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


Unforced Errors

The Republicans in Congress, and in particular the Senate, are committing an enormous tactical error in their approach to immigration reform; and I count the President among those screwing this issue up in a big-bad way.

What makes me say that?

Time Magazine has a new poll out, (courtesy RCP) and it is almost exclusively devoted to the issue of immigration. And it is VERY interesting.

Among the findings:

Q1: Bush Job Approval
Approve 37%, Disapprove 57% (and this is a pretty balanced sample)

Q2: Bush Job Approval--immigration
Approve 25%, Disapprove 56%

Q3: How Serious is Illegal Immigration
Very/Extremely Serious 68%, Somewhat Serious 21%

Q4: Is the U.S. doing enough to secure the borders?
No: 82%

Q8: Should Illegals be allowed to obtain government services?
No: 75%

Q11C: Would you favor major penalties for employers of illegals?
Yes: 71%

Q11E: Would you favor providing for some way for illegals to become legal? (bad paraphrase, but hopefully you get the idea)
Yes: 78%

Q11F: Would you support shutting down the border, including using the military?
Yes: 62%

Q11G: Do you favor a fence?
Yes: 56% No: 40%

Q16: Have the recent demonstrations made you look on illegals more sympathetically or less?
Less: 40% More: 14%

Is it just me, or does it look very--VERY--obvious what the politically smart approach to this issue is? Let me distill it:

Step one: shut down the border . . . period.
Step two: cut off, or at least restrict, the amount of government services made available to illegal immigrants
Step three: strengthen and enforce penalties to employers who hire illegal immigrants
Step four: provide an opportunity for people to EARN citizenship, including learning the language, holding a job, and paying taxes

I really don't think this is that hard. Makes you wonder why the people back in Washington make it look SO hard.

Reality Check

For all those out there who think that illegal immigrants only do "jobs Americans won't do", and who think that the presence of illegals is necessary to our economy because of their willingness to do labor on the cheap, a question:

If La Raza and the other usual suspects can organize half a million marchers in Los Angeles last weekend, and who can somehow organize "spontaneous" student walkouts all over the country during the wekk, . . .

what makes you think that they can't organize undocumented workers to all walk out one day and demand higher wages?

How's that "cheap labor" look to you in that light?


On The Wilful Inability to Recognize Evil

There is a very good Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer by the name of Terry Goodkind (Tor Books) who writes some very insightful stories. Let me give you an example.

In the book Naked Empire (2003), the story centers around a community that is basically exiled in a secluded mountain region, and which openly welcomes among them a people who profess to want to destroy them, and who then seek to do just that. Entrance to this region is guarded by a magical barrier inscribed in an ancient language thusly (and here I will excerpt the novel, from p. 457):

[ed note: most of the words you don't recognize are names--deal with it! By the way, don't try to make any judgement about the quality of TG's writing from just that little excerpt; this is one page of some 700 from one novel, in one novel from nine in the series.]

"Oh, it was about them, all right, but not in that respect. Richard tapped a finger to the carved words. "It doesn't say 'for beyond is evil: those who cannot see,' but something profoundly different. It says 'Fear any breach of this seal to the empire beyond . . . FOR BEYOND ARE THOSE WHO CANNOT SEE EVIL.' "

Kahlan's brow drew down. " . . .those who cannot see evil."

Richard lifted his bandaged arm up toward the figure towering over them. "That's what Kaja-Rang feared most--not those who couldn't see magic, but those who could not see evil. That's his warning to the world." He aimed a thumb back over his shoulder, indicating the men behind them. "That's what this is all about."

Kahlan was taken aback, and a little perplexed. "Do you think it might be that because these people can't see magic they also can't recognize evil," she asked, "or that because of the way they're different they simply don't have the ability to conceive of evil, in much the same way they can't conceive of objective magic as having nothing to do with mysticism?"

"That might in part be what Kaja-Rang thought," Richard Said. "But I don't."

"Are you so sure?" Jenssen asked.


Before Kahlan could make him explain, Richard turned to the men. "Here, in stone, Kaja-Rang left a warning for the world. Kaja-rang's warning is about those who cannot see evil. Your ancestors were banished from theNew World because they were pristinely ungifted. But this man, this powerful wizard, Kaja-Rang, feared them for something else: their ideas. He feared them because they refused to see evil. That's what made your ancestors so dangerous to the people of the Old World."

"How could that be?" a man asked.

"Thrown together and banished to a strange place, the Old World, your ancestors must have clung desperately to one another. They were so afraid of rejection, of banishment, that they avoided rejecting one of their own. It developed into a strong belief that no matter what, they should try not to condemn anyone. For this reason, they rejected the concept of evil for fear they would have to judge someone. Judging someone as evil meant they would have to face the problem of removing them from their midst. . . ."

Better to deny the existence of evil than have to eliminate the evildoer in their midst. Better to turn a blind eye to the problem, ignore it, and hope it went away."

Why is my mind, and my writing, drawn to this excerpt?

Because my mind just flew there as I was re-reading Hugh Hewitt's interview with Michael Ware.

Let me just pull a few key quotes out of the interview for you, to illustrate my thinking.

Exhibit A:

HH: But more importantly, going to the Islamists, about whom...you'll agree with me, they're evil. Won't you, Michael?
MW: Well, I certainly...I mean, one has to be careful that as the Islamic army of Iraq reminded just last week on Al Jazeera, the insurgent groups study very closely everything that we hear, say and write. And given that we're within their grasp, one always must be diplomatic. Suffice to say, it's very hard to relate to the goals or tactics that the hard-line Islamists employ.

Exhibit B:

MW: Well, actually, in the course of this war, we've had a translator assassinated four blocks from our house. Our house has been hit by, or subject to car bombs twice. I've had two of my stringers who deal with the insurgency kidnapped, one of whom was rescued by the Marines when they overran Fallujah in November, 2004. The other one was tortured for five days as al Qaeda tried to get information on me before he was finally released,

Exhibit C:

HH: No, but it does, however, get to the question of whether or not media from the West should be...what's the right word, Michael Ware? It's not assisting, but providing information flow to the jihadis about whom I'm quite comfortable, and I think most Westerners are quite comfortable, just declaring to be evil, because they kill innocents, and that killing of innocents is evil, is it not, Michael?
MW: Well, absolutely. And I think you'll find that that's the source of one of the greatest divisions amongst all the insurgents here.
HH: And so, is it easy for you to do good journalism with the threat of reprisal hanging over your head, perhaps even greater, because you've been given access over and over again to the bad guys?
MW: Well, yeah, it's still more than able to be done. Nothing is easy in this country. But it's just like how when you're writing about, let's say, an American unit that you're embedded with. You get into some very heavy, some very nasty combat. And I've done that so many times, I can't even begin to count. And something happens, something that may not exactly play well back home. And yet, it's something that you know, well, people outside of this experience would never understand that. I mean, how do you relay that without betraying the trust and the confidence of the troops? And for some journalists, they have to bear in mind well, if I write a negative story about the military on this embed, will they give me another embed? So there's always these pressures from all the players.

Exhibit D:

HH: Now this brings me to the interesting issue that we talked about on CNN, and that is the morality of doing that [embedding]. Why do you do that?
MW: Well, there's a number of reasons. I mean, you can look at it very, very cynically. One is know thy enemy.

It becomes clear to my thinking that Michael Ware would have been very comfortable in the society banished behind the barriers in Terry Goodkind's novel. Not only does he make an effort to avoid agreeing with Hugh that the jihadis are "evil" (a dodge which could be understood in the context of the danger he is in), and not only does he compare the propaganda used by teh terrorists to the pressure the military puts him under, but even after relaying that his people--his friends, his employees--were killed and tortured by the insurgents, he is unwilling to acknowledge that there is a profound difference between us and them.

And, more offensively, he continues to be willing to make himself a tool for evil.

Of course, to his mind, he is merely chasing the story. He is simply doing the job.

And that, my friends, is what is most frightening. If Michael Ware--and, for the sake of argument, let's say that a large percentage of the journalists covering the war--is UNABLE to recognize the evil of the terrorists then there is NO WAY we will ever get the real story. Because Ware can go out with the 1st Marine ID and see horrible things, and maybe see some bad bahavior, and he will be free to report on that; but he goes out with the Jihadis and sees those same type of things, and NOT ONLY will he not be able to recognize the profound difference between the intentionality of the Marines vs. the terrorists, but he will be prevented under threat of bodily harm from reporting on that--AND HE STILL WON'T SEE THE DIFFERENCE!

Which means that he will continue to be available to the Jihadis as a conduit of information in the information warfare that is going on. And he won't recognize that that's a problem.

This is a much bigger problem than simply arrogance or partisanship; this is suicide.

And, sadly, this attitude is not unique to Michael Ware, and it does go a long way towards explaining why the coverage from Iraq seems so unbalanced. To extend Hugh's analogies, imagine if the journalists covering the Nazis ONLY thought that Hitler was a nationalist; then try to imagine those reporters covering the discovery of Bergen-Belsen or Auschwitz.

This is dangerous, and that is why the Michael Ware interview matters.


Quick Hits

I have a couple of contracts coming due this week, so most of my creative energies have been diverted to those efforts. However, a few things have snuck onto my radar screen, so I thought I'd mention them:

:if you were as sickened as I was--is that the right word?--by the "demonstrations" this past weekend, and continuing the last couple days, keep this in mind: France is burning. (HT: Powerline)

What do the two events have in common? An extraordinary--and maddening--sense of entitlement that is on display. In France, the "youths" seem to have the impression that the government--nay, THE WORLD--owes them a permanent job (never mind that 1 in 7 of them cannot find work and will not as long as that nation is in economic stagnation); in our own country, these immigrants seem to have the impression that this country owes them the right to flaunt the law because they've successfully ignored it once before.

:The Dems offered their ideas about security today. All you really need to know about it is that neither MSNBC nor the NYTimes bother to have this story on the front page of their websites. But, just in case, Sen. Jim DeMint put it best: "I'm gratified to see the Democrats have inally come around to the Republican position on national security."


Getting Traction With The Meme; Change Fronts

Much of the conversation we've heard over the past five days has been regarding the Old Media coverage of the War in Iraq. Starting with the President fielding a "question" in West Virginia, the media has spent a fair amount of time gazing at their collective navels.

Good. I don't think it will bring about change; in fact, in a few days I'm convinced they will tell themselves that they're just fine. Following that, they will only reinforce their own belief systems and feel re-empowered to report exactly as they see fit to report.

So we need to change the battle front.

Time for someone to open up a new meme about how the press is horribly misreporting the good news from the economy. The numbers are staggering:

:unemployment at 4.8%, well below the 10-, 20-, and 30- year averages
:wages are up, though not enough to precipitate massive inflation worries
:inflation numbers are well in control, even with the recent spikes in energy prices
:GDP growth continues to be strong, though steady
:and there is every possibility that, depending on the reports from the Fed meeting this week, the stock markets could shoot higher--perhaps beyond the all time highs (DowJones 11,722 in Jan 2000).

One has to wonder why, exactly, the media is not reporting this; why every report of good economic news comes with the caveat "but people are feeling anxiety." Hell, I'd feel anxiety too, if all I listened to was Old Media reporting how terrible things are.

Luckily, I don't.

And we, the pajama-hudeen, have got to start hammering away at this or nobody will ever hear the good news.


What's Wrong With This Sentence?

From the Denver Post website:

Throngs of people marched in front of the State Capitol on Colfax Avenue and packed Civic Center, waving signs that said “No on H.R. 4437,” a proposed federal law that would make illegal immigration a felony, . . .

Anybody see anything wrong with this? Anyone? Anything?

Maybe it's just me, but, you know, from my perspective, I suppose it IS a pretty horrible thing when ILLEGAL things are actually, you know, made ILLEGAL.

Sure, you could say there's a difference between "illegal" and "felony," but, c'mon folks . . .

Of course, the real proper response should not or should never be to wring the hands and go "Oh, what are we going to do about this?"; the real response should be to laugh these people off the stage and out of the room.

But, of course, that's not what's going to happen. Because this is the easiest issue to demagogue going right now. How long will it be before someone is accused of being a "racist" and a "bigot"? Anyone want to venture a guess?

Oh, wait. It's probably already happened--I just don't have a link.

Must Read Re: Iraqi Intel Documents

If you have any lingering doubts about the reasons for going to War with Iraq, you simply must read this article in World Magazine by Mindy Belz (courtesy RCP) . Mindy does a nice job summarizing many of the things we have unearthed in the just-beginning search of the 48,000 boxes of stuff we have in a warehouse in Doha, Qatar. Among the findings:

1. Saddam personally ordered the chemical attacks against the Kurds which were responsible for over 12,000 deaths

2. Iraq tested a nuclear weapon.

3. Saddam used 448 Kuwaiti prisoners as human shields ( a revelation Hugh talked about this week)--prisoners which, according to Iraq, were never there.

4. Hussein was aware of, and tolerant of, the presence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq AND some 3,000 Fedayeen Saddam "dispatched" to Afghanistan to fight against the coalition.

Are these revelations important? Well, um, YEAH!! As John Tierney puts it:

"When you look at the documents and translations of meetings, you see that the UN template on conflict management does not work. It leads to a pit of all kinds of complicity. It's like giving your enemies the tape to bind you with."

To me, what seems to be the most amazing revelation is that second one. Do you suppose that, at some point in the last three years, if the headlines had been "Saddam Tested Nuke" it might have made a difference in the rhetoric going around? HMMMMM? Maybe?

Oh, not credible, you say?

About that time UN weapons inspectors were taken to a facility in the western desert, where they were shown proof Iraq had tested a nuclear weapon (a chapter now overlooked in both Iraq Survey Group reports and the media).

Now that's what's in the article. I have not personally read the translation, but this magazine--SURELY--is as credible as, say, CBS. So we can believe them.

Don't you think?

Same-Sex Benefits Moving Through the Colorado Legislature

and I think the smart move is for Republicans to abstain.

Today, the Colorado House of Representatives tentatively approved a proposal to give same-sex partners legal rights in Colorado, overriding Republican complaints that the measure would degrade marriage.

The next vote on House Bill 1344 could send it to the Senate. The bill proposes putting the question of legal rights for domestic partners on the November ballot.

Get that? This bill merely puts the issue on the November ballot.

It's my opinion that the smart move is to allow this bill to go to the voters. There has not been one--NOT ONE--instance in which the voters of a state voted to give such benefits to same-sex couples, even though a couple of legislatures and one Court have granted such rights. Given that history, I'm pretty comfortable that the voters of this state will not be the first to do such a thing.

So why an abstention? Because smart politics allows the voters to be the ones to smack this down, while an abstention assures that there is no way that this could be used against a GOP lawmaker (for "voting for it.")

Of course, not all of the GOP base is into "smart politics;" there will be those who do not see this forest for the trees. But they will have the opportunity to speak their voice at the ballot box in November.

And they need to see that their voices come through loud and clear.


Dangerous Indifference, part two

Yesterday I posted about the remarkable pattern of the Democrats choosing to not act on important threats to the country. Today, Harry Reid jumped off that bridge one more time.

As the Senate prepares to tackle the most sweeping immigration reforms in years, a top Democrat vowed Wednesday to do everything in his power, including filibuster, to thwart Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposed overhaul.

So now, with the vast majority of the public favoring some sort of aggressive efforts to stem the free flow of illegals coming across the border, the leader of the Democrats is threatening to throw procedural roadblocks in the way of the first few baby steps.

Way to go, Harry!

Query: if a major terrorist attack is launched against the United States, and it is shown that the attack came from across our southern border, and that happens AFTER a Dem filibuster of greater border enforcement, . . .

will it still be because we went to war in Iraq?


Easy Verbal Jiu-Jitsu

Harry Reid is on the attack again.

"To me it shows how dangerously incompetent he is," Reid said. "'Stay the course, mission accomplished, bring 'em on' — the American people are sick of that. We need to change course in Iraq. ... I think the president burying his head in the sand is not going to do the trick."

Reid described conditions in Iraq as "low-grade civil war."

"Dangerously incompetent", eh?

See, one thing I've learned in my few trips into the squared circle is that when you're not as skilled as the other guy, it's probably not a great idea to go flying in and getting in range of your opponent. Harry: you're not as skilled as you think you are.

For forty years now, the Democratic Party has demonstrated a Dangerous Indifference to the realities of the world around us.

First, by being the party that advocated most strongly abandoning our allies in Vietnam, we condemned millions to torture and death at the hands of Pol Pot.

Then, by failing to recognize the importance of the changes happening in the middle east, and standing on the sidelines as the Shah of Iran was overthrown in favor of a totalitarian regime, beginning the spread of Islamofacism that we confront today.

Then by showing no resolve to defend our sovereign soil when American citizens were taken hostage in Teheran, a Democratic President allowed the world to see a paper tiger.

In the 80's, it was the Democrats' staunch resistance to the then-President's proposals to face down the Soviet Empire from a position of strength, even to the point of rationalizing the absolute philosophical poverty of Communism, and accusing US of being the dangerous ones.

In the 90's, the willingness to look the other way and only take on the growing threat of transnational terrorism from a the safety of a courtroom was the legacy of Democratic leadership, at the same time working behind the scenes to hamstring the intelligence capabilities of this nation.

And now, when a country that had twice attacked its neighbors, had used weapons of mass destruction against its own people, and had systematically eliminated several hundred thousand of its own people, when that country has a chance to be free, to be strong and important, the Democratic Party would rather that America step off the field, that America put its most effective anti-terrorism weapons back on a shelf, that America allow the events to unfold for themselves, independent of any guidance or influence from us.

On every major question of the last forty years, the Democratic Party has taken the position that real action is unwise, that full commitments to liberty and freedom are hasty and risky, and that America's role on the world stage should, at best, be a minor one.

The Democratic Party's indifference to the plight of peoples around the world, and their indifference to the threats faced by the free nations of the world have encouraged and emboldened the enemies of freedom, of liberty, and of the United States. This is dangerous, and it must be countered with a full-throated commitment to the defeat of our enemies and the uplifting of those who want to stand with us, side-by-side, in the community of free nations.


I Love A Little Irony

A Denver Democrat says she plans to introduce a resolution at her precinct caucus meeting tonight asking the attorney general to investigate a GOP group for spreading what she says are lies about "upstanding" Democratic legislators.

Bee Bigelow, 54, said she got the idea from a blog called soapblox.net, and she expects plenty of other Democrats to be pushing for the same resolution at their caucus meetings.

She said the Republican Trailhead Group has been "robocalling" voters in districts represented by Democratic lawmakers, accusing them of accepting money from a "secret political organization."

Bigelow said she believes the calls are filled with lies and need to be investigated.

Where was Bee in 2004 when Rutt Bridges, et al., were spending $4 mil in shadowy funds to distribute lies and distortions about many state legislative candidates, including Jessica Corry, the R State Senate candidate in my district? What's that? Oh, it didn't matter then?

But a mere $83,000 in office accounts is the cause of lies.

Gimme a break.

Oh, and, by the way, when did the Old Media start reporting the issues that were being brought up to individual precinct caucuses? I wonder if they will be reporting on the near-universal support expressed at GOP caucuses tonight for the War in Iraq?

Yeah, I'll be holding my breath, too.

What A Surprise: Turns Out The Economy Is Good

Colorado's economy is back on track, with the state raking in more taxes than originally anticipated and job growth on the rise, two state economists said Monday.

Legislative economist Mike Mauer told the Joint Budget Committee that general fund revenues have been revised upward $165 million since the last forecast in December.

All of this, mind you, well before any effects of last year's Referendum C approval have had ANY chance to have an effect on the overall economy. In fact, it could easily be said that this is a result of the natural cycles of business, and that the policies of GOP state leadership have worked in the state's favor, as well.

Keep that in mind when the Democrats try to tell you how smart they are with your money.

Marc Holtzman Gone National

Marc Holtzman had a lengthy interview on the Hugh Hewitt show this afternoon. The transcript is up at RadioBlogger. I'll try to distill the key points.

HH: Let's switch over to some Rocky Mountain politics for a second, Marc Holtzman. You've got some deep pocketed blue, blue activists in your state, and they are spending like drunken sailors. How does anyone win against that kind of tidal wave of money, when you don't have contribution limits?

MH: Well, I believe that you work very hard to articulate a positive message. I have three things that I'm talking about. I'm talking about how horrified I am by the in-flow of illegal immigration into Colorado, the fact that with 400,000 people living illegally in a state of just a little more than 4 million people, it's a tremendous economic burden on our working families. And as Governor, I have a plan to address it, to deal with it, to end benefits beyond what are federally mandated, and to get tough on making sure that employers know and understand their responsibilities and obligations under the law. I'm talking about how I'm going to erect safeguards to protect eminent domain from not being used ever in a private purpose. And I'm talking about how I'm going to try to roll back the effects of this $4 billion dollar tax increase, Referendum C, that was on the ballot last year, how bad it is for working families, how misrepresented the case for the tax was, and how as Governor, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that we get as much of that money back to working families as we can.
HH: Marc Holtzman, I mentioned earlier the money advantage Democrats have in the Colorado elections coming up, and they just wiped out Republicans in 2004. Pete Coors lost to Ken Salazar. Boy, do we regret that. What's the ground game look like in Colorado right now? Is there any way to get the energy back? . . .
MH: Yeah, let me suggest something else. I believe that in 2004, that Republicans lost not so much because the Democrats beat us on the front that you described, but I believe that the leadership of our party in Colorado became detached from the core soul and Reagan roots of our party. We became so obsessed with holding onto power and winning elections, that we lost sight of what we stood for. We did a terrible job at articulating a positive and optimistic and conservative vision for Colorado. And the result was that in a year when President Bush won by 7 percentage points in Colorado in '04, we lost the Senate race, we lost the state Congressional seat in Western Colorado. And we lost the House and the Senate, first time both chambers combined in 42 years. One of the reasons I'm running is because I want to return our party to its core values and basic principles. And I'm articulating just such a message, and I am the anti-establishment candidate in this race. but we've got a lot of support that we're building among the grass roots of our party. And I am convinced that my message is not only a winning message for my campaign, but it's going to bring in a Republican House and Senate, and a sweep across the entire team. And we're not going to stop at anything less than total victory.

HH: Now obviously, Colorado's had two major education stories. We've only got a couple of minutes, but I've got to talk about Jay Bennish and Ward Churchill.
MH: Yes.
HH: You were the president of a university, and you know what it's like to get rid of a tenured person. It's impossible. But what is it that went wrong in those two instances?
MH: Well first of all, I reformed tenure at the University of Denver. If you are a recipient of one of the chairs at our school of law today, you have to voluntarily relinquish tenure before you can accept the benefit of that chair. Ward Churchill would have never happened at my university, because we simply wouldn't have allowed it, we wouldn't have permitted it. That man should have been fired and dismissed, because he plagiarized, because he misrepresented his credentials. It had nothing to do with academic freedom. That was a thin veil behind which he tried to hide. Jay Bennish, absolutely disgraceful what he did, and that's all too typical. And that's why I support vouchers, I support school choice, and Hugh, I am behind an amendment which is going to be on the Colorado ballot this year, which if passed, will require that at least $.65 cents out of every education dollar, as opposed to 57% today in Colorado, go into the classroom. but I support school choice for home schooling, for use at Parochial and religiously affiliated institutions, and through competition, we have to shake up the system, and that's what I want to do as Governor.

Let me start with the stylistic analysis. Marc Holtzman comes off as extremely knowledgable, quite articulate and also quite passionate. His understanding of issues, the depth of understanding involved, and his eagerness to convey his ideas is all very infectious, and a very attractive quality in a candidate. This is clearly a man who does his homework and has the capacity to grasp vast amounts of ideas and themes.

As to the substance, I wonder a little about some of the themes he launched on. Let me start with the three ideas he's talking about, according to him: immigration reform, eminent domain, and rolling back Referendum C. All of these are good issues, and winners, generally; the problem is the role of the state government in these issues. To the extent that Holtzman wants to limit state benefits and hold employers accountable for their role, great; but to make this issue number one, when HUGE parts of immigration law are the main responsibility of the federal government strikes me as a aiming pretty high. And not that aiming high is bad; I'm just thinking, politically, from the standpoint of how easy it is to demagogue the issue versus the real role that the governor plays, this may not be the most "cost-benefit" efficient use of the stage. Likewise, Iminent Domain, while certainly a darling issue for people who pay attention (like GOP primary voters), is a bit of an obscure concept to general voters, of which Colorado has plenty, and it will be pretty hard to use that issue to distinguish himself from any of the other candidates for the position.

And then there's rolling back Ref C. I think my track record of opposition to C is pretty clear from last Fall, so I don't have a position-based disagreement. My worry is that it is difficult to tell the majority of Coloradans WHO JUST VOTED FOR THIS MEASURE that they were wrong; and then to make that a centerpiece of the platform risks alienating a great many voters. Likewise with his support of vouchers: it's not that they're a bad idea; it's that the voters of this state have turned down vouchers THREE TIMES. For Holtzman to get traction with these ideas, he's going to have to have a wildly creative and inexplicably effective way of explaining the issues to the voters for these two ideas to be useful in the general election.

That said, big props to MH for taking on tough issues in a direct and candid fashion. Maybe he's on to something that nobody's really tried before: a full, frontal (rhetorical) assault. I will watch with great interest to see what sort of traction he gets with these issues.


Not Completely Wrong

Fred Barnes put an interesting piece up at OJO Monday morning. The basic hypothesis: the rest of the Old Media is right and the Bush Team needs a major shakeup.

The president's most spectacular move would be to anoint a presidential successor. This would require Vice President Cheney to resign. His replacement? Condoleezza Rice, whom Mr. Bush regards highly. Her replacement? Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, whose Bush-like views on Iraq and the war on terror have made him a pariah in the Democratic caucus.

Mr. Cheney would probably be happy to step down and return to Wyoming. But it would make more sense for him to move to the Pentagon to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, a job Mr. Cheney held during the elder Bush's administration. The Senate confirmation hearing for Mr. Cheney alone would produce political fireworks and attract incredible attention. At Treasury, Mr. Bush has a perfect replacement for John Snow, someone he already knows. That's Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of Mr. Bush's council of economic advisers and currently dean of Columbia's business school. He is in sync with Mr. Bush ideologically and has the added value of being respected on Wall Street.

Yes, this surely would accomplish a shake-up; it would change the subject--dramatically; of course, the Press would re-spin the subject into GOP panic, and that could actually be worse than what we have right now. But, in reality, I don't think this would accomplish a darn thing. With the exception of the laughable political spectacl that a Cheney Confirmation Hearing would be, none of this seems to address the real problem. Barnes get to that later on:

The trickiest issue is how to handle Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff and political adviser. He is the closest thing to indispensable--on policy as well as politics--at the White House. But any overhaul that didn't involve him would run the risk of not being taken seriously. The solution is to send Mr. Rove to the Republican National Committee as chairman and bring the current chairman, Ken Mehlman, back to the president's staff as communications chief.

I would say that this actually is not the trickiest issue; for whatever reason, Rove seems to have lost his mojo. Could be because he's focused on the November elections, and those are difficult to guage right now, or it could be because he's been preoccupied with Patrick Fitzgerald.

But the REAL problem with the White House over the last eight months has been the message--the content, the face of it, the purpose of it. And the best solution to that problem is bringing Mehlmann back into the White House to be in charge of the message. THAT is a worthwhile suggestion.

And it also gives the press a lot less to imagine, which probably means fewer contributions to the White House Correspondent's Fiction Anthology, 2006. And that, my friends, is a good thing.


This Sounds Promising

Democratic powerhouses Peggy Lamm and Ed Perlmutter already are showing signs that they may do so much damage to each other in a bloody primary battle, political observers say, that their Republican opponent, Rick O'Donnell, will have little to do besides plan his victory party.

That's good news, if it can be beleived. In a district that has a nearly equal distribution of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, an little advantage is huge. And while primaries sometimes serve to make candidates better, both Lamm and Perlmutter are fairly experienced, so one has to think that their "room to grow" is somewhat limited. On the other hand, the amount of money they may have to devote to winning the primary could put O'Donnell at an enormous advantage, one which he already enjoys to a small degree:

Perlmutter raised nearly $520,000 through the end of last year, while Lamm raised $244,419. . . .

And as the Democrats spend the next five months trying to appeal to registered Democrats, O'Donnell continues to raise - and not spend - money. He leads the pack with $650,000 through last year.

I will be spending many hours working to keep this seat in GOP hands, so I hope to have the opportunity to watch this unfold from close-up. I'll keep you posted.

A Little Perspective: Germany, 1948

Much is being made--MUCH--of the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion. So I thought, just because I like seeing the Long View of events and the world, that I would do a little research and see just what some of the historical parallels to today's events look like. So, let's start with a little look at Germany, roughly three years after ITS liberation.

Granted, I suppose it could be argued that the appropriate parallel is actually France, 1947, roughly 3 years after D-Day. But it's my blog, so I'm gonna do it the way I want to.

From EH.Net Encyclopedia: After a transitory 90-Days Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan spanned three ERP years from July 1948 to June 1951.

Notice that? The actual inception of the Marshall Plan--THE great acheivement of European reconstruction--did not even happen until summer, 1948. For those who are bad at math, that's a full THREE YEARS after the end of the War in Europe. I wonder if the Old Media of that day and age wrote story after story after story about how the U.S. was failing in Europe; how we "didn't have a plan;" how it was all our fault, and taking out Germany was a giant mistake.

I suspect not.

But I digress. . . .

The Marshall Plan was by no means the first U.S. aid program for post-war Europe. Already during 1945-1947, the U.S. paid out substantial financial assistance to Europe under various different schemes. In total annual amount, these payments were actually larger than the Marshall Plan itself. One key element of the Marshall Plan was to bundle existing, rival programs in a package and to identify and iron out inconsistencies. The origin of the Marshall Plan lay precisely in a crisis of the previous aid schemes. Extreme weather conditions in Europe in 1946/47 had disrupted an already shaky system of food rationing, exacerbated a coal and power shortage, and threatened to slow down the pace of recovery in Western Europe.

That sounds pretty bad. Like we had no idea what we were doing, and that various agencies were working against each other. I also wonder why there's no mention of our allies--I wonder if we alienated them with our invasion.

But then, maybe the problem is the source. Let's look at another source. Perhaps a German one.

Set up for a limited period of four years, 1948 - 1952, the ERP operated through a counterpart fund. The money contributed by the U.S. included currency for loans, but went primarily (70 percent) towards the purchase of commodities from U.S. suppliers

Four years, which brings the total time PLANNED by the U.S.,with the cooperation of Congress, to finish reconstruction of Western Europe (not just Germany) was seven years. SEVEN years to rebuild a country with a history of western values, that had an intellectual tradition of democratic ideals (and other bad history), that had a modern (circa 1945) infrastructure prior to the U.S. invasion. Iraq has no history of westernism, no history of democracy, and an infrastructure circa 1945 . . . in 2006.

And yet three years is not enough time for the Old Media or Congress these days. Wonder what THIS press and Congress would have been like in 1948.

To fulfill the condition that the Europeans should collaborate among themselves, they too created a body, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) to coordinate the Marshall Plan on their side of the Atlantic. This was not an easy task; the Europeans had no tradition of common economic problem solving. Britain did not relish, then as now, giving up any of its precious sovereignty and was determined that the OEEC should be a multilateral but not a supra-national body. Germany was not an original member of the OEEC, but the organization soon realized that Europe needed Germany as much as Germany needed Europe. In the end, the Federal Republic of Germany was admitted soon after it was established in 1949, at which time a federal ministry under a deputy chancellor was created to handle Marshall Plan funds.

Among the interesting historical information contained in that paragraph about getting our allies to work together is the interesting little bit about the German Republic being ESTABLISHED in 1949. That, for those of you short on math, is FOUR years after the END of the war, five years after the invasion.

But maybe the creation of the Republic is late and incidental to the beginnings of democracy. Maybe, perhaps, Germany had a series of elections before 1948, perhaps a constitutional referendum? Let's see.

From Robert Selig, historian:

From the end of WWII until the spring of 1948 the Germans had been merely commodities of the Cold War. Their actual opinions had been neither sought nor heeded. When the Parliamentary Council held its first meeting in Bonn on September 1, 1948, the Germans for the first time since the end of the war had a chance to express their ideas and beliefs, or more importantly, their wishes.

First meeting?? On September 1, 1948?? Are you kidding? So in Germany post WWII the first meeting of a parlaimentary body met more than three years AFTER the end of the war. And yet, in Iraq, we have now had a Council election, a Constitutional referendum, and a Parlaimentary election.

I hate to point out the obvious, but it would seem we're just a bit ahead of the schedule that was established after WWII.

Perhaps that's because we weren't nearly so magnanimous in victory over Germany:

In the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Directive 1067 of April 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was instructed to occupy Germany "not...for the purpose of liberation but as a defeated enemy nation." Allied occupation was to bring "home to the Germans that Germany's ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance have destroyed the German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable and that the Germans cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves."

Yes, that's a bit of a different mission than we etablished for ourselves in Iraq. Okay, fair enough. It doesn't quite follow, however, that we can't have expected a better result in Germany than we got--a full partition which would become a tinder box for 35 years.

Just out of curiosity, are there rhetorical similarities?

The December 1948 report by General Lucius D. Clay, commanding officer in the American Zone of Occupation in Germany, to U.S. President Harry S. Truman was full of optimism. "I think in looking back on 1948 we can look back on it as a year of material progress, and I think we can take considerable satisfaction in the state of affairs." Clay thought that 1948 had "brought back a real hope for the future among the 40-odd million people" in the American and British zones.

That sounds familiar, don't you think? Maybe a little bit of the same optimism the President and his military advisors on the ground are expressing about Iraq? Do we have any reason to suspect that this President and his people are any more wrong than Truman and his people were in 1948? I would submit that we do not.

Well, finally, what about the number of troops in Germany? According to the Department of Defense numbers from 2002--a full 57 years after the end of the war--the U.S. still had some 94,000 personnel in Germany.

So, in conclusion, any reasonable comparison of post-war to Germany to post-war Iraq would seem to point one in the direction of quite a bit better progress in Iraq than we enjoyed in Germany.

Now, granted, we did not have the constant drip drip drip of bad news related to an insurgency. Or did we? We never really knew because the media of that day and age was not quite as invested in seeing the failure of U.S. efforts.

But maybe they, I don't know, just for grins, TRY to find a little balance. A short bit of historical perspective would be useful.

And so, just to provide that service for a disinterested media, over the next couple of days I will continue this series.


First Debate

The two GOP candidates for Governor had a debate this morning. I was unable to attend or to listen, but, seeing as how this could be a very important precursor to an important race, you may want to check out Joshua's impressions from today's event.

My interpretation, based on Joshua's take, and the press releases: this was a stark contest of Passion (Holtzman) vs. Polish (Beauprez). And that's not to say that Holtzman doesn't have skills, or that Beauprez doesn't have beliefs; I'm just saying that that seems to be where this is breaking down.

Not sure where that leaves us, just observing.


"I Come To You Now At The Turn Of The Tide. . ."

The Bush administration Wednesday night released the first declassified documents collected by U.S. intelligence during the Iraq war, showing among other things that Saddam Hussein's regime was monitoring reports that Iraqis and Saudis were heading to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks to fight U.S. troops.

The documents, the first of thousands expected to be declassified over the next several months, were released via a Pentagon Web site at the direction of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

Many were in Arabic _ with no English translation _ including one the administration said showed that Iraqi intelligence officials suspected al-Qaida members were inside Iraq in 2002.

This is where the "drip drip drip" of bad news combined with Dem attacks begins to turn around. Just from that little bit of reporting, there is now justification for the Iraq invasion ("If you harbor terrorists, . . ."). This can only get better for the administration.

For much--MUCH--better analysis of what these documents will come to mean over the next several months, bookmark Stephen Hayes, who has been about the only voice in the media reporting what actually WAS in pre-war Iraq.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

From a press release by State Senator Sue Windels (D-Arvada)

A bipartisan group of legislators and the Bell Policy Center have planned a series of town hall meetings around the state to discuss the allocation of tax revenues retained through the passage of Referendum C.

Each town hall meeting will be co-hosted by local legislators and by local elected officials, organizations and businesses.

These public meetings will feature a briefing on constitutional and statutory limits on the budget process and encourage discussion on spending priorities.

Okay, that's fine. I suppose that's a good idea, to get out to your constituents and explain what you're trying to do with their money. Though, well, you gotta wonder what the point of the Bell Policy Center being there is . . . Hmmm, we'll come back to that.

The press release goes on:

Jefferson County Date & time: Tuesday March 28, 7 p.m.
Place: Jefferson County Administration Building, Hearing Room 1, 700 Jefferson County Parkway, Golden

Hosts: Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald
Speaker Pro Tem Cheri Jahn
Senator Sue Windels, D- Arvada

Senator Moe Keller, D- Wheatridge
Rep. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood
Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden
Rep. Debbie Benefield, D- Arvada
Adrian Miller, Bell Policy Director of Outreach

Oh. Really? BI-partisan? Let's see, one, two, th . . . . that makes seven elected Democrats and one Bell rep, versus, um . . yep, that makes exactly ZERO Republicans.

Some bipartisan effort.

Look, if you want to go around and say why you want to spend more of my money, that's your prerogative--you got yourself elected. Just don't try to foist it off on us as some sort of balanced effort, because it isn't.

Every time I see something like this it makes me wonder what Democrats are so afraid of. Why not just call this the "Ref C Progressive Explanation Tour"? Would that be so bad?


Can We PLEASE Keep These Together

From the AP story on the bodies found in Iraq today:

Police began unearthing bodies early Monday, although the discoveries were not immediately reported. The gruesome finds continued throughout the day Tuesday, police said, marking the second wave of sectarian retribution killings since bombers destroyed an important Shiite shrine last month.

In the mayhem after the golden dome atop the Askariya shrine in Samarra was destroyed on Feb. 22, more than 500 people have been killed, many of them Sunni Muslims and their clerics. Dozens of mosques were damaged or destroyed.

Notice how the AP seems to go out of its way to avoid mentioning that the bombing of the shrine was an insurgent attack; also, notice how the AP uses words like "mayhem" and "retribution killings", characterizations that are not necessarily supported by the facts at hand. The AP seems to be working very hard to separate the insurgency from the reaction to its tactics, which creates for them the sectarian violence story that they want.

It's a subtle thing, but it strikes me as VERY important: the so-called "sectarian violence" is NOT a separate thing from the insurgency. When the insurgency attacks religious targets for the express purpose of sparking sectarian reprisals, then religious violence is not something separate but the direct, successful result of insugent tactics.

Does it really matter? I think so--the temptation in the Old Media, as emphasized by the headline to the AP story, is to treat the sectarian violence as the beginning of the civil war, which would be the final repudiation of the President's policy in Iraq. If, on the other hand, the sectarian violence is merely an extension of the insurgency, then we continue to be dealing with an old problem, which, as difficult as it is, does have an end-game which the OM does not want to report.


Why You DO NOT Want It To Be Easier To Fire Teachers

I submit for your consideration:

A music teacher placed on leave last month after some parents objected to the showing of a video of the opera Faust to elementary school students says she's been called a devil worshipper and a lesbian in this small town 35 miles east of Denver.

Some parents reportedly objected to the video because of references to the devil, while others were troubled by a scene in which a man was killed in silhouette and by allusions to suicide.

Teresa Waggoner, 33, was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 30 and will remain on leave until further notice.

For those of you who do not know, "on leave until further notice" is code for "find a new job for next year."

Now, consider the case. A teacher show 12 minutes of an opera video to 1st,2nd and 3rd graders, an absolute CLASSIC, and a portion of the community goes ballistic because of some of the themes portrayed. Before getting into the specifics, turn some of the details around.

Can anybody out there imagine a place around here, say about 20 miles to the northwest, where a community might go a bit ballistic if a teacher showed something with supposedly conservative themes? Anyone? Imagine Boulder's reaction to a teacher showing "The Great Raid," a TRUE story about depicting American heroism and Japanese brutality in World War II. Personally, it's not that hard to imagine.

Now, ask yourself: are more school administrators liberal or conservative? most of us would answer, and probably correctly, "liberal."

So, do you really want it to be easier to fire teachers?

It is very easy for me to picture a school system where, if administrators have the power to fire teachers based on nothing more than community complaints or ideological disagreements, the schools are not merely liberal leaning but proudly and professedly liberal-orthodox. Think I'm overexaggerating? Consider that many college Schools of Education already question prospective students on their commitment to diversity, and do deny students access to the program if they are not sufficiently orthodox.

This would not be healthy for anybody. There should be a process in place that guarantees teachers are not the victims of witch hunts because guess what? In today's schools, the conservatives are the witches.

As to the specific case of Teresa Waggoner, this is the sort of thing that occasionally makes me embarassed of the Christian community--sort of like that church in Kansas that sends out picketers to the funerals of soldiers who hold up signs saying "God hates fags." You know, it's been a while since I read my Goethe, but if memory serves, Faust is nothing if not a cautionary tale about abandoning Faith for Power, and the perpetuality of God's forgiveness and redemption. And while, yes, there are depictions of bad things, including demons, in Faust, the overarching themes are explicitly God-like. So maybe some of these Bennettites can just get a grip and relax.

Now, had the issue been curricular, or perhaps artistic (based on the use of sock puppets in the video in question) then that would be a different story. But everything that I've seen points to the conflict being ideological, and that's bad for everybody.


Jobs, Jobs, Everywhere Jobs

Hiring gained ground in February with employers adding 243,000 jobs, the most in three months. Brighter job prospects sent people streaming into the labor market

I wonder why this news wasn't on the front page of the Comcast News, or in the Headlines of the MSNBC web page.

No I don't.

Other details:

The unemployment rate inched up to 4.8 percent from a 4 1/2 year low of 4.7 percent in January. The bump-up in the jobless rate came as people — feeling better about job prospects — applied for work in droves.

The report also showed that employees’ average hourly earnings rose to $16.47 in February, a 0.3 percent increase from January. That was in line with economists’ expectations.

However, compared with February of last year, average hourly earnings increased by 3.5 percent — the most since September 2001.

That sounds all good for America.

Again, wonder why this isn't font page stuff.

Ignore This Poll, Too

From the AP/Ipsos: "Bush Approval Rating Falls To New Low"

Really? Let's take a look.

Survey of 1000 Adults (so we already know this will be more Leftist than Registered voters or than Likely Voters)

Job Approval: Approve 37%, Disapprove %60

[Job Approval from Nov 9th: 37%; Job Approval from Nov 3rd: 37%]

Party Identification: Republican 29%, Democrat 35%, Independent 20%, Other 14%

[ED: what would those 'Others' be? Perhaps . . . .GREEN?]

Party Leanings: Republican 39%, Democrat 51%

Really? In this day and age? You're gonna take a sample that has more Independents and Others than it does GOP? And, when you take leaners it's 51-39?

Not likely. Not useful.

I'm not saying the President is doing well. Clearly, he's not. But polls like this do nothing but make those of us who look closely at polls ignore them.


Deanna Hannah Does The Right Thing; Resigns

Embattled Sen. Deanna Hanna today announced she will resign her seat effective March 22, saying the "politics of the moment" have overcome an ethics investigation into her demand for "reparations" from a group that endorsed her opponent.

Kudos to her for doing the right thing.

Senate seat, anyone?

Um . . . . DUH!!

From the Washington Post:

As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.

Yeah. Huh. Couldn't be because in the aftermath of 9/11 we've seen attacks in Bali, in England, in Spain, or in Russia, all perpetrated by extreme Muslims? Couldn't be because this "religion of peace" has a faction willing to blow up its own holy places to in an effort to foment civil war? Couldn't be because Islamists have now attacked capitalists (World Trade Center), imperialists (Marine barracks, USS Cole), agnostics (Europe), Christians, Jews, Hindi . . . The list goes on.

Suffice to say that with every attack the geniuses manage to get one more narrow faction ticked off at them. Frankly, it's surprising that the number is ONLY 46 percent.

Look, I know very well that not all Muslims are terrorists; but the American people have long ago concluded that a disproportionate number of terrorists are Muslims. So it is little wonder that perceptions are changing.

ADDENDUM: Can't let that piece of writing go past uncommented-upon. "As the War in Iraq grinds into its fourth year . . ." I'm not saying that war isn't a grind; but perhaps the writers ought to defer a little to the soldiers who know all too well what is REALLY a grind (punctuated by sheer terror).

"When Muslims were often targeted for violence . . ." Really? Are you sure about that? I don't think the level of attacks--which were ABSOLUTELY WRONG--rises to "often." If memory serves, a recent report showed that surprisingly little targeting of Muslims happened after 9/11.


TV Review: The Unit

ABC premiered a new, mid-season rollout last night, starring Dennis Haysbert (24's President Palmer) and many others.

I thought it was pretty strong. The story line follows the "exploits" of an elite counter-terrorism unit of the U.S. military, and their families, which live in a basically secluded area of an unspecified military base (actually, it may not have been unspecified, I just probably looked away for a moment).

There were basically three story arcs last night: the retaking of a hijacked plane, the "initiation" of a new family into the fold, and some of the nuts and bolts of the command structure (including the CO having an affair with one of the wives).

The first arc was good: as near as I can tell, a realistic portrayal of the courage and matter-of-factness of U.S. Spec-Ops. The show treated the military with respect, even if Haysbert's character's disregard for inter-agency cooperation and jurisdiction stuck me as, um, suspect. Nonetheless, I appreciated both the sense of humor and the sense of humanity in how the military was portrayed. There were two parts of this arc that were, well, bad: the first explosion of some anonymous terrorist hideout in the middle east was not particularly good, and the whole scene where three National Guard members were killed walking--yes, walking--up to the plane was likewise unrealistic. I mean, I get that they thought they were in the plane's blind spot, but when someone raises a gun in your direction, I don't know, duck, or something. But, other than those two quibbles, which, by the way, DID NOT detract from the story, I thought the first story arc was good.

The second arc, about the new girl on the block, was great! I could easily picture my wife--or any wife--being told not to tell their family what her husband was doing, being told not watch the news, being told where to live, and not letting that sit very easily. But, I could also see the other wives helping her understand, and I realy thought that was good.

My biggest problem was with the third arc: why include a story line about a CO having an affair with one of the wives? In the first place, that, of course, is grounds for a dishonorable discharge. And in the second place, it serves no purpose except to undermine the "honorable" nature of all of the other aspects of the story--if the CO of a unit such as this can shuffle his men around the world just to make it easy to carry on with his wife, then any such assignment is suspect. Maybe they'll decide to drop this story arc after the first few episodes. One can hope.

I would be curious to see what people who actually do have military experience thought. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section.

And, regardless of anything else, it was SO much better than Commander In Chief that I would hope it gets a long run.

Calling a Spade a Spade

SecDef Rumsfeld is never quite as good as when he's confronting the press.

As he did this morning [courtesy Powerline]:

From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation, according to General Casey. The number of attacks on mosques, as he pointed out, had been exaggerated. The number of Iraqi deaths had been exaggerated. The behavior of the Iraqi security forces had been mischaracterized in some instances. And I guess that is to say nothing of the apparently inaccurate and harmful reports of U.S. military conduct in connection with a bus filled with passengers in Iraq.

Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side. It isn't as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.

And then I notice today that there's been a public opinion poll reporting that the readers of these exaggerations believe Iraq is in a civil war -- a majority do, which I suppose is little wonder that the reports we've seen have had that effect on the American people.

It strikes me that all of this is true, and all of it is calculated. So my question is this: if you know they're hostile to you, and you know you'll never get a fair shake from them, then why do they continue to have access? It's the press office that gives out credentials--try revoking a few on a temporary basis and see if the message gets across.

Did We Ever Bomb China?

because we may need to explore a new model for dealing with foreign intervention against U.S. troops in theater.

U.S. military and intelligence officials tell ABC News that they have caught shipments of deadly new bombs at the Iran-Iraq border.

They are a very nasty piece of business, capable of penetrating U.S. troops' strongest armor.

What the United States says links them to Iran are tell-tale manufacturing signatures — certain types of machine-shop welds and material indicating they are built by the same bomb factory.

It would seem self-evident that Iran would have a vested interest in a continuation of difficulties for the U.S. in Iraq. With the looming showdown over their nuclear program, and a general distaste for a stable democracy right next door, there are a myriad of reasons for Iran to get involved.

But to take such a direct tactic strikes me as inviting reprisal from the U.S. And frankly, the failure to take action would probably weaken the perception of the U.S. in other middle eastern thugocracies.

I hope the White House finds its voice again before it has to try to make this case to the public.

Life Is Tough All Over For Sen. Hanna

State Sen. Deanna Hanna formally denied Monday that she solicited money in exchange for favorable votes, as three citizens pursued a recall effort and the Jefferson County district attorney's office said it was looking into her actions.

Just in case you missed the particulars of her case, the complaint against her stems from a letter he sent to an association of realtors. In it, she demanded $1,400 in "reparations" after that association endorsed her opponent. And quote:

"There are going to be some very important issues ahead of us. You have a choice. So do I," she wrote to the group. "

Even the suggestion of such a direct quid pro quo is unseemly, at best.

However, to put it in writing is just plain dumb. Regardless of her guilt, she seems too dumb to hold office.

[laughter] Yeah, even I can't keep a straight face at that.

Nevertheless, this is not good for her, or, frankly, for the people she represents.


Thoughts On Jay Bennish

A smart friend of mine asked me a few questions today about the Jay Bennish situation. Those questions stirred up so much food for thought that I thought I should try to get some of them down on paper.

First, I guess, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Jay Bennish is a teacher at Overland H.S. in suburban Denver. A few days ago, during a 10th grade honors Geography class, he digressed into a 20-minute diatribe against President Bush, in which he drew comparisons to Adolph Hitler. The problem for him, it would seem, is that one of his students had a tape recorder in class to help him remember the "lecture" later, and that tape has now been played on many news outlets.

Let me say right off the bat that I do NOT think this sort of thing is widespread among teachers. While Bennish's views are rather commonplace among teachers, most--and I would put the number at 98%--teachers are VERY aware of the requirements for professionalism in their classrooms and rarely let go of their own self-discipline to this degree. Teachers, just like everybody else, have strong opinions, and sometimes the faculty lounge can be a lively place during lunch. But the vast majority of teachers that I have come across (and as a 15-year public school teacher, that number is not small) have too much respect for their role in the classroom to let themselves melt down like this.

And for those who aren't as concerned about the decorum of the clssroom, there's always this little constraint we like to call a "lesson plan." Most of the time, that lesson plan is centered around a single topic which has a fairly limited scope. In what context Mr. Bennish was talking about the State of the Union speech during a Geography lesson is unclear; it would seem a stretch, AT BEST, to say that his lecture was germane to any subheading of Geography.

I think it's instuctive to look closely at some of the details of Mr. Bennish's situation. He has been teaching for six years, which means he is still pretty young; that also means that he has attained "professional teacher" status, which is Edu-babble for "tenure,"which he knows protects him from a lot of stuff in the classroom; and, obviously, looking at him one could conclude that he has not shed some of the affectations of his collegiate days (speaking to the haircut). All of this congeals into a picture of a passionate young man whose glory days as a university activist are still fresh in his memory, and whose willingness to comply to the codes of conduct set forth by "society" is still influenced by those university days. What he needed, in my opinion, wasn't a forum to speak his mind, but he waited until he had the protections of the teacher contract to begin carrying out his activism in his personal fiefdom.

The appropriate consequences for such behavior, sadly, are fairly clearly spelled out by the teacher contract. For deviating from approved curriculum (and I'm assuming here) he will probably have a negative mark on his next evaluation and be "remediated" to some small degree; for failing to follow district policy in presenting a "balanced view" of controversial subject matter, at this point I think the worst that can happen to him is that a letter of reprimand will be placed in his file, spelling out the expectations for his classroom comportment in the future.

If that sounds like a slap on the wrist, that's only because it is. And believe me, the union will fight even these disciplinary measures tooth and nail, spouting all kinds of high-minded platitudes about "free speech" and "encouraging critical thinking."

It's difficult to say what the appropriate disciplinary response to this incident should be. Clearly, he is abusing his position as an instructor and adult mentor, and obviously his story has become a major distraction for the school. In as far as that goes, he should be removed from THIS classroom for the remainder of the year, and probably be placed at a different school next Fall. The problem with that is that such a consequence opens the door to any number of abuses by administrators, which is why the due process is in place to begin with. If that sounds like a cop-out, just imagine the precedent that sets for an administrator to arbitrarily transfer a conservative teacher who they disagree with, or who simply manages to attract the ire of a handful of parents. The process is there to make sure that cabals and tyrants don't get to drive away teachers who they don't like; unfortunately, sometimes that process also protects those who actually do abuse their position.

I do not now teach high school students, but I did teach at a high school for six years. And, in the course of that teaching, sometimes controversial subjects come up. As a general rule, I tried to never give away my personal opinions; if my purpose is to foster critical thinking, than my opinion is irrelevant. It's always helpful to start with the facts; a lot of times students just don't know what is and isn't reality, so we have to get some points on the table to begin with. And sometimes that meant presenting two sets of facts, like the difference between a Congressional Budget Office estimate and a White House Budget Office estimate. After that, the point is to get the students to express their opinions, at which point I always thought it was my job to play "universal devil's advocate." Any opinion, especially those stated with passion, had better be ready to answer difficult questions in my room. And that, as a teacher, was the most fun for me. Not only did that require that I know all the arguments in favor of my position so I could probe the thoughts of those I disagree with, but I'd better know the arguments against my position, as well, so that I could press points with students more to my persuasion.

I can't say that I was always successful at maintaining balance, but some of my favorite students who I still talk to today were students whom I agree with on almost nothing. So, at any rate, I never alienated anybody for that reason.

The problem is that these are politically very charged times, and passions are running pretty high. To try to avoid the tough issues in the classroom would be a huge disservice to our students. But the young teachers--well, and this would even be true of not-so-young teachers like myself--are so fresh out of college, and it IS a safe assumption that they only got one side of the argument presented to them in college, that if they are modeling any of their teaching on what they've only recently been exposed to, you're going to get some incidents of unprofessional behavior. And it's easy to see how young teachers would feel emboldened to hold these positions in the classroom, because it seems like all of their colleagues agree with them in the staff room.

Ultimately, the duty falls to the administrators to make sure that young teachers get real instruction during the orientation sessions on appropriate classroom behavior. In this particular case, it's easy to see how Mr. Bennish felt like he had a very long leash to work from--that's the result of the tone, culture, and expectations established within the building.

What will be really interesting to see in the coming weeks is if any schools start implementing new rules regarding the recording of teacher lectures and the distribution thereof. I personally think this is a great idea (as my mind races back to a scene from "Real Genius" in which, by the end of the semester, even the professor only bothers to send in a tape recording of the lecture to play for a hall full of tape recorders), both for students and for education in general, but it's also easy to imagine the unions getting up in arms about rights of privacy in the classroom and academic freedom. Watch this space carefully.

"Oops. Our Bad. Seriously . . .Honest Mistake . . . No Harm, No Foul . . ."

So goes the AP, in a press release from 7 pm on a Friday, which is still not up on its website.

In a March 1 story, The Associated Press reported that federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees in New Orleans, citing confidential video footage of an Aug. 28 briefing among U.S. officials.

The Army Corps of Engineers considers a breach a hole developing in a levee rather than an overrun. The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking.

The day before the storm hit, Bush was told there were grave concerns that the levees could be overrun. It wasn't until the next morning, as the storm was hitting, that Michael Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Bush had inquired about reports of breaches. Bush did not participate in that briefing.

Pathetic. And, as I wrote two nights ago, this buried correction will do nothing to change the damage done to the Presidency by an act of malicious indifference by the Old Media.


Do You See The Connection??

Two stories:

One: An Overland High School geography teacher was put on leave Wednesday while Cherry Creek Schools investigates whether he violated district policy that requires balanced viewpoints in the classroom.

Jay Bennish, who teaches 10th grade world geography, is being investigated for making biased, anti-President Bush comments in class during a discussion of the State of the Union speech last month. . . .

And, Two [courtesy RCP]: MINNEAPOLIS--Something momentous is happening here in the home of prairie populism: black flight. African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools. Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools.

Now, just to be clear, Overland HS is not a "poor, urban public school." It is a part of the very affluent Cherry Creek Public Schools system, though Overland itself is from a much less affluent area of the district.

Nonetheless, when the black population starts abandoning the public institutions that were the centerpiece of the New Deal and the Great Society, and seek market-based solutions elsewhere, the cumulative effect of teachers like Jay Bennish become obvious. It isn't that he is responsible for driving anyone away personally . . .

It's that systems on the brink of collapse attract people whose agendas are not focused on excellence.

And systems that tolerate agendas such as this cannot long hope to maintain the trust of the public.

More Goings-On At The StateHouse

also known as

State Dems Playing Widespread Payola Card

First, there was Deanna Hanna and her demand of a realtors' group that they pay her $1,400 worth of "reparations."

Now, there's apparently a move to tie funding requests to political positions by high-profile state institutions.

University of Colorado President Hank Brown accused top lawmakers Thursday of killing $23 million of funding for CU's Health Sciences Center because the university won't oppose a Republican-sponsored bill regarding tenure.

Just to clear up the muddy wording: opposition to a Republican bill would come from Democrats; refusal to take the Democrat position is tied to funding; ergo, the Dems are apparently now trying to dictate what positions state institutions take by tying those positions to funding requests.

I'm not sure it gets too much more corrupt than that.

Boy, the Dems got awfully comfortable in power in just over a year.

GOP Shakeup At The State House

Republican Joe Stengel, of Littleton, resigned his post as House minority leader Thursday, saying issues about the pay he collected last year have become "a major distraction not only for me but for my colleagues as well."

"There are many important issues that remain to be addressed in the 69 days that the legislature will still be in session," he said in a statement released by his office. "The people's business deserves the full attention of all members and my staying on as a minority leader would only serve as a major distraction

I applaude Rep. Stengel for recognizing that his problems were becoming a problem for the entire caucus, and for removing himself from that situation. It is unfortunate, too, as I though the was a pretty effective legislator, and a nice guy, to boot (I had the chance to meet him last year).

Hopefully, the GOP can get its feet back under itself as quickly as possible so that it can continue to mount an effective fight at the Statehouse this session.

Saving The Ports Deal

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I am still ambivalent on the merits of the operational buyout of six U.S. ports by the U.A.E-based Dubai Ports World.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that holding on to this deal is political suicide.

The port controversy, along with the situation in Iraq (fully 81 percent of Americans think it is likely Iraq will end up in a civil war), appears to be taking a toll on Republicans.

At the beginning of the year the Republican Party held a 13-percentage point advantage over Democrats on being the party trusted to do a better job protecting the country from terrorism. Today Republicans still have the edge, but it has dropped to 5 points. . . .

On the port issue, the new poll finds that 69 percent of Americans oppose allowing the Arab-owned company called Dubai Ports World to manage commercial operations at some U.S. ports — four times as many as support the deal (17 percent).

The whole thing with the ports is that this is an issue that has an explanation, and it can even be a persuasive explanation--but it takes too long to make the evening news, so most Americans will tune it out. That renders the perception significantly more important than the reality; and right now, the perception is very damaging to the President and the GOP in general.

About the only way I can see this turning around is if early next week the administration were able to announce the capture or confirmed killing of Usama bin Laden by a special forces team from the United Arab Emirates. In fact, it seems obvious that some sort of "enhanced cooperation" should be required of the U.A.E. for this to go through; but even at that, public perception of the U.A.E. isn't likely to change without a dramatic public contribution to the War on Terror.

If such a contribution is unlikely or impossible, the administration would be wise to nix this deal and make it go away ASAP.

Call it Harriet Myers, Redux. Find the "Sam Alito" solution, and double-quick.

Mind you, this may still be the wrong thing to do--DPW may, indeed, be the company best able to do this in the real world. But, sadly, the politically expedient thing to do probably trumps that at this point.


How Quickly They Have To Correct Themselves

Yesterday's AP headline: Tape: Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina

Today's AP headline: New Video Shows Blanco Saying Levees Safe

Of course, after Powerline (and, it would seem, everybody else) took apart the reality of the video last night, the Old Media was bound to recognize that it couldn't just try to get away with another whitewash.

"We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said shortly after noon on Aug. 29, according to the video. "We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee. I think we have not breached the levee at this time."

In fact, the National Weather Service received a report of a levee breach and issued a flash-flood warning as early as 9:12 a.m. that day, according to the White House's formal recounting of events the day Katrina struck.

Of course, the AP then manages to devote two-thirds of its article to the "evidence" that the screw-ups were all on the federal level.

Makes you wonder if we'd have ever heard about the Governor's gaffe if it weren't for the New Media. Of course, the damage done by the 24 hours to the conventional wisdom may still be irretreivable.

Then again, maybe the constant and inescapable drip drip of evidence of bad and biased reporting may finally begin to break any influence the Old Media has, once and for good.


If We Were Really As Bad . . .

as the Jihadis, European secularists, and the American Left seems to think we are, wouldn't we have manufactured a better bit of news about the recent explosion of violence in Iraq in relation to the bombings of several Shiite mosques in the last week.

Like, wouldn't we, perhaps, use the apprehension of four guards from the Shrine of the Golden Dome to, oh I don't know, announce that the guards have revealed their instructions from the Iranian and/or Syrian regime and their role in assisting Syrian commandos in destroying the shrine?

Wouldn't we? If we were really as bad as they say we are?

If we were as bad as them, wouldn't we do everything to point the blame at somebody which would demonstrate the foreign intervention in pushing the "civil war" into the light of day?

The difference being, of course, that our "manufactured reality" is at least a close approximation of actual reality.

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