. Statistically speaking, Christians make up the vast majority of the population. So could somebody please walk me through the logical calesthenics which leads someone to conclude that offending the majority is actually "inclusive"? What a load of crap. Somebody does not do that sort of thing--a thing which, by the way, should involve professional disciplinary action--without at least a minimal understanding that she is going to offend someone.

Of course, for someone of this persuasion (that is, radical leftist), those who are offended by such a thing are not intelligent enough to matter, so such offense is invalid. Did I mention arrogance as one of the issues at hand?

And, boy HOWDY, doesn't it make you proud when this is what gets the attention of the national news media, via the FOXNews Grapevine.

Teachers' Unions: Still Working Hard For No Apparent Cause

the nation's largest teachers' union and eight school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont sued the Department of Education yesterday, accusing it of violating a passage in the law that says states cannot be forced to spend their own money to meet federal requirements.

Yes, once again, the National Education Association has thrown its hat into a vital fight to protect children's interests--this time by trying to get school districts to avoid requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act unless they can show the money trail.

Both the Utah measure, which requires educators there to spend as little state money as possible in carrying out the federal law's requirements, and the union lawsuit rely heavily on the same section of the federal law, which prohibits federal officials from requiring states to allocate their own money to fulfill the law's mandates.

This month, Connecticut's attorney general also announced the intention to sue the department on the same grounds, saying that the testing the law requires costs far more than the money the state is given to pay for it.

Now, NCLB increased federal funding for education by about $10 billion, though it is true that not all of that has made its way to its destination yet. And it is also true that testing is a surprisingly expensive process. But that still leaves the union in the position of arguing that districts should not have to comply with the law.

There's another way, of course: school districts could forego the federal monies, and then not be obligated to comply with the law at all. Of course, since federal dollars amount to about 7 or 8% of all school monies, that could cause a budget squeeze. Oh, no,no. . .I guess Utah thinks it doesn't have to be that way at all.

According to MangledCat Jonathan:

The bill hasn't even been signed on the Utah anti-NCLB legislation and the teachers union has already filed litigation to prevent the feds from taking the money away. So in other words, we don't want you to hold us to any standards, but we still want you to give us money.

Yeah, that works.

Well, in the union world, that might actually work.

In other education news, the Denver Teachers' Union and the school district may have come to an agreement which will avert a strike, if approved.

The proposed settlement was signed late Wednesday after four long days in mediation. Salary and benefits are negotiated annually.

The agreement calls for all district teachers to receive a pay increase next year of $250 to $4,000 and taps an additional $3 million expected to come through the school finance act to restore the salary step.

Salazar Watch

David Harsanyi has the goods on the junior Senator from Colorado. The long and short of it: Senate traditions (of which the Senator has all of two months' experience) are more important than a promise to the people of Colorado.

While campaigning as a pretend moderate before the elections, Salazar maintained that he favored up-or-down votes on judicial candidates.

On Wednesday, however, Salazar apparently changed his mind, held a press conference and proclaimed that he was more interested in protecting "the Senate as an institution."

The good news is that it looks like the real showdown is coming, as the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed out Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown for consideration by the full Senate.


This story made me ill. I was able to squeeze in a tiny little bit of hitting at the driving range today, and every time the image of the little girl huddled, scared, clutching her stuffed animal while this monster walked away caused me to shank about a dozen balls (yeah, sorry about that, guys--FORE!!).

Jared has a passionate post on this subject today. I am rather too dumbstruck to make any coherent writing on the subject. Read Jared, and follow his advice.

And pray.


I Can't Make This Stuff Up

Attendance never had been quite this good at Walter Johnson High School's PTA meetings. But in the fall, the monthly gatherings at the Bethesda campus began attracting about 100 people -- almost five times the usual number.

The reason was simple: This school year, Walter Johnson became one of two high schools in Montgomery County to begin grading its students using a system that emphasized academic achievement over participation. It also began to frown on giving students extra credit for such nonacademic pursuits as covering their books or bringing in canned goods for the annual holiday food drive.

Wow. And here in Colorado we spend more time worrying about the CSAP than doing just about anything else. All in all, I think I'd prefer our way of doing things than this.

You know that the left had to have a few last bastions of lib-think in academia. In this case, lib-think would be characterized by an emphasis on "discovery," on "learning to co-exist," and on things that cannot be evaluated on an objective set of criteria, which would render it nearly impossible to end up being critical of the student. That, of course, might hurt their self-esteem.

The changes are part of an overall effort to make grades in the 140,000-student system a better measure of academic -- and only academic -- achievement, and they put Montgomery at the forefront of a handful of school systems nationwide that are trying to change the way they teach and test students. While many of the systems have established new standards and testing, few have changed the way they grade. . .

Under a standards-based system, such as the one in place in Montgomery, the goal is to boost achievement by raising expectations for all students. Youths are evaluated on how they measure up to a set of absolute standards, rather than being graded on how their achievement compared with that of their classmates.

What's notable here is not necessarily the story itself; it's that this story RATES a story in the Washington Post. As if raising expectations and grading objectively were some radical new approach.

And you were worried that the American education system was failing. . .

You Know This Would Be Huge. . .

. . .if the target were George W. Bush, or Condi Rice, or even John Bolton.

Two senior investigators with the U.N. committee probing corruption in the oil-for-food program have resigned in protest, saying they think a report that cleared Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion operation was too soft on the secretary-general, a panel member confirmed yesterday.
The investigators felt the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, played down findings critical of Mr. Annan when it released an interim report in late March related to his son, said Mark Pieth, one of three leaders of the committee.

It remains to be seen if this story cracks into the mainstream. Let's just say I'm not waiting for Katie Couric to make a big deal about this later this morning.

Keeping An Untrained Eye On the Markets

The stock market has just been decimated lately. From a high of about 10,800 in early March, the Dow Jones today dipped below 10,000 before settling in just above 10,000 at the close.

Now, I know next to nothing about the market, but just about every day you hear the explanation that the price of oil is in control of the market.

Once again, it's time to end our dependence on foreign oil. Not only does our investment in middle easter oil creat and sustain fundamentalist regimes that we'd rather not have to do business with, but it has a huge detrimental effect on our own economy.


Looking For A Common Theme

What do these four stories have in common?

--support for President Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security seems to be waning, even though there is some evidence that the idea of private accounts in general terms garners substantial support

--Sen George Voinovich (OH) wandered off the reservation yesterday, forcing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to postpone a vote on the nomination of John Bolto to be Ambassador to the UN. His confirmation has been dogged by largely unsubstantiated allegations of being mean to people

--As Dick Morris wrote about today, the public is not exactly rallying to the support of the GOP when it comes to asking for a straight up or down vote on the President's Judicial Appointments. What seems to be a fairly easy case to make has been successfully redefined by Democrats, and up til now the GOP has been unable to clearly articulate their case for breaking the filibuster.

--the Energy Bill that the President proposed three years ago is still languishing in Congress, though the House has managed to pass it. Key features of this plan are drilling in ANWAR and the barely-reported increase in federal dollars for alternative energy research.

And, just for a more personal touch, throw in the whole Tom Delay fiasco.

Give up?? Anyone? What these four stories have in common.

Okay, here it is: look close enough at every one of these stories, and somewhere in the subtext is the idea that the GOP is either wholly incompetent at, or is getting badly outmaneuvered at the public relations aspect of public policy creation and holding party discipline. All four of these people/ideas are solid ones, ones that are common sense and could do some genuine good in the long run. But none of them can get passed without the perception of public support, and NOBODY in the GOP has shown the ability to go dirctly to the people and make a good case.

Sure, sure, the MSM gets in the way a bit, but not to a degree that would explain the current situation. My thinking is, and I blogged on this once before, that ever since Karen Hughes left the White House, the message has been very muddled and often incoherent. It's time to get some more help in the GOP bullpen to start to dig these ideas out of the trash can.

On Pope Benedict XVI

I was going to blog yesterday about about E.J.Dionne's innane column purporting to analyze the mindset of the Cardinals going into Conclave. But then they elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to be Pope, and that idea kinda got washed out of the mix.

I was then going to run with a follow-up on reactions from a variety of places to the election of this Pope; luckily, Hugh Hewitt has done a very thorough job of this, complete with articulate fisking, so you don't have to suffer through my commentary on the same subject.

But in the process of looking over articles for that idea, I stumbled on today's E.J.Dionne piece, which, if anything, is even more ridiculous than yesterday's. Here's his analysis:

At a moment when liberals and moderates in the church want to open questions (such as whether only celibate men may be priests), Ratzinger thinks it is time to end uncertainty. Because of his crackdowns, the new pope will take the seat of Saint Peter with an exceptionally large battalion of public enemies inside the church. "Joseph Ratzinger is afraid," the liberal Catholic theologian Hans Kung declared in 1985. "And just like Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, he fears nothing more than freedom."

Thus the question: Why did the College of Cardinals make such a controversial choice, and with such dispatch? The simple answer is that the 78-year-old pope is a transitional figure. Barring a medical miracle, it is likely that a new pontiff will be elected in a few years. One need not be Machiavelli to suggest that potential popes sitting in the Sistine Chapel decided they did not have the votes or the standing to make it this time, and would use a Ratzinger papacy to prepare for the next.

Now, I don't know if Dionne is a Catholic or not, but he certainly writes as if he has never met a serious Catholic theologian. Machiavelli? Seriously? He's talking about a group of men who have devoted their lives to service; men who are extremely bright (was there a single Cardinal described over the last few days who didn't speak at least four languages?), and who, if they desired power, certainly had the personal wherewithal to pursue such goals; and he's talking about men who spend hours a day in prayer, opening themselves up the the Will of God through the Holy Spirit. Does Dionne really think that this group of men is thinking through the process of their own ascendancy after the "impending" death of this Pope?

This is symptomatic of the ridiculous lack of understanding of the secular world of what is going on in the Sacred World. Here's another example, from the Rocky Mountain News

Amy Sheber Howard, local spokeswoman for National Call to Action, which advocates married priests, women clergy, and acceptance of artificial birth control and gay rights:

"I think Cardinal Ratzinger will have quite a challenge bringing together people who feel like he may not have listened to perspectives from across the spectrum of the church in the past. A lot of the issues left unfinished will continue to be challenges for him. Part of Cardinal Ratzinger's task will be to find a way to compassionately bring unity to a church that was left open-ended by John Paul II."

First of all, there's a word for Catholics who advocate married priests, women clergy, and acceptance of artificial birth control and gay rights--Episcopals. And while the Rocky does a good job of finding supporters of Ratzinger, I'm curious why they didn't ask people who would be inclined to know his work best--priests--or why they didn't just go ask the faithful as they were leaving the special Masses said in his honor.

Mostly, though, my thoughts have run along a couple lines. First, I'm amazed at the level of--I don't know--surprise among the commentariat that the Cardinals actually chose A CATHOLIC! Mon Dieu.

Secondly, so much of the commentary has run along the lines of "they will either choose a strong doctrinaire like Ratzinger, or they will choose someone who will focus on issues of poverty and other Third World concerns." As if the Pope can only do one of those things. It is part and parcel of the Church's works over the years that It tends to the sick, the poor, the hungry with a Grace that is unmatched in the secular world--Mother Teresa ring a bell, anyone? What that commentary really means is that they wish the Pope would focus ONLY on the Third World, and let the liberal Ameri/European Catholics do as they please. Just to make the point, has any Pope in history ever travelled to South America and Africa as much as the recently deceased John PaulII? No--tending to the "least of my brothers" is not only compatible with being in full Communion with the Church, it is required by it.

Oddly, the people who seem most receptive to this Pope are my Evangelical friends. I think they, while disagreeing with Church doctrine, recognize the value of strong, principled, God-centered leadership.

But, to bring things back to reality, my Dad put it best. That is, my former Seminarian, Rite of Christian (Catholic) Initiation for Adults-teaching Dad put it thus: it doesn't, in the end, matter who is the Pope. The Holy Spirit guides the Church, as it has for 2000 years, and the person who sits on Throne of Saint Peter is not as important as those of us in the political world tend to think he is. God is the true head of The Church, and as long as the man on the Throne recognizes that simple fact, the rest will take care of itself.


Good Words From A Holy Man

If you haven't read the transcript of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's sermon to the Vatican today, do so over at HughHewitt.com. Not just a Scriptural statement, but a strong cultural one, as well.

Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

Props. . .

to the RMA's own Ben for a strong showing on the Mike Rosen show this morning (KOA 850 AM). The topic was teacher strikes; Ben came off as articulate and well-informed. . .and from what I heard, it sounded like Mike even let him talk.

Keep your eyes on April 28th--this is the "drop-dead date" for approving a teachers' strike in Denver Public Schools.


Letter Writing Time

Below is the text of the letter I wrote tonight to send out to every Republican Senator. I tried to be measured and logical, when what I really wanted to o was send them a gigantic alarm clock so they would WAKE THE HELL UP!!! But instead, there's this:


Dear Sirs and Madams—

My name is Michael ******, and I live in ******, Colorado. While I have in my early voting years sometimes voted for Democrats, that changed in 2000. When the Democratic Party decided to specifically target the ballots of U.S. military personnel for exclusion from the Florida vote, I decided then and there to never vote for a Democrat again—or at least until some responsible Democrat came forward and denounced their party for that effort. Up until now, no Democrat has done so, so I have a straight Republican-ticket voting record ever since.

My support of the GOP has gone beyond just voting, however. My family does not have extra money laying around, so I have been unable to give much; however, over the course of the last two election cycles I have donated countless hours and energy to the campaigns of George W. Bush, Wayne Allard, Pete Coors, Bob Beauprez, Bill Owens, and several local candidates. And in all of this, the two issues that have been driving me to the campaigns have been the War on Terror and the Judiciary.

So I find it disappointing, at best, and infuriating, at worst, that the United States Senate has been unable to break the blockade of President Bush’s judicial nominations. I have read my Constitution, and I have studied the Constitutional Convention, and nowhere have I come across a reference to procedural blockages of majority intent. The U.S. Senate was designed to protect the minority by giving them equal voting strength—not by giving them procedural minutiae with which to thwart the will of the elected majority. As John McCain said before he forgot it, "elections have consequences."

It seems that a ten-vote majority should be able to exercise its Constitutional right to change the rules of the Senate, and get floor votes on judicial nominees. Just two months ago Sen. Frist announced that he had the votes to accomplish this. Since then, faced with a relentless barrage of interest groups and aggrieved opposition, members of the Republican caucus have lost their nerve. It seems the party was badly outmaneuvered in the public relations game, and now, rather than doing the job they were elected to do, many Senators have chosen to simply preserve the job that they have in the form in which they have it. “The traditions of the Senate” are a very weak justification compared to the expressed will of the electorate, but many members of the caucus would rather satisfy the former at the expense of the latter.

Unfortunately, such an attitude almost certainly guarantees that several of you will no longer have your jobs in two years. You see, there is a very big difference between ignoring your base and angering your base. The people who send you money, who walk precincts for you, who come in to the campaign offices at 2 in the morning, will not do these if they perceive no advantage to doing so. Further, they might even be inclined to put in the same efforts for third-party candidates who will eventually lose to a Democrat, rather than waste their efforts on Senators who do not have the intestinal fortitude to do what they were elected to do. And when a Democrat gavels the Senate into session in January of 2007, and adjourns to committee meetings led entirely by Democrats, few of us “party faithful” will notice the difference. After all, if there is anything worse than being out of power, it would be being in power but being unable to wield power to accomplish anything.

I urge you to schedule a vote on the President’s nominees at the very next availability. Sen. Frist, show the leadership you displayed in designing a successful electoral strategy, and force the members of the caucus to “show their cards.” There are many of us out here who would rather lose a vote knowing who and why, than continue on this path of weakness and delay.


Michael *. ******

Oh, and yes I am waiting with baited breath for the response from the Senators.

By the way, what the heck is "baited breath?"


What's Wrong With This Picture

Read the following from today's Rocky Mountain News:

The result: Lawmakers estimate they'll refund $3.1 billion to Colorado taxpayers through 2010. At the same time, they project they'll need to cut $800 million in programs - or save an equivalent amount in efficiencies - to balance the budget. . .

Gov. Bill Owens and two-thirds of legislators want to balance the budget long term by asking voters to give up five years of refunds and let the state spend the money instead. Legislative leaders promised Wednesday they'll approve a ballot plan by week's end.

Um.. . hey, guys. Where's the other $2.3 billion going? Why isn't this solution . . . oh, never mind.

Regarding Judges and the Filibuster

I'm as hacked off as anybody about the willingness of Senate Republicans to delay a confrontation over judicial filibusters. But I'm not as eloquent as Captain Ed, so I'll just direct everybody there for their dose of well-articulated fury.

On the other hand, stop to think a little bit. .. and I'm totally just speculating here. The MSM has had a steady, STEADY stream of news over the last several days pointing to Senators they think might cross over and vote to sustain the filibuster; the Senate Dems backed off a little bit today and confirmed one of the President's nominees; the rhetoric on the left has gotten increasingly shrill, including Babs Boxer pleading with newspaper editors to get involved and support the filibuster. Is it possible, just possible, that the Dems and their allies are doubling down their bets to take their BLUFF to the final chip on the table? I don't want to give too much credit, but the Dems are much better at wielding power than Republicans, and they also have proven to be better poker players. Tell me, if you had a losing hand, but you knew you couldn't fold because your funds would dry up, wouldn't you ride a bluff as far as you could and go down in glory? I would.

Especially if I thought the person across the table (Frist) had a bad poker face.

Education Overview in the Post

The Post's Lead Editorial today is on the efforts in this legislative session to work on education issues. It's mostly just an overview, with little in the way of news or dramatic opinion. But there is this accidentally revealing line:

But this year, even though nearly 40 education-related bills have been introduced at the General Assembly, legislators seem content to just tinker around the edges, altering existing laws and streamlining others.

Part of that can be attributed to the Democrats' new majority. Fearful it will be short-lived, they're hesitant to make drastic proposals.

Keep that in mind--it's not that they don't want a complete overhaul, it's just that they're afraid of making news so that they can retain their majority.

On the one hand, this reveals the truth behind the drastic move to the center of the Democratic Party in Colorado: it's not that they're really, truly moderate like they say they are--they just know it won't fly. But on the other hand, this also is a window into an effective long-term strategy. Given the slimmest of majorities, the Dems are content to "eat up the clock" in this legislative session, making sure that they're positioned well to gain seats and increase their majority next time around. In the last session, the slim Republican majority took on many of the major cultural issues, which opened them up to the well-funded (and I stress WELL-FUNDED) attacks of the 527s last November. The Dems may have learned from that, and are simply holding onto the ball for now.

Hey, that kind of strategy won two Super Bowls for the Patriots--it could work in the legislature. The GOP will have to be pretty sharp next time around to overcome this approach.

For more thoughts on the next legislative elections, check out Ben and follow his link to MileHigh Delphi.

Thank God They're On The Job

And, no, I'm not kidding here.

U.N. Passes Global Nuclear Terrorism Pact When I first saw this headline, it was on the FoxNews ticker across the bottom of the screen; it read "U.N. Outlaws Nuclear Terrorism." I'm thinking to myself "Really? Is nuclear terrorism really a bad thing?"

But it gets even more ridiculous.

After a seven-year struggle, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a global treaty Wednesday to prevent nuclear terrorism, making it a crime to possess radioactive material or weapons with the intention of committing a terrorist act.

Excuse me? SEVEN YEARS? It took seven years of haggling for the U.N. General Assembly to decide that nuclear terrorism is a bad thing?

In the meantime, the U.N. has been totally worthless at preventing the proliferation of nuclear capabilities to Iran and North Korea. But now that nuclear terrorism is forbidden by treaty, everything's gonna be alright.

And you thought the U.N. was a worthless, hyper-bureaucratic, and corrupt organization . . .


This Seems Like It Would Be An Important Story

A four-count indictment unsealed in New York federal court yesterday charges three British men with plotting attacks with weapons of mass destruction on financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and the District.

Dhiren Barot, Nadeem Tarmohamed and Qaisar Shaffi are accused of collecting video footage of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank headquarters in the District, the New York Stock Exchange and Citicorp Building in New York, and the Prudential Building in Newark, N.J.

Yet, while this is front and center on the web page of the Washington Times, the story is buried without a headline on the web pages of the NYTimes, WashPost, and USA Today. Oh, well—guess the political hackery over John Bolton’s nomination ("he's SO mean) really must be that much more important.

If It Weren’t So Sad. . .

It would be completely laughable.

Kofi Annan has penned an op-ed in today’s New York Times on the situation in Sudan. His concluding paragraph:

In this watershed year for Sudan, it is vital that the international community move speedily to provide the resources to consolidate a fragile peace in the south, and to protect civilians from recurring violence in Darfur. We know what we need: money to help win the peace in the south, more African Union boots on the ground to help end the atrocities in Darfur, and political pressure to settle the conflict. It's that simple, and that essential.

Interesting how, in the entire article calling on the international community to honor its pledges vis-à-vis Darfur, he fails to recognize or even mention the U.N.’s own record of atrocities in the refugee camps—-the rapes, the forced prostitution, the corruption.

I guess this would be a “credibility gap” sort of issue. Sheesh. It’s as if he’s writing to tell the world “We can’t handle this—-in fact, we’re making it worse. So it’s time for you guys to step up and help out.” Only he insists on doing it in a condescending way.

Ken Salazar Speaks On Judges

Here is a press release by Ken Salazar's office reporting a speech he made on the floor today.

Basically, what he says is "yesterday we passed somebody who nobody had any problems with to be a US District Judge--we should do that more. Oh, yeah--and don't do the 'nuclear option.'"

Obviously, it was a bit more fleshed out than that, but he really didn't say too much more than that. His point was that the Senate could get judges through, and that the people expected them to do the serious work of the country without having to shut down the Senate over judicial nominees.

I would suggest another thought: changing the rules of the Senate is the perogative of the majority; shutting down the Senate is truly "nuclear." If only some Republicans would get out there and start making a forceful and effective case that the option to change the rules has always been there and that the idea of shutting down the Senate over it is the aberrational escalation.

Oh, wait. . . did I ask for a "forceful and effective" Republican? Never mind.

Quick Thought on "Protecting the Minority"

One of the arguments that has been thrown about in recent weeks in support of the filibuster as a Senatorial tactic is that the Framers intended for the Senate to "protect the rights of the minority", and that the filibuster is one means of protecting the minority.

But as anyone who has read even a little of the history of the Constitutional Convention knows, the means the framers employed to protect the minority was to give each state an equal number of votes in the Senate. In point of fact, this was an issue of some great debate, as the Convention was concerned that an organized group of Senators who represent only a minority of the VOTERS could force their will upon the majority opinion of the Union by maintaining a majority in the Senate. The Framers never once spoke of a filibuster; indeed, I suspect that the idea of protecting a minority of SENATORS would have been laughable and absurd to them.

When someone makes the argument that the filibuster preserves the rights of the minority, what they are revealing is the unbelievable arrogance of the Senate. The idea that Constitutional questions should settled by protecting the rights of 49 or fewer people when the people of the country have already expressed their will in that regard by relegating those 49 to the minority is an idea that needs to be held up to the light and roundly criticized.

If the Republicans in the Senate cannot manage to break the filibuster this year, they will deserve to fall back to minority status--what good is a ten-vote majority if you can't accomplish anything?


So . . .

Anybody know what the weather's supposed to be like? I just can't find a single news story about it.

Of course, then I could go outside, like a did a couple times today, and try to remove the 12 inches of heavy, wet snow from my driveway.

Gotta love springtime in Colorado.

For pictures of the fun, try Jim's site.

Close Only Counts In . . .

Abu Musab Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, is on the run in an undeveloped western border region where he was nearly caught in recent weeks, a U.S. Marine commander says.
"He's going from brush pile to brush pile just like a wet rat," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, whose 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is back home at Camp Pendleton, Calif.,

Yes, well. . . brush pile to brush pile is all well and good. Let's say next time we pin him in a brush pile we call in the napalm, eh?

Teachers' Unions Behaving Badly

Dear Friends:

My name is Wayne Rutt. Together with Paul Marrick, I have filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State against the Poudre Education Association. This is the teachers union in the Fort Collins school district. The hearing is scheduled for 9:00 AM on May 2, 2005, at 1120 Lincoln Street in Denver.

As outlined in our complaint we believe that the union, directed by their president who is paid as a school district employee using tax money, conducted a political campaign for the election of Bob Bacon. Using teachers, and school resources, during the school day they campaigned at the expense of our children.

We do not believe this problem is unique to our school district. Evidence would suggest this type of election activity was happening across the state. However, what is unique is our ability to take action against this affront to our children, our election process, and the misuse of our tax money.

Our investigation has revealed evidence of campaign events being held at the schools. We have found hundreds of e-mails, which were written and sent on school computers, urging union and nonunion members to endorse and support the Bob Bacon campaign through their volunteer efforts. Organized letter writing campaigns were run out of the schools. Some teachers even complained that the campaign demands were so overwhelming it was difficult for them to focus on their teaching responsibilities. There are many other examples. In short, union campaigning was pervasive inside our schools!

Let me ask you a question. How many of you believe that the best way to treat cancer is to ignore it? This might seem like a pretty stupid question. However, if we do not seize this opportunity right here, and right now, that is exactly what we will be doing!

Consider large numbers of teachers being paid to campaign at the expense of our children, the outcome of the 2004 elections, and the upcoming elections which include the Governor’s race, and there is a lot a stake! Our complaint will establish election law in Colorado. A victory could change the landscape for all of the children in this state, and the fairness of future elections. The union’s ability to conduct political campaigns at the expense of our children, and out of our schools, would be crippled. We have the evidence! However, the state constitution dictates that we must prosecute this complaint privately. We cannot even recoup our legal expenses.

This seems like a task of Quixotic proportions, but the outcome could hve a profound influence on elections and campaigns across the state. Keep an eye on this space, and if you are in such a mind and situation, donate a little money to this cause.

And Now, Education Reform From A Different Direction

George Will has penned another great essay, this one about education reform and a proposal in Arizona that will go before the voters this fall. (courtesy RCP)

Patrick Byrne, a 42-year-old bear of a man who bristles with ideas that have made him rich and restless, has an idea that can provide a new desktop computer for every student in America without costing taxpayers a new nickel. Or it could provide 300,000 new $40,000-a-year teachers without any increase in taxes. His idea -- call it The 65 Percent Solution -- is politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions, which he considers the principal institutional impediment to improving primary and secondary education.

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district's education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.

Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion. Only four states (Utah, Tennessee, New York, Maine) spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in classrooms. Fifteen states spend less than 60 percent. The worst jurisdiction -- Washington, D.C., of course -- spends less than 50 percent.

Under the 65 percent rule, Arizona, which spends 56.8 percent in classrooms, could use its $451 million transfer to classrooms to buy 1.5 million computers or to hire 11,275 teachers. California (61.7 percent) could use its $1.5 billion transfer to buy 5 million computers or to hire 37,500 teachers. Illinois (59.5 percent) would transfer $906 million to classrooms (3 million computers or 22,650 new teachers). To see how much money would flow into your state's classrooms, go to firstclasseducation.org.

Having looked through the books of certain school districts, I can assure you that many of them will be able to find "creative" ways of demonstrating compliance with that 65% number. And, just for the record, Jefferson County Schools, Colorado's largest, already has numbers that show easy compliance.

Another thing in this article that caught my eye was Byrne's take on unions:

Buffett also advised him to ask himself this: If you had a silver bullet, what competitor would you shoot, and why? Byrne says he would shoot the National Education Association -- the largest teachers union. Byrne is pugnacious . . . and relishes the prospect of the 65 percent requirement pitting teachers against other union members who are in the education bureaucracy. "Educrats," he says, "have become what city hall was 50 or 60 years ago" -- dens of patronage and corruption.

Piggyback these thoughts onto my next post, which is brought to you courtesy of the increasingly famous Ben.


Hats Off

The University of Denver hockey team has won its second straight National Championship, defeating the University of North Dakota 4-1 in the championship game.


Back To Life

It occurred to me as the day went on today that this morning was the first morning in about three weeks that one of my first thoughts of the day was not about death. First Terri Schiavo ("is she dead yet?"), then the Pope ("is he dead yet?"), and then the preparations for the funeral.

As much as I try to identify myself with "the culture of life," it is awfully easy to get sucked into the obsession with death. Nonetheless, as this realization came to me, I did feel a sense of lightness.

Or maybe that was just the anticipation of doing yard work. What was I doing? you might ask. Yep--raking up the DEAD grass. AAUUUGHH.



A statement from John Paul II's will (hat tip The Corner):

"I thank all. I ask all for forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, so that God's Mercy will show itself greater than my weakness and unworthiness. "

Words from the heart of a man who spent a lifetime in contemplation of that which is greater and larger than himself, and sees in that the humbling experience of a man who has a glimpse of the nature of God.

I, myself, feel such a spiritual smallness in comparison to this man. How utterly humbling.

A Confession

As much as I tried to stay up last night, I could only make it through about two hours of the coverage. In much he same way as my worst days growing up, I fell asleep in the middle of the Homily (roughly 3 am). So tonight I'm watching the video of the Mass.

And the one, overwhelming impression I have is of the complete inadequacy of television to convey the scope and solemnity of this moment. TV has adapted to and does a pretty good job with things like the Super Bowl and the Inauguration, but it is helped along by our familiarity with the venues for such events. I just get too little sense for the massiveness of two million people in a Mass from the television--I think the medium is wholly unequipped to convey the size of the Basilica, of St. Peter's Square, and of the crowds which have gathered there.

Filling Holes

Hugh Hewitt linked two blog-posts today on related topics. I'll post an excerpt from each:

(from OneHandClapping) There is something empty in these people that they are trying to fill - that they recognize and admit. And they also, generally, admit they are seeking spiritual fulfillment in hanging from hooks.

(and from AmericanDigest) As a one-time card-carrying member of the Culture of Death, I've had no little experience with the bile and the acid that is used to burn out the soul and replace it with the dead-end secular totems of possessions, fashion, sexuality, and the self-uber-alles. I've used selfishness to "enhance" my own life and I've had "selfishness" used on me in turn to enhance the lives of others. Commitment and duty have no place in this philosophy -- everything is reduced to "lifestyle" choices in which, since people are only things, they can easily be replaced by other things, other people.

Though never quite so eloquently, thoughts such as these leap into my mind every time a Red Hook or a Columbine happens. I spend my days around the youth of this country, and say from experience that students who are involved and who care about something--anything, be it band or sports or theater--DO NOT DO THINGS LIKE THIS. I was struck by pictures of the school billboard in the aftemath of the Columbine shooting. It said simply "Good Luck, Band." The band was scheduled to leave the next day for a performance and competition in St. Louis. I guarantee you the students who were preparing to go on that trip did not contemplate horrors such as this.

And, thankfully, OneHandClapping hit on a very important point: the hole in the soul. Quickly after Columbine the usual culprits were trucked out: violence in movies and violent video games; In my day, it was Dungeons and Dragons (which, by the way, I played and seemed to have survived (I leave evaluations about my sanity to you)). But such scapegoats miss the crucial point that OHC hits: these influences do not take hold in a full soul. Only a soul that has no grounding, no core, no rock upon which to build can be driven astray by external influences.

And so we must act to reach out to the youth and give them something to believe in, for I think we see that the culture of holds nothing for them. The nihilistic liberalism of "sophisticated" Europe and elite America fails to do the trick; we have to try to give them something more. And even if such acts take the simple form of denying the culture of death from our doorstep, our schoolhouse, our churches, that's one step back from the impending tragedy.


Go Figger

I'm trying to get caught up on the news, and Blogger locks up on me last night.

Be sure to catch these stories. In the first, the New York Times goes to a funeral for a great man who changed the world over the course of a quarter-century, and the grey lady goes celebrity-watching. (Note: last night, when I first saw this story, it was prominent and free on the web site--now, for some reason, it isn't) And the second is a little more evidence that the Colorado economy isn't quite as bad as you've been told.

This Must Have Them Worried

At a time when it was beginning to look like the "nuclear option" was losing steam, the Wash Post comes out with a laughable editorial against changing the filibuster.

WITH BOTH parties furiously mobilizing their bases, the war over judicial nominations seems headed for an apocalyptic showdown. Republicans, incensed at Democratic obstruction, threaten the "nuclear option": a procedural trick to abolish the filibuster for nominations. Democrats threaten to retaliate by bringing the Senate to a standstill. Were President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) inclined toward statesmanship, they could tamp down the crisis. They have shown little such inclination, though this week has seen encouraging signs from Mr. Frist.

As a rule we are not fans of tactics, such as the filibuster, that are intended to prevent up-or-down votes on judicial nominees. Decency demands that nominees receive reasonable and prompt consideration; the Senate owes the presidency and the judiciary timely votes as well. But Republicans are wrong to single out the filibuster as an abomination that must be placed out of bounds in all circumstances. It is one of various procedural hurdles senators can use, but historically have used rarely, to slow a nominee's progress. These obstacles can be abused, but they can also encourage consultation between the White House and senators.

"Were President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist inclined toward statesmanship....?" That's pretty harsh, don't ya think? As if Ted Kennedy's goofy rantings about the founders or Robert Byrd's invoking the "Nazi" charge were so high-minded and statesman-like. And note, the only hint of ceding "statesmanship" is when a Republican seems ready to cave in.

"It is one of various procedural hurdles senators can use, but historically have used rarely, to slow a nominee's progress." No, actually, it is a procedural hurdle that has NEVER been used, and if it was used to slow a nominee's progress, this is still different because the Dems are using this to STOP nominees' progress. Little bit different ballgame.

The only thing I can think is that the WaPo must have some sources that indicate the GOP would be successful in changing the rules in this fashion. Otherwise, why bother? Leave this issue alone and return to your regularly scheduled program of Bush bashing.

Overnight Blogging

Staying up very late tonight to watch the coverage of the Pope's funeral. Not going to try to live-blog the event--that seems, somehow, tawdry. But, being up, and needing to keep somewhat active so I don't fall asleep, I'll try to cover the world.

As an asid, this is just kind of surreal to watch the "Pre-game" coverage of the funeral. It is, however quite impressive to see the outpouring of love for this man and his Office.


And That Would Be Bad Because . . . ?

The State House yesterday made several changes to the education budget, including adding a $200,000 program to increase teaching about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. About the new mandate:

During heated debate over the Republican call for more education on the Constitution, one Democratic lawmaker suggested that the proposal was purely political.

"I am hopeful that this is not a political game, and that it is not a setup to show who votes against the Constitution," said Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora. "I hope we are above that, as legislators."

Why, Ms Todd, would anybody vote against the Constitution? Is the Constitution not already a part of the State Curriculum? And, if not, why in the world isn't it? And why would anybody not want it to be a major part of the curriculum?

Of course, depending on which judge or California school district get a hold of it, that whole Declaration of Independence thing might be tricky. . .

In other news, funding for charter school construction got cut in half by the House yesterday. Last year, state funding for charter schools capital construction was $5 million; this year, $2.5 million:

On charter schools, they said that the proposed cuts come as more than 20,000 students sit on charter school waiting lists.

"We can't be cutting the funding to the one particular area of our public school system that is showing overwhelming demand," said Rep. Matt Knoedler, R-Lakewood.

The money was earmarked for preschool programs. Charter Schools, preschool, charter schools, preschool. . . one of those choices that show priorities. And, by the way, where in the State Constitution is the mandate to operate effective preschools, as opposed the operating public schools?

Making It Work

Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite politician and former exile who battled Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, was named prime minister of Iraq Thursday after two months of old-fashioned political haggling.

Jafari's appointment to the country's most powerful job followed the swearing in of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani to the post of president, designed to be largely ceremonial under Iraq's interim set of laws. A council composed of Talabani and two vice presidents then invited Jafari to form a government.

The formal beginning of a new democratically elected government was yet another landmark for this war-weary nation. Voters chose a national assembly in January, which paved the way for the naming of the leaders of government which, in turn, is to pave the way for a new constitution and another election next December.

As the inexorable movement of a people away from repression towards self-determination gains momentum in Iraq, we should continue to pray and to effort that the fire lit there will spread to Iran, Syria, and throughout that war-ravaged region.


Education Reform From The Left

Lawmakers on Tuesday gave tentative approval to a proposal to replace the 10th-grade CSAP test with a standardized test that measures a student's vocational aptitude and readiness for college.

Republican opponents put up a fight on the House floor, but House Bill 1164 passed on a bipartisan voice vote. It now awaits a final vote in the House.

The whole purpose of the CSAP, and, indeed, of all standardized testing under the No Child Left Behind regime, is to measure whether or not students are performing well in comparison to the state and federal standards established by the legislatures and Departments of Education. It's call criterion-based testing, and it's the best measure of actual educational progress. By replacing this test for 10th graders (who are notoriously bad at CSAP, especially in Math), and replacing it with what sounds like a non criterion-referenced test, the Democrats have just managed to water down the expectations for education in the state.

As anybody who reads this blog regularly knows, I am not a big fan of the CSAP. It is a test that has some serious design flaws and is being asks to tell us more than it is intended to. But there are ways to fix that without throwing out the expectations for achievement. For instance, redesiging the test to make it a "value-added" assessment, so that it measures the progress individual students, individual classes, and entire schools make over the course of a year, would be a much more useful tool for evaluating schools. I also believe the test needs to incorporate some sort of accountability for the students taking the test, which the CSAP does not.

At any rate, this bill strikes me as a legislative cave-in to teachers' unions, who REALLY do not like the CSAP. Combine this with efforts last week to okay school districts' opting out of federal education monies (about 7% of total education monies), and noting that GOP opponents of this bill cite its non-compliance with NCLB, and this could get very tricky.

Also, notice that the Post story says "Bipartisan", but it couldn't find a single Republican supporter of the bill to quote. I'll have to do a little research to find just how "bipartisan" this actually was.

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