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


On Surrendering the Moral High Ground

Over the weekend Barack Obama gave a remarkable speech. I'm still searching for a link to the text or video of the speech, but here's the link to the AP story on it, and to the NYTimes story.

The headline that came out of this speech was this line:

"Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us"

Here's the context of that line:

"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a 30-minute speech before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.

"Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said

"At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.

"There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich," Obama said. "I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version."

I was going to spend my time poking fun at this, at the obvious misstatements and misinterpretations.

But then this speech really got under my skin.

It's not that Obama is making stuff up and totally misleading his audience--it's that he's capitalizing on what WE CONSERVATIVES HAVE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.

Conservatism is inherently compassionate--there have actually been studies that show that conservatives give a greater proportion of their income to charity than liberals do. The big difference is that conservatives think that government has A ROLE in solving social ills, but not the only role; liberals imagine, contrary to all experience otherwise, that the government is the body best suited to solving social ills.


What Senator Obama has managed to highlight is a perceptual difficulty that has bumfuzzled the Republican Party for as long as I can remember, and that's about 30 years (though, admittedly, a few of those years are hazier than the rest). Conservatives have been perfectly consistent over the years in pointing out the limited ability of the government to solve all the country's problems--and that has been construed in the press and, well, everywhere else, to mean that WE DON'T CARE ABOUT THE country's problems.

Just to highlight the point: think back to Hurricane Katrina. Was the President correct not to put his helicopter down in New Orleans and disrupting rescue operations and causing all kinds of headaches for the local authorities? Of course it was the right thing to do. But the way it was handled made the entire enterprise seem disinterested and, well, aloof.

We can no longer afford to cede this ground to the Democrats. And make no mistake, they're coming for THIS GROUND. We even saw it in Colorado last year--what was Ritter's big campaign? The "Colorado Promise," an implicit play for values voters. Hillary Clinton's big quote from two weeks ago? "My marriage survived because of my Faith." And now Obama making the case that HIS Christianity emphasizes social justice.

The thing is, MY version of Christianity ALSO emphasizes social justice--and it tells me it is MY responsibility to get out on the streets and to do something for others. Thus, I give to charity through my church; I give my time and energy to service in my church and in the community; and I do other things as I see needs in the greater community.

THAT' s what conservative Christians do--and I'm a pathetic example compared to many of the people I know. But because I do not think that I should have to give more of my money to the federal government for THEM to redistribute to the needs in the greater community, I get painted as a heartless miser who has no time or energy for those less fortunate than myself.

How would I counter this if I were a candidate?

The Federal Government has enormous responsibilities. According to the Constitution, it is charged with holding together the Union; it is charged with providing a system for law, order and Justice; it is to keep the peace in the country; it is to protect the country from those who would dance in the streets at the sight of American cities burning; it is to guarantee that our children and their children can enjoy the Blessings of Liberty;

and it is to promote the general Welfare.

There is an open and lively debate going on right now about just what it means for the government to promote the general Welfare, and that's a great thing for the country. Because just HOW we promote the general Welfare is a crucial consideration as you think about how you're going to vote in the next election.

The general Welfare is a vague and difficult concept. There are those who are very good at promoting their own welfare, so maybe we shouldn't worry about them; there are those who can manage pretty well on their own, but who really just need a little break now and then; and thenthere are those who are stuck--trapped--in cycles of poverty that are heart-wrenching and perpetual. And the government is responsible for the welfare of all of them.

So let me begin this with a question: what, exactly, is the federal government good at? Can you think of a single thing? Yes, yes, the men and women of the U.S. military are the best, brightest and bravest on the face of the Earth, but it's pretty hard to say that the bureauracy that supports them from Washington is a model of efficiency. And the C.I.A? How about the I.R.S.?

So what would make you think that the federal government would be the most effective body to effect change for those in the cycle of perpetual poverty? Someone once declared a "War on Poverty"--but still, it persists. And how many government resources, how many bureaucracies, how many "solutions" have been implemented to no effect?

By contrast, look at your local church. How many programs has it implemented? How many tax resources, how many bureaucracies, how many solutions has your local church put in place? And which has the better track record--the government, or the church?

Am I advocating the ending of government programs in favor of you local church? Of course not. The federal government has an important role to play in ending perpertual poverty--but it is far from being the exclusive solver of all social ills.

The government can put in place all the jobs programs in the world, it can provide job training and placement, and it can create Economic Opportunity zones to reinvigorate areas where the poor need them. And these are all wonderful things.

But none of these do anything for 17-year with two children and no husband. Statistically speaking, she will always be poor, and so will her children.

And the federal government can't do a darn thing about it.

So what I propose is that the federal government do EVERYTHING in its power to empower those organizations--churches, NGOs, and charities--who actually ARE very good at serving the poor. How do we do this?

We continue to do all the important programs that we currently do in impoverished areas. But we make charitable giving and charitable work more valuable by altering the tax code to make it more valuable for people to do the hard work in their own communities. And we put in place economic policies that will make it possible for those who give to charities to increase their giving.

Let me put it this way: when we tax some so that we can give more money to "government" charities, we get a very bad return on our investment. Not only do tax receipts go down overall, but so much of that money is wasted in the bureaucracy that it becomes laughably inefficient. On top of that, the amount of money people have to give to the effective local charities become scarcer.

When we let people decide for themselves how and when and where to donate their own money, they give it to organizations that work. A $1 donation becomes almost a full dollar of charity. THAT is what we should be aiming for, rather than the 50 or 60 cents the government can contribute.

I applaude those on the Left who want to serve the poor and the needy--I invite them to join me in working to build houses and serving meals, and I look forward to a day when the Least of God's Children here in America are able to hold their heads high and look to a future full of promise and hope.

But I will not join those on the Left in redirecting charity in America through the federal government. It does NOT work as efficiently as we all need it to work.

Or something like that.

We must make the case more effectively that we care about the plight of the poor, and that we want to help them. Yes, we believe in consequences for bad choices; but we also have to recognize that the two children of the 17-year old did not make that choice for themselves. There is a role for the government in solving that problem.

But it is a role that has to be shared among communities and churches and NGOs and individuals being the hands and feet of God among us.

Politically, we have to smarter about this.

Morally, we have an obligation to engage this discussion to try to solve the problem.

Good Day

The Senate kills the Immigration Bill . . . again . . . hopefully, for good . . . and by a MAJORITY it dies, not just a procedural thing.

Then SCOTUS says that race cannot be used to assign students to schools which are not their neighborhood schools. While it is not quite hat cut and dry, thanks to Justice Kennedy's dissent, it is still the right decision. And Chief Justice Roberts is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, as he noted that ". . .“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” That makes two quotable quotes in the last week of his first term--not bad.

Then the Fed leaves the key interest rate alone, though it gave its usual cryptic language which prevented anyone from getting too excited about it.

And on top of all that, the Democrats hand us a wonderful gift: the Fairness Doctrine. No, it isn't coming back--the House made sure of that, passing the Pence Amendment by a 309-115 margin guaranteeing that the FCC can not bring this back. But the gift is how the votes broke down: the House GOP was UNANIMOUS in saying the Fairness Doctrine should die; the Democrats were evenly divided (115-113).

In other words, HALF of the elected members of the Democratic Party think that the government should have a role in silencing political opinion. Included in that half is . . . wait for it . . . EXACTLY NONE OF THE COLORADO DEMOCRATS. Whoa. There's a surprise, gotta say.

Nonetheless, I think this goofiness can still be hung around the heads of Democrats. IT HAS TO BE if the Republicans are serious about winning in 2008.


Big Day Thursday

Stephen Dinan is reporting overnight that the Immigration Bill is on life support going into the 1030-ish a.m. cloture vote Thursday morning.

Just two days ago, 64 senators voted to revive the bill, with many saying they wanted to give the Senate a chance to improve the bill through amendments. But after a messy day in the chamber yesterday, with dozens of objections, arguments on the floor and five amendments defeated, at least a half-dozen senators said publicly or privately that their patience has run out.

"The way this has been handled, I'm not going to take a leap of faith," said Sen. Richard M. Burr, North Carolina Republican, who voted to advance the bill on Tuesday but said the way Democratic leaders ran the floor yesterday left no room to "take a bad bill and make it better." . . .

This could make things VERY interesting later this morning. And, in what has to be the most hilarious justification for passing this bill, the always-intellectual Arlen Specter weighed in with this:

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, urged senators to overlook the problems he acknowledged might be in the bill and instead vote for it as a signal they are trying to do something. He said opponents should forget about waiting for a bill that will make illegal aliens go home.

"Amnesty, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder," he said. "One thing is plain, and that is the 12 million undocumented immigrants are going to stay in the United States one way or another."

Thanks, Arlen. And we're supposed to just trust you on the issues of security and enforcement then? As a signal that you're DOING SOMETHING?

Seriously? As one wit said many years ago, "There is no problem so intractable, no solution so elusive, that the Congress can not make it worse by trying to solve it." Sen. Specter, stop trying to convince people that you're worth your $140+k salary by "doing something," and actually start working to SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Just doing something . . . I wonder if surgeons approach patients the same way: walk in the E.R., notice that the patient is dying, and grab a knife to start indiscriminately cutting.

And, really, how much of all this arm-twisting is an effort by Senators of both parties to just get this stupid issue off the table heading into 2008?

But that's not all, folks! SCOTUS is going to hand down its final rulings for the term tomorrow morning, including the all-important ruling in the Kentucky schools' raced-based enrollment program.

Gosh, it should all be a great deal of fun.

OH, and, don't forget, the Fed Committee is going to come out with it's policy statement and announcement of interest rates sometime shortly after noon.

Talk about a denoument.


Quick Reaction

The Senate passed the cloture motion for Comprehensive Immigration Reform this afternoon by a staggering 65-34 margin. Does this mean anything?

Well, my first reaction was simple: lots more free time in the Fall of 2008. What with not having to do any campaign work for anybody.

But then it occurred to me that this is but one step. There will be two whirlwind days of debate (there's effective governance--48 hours on a massive policy thing, which is 800 pages long and has a 380 page amendment) followed by another cloture vote to actually getting around to voting on this.

Assuming the Senate GOP leadership hasn't been massively outmaneuvered by the Harry Reid (NOT something, by the way I take for granted), then there will be one more opportunity for some of these Senators to get it right again on Thursday.

And then it would go to the House, where Nancy Pelosi has said she won't even bring it to the floor unless the GOP can guarantee her 70 votes. Since the House GOP took a symbolic vote tonight opposing this Senate bill by 114 - 23, it doesn't look good that it will even get to the floor.

Of course, she could always forget about this little requirement of hers, since it seems like the people who care the most about this are holding John McCain and Pres. Bush accountable--there's almost no way that this would get pinned exclusively on the Democrats, as she is afraid of.

Hold your breath, friends--there's a lot more to be said about this just yet.


Good Day In The Courts

Yesterday was a good day from the Supreme Court. Starting with the decision in Wisconsin Right to Life, in which the Chief Justice noted that . . .[GASP] it is useful to actually READ the First Amendment when deciding First Amendment cases.

Now, there's a novel idea.

If only they would go back and do the same thing with regard to Establishment Clause cases.

SCOTUS managed to skirt the Establishment Clause in deciding that individual taxpayers do not have standing to sue over the "Faith-based Initiatives." I like the result, though I wish this Court would take up the Establishment Clause with it.

And then, finally, a judge exercised a rare moment of common sense in tossing out a $54 million lawsuit--filed by a judge--against a dry cleaners who he alleges lost his pants, in violation of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign on their window. Further, the Judge ordered the plaintiff to pay the legal fees of the dry cleaners.

Of course, it will be appealed. But, still--gotta relish those moments of lucid thought from the legal profession.

They're precious rare enough.


Never Mind

Over the last couple weeks I've started getting a little excited about the Colorado Rockies (see posts from 6/14 and 6/1).

But . . . never mind.

After sweeping the Yankees in a three-game series last week, the Rox have proceeded to lose four in a row, including two blown saves for Brian Fuentes which cancelled out impressive comebacks.

And I kick myself, because this feels SO much like last year. Going into the last week of June, the Rockies were just a game or two back in the division, several games over .500, and playing just great. Then reality set in--from the last week of June through the month of July the Rockies looked hapless, dropping to ten games below .500, completely out of the playoff race, with a bullpen ERA of about 13.55.

Oh, and, wait . . . . hey, it's the last week of June.

But, at least, it was interesting enough to get us within a couple weeks of Broncos training camp. WHEE!!

A Remarkable Story

I cannot believe the Denver Post ran with this story:

Anger and sadness settled Saturday on those who remembered [Lewis "Scooter" Libby] for his lifelong service to the community and blamed his [demise] on excessive publicity surrounding the scandal that toppled his career.

Harvard-educated [Libby], 50, who had been [well-liked in the Washington political scene], resigned from his nearly [6-year-old] post as Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff in relation to the investigation surrounding the Valerie Plame leak investigation. While no charges were ever filed specifically related to the alleged leak of Plame's name and CIA status, charges of perjury and obstruction of justice were filed, and Libby was convicted earlier this year]

The former [Chief of Staff] was dealing with a collapsing career, prison time and media scrutiny of his personal life.

"I think the media and the special prosecutor focused on facts that were not germane to [the investigation]" said Rosemary Rodriguez, U.S. Election Assistance commissioner and former Denver city councilwoman. "I hope my friend Larry is at peace, because he couldn't find it here. He's led a life of service ... and it's really sad that we couldn't give him any kind of benefit of the doubt when he needed it."

[Libby was sentenced to 30 months prison time and a substantial fine. He has] a wife and two adult children.

"I think it's such a tragic incident []" said Paul Sandoval, former state senator and a friend of Libby's for more than 20 years.
"He is an outstanding man, a great lawyer, a great [servant]. He had everything there. He must have been under a great deal of [stress] and probably [just got tripped up]'.

"Beloved and loyal"
[Libby's] attorney released a statement on behalf of the family calling him a "beloved husband, father, son, brother, son-in-law and loyal friend."

"The [Libby] family extends its gratitude to the multitude of people who supported Lewis despite unfair and one-sided attempts to publicly try him in the press by attacking his character," the statement said.

The [special prosecutor's] office filed felony charges alleging [Libby lied to and withheld information from the grand jury in relation to conversations he had regarding the CIA leak case.

Information recentlly released by Robert Novak indicates Richard Armitage, a former high-ranking State Department official, was the original source of the leak. No charges were ever filed directly relating to the leak of Valerie Plame's name.

Many friends and city officials declined to talk about the [sentence] and expressed anger at the[prosecutor] and the media for how the case played out publicly.

They were concerned that his case got too much attention in the media and that prosecutors were overly zealous.
Prosecutors declined to address that criticism Saturday.

Friends and colleagues described [Libby] as talented, hardworking and community-minded. Many say he must have felt his life was over, but it wasn't, said Polly Baca, executive director of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA).

"I have no idea about any of those charges. All I know is that he was a good human being and a good person who spent a lot of time helping others," Baca said through tears. "He did so many good things. We all make mistakes. Not a single one of us is perfect."
Manzanares, a former LARASA board member, was the reason Baca now heads the organization. He asked her to consider the post years ago.

"He made a big difference in my life and the lives of so many others in a positive way," she said. "I'm just devastated; it is just such a loss."

His penalty is hard to take, said Estevan Flores, executive director of the Latino/a Research Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Denver and a longtime friend []

"Here's someone who has such a stellar record. You look at his contributions and his résumé and the role model that he was and you have this one mistake," he said.

"There are so many people in our community who have made similar contributions, and if you looked at each of us, we probably have something in our closet we don't want people to know. The witch hunt that happened is unacceptable."

"He was a good man. A family man," Brown said. "He did a lot for the community that people don't even know about."

Dan Recht, a veteran Denver lawyer who practiced [with Libby], said he couldn't stop thinking about [Libby].

"Over the course of his entire adult life, [Libby] developed a reputation for doing the right thing and doing it with dedication, humility and the respect of peers," Recht said.
"Losing that well-deserved reputation and respect was obviously more than he could bear."

Amazing, huh?

Of course, the Post ran no such story. The story they ran was about Judge Larry Manzanares, , who committed suicide on Saturday after being indicted for buying a stolen laptop computer in the parking lot of the City and County Building and then using it to download pornography, and whose name fits very neatly into most of the bracketed spaces above.

Let me be clear: his suicide is a horrible thing, and I feel terrible for his wife and two grown children. But this is not about Manzanares--

this is about the news and the media.

Are the circumstances of Manzanares' and Libby's crimes really all that different? Not particularly. Neither had a great deal to do with their jobs, neither were directly related to misdeeds committed about the job, both played out more in the press than in a courtroom, and both show evidence of horrible judgment by men whose careers had, up to that point, been exemplary.

But can you IN A MILLION YEARS imagine the press writing an ode to Scooter Libby of the sort that they are writing now for Larry Manzanares? IN A MILLION YEARS!! Not a chance. As of today, I STILL have not seen a single story about how the prison sentence is going to effect Libby's YOUNG children.

Sure, suicide is a little different than prison time. But other than that, is there any reason for the Denver media to laud Manzanares this way and villify Libby that way? I submit there are two possibilities: one is that Manzanares is Hispanic; the other is that Libby is a Friend of Bush. I believe it is more of the latter than the former--in the press, being an FOB is a crime in and of itself, not to mention the compounding crimes actually committed.

Just another in a long list of examples of the media driving stories through HOW it covers them. Frankly it's sickening--I wish I could say it was surprising.


The Mormon Question

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

--Matthew 7:15-17

I have been thinking about this for quite a while, ever since I heard a person from my church congregation, in a small group setting, say something to the effect of "Well, of course, Mormons are a cult of devil-worshipers . . . "

Now, to be honest, I don't know this person from Adam, except that I see them every Sunday morning across a sanctuary of 500 people. But I almost came out of my chair at this person--I had a visceral reaction against what I perceived as a blatant statement of bigotry. In the end, though, I didn't say anything--I needed to know more before I got into that debate, and that setting wasn't the time or the place, really.

But my silence has been bugging me. Obviously. And so I've been trying to figure out what I should do with that memory.

I'm not well-versed in the Theology or the background of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There's Hugh's book (an invaluable tool right about now), but, other than that, there's really very little I've been able to find out that would satisfy my wonderings.

So, as I'm learning to do whenever I have doubts about things like this, I turn to Scripture. Thus, the quotation from the Gospel of Matthew up above.

So I started looking around at the "fruits" of Mormonism. First, from my own history: two of my classmates in high school were Mormons--actually, many more than two, but I spent a lot of time with these two because we had almost identical class schedules. And, in all honesty, they seemed to me to be a little high-strung, a little "nerdy," but very high achievers, very smart, and very good young men. And, as they grew older, I found out that they both had the dryest, quickest wit from among our circle--never vulgar, but really very quick and very funny.

Then, I look to my history as a teacher. I think of the students I've picked to be in leadership positions, and I think of how they handled that, and I think of the really impressive musicians I've taught . . . And in every list that has those attributes, Mormons are, seemingly, over-represented.

Look around the world: in every great mission area of the world, who do you find? I would submit you find the Catholic Church, you find Evangelicals, and you find Mormons. Mainline Protestants? Not so much. Jewish? I don't know--honestly, I don't, but you don't hear much about Jewish missionaries.

Oh, yeah, and you find Muslims.

You can do the same sort of experiment for yourself: go to any--ANY--suburban high school, and ask for a program from their recently-held graduation ceremonies. Then, look at the list of Valedictorians (plural--most schools now have many students survive four years with a 4.0 GPA, thus, multiple Valedictorians): I promise you, on that list of Valedictorians will be at least one Mormon, and likely more than one. And, whatever the real number is, it will be larger than the representation of Mormons in the general population. Likewise, ask the Deans or Assistant Principals in charge of discipline how many disciplinary contacts they had in the past year with students who they know are Mormons. I'd be willing to bet real money that the number can be marked on one hand.

And it really makes you wonder if they're not doing something right to be on all of these lists SO over-represented.

And then you look at Mitt Romney himself. Successful businessman, startlingly intelligent, great organization, history of election success and successful governance, and (distressingly) the ONLY Republican candidate still married to his first wife, with an equally impressive family right behind him. All-in-all, pretty impressive.

So, on a tentative basis, subject to more information, I am forced to conclude that the Mormon question is irrelevant to my vote in the upcoming elections. Indeed, at the same time, upon reflection, I'm a little embarrassed by my own behavior in relation to the Mormons I've known. If I'd have had the same sense of purpose, the same discipline, and the same focus that the Mormons I've known have had, my list of "things to do" in my life would be significantly shorter. But, more importantly, I would have many MANY fewer memories of behavior that causes me embarassment than I do now.

I don't know where the link between Satanism and Mormanism is, or how extensive it is. Perhaps somebody can lead me in the direction of that information.

But, what I do know is that the "fruit" of the Mormon "tree" is good fruit. That's all I need to add to my equations.


This Sounds Like A Smart Move

The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility and move its terror suspects to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

And, if I may be so bold, the administration should move the detainees to prisons in the states of prominent critics of Gitmo. Let's see how Arlen Specter, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Dick Durbin and John McCain feel about having these poor, put-upon terrorists in their back yards. Let's see just how long it takes these guys (and gal) to figure out that Gitmo's not such a bad place for al-Qaeda-types.

Climate Change IS A Real Threat . . .

just not the one that's got Democrats reaching into your lifestyles.

I've skipped over some of the scientific methodology to get to the important stuff:

Using computers to conduct what is referred to as a "time series analysis" on the colouration and thickness of the annual layers, we have discovered repeated cycles in marine productivity in this, a region larger than Europe. Specifically, we find a very strong and consistent 11-year cycle throughout the whole record in the sediments and diatom remains. This correlates closely to the well-known 11-year "Schwabe" sunspot cycle, during which the output of the sun varies by about 0.1%. . . .

In the sediment, diatom and fish-scale records, we also see longer period cycles, all correlating closely with other well-known regular solar variations. In particular, we see marine productivity cycles that match well with the sun's 75-90-year "Gleissberg Cycle," the 200-500-year "Suess Cycle" and the 1,100-1,500-year "Bond Cycle." The strength of these cycles is seen to vary over time, fading in and out over the millennia. . . .

Our finding of a direct correlation between variations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called "proxies") is not unique. Hundreds of other studies, using proxies from tree rings in Russia's Kola Peninsula to water levels of the Nile, show exactly the same thing: The sun appears to drive climate change. . . .

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada.

No, really--I did skip over a lot of the scientific stuff. Trust me.

But the point is, my friends, that any decision-making process that is driven by the irrational and scientifically unprovable "fact" of global warming is simply premature and pointless.

I wonder which courageous media personality is going to challenge Al Gore next time he pops his head up about?

And, by the way, before you dismiss this as the rantings of a nutter, consider the source:

R. Timothy Patterson is professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University.

Sure, I've never heard of Carleton University, either. But that's still a pretty impressive vitae--certainly more credible than "used to be the next President".

Somehow, I've Managed To Crack the Top 10

BlogNetNews has a ranking of the most influential Colorado political blogs.

And, yep, this little rant sheet has made it into the top 10--at #10.

I suppose that fulfills one of my great hopes when I started writing this blog 3-1/2 years ago. And while I have no idea of the methodology employed which earned me that ranking, I'm quite happy to take my ranking and run. It's quite an honor and pretty humbling to think about.

So I'll take this opportunity to thank everybody who looks in on me regularly--I hope I ocassionally stumble onto imformative or humorous or insightful to justify you coming around.

And, by the way, my good friend and fellow RMA member Ben comes in at an impressive #4! Way to go, Ben, and well-earned!


Quick Hits: State and Local

--The Rockies have taken the first two in their 3-game series with the Yankees, and have won 6 of their last 7. Moreover, since May 22nd, no team in baseball has won more games than the Rockies.

I'm not saying this is a World Series contender yet. I'm just pointing out that there's pretty good baseball being played out at Coors Field.

--Bush Vetoes Rep. DeGette's Stem-Cell Bill

Again. Heard her on 850 KOA this morning, and she absolutely LIED through her teeth. She said that all the researchers agree that embryonic stem cells hold the most potential. I suppose all the researchers who have devoted their lives to embryonic stem cells would have to believe that. In the meantime, all the researchers who have actually come up with therapies and successful clinical trials with adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells are just too dang busy being successful to make it into her list of researchers.

By the way, Rep. Perlmutter was standing behind her on the podium at her presser this afternoon. If any Republican can actually successfully make the case that THIS BILL, not the President, is the most extreme action in this regard, then that picture of the two of them together would make for a good ad.

--I Told You This Was Too Much

State economists on Wednesday projected that Colorado government will now keep an extra $5.9 billion because of Referendum C.

That amount is $2.2 billion more than originally expected in November 2005 when voters approved Referendum C, suspending the state constitution's revenue limit for five years.

So between our economy actually doing its thing again and the Governor's new tax-hike on your home, we've now more than doubled the amount going into the legislature than it asked for two years ago for Referendum C.

Nice. Wonder if they'll start doing the rebates again any sooner, given this.

Heh. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath, either.

Quick Hits--World and National

--The "Religion of Peace" Strikes Again, pt. 1

To live in Gaza is to fear for your life at every moment, said Guhwaji. First she was scared of the Israelis. Holding her hand to her ear, she said she could still hear the sound of the IDF planes and helicopters overhead. But what drove her to leave was the Hamas takeover last week.

"Now I'm very scared," she said. "Hamas is cruel. They kill people as if they were birds," she said. She paused, then added: "No, even a bird is killed with more honor."

--The "Religion of Peace" Strikes Again, pt. 2

Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan's religious affairs minister, said Monday of Rushdie's knighting that: "The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title. [because that wouldn't be extreme OR terrorist]"

Ul-Haq insisted Tuesday that he meant only that the award could be used as a justification for suicide attacks [oh, of course. . . that's much better]. Honouring the author of a "blasphemous book" could undermine interfaith harmony [in much the same way that "exploding a bomb" which would, presumably, kill innocents, would damage same] and damage Pakistan's efforts against terrorism [yes, indeed--by engaging in terrorism], he said.

--Michael Bloomberg: pro-choice; pro-gun control; raises taxes; no foreign policy experience; no military experience. Tell me, in what way is this guy different than ANY of the Democratic candidates, except that he has actually had jobs before and has some executive experience?

--Michael Yon continues to be the ABSOLUTE BEST voice out of Iraq, on both style and substance. A sample of his latest post:

Meanwhile, there are stadiums full of people shouting at the doctors, threatening to fire them or revoke their licenses, or at the very least to cut off the lights mid-surgery. In the din of the mob, few seem to notice that the patient, screaming to be healed, is much more alive than dead. The patient roils in agony with every new cut, slashing at doctors and self. Some say we’ve done enough and it’s time for the patient to heal itself. Others are saying we should put it out of its misery, but surely this thing will live, and drag its mutilated self out of the hospital and follow us home, no longer seeking a cure but intent on revenge.


Body Blow To Teachers' Unions

The Supreme Court upheld a Washington state law today that said unions (in this case in particular, the Washington Education Association) must ask its members' permission to use union dues for political purposes. The Washington State Supreme Court had held, inexplicably, that such a requirement violated the unions' Free Speech, but they were overruled.

This was a close one, however. After the Washington Court held by 6-3 in favor of the teachers' union, SCOTUS slapped them down UNANIMOUSLY. In fact, Justice Scalia's opinion was only 13 pages long--startlingly short, given the amount of space devoted to background and such.

The REAL question for us here in Colorado, is how to make use of this ruling. We can be fairly certain that this state legislature will NEVER pass a law saying that unions have to get permission to use dues for politics--Big Education would have a cow! So it is incumbent on interested members of the public--THAT WOULD BE US!--to get an initiative going to take away a big chunk of the unions' power.

I'd be happy to work on that committee, if anybody out there has the expertise to actually get this going.



Can I just ask a question? One which will, no doubt, really tick off some of you out there?

What is it about women that they do not understand the nature of projects?

Okay, let me back away a bit.

My recent . . .er, sabbatical . . . has been the result of one question: would it be possible to . . . ?

When the wife asks that question, run for the hills--FAST.

Two weeks ago, my lovely bride asked that question in regard to a remodeling idea of hers. Is it possible? Sure, I say. Good, she says, and than she walks away.

Now, in my mind, I'm thinking A. demolition of existing structure B. creation of secondary structure to limit dogs' movement during work C. removal of obstruction to said 2ndry structure D. oh, yeah--design remodel E. choose materiel . . . . You get the idea. I'm thinking step-by-step process, mentally computing/estimating the necessary time the whole way.

And then doubling my estimate because I don't really build things.

At any rate, I was guessing a 7- to 10-day project, if the weather cooperated and I got a few breaks from the children.

The Bewitching Mrs. Best Destiny? She hears "sure," says "good," and then walks away. Somewhere in her head, that job has been delegated and she's planning on a 2- to 5-day job.

All of which means that, not only is there the actual job to do, but then there's the added pressure of not meeting her expectations.

Which, I suppose, is something I should be used to.

However that may be, the project is now finished. And it took two weeks--fourteen days--from first act of demolition to final nail in the trim. But the added pressure of trying to not compound my wife's disappointment has left me little time to vent about what's going on in the world. In other words, and the point is--I'm on freakin' vacation here (yeah, I know--I'm not counting on any sympathy from those of you in the real world), and I'm exhausted!, but even in my diminished mental state and completely out of touch I'm able to recognize the absurdity of what's going on around me.

Like, when did the Democratic Party become the Party of Already Failed Ideas? On the same day that 39 Dems futilely vote for the McCain-Kennedy-Bush immigration monstrosity--DESPITE a CBO analysis that said it would only accomplish 25% of its goals--the House, with every Democrat on board, votes to expand federal funding of for embryonic stem cell research. This, DESPITE a report from two days earlier that indicated that stem cells from other sources could be designed to mutate into plenipotential stem cells.

And even today, it is reported that the glaciers of Kilimanjaro are melting (as tropical glaciers are wont to do), but NOT DUE TO "GLOBAL WARMING." I wonder if Al Gore's impending campaign for Savior of the World will take into account this little bit of news. And will the Democratic candidates for President mention this?

Not likely.

But then, from out of my sabbatical, I hear that somebody out there is ACTUALLY making sense vis-a-vis Iran--AND IT'S A DEMOCRAT!! Of course, it's no surprise that it's Joe Lieberman making sense, but it is disturbing that he is, to date, the most senior member of government to say the obvious regarding the Mullah's murdering of American soldiers in Iraq.

AND THEN comes word that the administration is going to do its level best to resurrect the Immigration Bill. AAARRRGH. But, so far, nobody's saying HOW they're going to alter it to make it more palatable.

It's actually pretty easy:

A. eighteen month moratorium on granting visas while
1. the 800 miles of fence is built
2. the border patrols are built up by 20,000 guards, and
3. the employer-enforcement provisions that the administration has been pursuing are continued
THEN . . .
B. create a program that allows a path to legalization for those in country who can:
1. prove that they have a track record of successful employment
2. demonstrate that they are loyal to this country
3. pay any back taxes owed to this country
THEN . . .
C. create a tamper-proof biometric means to track who comes in and what they are doing here
D. eject every illegal alien who has committed a crime or who has jihadist ties

You make security the priority; then you make it possible for well-behaved illegals to come out of the shadows and become citizens. It is both smart, and compassionate--truly, an American approach to the problem.

That's not really my idea, by the way--it's an amalgam of other smart peoples' ideas and the polling data from when the country has been asked about the problem.

So far, though, nobody has proposed this in an official capacity.

Part of the problem there, however, is structural--none of the serious Republican candidates for President currently have a job. It would be great if one of them were still in the Senate.

(Hey, notice how I just completely diminished the importance of John McCain? Not so much a new thing--he's really done it to himself)

The nightmare scenario is if either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton makes this proposal in he days and weeks to come. Imagine--Senate at an impasse, immigration problem going unaddressed, and the only person who can both break the logjam and solve the problem is a candidate for President.

And then we can all plan for a Democratic administration to follow.

And, in the meantime, the Rockies continue to find ways to win several series, and the NBA championship series is all but over with an average score of 23-18, or something like that, and Tiger Woods is preparing to win another major championship.

Okay. Got that off my chest.

I feel better.


Clay is Back!!

And with a vengeance. Put him back on your regular rotation.


Senator Salazar, Explain WHY You Want Gang Members, Terrorists, and Other Criminals To Come In

From the Senate Roll Call page:

Question: On the Amendment (Cornyn Amdt. No. 1184, As Modified ). . .

Vote Result: Amendment Rejected . . .

Statement of Purpose:
To establish a permanent bar for gang members, terrorists, and other criminals. . . .

Vote Counts:

Not Voting

. . . . Salazar (D-CO), Nay

Or perhaps, good Mr. Senator, you can explain WHY you think it's a bad idea that a person voting in person--their most sacred American duty and priviledge--should present ONE form of photo identification.

Question: On the Amendment (McConnell Amdt. No. 1170 ) . . .

Vote Result:
Amendment Rejected . . . .

Statement of Purpose:
To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification. . . . .

Vote Counts:
Not Voting

. . . . Salazar (D-CO), Nay

Notice, by the way, the relatively high number of "Not Voting"s on that amendment. Here's the list--see if you can figure out the commonality: Biden, Brownback, Dodd, Johnson (D-SD), McCain, Obama.

Huh . . .must be a political hot potato.

Is somebody making a campaign commercial around here?

Yeah, I watched the Debate

All I can say is this: we have at least three guys on our side better prepared for the job than ANY of the Democrats. And our guys were smartly trying to make sure that the country knew the difference tonight.

Rudy won--he was commanding and personal, with a god moent of humor.

And Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo cannot get off the stage fast enough for me. Get the quacks out of there!

Re: Scooter Libby

I've been trying to get my arms around the whole Scooter Libby issue now for a while, and now that the sentence has been handed down, I'll say my piece.

There are, in my opinions, two possibilities: one, that Scooter Libby is a victim, a scapegoat of a policy gone awry and a prosecutor gone wild; or, two, that Scooter Libby is one of the dumbest people in Washington.

The general consensus seems to be that the prosecutor and the judge got carried away, and conspired to punish Libby for the crime-that-was-not-committed. And, I think that much is true. Based on everything I know and everything I've read, this prosecution should have ended before it started, and the only person who should be censured at all for anything is Richard Armitage. But, since the President turned the dogs loose and ordered a forceful investigation, that's what he got. To Scooter Libby's ultimate dismay.

On the other hand, if, as everybody seems to maintain, there was no underlying crime, and everybody know this, then there was no reason for Scooter Libby to lie. And, just in case that gets lost or obscured, remember: a relatively sympathetic jury found unanimously that Scooter Libby lied. You would think that a man of Libby's obvious experience and talents would know better than to get trapped in a typical Washington trap, but he didn't--for no apparent reason, he gave Patrick Fitzgerald all the reason he needed to keep going, keep pursuing, and, ultimately, get an indictment and conviction.

Libby should have known better, and today he got a 30-month sentence as punishment.

Now, as to what happens now, I don't see any reason to be optimistic that the President will pardon him--it would be a tremendous political liability and the President doesn't have a great history in this regard (as Bill Kristol so forcefully pointed out).

I know--the President could pardon Scooter Libby AND Sandy Berger at the same time. That'll catch the Dems sleeping.

Oh, wait--the President's Justice Department didn't see fit to go for a prosecution of Berger. Never mind.


Dear Senator Salazar--

On March 30th, you gave a strong statement in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform; since then, you have made other public statements of support for the specific Immigration Reform package which is making its way through the Senate. Your record on this is clear.

However, that was before the Congressional Budget Office came out with it's analysis which states: "The Senate's immigration bill will cut annual illegal immigration by just 25 percent, and the bill's new guest-worker program could lead to at least 500,000 more illegal aliens within a decade," . . .

Given that you stated on the Senate floor that:

In this Post-9/11 era, it is critical that we get control of our borders – both northern and southern – so that we can protect our country from outside threats that would do harm to Americans AND punish those who exploit the hopes of foreign workers through human trafficking.

Solving our nation’s illegal immigration problems is a matter of national security.

To that end, the first priority of immigration reform must be to provide for adequate and sensible border security and renewed federal commitment to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.

I was wondering if you would now publicly withdraw your support for this piece of legislation?

And if not--why not?

What has become clear is that passing this legislation would be worse than doing nothing--at least right now, most Americans acknowledge that Illegal Immigration is a problem. The temptation to declare the problem "solved" after "doing something" would make it nearly impossible to actually deal with the problem again for another 25 years.

Senator Salazar, serve your constituents and your country--show REAL leadership and recognize that this piece of legislation is irredeemably flawed. Withdraw your support for it, and get to work crafting legislation that will actually address your "first priority" while working towards a realistic and merciful solution to the Illegal Immigration problem.


I Wish They Would Have Had A Chance To Fumble This Question

I had the unfortunate experience of watching the first 90 minutes of the Democrats' debate tonight.

Yeah, I'm sorry, too. But I had to do the checkbook, anyway, so what's a little more pain on top of that?

At any rate . . .

Then, before checking out for the night, I notice this story from the AP. Here's the first paragraph; read it and tell me if you notice something, oh, interesting about this story and its relationship to the debate.

A convicted drug dealer who agreed to pose as a wannabe terrorist among a shadowy group now accused of plotting to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport secretly fed information to federal investigators in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Probably not. And you should be happy--if any of your brains worked the same way mine does, you would have cause for deep concern.

But let me put my thoughts in the form of an obvious question Wolf Blitzer should have asked tonight but didn't, and let's see if it becomes more clear.

WOLF: Candidates: according to rules set up by a previous Democratic administration, United States intelligence services were not allowed to deal with "unsavory" characters in the pursuit of information. By one strict interpretation of that rule, the information discovered by a person like the informant who infiltrated the Guyana 4--a convicted drug dealer--would have been unusable or inaccessible to American authorities. Do you agree or disagree with the policy of the previous administration? And, tell us, what sort of rules and guidelines would your administration put in place regarding the character of individuals American authorities rely on for information?

Based on their answers to some of the foreign policy questions posed tonight, this could have led to an inadvertantly hilarious exchange of dodging and moral posturing. But I'm pretty sure Bill Richardson would have found a way to tell us that he was the Governor of New Mexico.


Governor Ritter Shows A Little--and I Do Mean 'A Little'--Common Sense

The governor vetoed five bills on Friday.

House Bill 1313 would have relaxed tough identification rules for getting a driver’s license. Last year, the DMV adopted such stringent rules that legitimate Coloradans were unable to get driver’s licenses or photo ID cards. . . .

Other Ritter vetoes:

Senate Bill 84: Would have required a state board to maintain a database of all persons registering as interior designers, allowing only those in the database to use the term "registered interior designer."

House Bill 1107: Would have expanded the ability to petition courts to seal criminal convictions and arrests.

House Bill 1216: Would have changed rules for Medicaid reimbursement to hospitals.

House Bill 1356: Would have changed ethics laws to conform with rules approved by voters last fall. Ritter said he vetoed it because a judge on Thursday issued an order barring enforcement of some of those rules.

It's that first one that actually means something. A tiny impediment to the acquisition of legal papers would seem a reasonable thing in this day and age. But, more importantly, it really ticked off the Democrat sponsor of the bill:

Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, sponsor of HB 1313, was disheartened by the veto.
I’m extremely disappointed that the "anti-immigration zealots managed to get their voices heard over the citizens of Colorado," she said.

In other news, Rep. Marshall had to rush away from her press conference to board Air Force One, where she was expected to travel with the President to tout "Comprehensive Immigration Reform."

Just kidding.

Sadly, kind of a moot point, when you consider how easy this will be once the "Provisional Z-Visas" kick in.

But it does give ritter a little centrist credibility for his 2010 reelection.

Is It Just Me?

As long-time readers of this blog know (all three of them), I am a public school teacher. And today was the last day of classes for Jefferson County Public Schools--my district.

Which means that every single elementary school in the district devoted at least 90 minutes of this (largely useless anyway) last day of school to what is called a "Continuation Ceremony." This is one of those recent educational inventions in which we throw a party and have a ceremony for our sixth graders (in JeffCo, 6th grade is still in the elementary school) to commemorate their time and to congratulate them on making it through sixth grade.

In other words, it's a little mini-graduation, complete with "Pomp and Circumstance" and tiny little diplomas.

Now, don't get me wrong--I remember the end of sixth grade as a pretty cool event. It was nice to know that I was done with this particular school, and good to be looking forward to the next stop in middle school. But it WAS NOT worthy of a formal ceremony or anything. As I recall, the sixth grade got to spend the last day at the local roller rink.

Now, I figure getting done with sixth grade should be considered an absolute minimum expectation for our students--it shouldn't be a surprise or a wonder that we've completed sixth grade.

So I was wondering: when we spend so much time and energy celebrating the mundane, do we make it that much more difficult recognize--much less celebrate--the truly exceptional?

Or, like I said, is it just me?


Rapid Download

Been sick lately, and a bit overwhelmed by concluding some projects, so postings have been light.

So tonight, I'm going to get some things off my chest. Some are timely, some not so much; but they've been stewing so it's time to write.

Because, of course, this blog is as much therapy as anything else, so . . .

deal with it.

And Another Thing

Get off of A-Rod's case.

Baseball is, in many ways, warfare; and all warfare is based on deception.

How many times in his career in Denver did Rockies fans marvel at how easily Larry Walker would stand dead still in right field, looking for all the world as if he was camped out directly underneath a fly ball, only to see it sail over his head, bounce off the wall, and come right to him on one hop. And we would all LAUGH that the baserunners could only advance one base on a 400-foot hit.

And how many infielders will stand dead still while a play is approaching their base so as to not give away to the baserunner the fact that the ball is coming and it's going to be a close play?

Remember when George Brett blew a gasket 25 years ago because he'd been called out for having too much pine tar on his bat for a home run? Billy Martin had noticed the pine tar weeks earlier, and only appealed it to the umpires when it mattered

Big leaguers don't NOT use the hidden ball trick because it's illegal or bush-league--they don't use it because everybody's supposed to be too smart to fall for it in the bigs.

If the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman doesn't know his shortstop well enough to recognize that it wasn't his voice calling "mine" on a pop fly, then that's too damn bad. But don't blame it on the guy who has made the trip all the way from first base on a pop fly to get in your space and give his team a little tiny edge.

Besides, there's plenty of legitimate reasons to dislike A-Rod--we don't need to invent them.

When Did Liberals Lose Their Spine?

This has been bugging me lately.

Think about a series of recent events:

:Democrats collapsing on the Iraq funding bill

:Democratic Presidential candidates refusing to do a debate on Fox News

:Rosie O'Donnell quitting The View early after being confronted by poor little Elizabeth Hasselback

:Cindy Sheehan has given up her quixotic quest to end the Bush Presidency and the Iraq War

The most recent events, which I hadn't previously commented on, are the O'Donnell thing and the Sheehan thing. Sheehan makes at least a little sense--it's gotta really stink to have all your friends turn on you. But, if you really believe in the moral correctness of your cause, don't you persist regardless of the resistance? I mean, it's not really courage to only stare down the enemies you expected while all your sycophants are circling behind you--courage is facing all comers and standing up alone if you have to.

And Rosie has problems. Seriously, if Elizabeth Hasselback challenging you is enough to drive you away, you must have absolutely no faith in what you're doing. I like Elizabeth, but she's no flame-thrower like Ann Coulter, and she's not nearly the intellectual force of a Michelle Malkin. Honestly, if you've gotten so used to the echo chamber that the poor, token conservative makes you run from the arena by simply pressing you to actually say out loud what you've been implying for months, then you need to be challenged more.

And that may be the point.

Perhaps, just maybe, the echo chamber has gotten so loud and so safe that liberals actually DON'T have to have any courage, because they can say the most outrageous things and be safe.

So . . . . DAMMIT . . . . time to stand up and challenge them a little bit.

Thank you, Elizabeth Hasselback for being a tiny force for good in the world.

Sports Musings

The San Antonio Spurs ARE the Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be defeated. They are as cold-blooded, as ruthless, and as efficient as any sports team I have ever seen. They're not pretty, and they play a mind-numbingly boring style. But when they need a big shot, they get it; when they need a stop, they get it; when they need a rebound, they get it. If you want to run on them, they'll stop you, but exploit your desire to run by running on you; if you want to slow them down, they'll let you stay in arms reach, and, like a boa constrictor, wait until you get uncomfortable and squirmy before they squeeze the life out of you. They can beat you by scoring 75 points, or they can beat you by scoring 110 points. And they will beat either Detroit or Cleveland in five games.

Speaking of Cleveland, LeBron is having his coming out party. Finally, he may actually be living up to the "Next Michael Jordan" label.

And the Rockies are actually winning some games, recently coming off of a seven-game winning streak. Funny what happens when the starting pitchers get far into the game without giving up too much, and the manager leaves the middle relievers in their cages while the starters are doing their jobs, and the hitters FINALLY start getting some big hits. No, really. If memory serves, right before the streak started the manager stepped up to take the blame for losing a couple games by mismanaging the bullpen; then he goes more 'hands-off' and they win seven; and then, in the streak ending loss, he leaves the starter in two or three batters too long. Not that I blame him with this bullpen, but your number five starter has to have a pretty short hook when he's on a four-game losing streak.

Anyway . . . See, kids. There's plenty of room in the day for fun, too.

Speaking of Presidential Blunders

I guess, given the little problems with his own party on his immigration idea, and given that he's embracing emmissions controls instead of investing--and I'm talking Apollo-like investment--in new energies, the President is conceding a lot of whatever is left of the battleground.

Time for the candidates to start running away from the President.

Sorry--I like the guy, and I think he's done a very good job. But he's lost his compass. And the Party needs leadership.

Time for one of the candidates to start demonstrating some.

And, NO, Senator McCain, "capitulation" to the Democrats is not the same thing as "leadership."

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