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


Leave It To The Teachers Union . . .

to jump ON to a sinking ship.

The USA's largest teachers union and the AFL-CIO announced a partnership Monday that could both improve teachers' bargaining power and help the labor federation regain some of the clout it lost when several unions defected last year.

The 2.8-million-member National Education Association will allow local affiliates to join the AFL-CIO. The hope is that the AFL-CIO will give teachers more muscle when they campaign for political candidates and push legislation.

Teachers. . . .the American Federation of Laborers . . . teachers . . . labor. . . .

Mind you, I find teaching to be excruciatingly laborious work, but it hardly meets the old-fashioned definition of back-breaking, dirty, sweaty work. And as if the teachers' unions needed more muscle on a local level.

But wait, it gets better:

"This is about two organizations coming together to meet the needs of working families," NEA president Reg Weaver said . . .

The partnership comes as the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions representing 9 million workers, prepares for its first election cycle since about a half-dozen unions, representing more than a fourth of its members, split from the federation in July, complaining that it emphasized political campaigns over organizing.

So just in case you were wondering if "Reg" was being completely candid about that working families thing: note that the union joins the federation in the wake of other groups leaving because of the political efforts.

Of course, this has nothing at all to do with working families, or the needs of the members; it has everything in the world to do with the symbiotic interests of the two unions, whose political interests trump any interest they might have in protecting their people.



Joshua is reporting at this hour that Fern O'Brien, a Boulder-based lawyer, is planning on challenging John Suthers for the Colorado Attorney General's post, running on a "privacy in health choices" platform.

In a related story, Joshua beats the MSM to a big story. Way to go, Joshua!! The "pajamahudeen" strikes again.

The Strategic Blunder of Overblown Rhetoric

Regardless of where you come down on the Dubai/Ports issue, there are undeniable political consequences of the firestorm that has developed over it. The Washington Times has the goods.

Businessmen, government officials and other residents of Dubai have experienced bewilderment and disbelief as they watched the U.S. reaction to the ports takeover by the state-owned company DP World, the Dubai-based ports operator.

Their reaction reflectsthe city's decades-long search for an identity, inevitably influenced by its Middle East location and Muslim traditions, but also by ambitions to become a free-market economy that attracts the West's wealthiest investors. . . .

"We can build bridges between East and West by having bilateral businesses and common interests," he said. "By isolating this part of the world and pushing us in the corner, how do the Americans think things can change? By magic? I never talked like this before."

To quote Elrond, in the Middle East "our list of friends grows thin." We can't afford to offend the few "allies" we have.

I'm still ambiguous about this, though Robert Kaplan has me nearly persuaded. I just think we should be very careful not to alienate any more than we need to.

Before You Get Too Worked Up . . .

about the CBS Poll released tonight (Bush JA at 34%), read all the way down to the bottom.

No, further, the very bottom. Question 92. Party affiliation.

Any guesses? Anyone? Just based on the JA number, don't you think you can guess?

Unweighted: Dem 40%, GOP 27%, Ind 33%.

Weighted: Dem 38%, GOP 28%, Ind 34%.

Really? In this electorate, you think a 3-2 ratio of Dems to GOP is realistic?

Dismiss this poll.

In fact, dismiss everything CBS puts out.

On the other hand, Rasmussen, who is fairly consistent, and managed to be closest to the actual outcome of the 2004 election, has the President's JA dipping down to 43% today. This is consistent with the cyclical pattern that has emerged in this poll over the past couple months. We'll have to see if this is the bottom, and it ticks back up towards 50%, or if this is the establishment of a new trend.

Democrats: Friends of Education

The Rocky Mountain News says a mouthful this morning:

Critics of standardized tests in schools will seize any opportunity to weaken the state's accountability system, and their latest ploy is both simple and deceptive. They're backing a proposal to ensure schools aren't penalized on the state "report cards" for having a lot of students skip those key tests.

Essentially, House Bill 1289 would reduce the current testing system to a purely voluntary exercise. What's that worth as a measure of accountability? Practically nothing. . . .

In the "legislative declaration" that introduces the bill, there is a lot of scaremongering rhetoric revealing the anti-testing bias that inspired it. Keep the paragraph that protects students from punishment for missing the tests. Scrap the rest

Of course the Dems were going to work very hard to weaken the accountability measures in the schools--those make it too hard on the teachers' union to protect their jobs. But this effort deviously makes it look like everything is still the same, even making it look like they're just trying to help out the schools with a smallish statistical difficulty.

How long do you suppose it will take until the only kids taking the CSAP are the ones everybody knows are up to grade level? I can tell you this, if I were the principal of a school that was on probation, I would "encourage" a couple kids to stay home. I would be a fool not to, if there was no consequence to that.

Would that be ethical? Of course not. Will it happen, anyway? No doubt.

More On The Shrine Of The Golden Dome

My thoughts this weekend were largely occupied by the wanton destruction of the Holy Site in Samarra. The shrine itself was over 1200 years old, though the Golden Dome was only completed about 100 years ago.

For perspective, 1200 years ago saw the British Isles wracked with factional/tribal warfare, barely able to sustain anything resembling governance, much less creating structures that are still standing today.

1200 years ago, in America, the indigenous tribes were doing their thing, independent of influence from the white man, also not building this sort of shrine (though some of their homes--I'm thinking MesaVerde here--still survive today).

The Scandinavians were starting to explore via the seas, but mostly for conquest, with little ideological or cultural end in mind.

My point?

That there once was an Arab world that created beauty, that welcomed progress, and that was at the forefront of development in the civilized world. At a time when the "western world" was nothing more than a diverse collection of tribes and feudal interests, the Arab world was making progress in the arts, in science, and in exploring the world.

And these days there is now a part of Islam that would plunge the entire rest of the world back to that time--even other parts of the Moslem world that are "inconvenient" to it and its ends.

They say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it;

What should we make of those who would destroy history?


Iraq In A Hurting Way

Tradition says the shrine, which draws Shiite pilgrims from throughout the Islamic world, is near the place where the last of the 12 Shiite imams, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared. Al-Mahdi, known as the "hidden imam," was the son and grandson of the two imams buried in the Askariya shrine.

Shiites believe he is still alive and will return to restore justice to humanity. An attack at such an important religious shrine would constitute a grave assault on Shiite Islam at a time of rising sectarian tensions in Iraq.

I really have nothing to add to the discussion about the descent into possible Civil War--much has already been said by a lot smarter people than me.

But for a moment, consider the horror of the destruction--by Moslems--of a Holy Structure that's over 1200 years old.

1200 years.

The world sat by in hand-wringing futitility when the Taliban destroyed 1800 year old Buddhas in Bamiyan in 2001. That was largely because the world had no influence on the Taliban, and its "sovereignty" licensed it to do whatever it pleased.

But this, the Golden Shrine, is different.

This is Moslems targeting Moslems. And while the play is a pretty smart one to induce Civil War, the responsibility for stopping this sort of thing now shifts squarely to Moslems.

Though the world should get up in arms at this sort of wanton destruction.

1200 years.

So, What Did We Learn This Week?

We learned that the administration approved a deal turning over administration of six US ports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates.

We learned that the President doubled down, threatening to veto legislation that would block the deal.

We learned that there may have been a secret deal between the U.S. and the U.A.E. regarding allowing the deal to go through.

We learned that Congress is up in arms, to the point of scuttling the deal--both Democrats and Republicans.

We learned that the purchase of the port operations would probably not change too much of what happens in our ports.

We learned that backing out of the deal, at this point, would probably cost us a great deal in public relations in the Arab world (but then, what doesn't?).

We learned that Robert Kaplan makes a very good case for letting this deal go forward.

But what's the most important thing we learned this week?

That, after Cindy Sheehan, Katrina, Harriet Meyers, the Social Security fix, and many other debacles since re-election . . .


You get the feeling that the White House is much better at campaigning than they are at governing. And I say that fully aware of the almost incalculably important successes of John Roberts and Sam Alito.

It doesn't much matter if you can win elections if you can't manage to do anything with the office. Don't you think?


What Are The Odds?

That both Denver dailies come out on the same day against the same piece of legislation? But that's exactly what's happened today, with respect to the 65% solution.

The Post: Conservatives used to embrace the value of local control, but Gov. Bill Owens this week became the 100,000th signature on a petition that would put an ill-advised question before voters in November: Should schools spend 65 percent of their money on classroom instruction?

It sounds like an easy answer. Who wants to see tax money wasted on bloated administrative costs? But dig a little deeper and it's easy to see this proposal for what it is: a campaign slogan for Republican lawmakers who want to appear pro-education.

The News: An initiative likely to make the ballot in November would require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operating expenditures on classroom instruction.

We're not certain whether a law like that would be good public policy. That's a discussion we'd be willing to have. But making it a constitutional mandate? That's a recipe for disaster.


Personally, I think the 65 percent solution is better politics than policy, as the Post hints at. But I also think that there is an element of precise rhetoric, which is often clarifying. That is to say, that I think when numbers are attached, and specificity of allocation is on the table, it has a way of shuffling some of the garbage off to the side.

And if there's one thing the education debates could do with, it's more shuffling of garbage off to the side.

Ask, And You Shall Be Answered

Last night I asked about information regarding the immigration debates down at the statehouse. Ben has the goods. The long and short? The Dems killed seven bills on straight party-line votes in committee.



The big news: The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether a 2003 federal ban on the procedure that critics call "partial birth" abortion is constitutional, setting the stage for its most significant ruling on abortion rights in almost 15 years.

This is one of those headlines that make the liberals hyperventilate. But the bigger news may actually be this:

A U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday dropped the hot potato of redrawing Colorado's congressional district map back in the lap of a federal district court, but it will take a rapid-fire decision for the case to affect the November election.

Justices ruled that a three-judge, federal panel erred last year when it tossed out a Republican-backed lawsuit challenging the map drawn by Democrats and approved by a judge in 2002.

I'm not sure this will really make a difference in the long run, but it does have to have the Democrats a bit worried. At the very least, CD 7 could suddenly become safe Republican territory, which the judge's plan put very much into play four years ago. Though the current registration numbers favor the Dems just slightly, a little push towards the GOP plan would make a big difference in CD7.

Keep an eye on this space.

And speaking of keeping an eye--what all happened down at the Statehouse today? It was "Immigration Tuesday," but the papers don't have any information about what was reported to be a very late night of legislating.

Of Whom Was This Said?

". . . made it clear that he considered the prosecution of the war primarily a function of the Chief Executive, to be carried out with minimal interference from the other branches of the government and without excessive respect to constitutional niceties protecting individual rights."

"Representative B. . . began the attack with a resolution demanding the immediate release of all political prisoners and charging that arbitrary arrests were 'unwarranted by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and . . . a ususrpation of power never given up by the people to their rulers.'"

"The rabidly Democrat . . . set the tone by declaring that 'the tyranny of military despotism' exhibited in the arrest . . . demonstrated 'the weakness, folly, oppression, mismanangement and general wickedness of the administration at Washington.' At a huge rally in New York City on speaker asserted that if [the] arrest went unrebuked, 'free speech dies, and with it our liberty, the constitution and our country."

"Conservatives . . . thought the President 'an awful, woeful ass,' and protested, 'If [he] was not a damn fool, we could get along yet.'"

And, "There probably never was an election in all our history into which the religion element entered so largely, and nearly all on one side."

Sound familiar? Sound like some of the common complaints against the current President? They are certainly reminiscent of much of what has been said lately regarding Pres. Bush.

But might it surprise you to learn that all of this was said of Abraham Lincoln? All of these quotes were taken from the biography titled "Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald.

What's the point? That Lincoln was equally hated in his time? That the views of Lincoln were just as invective-filled? That the fear of the "religious element" were just as widely recognized?

There are other quotes from the book that point even more strongly towards the Democrats as harmful of the war effort, even calling the Democratic platform for 1864 the "Chicago Surrender." But is that the point?


Or, just perhaps, on this President's Day (actually, one day late, but whatayagunna do?), it would be helpful to take a long view, and recognize that--good or bad--consequential Presidencies are always controversial.

And that partisan politics are no new thing in America, even in a time of war.

And that, regardless of the outcome, the Republic survives.


Ah, A Smart Senate At Work

Tomorrow morning's Rocky Mountain News will contain a Speakout column lauding the benefits of the Hope Co-Op, and asking the State Legislature to defeat State Senate Bill 125. Were Senate Bill 125 to become law, the Hope Co-Op--a charter school targeting high-risk students, particularly Hispanics and Blacks--would effectively have to shut down. The bill looks like it may have far-reaching implications for online education beyond just the Hope Co-Op.

Now, just knowing how the politics of minorities, education, and high-risk students play out, who would you guess would be behind Senate Bill 125? Hmm? Anyone?

How about Sen. Sue Windels, Democrat of Arvada, and chairperson of the Senate Education Committee. In fact, she has managed to shepherd the bill through two party-line votes in committee, and its next stop is the Senate floor.

A Tale Of Two Veeps

So, now it's been a week since the two most immediate past Vice Presidents have been in the news. Let's see how the national media has handled things. Via Google:

"Dick Cheney Anderson Ranch": 9,750 hits, from all type and manner of major media outlet

"Al Gore Jiddah": 472 hits, 6 of the first 10 from new media

Let's be clear about the difference here: The Cheney story is the sitting Vice President shoots a friend in a hunting accident, the friend is all right, the sheriff has closed the investigation, and there are NO further ramifications of the event; the Gore story is a former Veep, and elder statesman of his party, a man who was almost President and will likely run again in 2008, going into the Arab world and inventing history in a fashion that damages alliances, encourages anti-American sentiment around the world, and leaves the world with the impression that the administration's foreign policy is not supported at home.

In other words: one week later, the Cheney story is fodder for late night talk shows, the Gore story is fodder for anti-American hatred around the globe.

And the media has given TWENTY TIMES more coverage to Cheney than to Gore.

Wonder why the media has fallen so far in the view of Americans? Its because it's institutional biases are starting to prevent it from keeping its eye on the ball. And in the same weekend that the mullahs of Iran say that the use of nuclear weapons against the west is justified, the Sunday talkers were still prattling on about Cheney.

The media's eye is so far off the ball, it's like they're watching the Lifetime Network during the game, instead.


I Like The New Fed Chief

Larry Kudlow has a good set of observations on the first appearance of Ben Bernanke before Congress (courtesy RCP). Some of the key thoughts:

After two days of Congressional hearings, new Fed chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a “not-too-hot” and “not-too-cold” testimony that reassured financial markets, driving up share prices by roughly one percent across-the-board, while gold, bonds and the dollar were flat.

During his hearings, Ben Bernanke gave the Bush tax cuts credit for economic recovery. Mr. Bernanke also pledged to keep basic inflation around 2 percent or less, and he narrated a positive view of the economy. . .

His biggest concern on the inflation front seemed to be a spillover effect from higher energy prices. But that hypothetical thought is being overtaken by events in the energy trading pits, where gasoline prices are plummeting and crude oil has dropped below the $60 dollar a barrel threshold. With energy inventories high, lower prices will pull down inflation rates in the next couple of months . . .

Notably, Bernanke not only credited tax cuts for economic recovery, he also endorsed school choice and vouchers for better education performance.

While I'm not sure the final two items are really part of his docket, I do think it's hard to miss that the Dow Jones has closed above 11,000 three days in a row, today over 11,100. NOw, I'm not one to get too excited about the Dow--as I've noted before, I don't think rational behavior has a whole lot to do with the stock markets--they do seem to indicate that the financial world is pretty comfortable with BB at the Fed.

Pretty Full Plate For The State GOP

Joel Hefley dropped a bit of a bomb on the state today when he announced that he will not seek re-election to the 5th Congressional District.

We thank him for his service for some 20 years, in particular acting as a voice of conscience in recent corruption scandals in Congress. But I gotta think this really hurts the state GOP's efforts. A short list of goals for the state GOP this Fall looks like this:

:defend the Governor's Mansion, including a testy primary between Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman, from moderate former Denver DA Bill Ritter (who picked up a high-profile endorsement today)

:defend the open 7th CD, in which Dems hold a small registration advantage

:defend the now-open 5th CD, a GOP stronghold

:attempt to take back the 3rd CD from John Salazar

:attempt to retake the State Senate from a one-vote Dem majority

:attempt to retake the State House from a larger Dem majority

:help Marilyn Musgrave defend what should be a safe 4CD

:hope Tom Tancredo doesn't say something that might put the very safe 6CD into play

:and that's all before we see anything that has to be shot down in the initiative process, like last year's Prop 99 (or whatever that thing about the Electoral College was)

That's an awful lot for one party to do in one year, all the while contending with the "Gang of Four" big Democratic donors, who seem to have deeper pockets than the GOP is able to counter with.

I guess it's time to roll up the sleeves.

Why Brit Hume?

Howard Kurtz seems to have the answer:

Hume, who has known Cheney since he was a House member from Wyoming, said he believes the vice president chose Fox because it is the top-rated cable network, and picked him because he hosts the only Washington-oriented hour on Fox's schedule. . . .

Emily Rooney, a talk show host for Boston's WGBH-TV who worked with Hume at ABC News, praised Hume's intuitive grasp of politics.

Hume has "never hidden" his conservative leanings, she said, and Cheney "chose Brit Hume for a reason -- because he's always given a fair hearing to the Republican Party, which not every journalist did along the way."

I found this hilarious when I first heard about it this afternoon. Hilarious. . .and fairly obvious. Clearly, if he had any intent of getting a full and fair hearing, he would have to avoid the Press gaggle, and the only newsman out there more interested in answers than in the sound of their own voice is Hume. Plus, choosing Fox is one more way to thumb his nose at the legacy media--always a plus-while still getting the story out there in a reasonable and difficult way.

As to the content itself, I don't think it really added very much to our understanding of the story to this point. Its chief accomplishment, I think, was to get it done. Okay, one beer at lunch, and a perfectly legit reason for delaying the release of the story, and that's about it. Sure, some may not like the reason for the delay, or the decision not to release it to the media in general quickly. But the desire to get it out through a credible source to an outlet that would have a decent understanding of the story passes muster for me.

But then, I was inclined that way, anyway. It probably won't do much for the press or the Bush-haters in the room. . . .because they're inclined that way, anyway.

At least we can get this off the front page now.


On The Cheney Shooting Thing

I've been sitting back on this story for a few days, just watching what happens with it. And here, for what it's worth, is my take on how various groups are viewing the incident.

Average Joe: Cheney shot a guy? Really? Wonder what Letterman's gonna say about it. Say, did my Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue get here today?

Letterman: actually, not very funny about it, but it's still early in the week. (haven't been able to watch Leno the last couple nights because of the Olympics)

Hunters and Fishers: Aw, that's nothing--I once took a mouthful of birdshot at twenty paces and managed to turn and fring the damn thing down by spitting the shot . . . Still, pretty dumb.

Bush haters: Well, sure--Cheney's always drunk!! You should never give the guy a gun!


Me, personally? Well, probably not the best thing in the world to be shooting your friend in the face; on the other hand, when the original press accounts of the story contain the line "the birdshot did manage to break the skin . . .", you kinda get an idea of how serious it is. Hell, my daughter's hamster breaks the skin when she bites, and that's not newsworthy. And while I suppose it would have been smarter to issue a statement early on, I hardly think that would have calmed the jackals in the Briefing Room. Actually, handling it the way they have, they've let the Press Corps make themselves the story, and given how the general public views the press these days, that was probably the best bit of spin the White House could have managed.

The real test will be how much mileage is the President able to get out of this incident at the Gridiron Club and other such occasions. Assuming Wittington recovers, this should be good for a lot of laughs.

Then again, maybe he could just show a video of the Press Room . . .


Education Folly In The News

Two articles about recently caught my attention, and both demonstrate just how little we know about education, or how stupid we've become about education.

The first appeared about a week ago, in the Rocky Mountain News. Here's the gist:

"Girls tend to be more compliant and willing to sit down and do what they're told. Boys are less tolerant of that," King said. "If they don't have control and they're not interested, they're less likely to buy in.

"So we really need to approach it that way, and not make everyone act and behave like girls."

District officials say Douglass has narrowed the gap between boys and girls on tests administered under the Colorado Student Achievement Program since adopting the strategy 18 months ago.Douglass received a flurry of national publicity recently because of those efforts, with coverage in Newsweek magazine and the Today show.

This hits on one of the major new themes in education: the gender gap. See, I guess it turns out that boys do worse in schools than girls. And now the education world is devoting resources, energy, and a great deal of thought to how to make boys acheive better on tests. This has also become an issue for colleges, who have recently noticed--with much dismay--that their enrollments are now running nearly 60% girls. (For more on differential treatment of boys, check out the smart thoughts of The Daily Blogster on the feminization of the American male).

All of which is quite confusing to me, because I seem to recall, as I was suffering through the indoctrination of the "school of education" some 15 years ago, that all of our research was showing that teachers favored boys in their classroom behavior by a startling amount, and that the subsequent academic development of boys and girls was significantly different. Just to confirm my memory, I went and looked through some of my old papers, and found a prominent article by David and Myra Sadler (no link available) that concludes thus:

The experience of female students in U.S. schools is unique. What other group starts out ahead--in reading, in writing, and even in math--and 12 years later finds itself behind? We have compensatory education for those who enter school at a disadvantage; it is time that we recognize the problems of those who lose ground as a result of their years of schooling.

So, just what IS going on here? It would seem to me that there are two possible conclusions: one, that we wildly misunderstood the nature of the problem fifteen years ago, and that there was no correlation between the fovorable bias of our classrooms then and the acheivement of boys then; or, two, and here's the REALLY subversive one . . .

we have actually succeeded!! Twenty years of focus on treating girls better in the classroom, and voila!! girls are better at school than boys.

So how much you wanna bet twenty years from now we'll be actively seeking to swing the pendulum back the other direction, once we've come to accept that boys are different and they learn differently and maybe--just maybe--they catch up and perhaps evn pass the girls? Yeah, I wouldn't count on it either, but . .

And the second thing that caught my attention was this one, an op-ed submission in the Friday Rocky Mountain News. Here's the gist:

While there are certainly both ethnic and gender biases in all standardized testing, and volumes of research to support that contention, neither of those factors are the primary basis for our opposition to CSAP.

Rather, we believe that the primary bias of all standardized testing is socioeconomic. One of the strongest correlations in educational research is between family income and test performance. This has been shown time and time again over the last five decades, ever since the groundbreaking research of James Coleman in this area in the mid-1960s.

Now, if this isn't a fine example of post hoc, ergo propter hoc thinking (after the event, therefore because of the event) in defense of an intellectually untenable position, I don't know what is. The logic of Tim Babbidge, of the Coalition for Better Education, would hold that the ONLY important factor influencing test performance is a bias against those from lower socioeconomic groups.

In the first place, I would like to see a detailed, peer-reviewed research article demonstrating how specific questions on the test are biased against the poor. I'm not even entirely sure what such a question would look like.

But in the second place, and more importantly, this logic ignores the most obvious other explanation for the difference. See if this logic tracks better:

Innumerable studies have demonstrated that a low level of education leads to significantly reduced lifetime earning potential; therefore, the students in the low-income category will, by and large, be from parents who have a low education level; there is a logical next step to assume that said low education level is either the result of a disdain for education, or a low aptitude for academic pursuits, all of which, logically, could easily be passed on to their children. ERGO, the next generation is also likely--though not destined--to low academic performance.

Obviously, there will be and are many exceptions to this logic--in both directions (low income, high acheiving; high income, low acheiving). But since numerical reasoning of this nature tends to deal in the large, that is what we should deal in, also.

At any rate, I think it's entirely possible that we ought to look much more at where students begin on the acheivement scale, and what sort of progress they make, rather than blanket assumptions about academic development across the board. And rather than automatically look to tear apart the regime of accountability an measurement, we should look more to recognizing the usefulness of datae in making arguments to direct resources differently, earlier, when they might make a real difference.


Not Getting It

The recent kerfuffle over the Danish cartoons is a topic I've already lost interest in. Except . . .

that there's evidence that this was a manufactured kerfuffle. This leads to the obvious conclusion that there is--and this isn't exactly news--a large portion (in terms of raw numbers) of the Muslim world that is just waiting for an excuse to protest the West and Israel. Which is not a big deal, except that a part of that portion is now in power in a country that is seeking to build nuclear weapons, and one country that already has nukes is a heartbeat away from being in--at best, complete chaos, or at worst--in the hands of that portion of Islam (Pakistan).

And, while at present, I agree with Hugh that this is not a clash of civilizations, but rather a battle to isolate and eradicate a small portion of the larger Islamic world. Unfortunately, given the oppression within, the lack of hope these societies permit their people, and the projection of their values onto the larger world, this has all the possibilities of becoming a clash of civilizations. The only thing that would seem to hold back that tide is the clear-headedness of the Western leaders in urging restraint while defending our freedoms.

That last part seems to have escaped some:

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said the publication of the cartoons had been "a calculated and gratuitous insult to the Muslim community, a deliberate provocation designed to destroy trust and understanding."

"Had such images, bordering on racist, been used to portray other groups they would rightly have been condemned as racist or anti-Semitic," the Mayor said.

Regardless the internal logic of the argument, the real point is that condemnation of "racist or anti-Semitic" rhetoric in Europe has been, at best, disregarded by the powers that be. Nor would such condemnation ever lead to protests, some of which have turned violent; nor would such condemnation lead to death threats; nor would such condemnation lead to virulent anti-anti-Semitic hate propoganda, such as the Iranian denial and then mockery of the Holocaust.

No, such condemnation would lead to an open and free debate--often between people who have little intelligent to add to the debate--which is the hallmark of free societies, and, in the end, our only way to avert a clash of civilizations. As the editors of the Rocky Mountain News said today, in an explanation of their running the cartoons,

As with all of the material we publish, we urge you to read them and judge for yourself.

That freedom to judge for yourself is key, and simply self-censoring, as Europe seems intent on doing, removes a great deal of the important information from the ability to judge for yourself.

And, speaking of freedoms, note that the Rocky has chsen to only publish one of the Muslim-offensive cartoons, while also running four other cartoons of equal offense to Christians, Catholics and Jews.

Judge for yourself, indeed.


Interesting Poll Numbers

You may or may not have heard much about the most recent Pew Research Poll. The headline, of course, is the President's job approval number, which is holding steady at 40%. This from a polling sample that had a sample of 30% Rep, 33% Dems, 31% Ind, a number that moves closer to 41% Rep, 49% Dems when you calculate "leaners."

Now, if you're like me, the only way you've heard of this poll is if you're a frequenter of RealClearPolitics. So it's unlikely anybody has seen or heard these interesting results.

Do you think it is generally right or generally wrong for the government to monitor telephone and e-mail communications of Americans suspected of having terrorist ties without first obtaining permission from the courts? Generally right 54%, generally wrong 43%, [an 11-point swing in the last month]

Regardless of your feelings about the original decision to use military force, do you now believe that the U.S. will definitely succeed, probably succeed, probably fail, or definitely fail in establishing a stable democratic government in Iraq? Succeeders 55%, Failers 39%

Do you think the U.S. made the right decision or the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq? Right 51%, Wrong 44% [a 9 point swing in the last month]

With a little bit of luck, the Democrats will continue to try to hammer on these issues, or, at best, have a mixed message on these issues, and then they will be the centerpiece of the mid-term elections--with the GOP having to do very little to make it happen. With those margins on the issues, that would almost guarantee a GOP hold on the leadership in Washington.

Now, what are the chances that the Dems would continue to be either that dumb or that out of touch? Well, actually . . . pretty good.


Decidedly Mixed Feelings

On the one hand, this is a very cool thing:

A team of scientists has discovered a lost world of rare plants, giant flowers and bizarre animals -- including a new species of honeyeater bird, a tree kangaroo and an egg-laying mammal -- on a mist-shrouded mountaintop in a remote province of Indonesia on New Guinea island.

Flown by helicopter to a mountain preserve virtually untouched by humans, the scientists found more than 40 species new to science.

On the other hand, this is sad to me. I suppose I never quite pictured the entrance to Eden being on the other end of a helicopter ride. And, in many ways, I sort of wish that "pristine" environment could have remained pristine.

Not that I would have known . . . but, well. . . 'cuz how do you know if something remains undiscovered?

Curious Headlines

The WaPo website--and, I presume, tomorrow's paper--carry these headlines regarding the Coretta Scott King funeral.

--With Tribute To King, Bush Reaches Out

--Coretta Scott King's Legacy Celebrated in Final Farewell

The first article even goes so far to note as subheading "NAACP Chief Praises President for Appearance."

Buried in the ninth paragraph of that same article is the by now well-known fact that the Left--as only the Left can do--turned a solemn occasion into a political one.

Former president Jimmy Carter, who has been critical of Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program, pointed out that King and her husband, the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., were targets of a "secret government surveillance" at the height of the civil rights movement.

"The struggle for equality is not over," Carter said. "We only have to recall the color of the faces in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi -- those most devastated by Katrina -- to know there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

My political consciousness was just starting to awaken in 1979-80, and so my first impressions of America as a political beast were of a country shamed by its own ineptness, tripping under the weight of its own near-socialist economic policies, and a hapless player on the international stage. And much of that impression centered on the person of Jimmy Carter.

And so, it would seem to me, the suddenly re-ascendant Democratic persona of Jimmy Carter is, at best, a very bad portent for the county.


All You Need To Know . . .

About the NSA wiretapping program is summed up by this paragraph from AG Alberto Gonzales.

"Our enemy is listening," he said during testimony before the committee. "I cannot help but wonder if they aren't shaking their heads in amazement at the thought that anyone would imperil such a sensitive program by leaking its existence in the first place, and smiling at the prospect that we might now disclose even more or perhaps even unilaterally disarm ourselves of a key tool in the war on terror."


Modern Culture Pop Quiz ANSWERS

Quick, name each of these persons' claim to fame.

And no Googling allowed. Not that there's anything I can do about it, just . . .

A. Richard Hatch--first Survivor winner, now a tax felon
B. Terrell Owens--phenomenally gifted loudmouth football player
C. Clay Aiken--runner-up on first American Idol, recording star
D. Jeremy Glick--
E. Jeff Gordon--NASCAR driver
F. Tonya Harding--one-time ice skating star become white trash parody
G. Katie Couric--host of NBC's Today Show
H. Mark Bingham--
I. Ashlee Simpson--bad actress turned bad singer turned bad lip sync-er
J. Jack Bauer--fictional star of the television series "24"

Oh yeah, those two who I didn't give the answer for? Those were two of the passengers of Flight 93 who stormed the cockpit and forced the plane out of the sky before it could reach its target.

Doesn't it make you wonder that we know all the names we do, but don't know the names of genuine heroes? It seems a civilization so oblivious to its own best incarnations is doomed to a slow and ignoble decline.

Pointless Prediction UPDATED

Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 20.

Not a lot of logic or analysis here. I think Pittsburgh made the "two best teams in football"--Indianapolis and Denver--look pretty silly, and I'd like to think that the only way my Broncos get beat is by the very best team out there.

But, in the interest of full disclosure, I also have a very old bias in favor the Steelers. The first football game I actually remember watching was Super Bowl X, the one in which Lynn Swann made two of the most spectacular catches in Super Bowl history, plus a game winning catch on a intercontinental bomb from Terry Bradshaw. If memory serves, Swann had four catches in the game for 160 yards--40 yards per catch. . . in a Super Bowl! At any rate, that display of athleticism and competition grabbed me, and I've been a football fan ever since--with a somewhat irrational sympathy for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And, by the way, a sincere hope that Lynn Swann is the next Governor of Pennsylvania.

UPDATE: Well, I had the winner and the margin right--I was just off by 10 points. Congratulations, Pittsburgh, Bill Cowher, and Jerome Bettis.

As far as the game goes, I was pretty disappointed. The Seahawks played a very good game, but couldn't get the big play when they needed it, while the Steelers made the most of the very few opportunities they had.

Oh, and, yeah . . . the officiating was TERRIBLE!! I'm not sure the Seahawks win if all of these don't go against them, but here's five that changed the game:

A. Incomplete pass on Jeremy Stevens fumble early in the first--three feet down, a turn of the hips, and a fumble which, if you watch the replay to its conclusion, goes out of bounds, instead leads to the end of a drive and a punt
B. Pass interference on Darrell Jackson's TD--technically, the right call, but not a call you're gonna see even 1/3 of the time
C. Ben Roethlisberger's TD--didn't look to me like he scored, and if the line judge calls him down on the inch-line, that call would've stood up to review, also
D. holding on 23-yard completion to Jeremy Stevens to the Pitt 1 yd line--phantom hold, clearly bad call, which translated two plays later into the really big interception
E. low hit 15-yd penalty on the interception return--problem is, the low hit WAS ON THE BALLCARRIER, which makes it . . .oh, what's the technical term? . . . a TACKLE!

Of course, none of those explain Jeremy Stevens' three dropped passes or Darrell Jackson's inexplicable inability to find the sideline or Seattle's wierd decision not to keep throwing to Darrell Jackson, not to mention two missed field goals (granted, of 50+ yards).

AP: Learning to Edit? UPDATED

Oh, how quickly they catch their own stupidity . . . .sometimes.

Two hours ago, I flipped through the Comcast News site, clicking on a story headlined "Specter Says President Likely Broke Law." Of course, the content of the article never indicated that Senator Arlen Specter actually said that, but it is Arlen Specter, so I thought "maybe." So I went an read the transcript of today's "Meet the Press" interview with the Pennsylvania Senator. And while the Senator does indicate a "skepticism" about the NSA eavesdropping program, he also at one point says--wisely--" . . .whether the President’s powers under Article 2, his inherent powers, supercede a statute. If a statute is inconsistent with the Constitution, the Constitution governs and the constitutional powers predominate."

So, of course, the AP misled just a little bit in its headline, which it doesn't manage to illuminate any better in the text.

I must not have been the only one who noticed that (maybe, I don't know, AN EDITOR), because AP has changed the headline to "Specter Criticizes Rationale for Spying," and Comcast has dumped the story off of its front page.

Is it possible, JUST POSSIBLE, that some of those famous journalistic safeguards are starting to kick in? And it makes you wonder if the MSM would have ever been careful like this absent the new safeguard of the blogosphere.

By the way, it seems to me fairly obvious that the President's inherent powers under Article II of the Constitution supercedes a statute. But that's just me.

UPDATE: The local moonbats have jumped on the original headline, based on the USAToday jumping on the original headline. SPLAT!! There go two more lemmings.

Prima Facia STUPID

The top story on the WaPo website for Sunday morning is one headlined "NSA's Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects."

Of course, my first thought was "Good!! They're turning up a few suspects!"

See, what the Left (apparently), aided by the press, and abetted by the Democratic Party, clearly fails to grasp is that EVEN ONE terrorist threat unchecked translates into thousands of dead Americans. So if we have to intercept one million calls from al Qaeda suspects to turn up ONE credible threat, then I'm pretty happy we're doing it.

But maybe I'm jumping to conclusions based on the headline. What does the article REALLY say?

From paragraph 3:

Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge, for which the government must supply evidence of probable cause.

And from paragraph 7:

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained. [emphasis mine]

"Other officials" . . . also might be more accurately written as "other officials with ties to or who have given financial support to Democrats", don't you think?

And if part of the standard is "reasonable," then isn't the sane way to judge such a thing whether it is "reasonable" to weigh the potential intrusion (which is not random, like a DUI checkpoint, nor is it widespread) against the potential harm? On the one hand, the NSA hears a pointless conversation; on the other hand, somebody blows up the Brooklyn Bridge in rush hour, killing hundreds and crippling a city.

But, I suppose, "reasonable" is too much of a stretch for the Modern Alliance of Lefties. To paraphrase a federal judge from a few weeks ago speaking to the ACLU, "the Left no longer represents a 'reasonable person.'"


Chuggin' Along: 4.7%

Employers stepped up hiring in January, boosting payrolls by 193,000 and lowering the nation's unemployment rate to 4.7 percent, the lowest since July 2001. . .

Moreover, job growth in December turned out to be stronger than previously thought. Revised figures showed payrolls expanded by 140,000 _ an improvement over the 108,000 new jobs first estimated a month ago.

Would have been great for the President to make more of an issue of ACTUAL job numbers in the SOTU on Tuesday, because I think the general public only ocassionally sees job reports like this--especially given the exempt media's bias against reporting news that makes the President look good.

To that point, notice how AP Economics writer Jeannine Aversa slips in a little gloom and doom with your morning good news:

Despite good news on some economic matters, Americans still feel anxious about the economy, polls indicate.

Even though, of course, the latest rating of consumer confidence showed surprising strength--but never mind reality.

Moreover, the datae indicate that this is not "low-paying jobs" that are being created; nor are workers "falling behind."

Job gains were fairly broad based, with employment growing in construction, manufacturing, professional and business services and education and health care. Those employment gains blunted job losses in retailing and government.

Got that? "Job losses in government." That's gotta be a good thing, too.

Employees' average hourly earnings climbed to $16.41 in January, up 0.4 percent from December. That increase was slightly larger than the 0.3 percent rise that economists were expecting.

And now, to return to a theme I started months ago, I ask "How's the stock market responding? This is good news, and should encourage the buyers." Right? Wrong. As of right now (8:20 local time) the Dow Jones is down 54 points.

I don't get the stock market.

But the jobs are all good. At some point, America's gonna take notice that the economy is actually quite strong, and that a great deal of that strength can be attributed to the policies of this President.


I'm Not Sure You Could Have Scripted This

Let me say, right up front, that I am an Evengelical Christian, who was brought up in a strong Catholic home. My own spiritual journey is only just beginning, and I am acutely aware of how little I know.

Nonetheless, I am critical of my own community when I think they go over a cliff--the example of Pat Robertson and that goofy church from Kansas come readily to mind.

So I don't feel I'm straying too far afield, or being hypocritical, or anything of that nature, to say I think the Moslem community may be caring a bit too much and showing a little too much sensitivity about these cartoons.

Protests against European newspapers' publication of cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad gained momentum across the Islamic world Thursday as Pakistani schoolchildren burned French and Danish flags and Muslim presidents denounced the drawings. At the same time, more European news organizations printed or broadcast the caricatures, citing a need to defend freedom of expression.

It seems to me that, following the advice of C.S.Lewis, when you want to discredit something, you don't rail against it; rather, you make a mockery of it. I don't think any P.R. firm in the world could have come up with a scenario where a CARTOON, of all things, published four months ago to little fanfare, in the same part of the world where a writer was recently brutally mudered for being critical of Islam, could have sparked a response SO out of whack with the purported offense. It, quite simply, makes a mockery of itself, it seems.

Again, as in so many instances in recent history, the world cries out for a voice of moderation from the Moslem community.


I Love Coincidences

Take these two entertainment headlines and, you know, draw the inferences yourself.

"Commander in Chief" is going on a six-week hiatus, making way for a new comedy from "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels as part of ABC's midseason schedule makeover.

And. . .

"Flight 93," about the hijacking of the United Airlines plane and passengers' efforts to retake it, drew 5.9 million viewers when it premiered Monday, the cable channel said.
It was the most-watched A&E program since the channel launched in 1984.

State of the Union

I had other obligations tonight, so I was unable to watch the speech delivered. So when I got home I read the transcript and watched the last few minutes, and then got to watch the Democratic response.

Overall, I thought it was a fine speech--nothing earth-shattering, but solid. I like that the President gave no quarter on the conduct of the war in Iraq, on the Patriot Act, or on the NSA domestic surveillance program. I also like that the President hit on a theme for the domestic program: a hopeful society. That, I think, was pretty smart politics. Looking forward, optimistic, with an idea and an ideal to drive towards, a stark contrast to the gloom and doom of the Democrats.

I think I would have preferred that he come out with more domestic numbers. He only had the majority of the public for the first few minutes--I think its safe to assume that a lot of the non-junkies turned on cable reruns after the first several minutes--so why not hit hard with the facts of the economy to start with, leading to the conclusion that the state of the union is strong. Then segue to foreign policy and run it out.

As to the Dem response, it had a theme, also: there's a better way. Of course, they're not going to tell you what that way is (maybe it's on their web site), but there's a better way. What struck me most is who they chose to deliver it: a moderate governor from a red state who looks like he could walk out of a Marine barracks comfortably, who is notably a practicing Catholic and who ends his speech with a call to prayer . . .

not exactly talking to the base, there, are they?

In the end, this probably won't change the world. But it was good.

Must-See TV

The A & E Channel (Arts & Entertainment--channel 41 on my cable provider) has made, and is showing, a movie called "Flight 93." It is a dramatization of the events of September 11th, especially those related to the hijacking, battle for, and eventual crash of United Flight 93.

I watched it last night. And, even though, of course, I knew how the story ended, I still found it absolutely gripping. At points, much too intense for my oldest child. I'm not sure if it had this effect because it was really that well-made, or because it conjured up all those intense emotions of that day and put them through the prism of those most intimately effected by that day. Either way--it worked.

The movie will be running again for the next few nights--watch it if you get the chance. Tape it or TiVo it if you can't watch it.

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