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


Be Sure To Catch Two Speakouts on Education 

The Rocky Mountain News has two guest columns about educational issues this weekend: CSAP scrapping, and curriculum abandonment.

The first, by Rep. Judy Solano:

What are we getting for those extra tests? What is our bang for our CSAP buck? Here are some results: When President Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in 2001 and high-stakes testing began, Colorado’s dropout rate was 2.6 percent across all ethnic and racial groups. Today, our dropout rate has increased to more than 4.5 percent.

Umm . . . Judy? Yeah, the test isn't actually a curriculum device, it is a measure of your curriculum effectiveness. Maybe you just don't like beating a dead horse and would prefer to admit that we are NOT educating our students. But as long as former educators who become legislators are incapable of recognizing the difference between learning and testing, we really have very little chance of making progress.

The second, from Saturday, by Jane Urschel:

The Innovation Schools Act is about the belief that principals and teachers can be leaders when given the chance. To some extent, we can do that with the Charter Schools Act, but there's a difference. Charter schools are public schools, but they often operate "outside the system." SB 130 seeks to create innovation inside the system.

If the bill becomes statewide policy, districts choosing to use it would find that everyone in the system must innovate. School boards would decide which policies to waive to allow for innovation and will determine results the board must see in participating schools. School district administrators and teachers unions would revisit collective bargaining agreements and other system regulations with student achievement in mind. And, in some cases, the State Board of Education might be asked to waive certain state statutes to make districts of innovation possible.

So, because charter schools are "outside" the system, we're going to create new schools from "inside" the system that we, um, "set aside" special places in the schools to innovate and be freed from the rules?

Huh? That makes not a lot of sense.

But you have to love how Dr. Urschel invokes the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., to make the case that this is some sort of a civil rights issue.

Here's an idea: let's not just empower teachers and principals to innovate, but then let's give students and parents the freedom to move from one school to another in pursuit of whatever innovation resonates with them. And even more, let's let them take their property tax money with them to whatever school they choose, so that each school has the sort of resources it needs . . .

oh, wait. That would actually cause real and massive change, but it's the "V-word". Can't have that.

No, best that we just let those "inside" the system innovate. That way this sad, dysfunctional system can stay propped up for future generations.

One More Thought On Jeremiah Wright 

I was reminded again at church service this morning that we are called on to be "a light in the world."

This is where Rev Wright fails most egregiously. His rantings do NOTHING to bring light into the world; in fact, if anything, they spread a blanket of darkness on whatever hopes may have been growing in the minds of young members of his parish.

And in failing to denounce it as such, Sen. Obama becomes a creature of darkness, himself. Which is a horrible failing for one who is striving to be "Hope and Change"--in effect, light.

The Light and the Dark cannot co-exist in the same space; when Obama does not refute Wright, he willingly sacrifices his message to the hate speech Wright peddles to a desperate congregation.

Add a little violence, and it is not at all unlike the message delivered in madrassas all over the world every day.


Democrats Are Coming For Your Kids 

I am, for whatever reason, on the mailing list of my state Senator, Sue Windels. Today, she sent out a missive on education reform, which reads in part:

CAP4K stands for Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids and is moving forward through the legislature as SB212.

What does CAP4K propose? In a nutshell, it does two main things:
#1 -- It defines “school readiness” and offers an Individualized Readiness Plan for every child who chooses to go to public preschool or kindergarten. Too often, kids start school without the skills needed to succeed in 1st grade and when you’re behind before you’ve even begun, it’s hard to catch up. Research shows the best way to close the achievement gap is to make sure every child begins school equally prepared.

An IRP for EVERY kid? Are you kidding me? And tell me, Sen. Windels and Gov. Ritter, exactly what are we going to do when we discover (mon DIEU!) that certain segments of the population are consistently and significantly behind? And what, exactly, does "Readiness Remediation" look like? Do we deny kids access to Kindergarten until they're ready? Or do we use this to creat a MASSIVE new government program that takes thos e"unready" 5-yr olds and brings them up to speed? And just how expensive will this program be?

And, really, once we establish this, how long is it until we decide that the state will assume responsibility for all students in "at-risk" groups and takes over custody of them at age 3? After all, that's really the only way to guarantee that children will be equally prepared.

That is, equally POORLY prepared.


One of the amendments added during the Senate Education Committee hearing was to require a cost study by a neutral third party expert to assure local school districts, the Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education that the state realizes the cost to accomplish this project and will not place a huge unfunded mandate in state law.

SB212 – or CAP4K – requires us to hit the “refresh” button, updating our current system of public education. This is something we simply must do so that students graduate with 21st century skills needed to compete in this global economy.

God Bless whichever Senator (I'm sure it was a Republican) got that cost study put in there. Between this and the Health Care proposal, I think we'll see that we need another state just to provide the revenues necessary for what Dems want to do in this state.

It's expensive to educate and medicate--i.e. raise--hundreds of thousands of children.


Senator Obama's Failure 

The first rule about bad news is this: get it out there, get it out there on your own terms, and then change the subject.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has become a wonderful example of a botched PR campaign: the news emerged from other sources than the Obama campaign, the campaign avoided it altogether for days, and then got stuck in reaction mode, and now, TWELVE DAYS after "The Speech", Rev. Wright is still in the news.

On the simple level of the campaign, this has been a complete disaster from the Obama campaign. If this is how we can expect an Obama White House to handle crises, then the prospect of an Obama Presidency should be even more frightening than his domestic ideas already make it.

But, then there's the actual substance of the issue. In plain terms, the commentaries of Rev Wright are despicable and disgusting. For Obama to have said anything less than that is an indication of moral weakness; for him to have justified it as representative of the Black Community's Experience--an experience which this Harvard educated, million-dollar salaried, mansion owning man has never shared--is just plain backwards. It is, quite simply, justifying a mindset that mires an entire community in poverty, that breeds unjustified hatred and racism, and that pushes off responsibility on an unknown and formless "other" that can never be free of the responsibility.

If Rev Wright were, indeed, trying to move a community forward, to empower it towards change and growth, he would model his diatribes after his greater predecessor, Martin Luther King. He would direct his ire at a school system that fails his parishoners; he would take responsibility and drive his community to take responsibility for a birthrate that has more that half of all black babies born to single mothers; he would--rather than rail against "three strikes" laws--rail against a mindset that seems to shrug off crime within the community.

That said, Obama almost successfully danced a very difficult dance: he couldn't just denounce his closest spiritual advisor out of hand because that would reveal a lack of loyalty, but he had to distance himself from the content of the sermons. And, for the most part, he did a pretty good job . . .

Right until he revealed that the white grandmother who raised him was a racist, as well. Whatever character points he won by remaining loyal to his spiritual mentor, he threw away by tossing Granny under the bus. What a piece of work.

And now, twelve days later, what is left is a country just as deeply fractured as it was when Rev Wright's comments first came up--in fact, probably moreso because Obama just told Whites to get over it.

If this is what Obama intends to do as far as bringing the country together and solving problems together, then this is a bad BAD sign for the Senator, and for the country.

And, on another note, I mentioned once that the futility of Rev Wright's commentaries, coupled with the hatred contained in Michelle Obama's speech, betrayed a certain ineffectiveness in the Senator's message. Upon further reflection, don't you have to wonder about the judgment of man whose wife is clearly disdainful of America and whose closest spiritual advisor is plainly a bigot? Is THIS the sort of people we should expect to occupy the White House in an Obama presidency?

Vacation Musings 

Been gone the last several days on vacation--me and the Bewitching Mrs. Best Destiny escaped from the children and went to Jamaica.

What . . . you hadn't noticed?

Yes, Monday morning at 1 am we loaded up on Delta Airlines jet and headed to Atlanta, and then on to the airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and then on to Ocho Rios where we stayed at the Sandals Grande all-inclusive Resort.

Where we proceeded to be disappointed from the get-go.

First of all, anybody considering a Jamaican vacation, keep in mind one thing: it is still a third-world country, and "all-inclusive" or not, its ideas about service are still significantly more third-world than first-. And, not that the people aren't friendly--they're wonderful; and their reputation for being laid-back and relaxed is well-earned.

But for an American with a limited amount of time to spend, those aren't necessarily wonderful qualities.

For instance, when booking this particular flight, which touched down in Jamaica at 1130 am local, we did so with the thought that that would, effectively, give us one day down there on Monday; our return flight for Thursday was scheduled for 300, so we also assumed that would give us most of that day down there. Our plan was two full days, two partial days, and three nights--it was a wonderful plan.

Which didn't quite come true. By the time we made it through the "laid-back" customs and immigration lines, caught up with our luggage, found our "free" shuttle, made the "relaxed" trip from MoBay to Ocho Rios, and got finally set up in our room, it was almost 430, we'd been travelling for 16 hours, and the day was shot.

The trip out was just as bad--we were informed by the hotel that our "free" shuttle would be leaving the hotel at 9am Thursday morning, and, after inquiring, we were told that the 10 o'clock shuttle was full. That left us with, basically, enough time to wake up, get ready, get packed, get breakfast, and head out. Another day shot.

Now, I don't know what I was thinking--I don't normally let my expectations for things get very high. But in this case, with the money we spent and all the information we were able to gather, I actually expected that we would probably get to the hotel by 2 where the concierge would be waiting with champaigne and little sandwiches (since we missed lunch) and our bags would be magically whisked away to our room--or something really nice and impressive. No such luck.

Then, we tried to make contact with home, just to let them know we got in. We were TOLD that the rooms all had a wi-fi hookup for a small fee--WRONG; we were then informed that the lobby had a wi-fi hookup--WRONG; we were then told we could use their little computer kiosks--WRONG! By the time we had run through that series of hoops to finally settle on just making a phone call from our room (since Verizon doesn't have coverage down there), it was closer to 5:00, making the day that much further gone.

I don't know about you, by my expectations for vacation travel have been largely shaped by DisneyWorld--three kids, we've been there a few times. And every time we go Disney, we find something new to be impressed with as far as how they serve their customers, how they tend to their properties, and how they project professionalism in every aspect of what they do. I guess my picture of an "all-inclusive" vacation looked a little like Disney--and what I got was the Three Stooges on a bong hit.

Don't get me wrong. I know it seems like I'm complaining a lot (only because I am), when I just got to spend time in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And Jamaica--the resort parts of Jamaica--is all it is advertised: white sand beaches, gorgeous weather, a tropical paradise. And the hotel is very nice, the grounds are beautiful, the amenities very pleasant. But it is better suited to people either very young with nothing to do but enjoy the beauty of their surroundings and each other, or people very old with nothing to do. Those of us trapped in the middle on budgets of time and money aren't well-suited for such places.

At any rate, the fun continued. We were told all rooms got room service--ours didn't. The "wonderful food" at eight on-site restaurants--not so much. Water sports whenever you like--not today, my friend. Sandals just kept finding ways to disappoint us, and that is troubling.

The one thing that lives up to its billing: "all-inclusive" drinks. Lots of drinks. Everywhere. Not bad.

For me, the coolest thing we did was probably the stupidest: we walked from the resort into the town of Ocho Rios. It was about a mile-and-a-half walk down one road, and we were looking for a shopping center that was in the middle of town that we had passed on the way in--the tourist spot, "duty-free". And, what an interesting walk it was! Once again, remember that Jamaica is a third-world country--surrounded by gorgeous scenery and very pricey resorts is the sort of abject poverty that we only hear about. Three times during the walk we were asked if we wanted "ganja" or "Bob Marley-weed"; the number of actual shacks that people lived in were beyond count; and the trash and human waste were in plain view. The wife, who lives a sheltered life, was stunned and terrified for most of the trip, and I have to admit it had me on alert he whole time.

But, oddly enough, I never--NEVER--felt as threatened to walk through this teeming, human tragedy as I would have felt walking through the inner cities of America. Either the people recognize that tourism is their country's only hope for a future, or the government has them so afraid of projecting crime to the outside world that they behave. Or, perhaps, the people are simply inclined in that direction--that that friendliness and laid-back attitude are incompatible with the sort of violence that is bred in America's inner cities.

At any rate, it was a very interesting trip into town, the mission was accomplished (the credit card is heavier), and both of us survived very nicely. Obviously.

So, if you really want to see Jamaica, have a vacation in a tropical paradise, here's my advice:

1. stay in Montego Bay--the less travelling you have to do, the better

2. give yourself that one extra day you don't think you can--you'll lose a day somewhere, so it's good to have an extra; and especially if your better half carries stress with them, get extra time (the shuttle ride itself is terrifying and probably cost my wife 6 hours of mental time)

3. shop around--Sandals gets all the pub, but there are some very nice looking resorts that aren't well known (some Spanish interests are developing some huge properties down there, especially Riu)

Back a regular bloggin routine tomorrow.


Thought for Tonight 

One word, Ma'am, one word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one more thing to be said even so. Suppose we HAVE only dreamed, or made up those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars [and crucifixions and resurrections]. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a great deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a [world] IS the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on [Christ's] side even if there isn't any [Christ] to lead it. I'm going to live as like a [Christian] as I can even if there isn't any [Heaven]. So, . . . we're setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the [Kingdom]. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say.

--Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle, from C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair

Happy Easter, All. He Is Risen, Indeed!

Theological, part II 

Last night I took a little excursion into theology; tonight, I will finish that excursion.

The world is a vastly more interesting place because God has chosen to spread his gifts into odd and unexpected places, which provides us with a constant source of surprise--it allows us to see the world as "new", if only we have the sense to look for it on occasion.

But, as Christ made all things new through his death and resurrection, so too are we called to make things new. No, not in the same way as Christ, but instead, by being a light in the world. And a light that should not be "hid under a basket," but to shine forth and bring others to God. It was not through pure chance that Paul Potts was able to make his gifts known--somebody provided that opportunity for him, and his passion made it possible. Whether that person (perhaps Simon Cowell?) made that opportunity for a God-centered reason, of whether it was simply their pursuit of commercial gain which God made "new" by placing Paul Potts in that moment is irrelevant--the beauty shone forth regardless.

We are all capable of similar things. Whether it is the simple kindness of helping someone we see in need, or the greater things like providing forums for our talents to shine out, or whether it is in the great efforts of vast ministries to the poor and to soldiers returning to their homes. As during Christ's Passion, it does not need to be anyone "anointed" to do the deeds--simple people doing what must be done.

But, as Mark D. Roberts points out in this series, being a light is not always easy. Eleven of Christ's disciples ran from him; many who attempt to simply live their Faith face scorn and derision; and all over the world our brothers face far worse for merely gathering together and naming the Name of God. It is not a simple matter to let our light shine forth, as we are called to do.

But, as Pastor Roberts also points out, we actually have a very good reason to do just that:

Jesus has conquered the fallen world and is in the process of finishing up what His death and resurrection began. Not even death, however painful it might be, can steal away our hope.

There is no lasting sort of scorn that we can endure for God's sake, just as there is no lasting sort of glory to be had for successfully avoiding the same--this is all quite transitory. It will all go away before long, and we will be able to meet our Maker and be made truly "New" again for all eternity. The belief in God should give us a freedom to be honest and to be forthcoming and to be generous and to be merciful without ANY thought of what the world thinks.

What a cool idea.

My father gave me a book to read a while ago called "The Fathers of the Church." In it were profiles (based on historical documents) of dozens of the early Saints of the Christian Church, and, in most cases, there was also included an excerpt of their writings. It is a fascinating book for those so inclined--the takeaway for me was that the survival of he Christian Church past the second century may be the greatest miracle of all time! At any rate, I was struck by the number of times the early Saints spoke of martyrdom in glowing, longing terms. We've become so used to, in these days, thinking of martyrdom as something preceded by a heinous murder via bomb vest that I think we forget how many of our forefathers (and sisters) were original martyrs in the real sense of sacrifice and persecution. They all had a sort of careless courage that came from believing with their whole hearts in the greater life to come.

So if great minds like those can have courage in the face of horrible death, what's a little disagreement to do to us these days?

This is a long-winded way of saying that, while I'm certain (as I said last night) that I would have been no different from the disciples on that particular night two centuries ago, perhaps it will suffice for me to uncover my light and illuminate the world in my small way today.

There are, by the way, implications in this for this puny little blog. More to follow in the days and weeks . . .


Going Theological On You Tonight . . . 

if I may.

[ed. note: yes, I'm straying afield tonight--out of both my normal schtick and, perhaps, well out of my comfort zone/area of expertise; as in all these writings, these are my view and should in no way be mistaken for doctrine. I do, however, invite and welcome comment and dialogue to further both my understanding and that of my readers]

Today is, of course, Good Friday in the tradition of most Western Christians. It is the beginning of the central event in the Faith of billions all over the world, an event that culminates in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning. Our family did our normal ritual tonight--church service followed by Easter egg coloring for the littler ones followed by a re-viewing of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ for the Mrs., me and our oldest.

And, as I was sitting watching Passion, a few things struck me. First, the horror that I felt the first three or four times has faded--I know the degree of violence and I know where its coming, so I can brace myself. But the more I watch, the more spiritually troubled I became. And not just for the obvious implications for my Faith.

I am shamed to admit that I think--I know--that were I confronted as Peter was, I would have likely denied my Lord; that is, if I had even had the courage to be on the scene to begin with--more likely, I would have run from the garden and gone into hiding like most of the twelve. How odd that the only followers of Christ that stayed with him through the ordeal were his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the disciple John (the Beloved)--how lonely it must have been, even though Jesus surely knew that that was what was coming.

And so--at least in the Gibson telling--all the compassionate moments and the small kindnesses and acts of courage fell to people on the "outside" who had been touched by Jesus. The wife of Pilate bringing towels to Mary, the young mother wiping his face and offering drink, Simon chasing away the rabble--whether or not these are "historically accurate" or not, the point made is that a light in the world will be reflected in sometimes surprising ways. Christ's impact came back to him, not through those closest to him, but through those once removed who recognized him for what he was.

I also am amazed every time I watch it at the courage or devotion or . . . whatever . . . that His parents show in this ordeal. As a father, there is NOTHING that I wouldn't do to protect my children, and yet God--knowing full well the horror of a Roman crucifixion--submitted his Son to all of the hideous detail of it; Mary, though warned "a sword will pierce," still acted throughout what we know of her life with the utmost humility in Faith to God. I don't think I ever quite appreciated the power of Christ's death until I was a dad, and could look at it as not just Jesus' sacrifice, but a great and unmatchable gift from God, the Father, with the help of His handmaiden, Mary.

And, so, I find as I watch it that the moments that bring tears are not the horrific ones, but the small ones. And one of my favorites--perhaps the signature moment of the movie for me--is when Mary runs to Jesus as he falls on the path, simultaneously reliving a scene from His very human childhood, to touch His face and be told "See, mother, I make all things new."

And as you're contemplating "new," in this context, I recommend IN THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS that you hit this link and watch this video. If you've never seen it before, sit back, turn up the sound and let it wash over you.

God gives gifts in sometimes strange and enigmatic ways--and, in so doing, makes the world a vastly more interesting place. In effect, He is constantly making "all things new," if you're just willing to look for it a little.

What that means in the "real world" tomorrow, with an emphasis on courage and being a light.


Good Television 

Do yourself a favor: find a way to get HBO on your television for the next several weeks so you can watch he miniseries John Adams. I watched the first episode tonight, and was absolutely rapt. The cast is stellar, the story is well-told, based on McCollough's book, and, of course, the story is one of the greatest histories ever.

And, as an aside, listning to the debates leading up the the Declaration of Independence, I was struck by how giant the founders of this country were.

And how small we have become.

Legislators Looking To Phase Out CSAP 

This was inevitable in the face of a Democratic legislature. And, actually, it may not be a bad thing.

East High School students loathe the CSAP, the state's annual standardized test, because there is no incentive to do well, said Gracie McGuire, a junior at the Denver school. . . .

Two Democratic lawmakers on Sunday proposed a solution to the student apathy that they say has led to inaccurate and stagnant test scores: Do away with the hated exams in high schools.

Instead, juniors would continue to take one test they care about — the ACT — and the estimated $9 million savings from issuing fewer exams would fund after-school and teacher-enrichment programs, under a bill co-authored by Rep. Judith Solano, D-Brighton.

I think Gracie McGuire has nailed the essential problem with the CSAP right on the head: There IS no incentive. And when you force a 12- to 18-hour test on students with no reason for them to care about the outcome, you're really just wasting 12 to 18 hours of instructional time.

But the miseducation about the purpose of the test itself is staggering. I don't have a link, but I remember hearing a different Democratic legislator over the weekend commenting that "the CSAP has FAILED make our students better." Well, here's the thing: tests are measures, NOT strategies. Anybody foolish enough to look for a test to increase achievement is barking up the wrong tree.

Tests measure the results of all the other strategies you employ--if the "test is failing", then what you actually have is an indication of massive failures elsewhere.

It's encouraging that some people are smart enough to see a foolish idea where it exists; but until we can all start looking at what things ACTUALLY are and what they are ACTUALLY expected to accomplish, then we're just chasing our tails.


Obama: We're Starting To See A Pattern Here 

I am not, generally speaking, a big believer in "guilt by association." I think we all have friends and associates of whom we are not always treendously proud. Just ask my wife--she'll list several of my friends in that category.

The thing is, there seems to be a bit of a trend with Sen. Obama:

:his wife, who has, apparently, never been proud of her country until the last six months, even though she somehow managed to claw her way up through Yale and Harvard Law (or something like that) and a nearly-$1 million earned income last year, and even though in her lifetime this country created the pressure that ende apartheid in South Africa, ended the tyranny of communism throughout Eastern Europe, and freed an ally--Kuwait--from the invasion of a megalomaniacal dictator.

:his closest business associate and campaign supporter, the infamous Rezko, who is now under indictment for a variety of financial misdealings, some which may have involved the Senator.

:his twenty-year pastor and "spiritual advisor", Rev. Wright, who believes G#*damn, America, that 9-11 was just "chickens coming home to roost," and thinks Hillary is unqualified because she's never been "A poor black man growing up in a country run by rich white folks." As if she can control that.

These are three people in the Senator's inner-inner circle who have various degrees of criminal and/or anti-American beliefs that they seem unabashed to express. That's a pattern, and, to some degree, you MUST be judged by the company you keep.

But, more importantly, for the candidate whose entire schtick is "a different way" and "hope" and "change", he seems to have been remarkably unsuccessful at influencing those closest to him to walk the walk of the message he's selling. If "hope" were really the big thing, then his wife would have been able to recognize that this country has actually been fairly good to her, his spiritual advisor would stop carrying around the baggage of his ancestors and see that there are opportunities for the "poor black man" who works hard and stays on track; and if "a different way" were a good thing, his closest business associate wouldn't stink of back-room Chicago politics.

So, Senator, how are we to evaluate your message in light of the recent revelations about your closest associates?


Just One Comment on Elliot Spitzer 

Okay, probably two.

First, the real crime which this man could not survive was hypocricy. When Bill Clinton was elected, everybody kind of suspected (ahem) he was a slimeball philanderer, but we, as a country, looked past that to elect him. And then again to keep him in office after impeachment.

Elliot Spitzer probably could have survived this crisis, if we all kinda knew he was a flawed person to begin with. But this guy projected squeeky-clean--it was practically his only campaign argument. And he'd made such a name for himself fighting organized crime and corruption that the hypocricy was so thick it had to be brushed away with a fan.

And, secondly, I'm actually REALLY surprised that he did choose to step down. Given what we know about this man's ego and aggressive style, I was almost certain he would be the man to challenge a prostitution bust under Lawrence.

(For those who don't remember the specifics of Justice Kennedy's ruling, let me remind you of this one snippet:

“This, as a general rule, should counsel against attempts by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship or to set its boundaries. . . It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives . . ."

Clearly, the court has no business setting a boundary on a relationship based solely on the commercial aspect of said relationship).

But, since he's going to end his political career on this one, I guess we'll have to continue waiting for that particular case.


Memo To Cara DeGette: Return To Logic Class 

Your writing is without a point.

Cara DeGette at Colorado Confidential has written an "expose" on the issues stances Bob Schaffer took when he was a congressman. She highlights these points without comment:

• "Republicans defend gun rights. Democrats point guns at 6-year-old Cuban kids."
• "Republicans defend religious freedom. Democrats incinerate religious zealots and their children."
• "Republicans enjoy free speech. Democrats enjoy desecrating the Virgin Mary's image at public expense."
• "Republicans are for a clean government. Democrats set big forest fires in New Mexico."

Now, I suppose in the circles DeGette runs in, these are all code for nefarious and evil intent on the part of Schaffer. Perhaps it is merely understood, in the same way that some people can tell just the punchline of a joke and elicit a chuckle from their friends.

But if this is meant to be at all persuasive of the general public, I'd have to say it seems to . . .well, lack a certain something. What is it that I'm searching for ? A word, an idea . . . .Oh, yeah

SHE HAS NO ARGUMENT for any of these.

Does Schaffer support gun rights? Yes, and more power to him, especially after what we've learned earlier this year from New Life. Do Dems point guns at 6 year olds? Anybody remember Elian Gonzalez? Sure, take a kid who has a relative to live with and who is already on our property, remove him at gunpoint to ship him back to the land of one of the worst dictators left in the world, but let's welcome all those people who travel here without anywhere to go or anyone to be with from our "friends" to the south.

DeGette clearly forgot to include on her list that Republicans still have a sense of irony.

Religious freedom? While I might have worded this one differently than Schaffer did, clearly Republicans are the more apt to let people of ALL faiths speak their mind in the public square, while Dems are more inclined to censor any speech that's not "inclusive" enough. And, let's not forget the Branch Davidians, who, while insane and problematic, probably didn't pose enough of a threat to the general public to warrant their termination.

Free speech? Schaffer probably had a better argument here before McCain/Feingold, but I think the point is clear. We respect and defend free speech because it contributes to the public discourse and the political life of the country; Democrats want to discourage open and free political debate while creating forums and using National Endowment for the Arts money to be as vulgar and offensive as they can.

And, lastly, I think it's pretty tough to say anybody is "for" clean government these days. But when you consider that William Jefferson is still in the House, and a part of the leadership, I guess you have to pin that tail on the donkey.

But, again, what's most laughable is the complete lack of an argument from DeGette. Maybe it no longer matters in the Democratic world to actually articulate your points and defend them with reason--certainly, Barack Obama seems content not to actually make an argument about anything.

But if this "professional" is to be the standard of argument we should expect from the Udall campaign, then I feel better about Schaffer's chances.

In the meantime, DeGette should try to get some editorial assistance. Or, at least a friend willing to say to her "Yeah. And?"

Sometimes We're So Stupid I Could Just Scream, part II 

Back in August I wrote about this stupidity:

To help increase opportunities for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, Miami- Dade County public schools last year began testing all 23,000 first-graders using a culture-neutral, language-free assessment that requires no reading, writing or speaking.

I guess somebody in Denver Public Schools saw this story, also; the difference is that they actually thought something like this was a GOOD idea.

More minority and poor students in Denver are being classified as highly gifted under a new system that gives extra credit to children who are economically disadvantaged or nonnative English speakers.

The "surprising" result?

. . . a student who scores as low as the 75th percentile on cognitive tests could be considered, Howard said. Previously, that child would not have been admitted.

What was that line from "The Incredibles"? When everybody is super, then NOBODY is super?
Clearly that's what DPS is going for here, though accidentally.

Here's a thought: if we want racial equity in the gifted program, simply set the percentage in the program based on the percentages in the school general population, then test everyone in the same old way, and simply skim off the right nombers to make it work.

OH, NO . . . .WAIT!! Then you will get gifted classes where, in some cases, the "gifts" of the minorities are more than one standard deviation down from the "gifts" of the whites. Believe me, when you're talking about something like this, the students know when there's a dsignificant difference like that.

Here's whay I don't understand: WHY don't minority activists become troubled and offended that every time they want more equitable distribution, the only way they can achieve it is by lowering the standards? To my mind, stop getting mad at the results, and start getting mad at the system that produces those results!! DEMAND that the school system alter its way of doing business to produce better results for you. And stop giving reflexive support to the forces of inertia within the system, like the unions and their political stooges, and start supporting people who are trying to do things differently and getting results.

Hat tip to Denise for bringing this to my attention; and big Kudos to KDeRosa for doing the really hard work on this story.


This is At Least An Attempt At REAL Education Reform 

In case you missed this, from last week's NewYorkTimes:

A New York City charter school set to open in 2009 in Washington Heights will test one of the most fundamental questions in education: Whether significantly higher pay for teachers is the key to improving schools.

The school, which will run from fifth to eighth grades, is promising to pay teachers $125,000, plus a potential bonus based on schoolwide performance. That is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns, roughly two and a half times the national average teacher salary and higher than the base salary of all but the most senior teachers in the most generous districts nationwide.

And, of course, real ambitious reform comes from the charter school realm.

But, more interestingly, this could spark some of the most clear-headed educational discussion in the last forty years. IF this school, which will primarily serve low-income, at-risk students, shows remarkable success, then suddenly the argument that higher teacher pay has an impact on performance is almost irrefutable.

On the other hand, it also begs for the argument to be made that the market has to start dictating teacher pay. This school is willing to pay heftily for their teachers, but they're only going to hire teachers with a proven track record of success. So, if the school doesn't have really strong candidates, will it lower its pay structure?

Anybody out there in the real world is probably saying "duh. of course it will." But that sort of thinking is anathema to the teachers' unions--their brand of collectivism dictates that everybody gets the same pay based on non-performance issues like education and survival rate.

If this experiment works, you would have to picture a day when principals are given a certain budget for personnel, and then they can hire whoever they want within their salary cap. It would give principals and schools the freedom to decide just what sort of school they want to be, based on their hiring practices. And that COULD be a very good thing.


Testing Reform On The Way . . . in 2011??? 

In case you missed this yesterday:

A bipartisan coalition of legislators is ready to dump the once-a-year CSAP in favor of end-of-course tests more closely tied to curriculum and college-entrance requirements.

"We're in a new century, and it's time for our thinking to evolve," said Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Genesee. "This could be the end of CSAP and the beginning of something much better. It really is an evolution."

If Witwer really wants to move to something different, he should have no lack of allies on the other side of the aisle--Big Education and their Democratic puppets have long been virulently opposed to the CSAP.

For that matter, I have written frequently about my issues with the CSAP, here, here, and here., just to mention a few.

IF Witwer can get the Democrats to agree to meaninful reform that provides for accountability on all levels, then this could be a very good thing. And it sounds as if that is what he's aiming for:

Some lawmakers are eyeing the ACT, typically taken in 11th and 12th grades and used by college admissions offices. The company also makes tests for eighth, ninth and 10th grades, showing students if they're on track to get into college.

Why do I like this? Because the ACT has some accountability--student performance on the ACT is a part of college admissions, so its completion would be meaningful.

Now, as long as nobody listens to Mike Merrifield . . . .

The former music teacher is pushing for flexibility in the initiative — what he calls "a smorgasbord of options" from which districts could choose.

He prefers evaluations, like a panel of teachers rating a musical performance, writing samples or even the way a student solved math problems.

It's thinking like that that got us saddled with the CSAP to begin with.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like anything is likely to happen any time soon

The state's $16 million annual contract for CSAP expires in 2011.

A lot can happen in three years. Whatever reform comes through this year will probably change by 2011, anyway.


Brilliant Strategery?? 

About four weeks ago I wrote this:

Now a confidential memo to one of their advisers suggests that it would take contributions of nearly $12 million to finance independent political groups trying to influence the outcome of the presidential, U.S. Senate and 4th Congressional District races.

Yep, you read that right: TWELVE frickin' MILLION dollars!

That's enough to even choke up me, and I watch politics pretty closely. $12 million shouldn't sound like a lot of money to political watchers, but when you're on the other side of that $12 million, it seems like a WHOLE LOT of money.

Note that phrase "confidential memo." Why would an internal, speculative memo between a couple operatives make it into the light of day to be reported by mainstream media?

And, then I remember Clausewitz. Overwhelming force. And then I remember Sun Tzu. All warfare is deception.

If I didn't have the money to fund an overwhelming campaign, but wanted the other side to think I did, what would I do? And what would I expect to be the response?

In the face of an "overwhelming campaign," isn't it logical that candidate recruitment might be depressed on the other side? Perhaps that explains my previous post.

On the other hand, maybe Tim Gill and Pat Stryker really have the $12 million, but now they can concentrate it more narrowly to accomplish their ends.

Great. Either way, it feels like our side got out-maneuvered.

Luckily, we still have better ideas and good candidates. We're just going to have to work it, and work it hard.


Report from the Jefferson County Assembly 

I spent the morning with several (SEVERAL) hundred of my closest friends today at my County Republican Assembly/Convention. If you'v never been to one, I recommend it--sure, it's an anachronism from our caucus process history, but it does give the party a chance to bring activists and candidates and workers together to get some direction and, hopefully, some motivation.

And, as far as that goes, I thought it was a pretty successful morning. Bob Schaffer gave a very good, if slightly truncated, speech (I think he had a few other assemblies to get to); he comes off as very personable, very smart, and good on his feet--all of which will come in handy when he has to go against Mark Udall (who is none of those things). And several of the other andidates gave good speeches, though it was mostly standard, red-meat Republican schtick. One candidate did stick out for his humor and his immediate connection to the crowd, and that was John Bodnar, candidate for House 27.

(Full disclosure: this writer is working with the Bodnar campaign; nonetheless, he got up to the microphone and improvised a whole two-minute speech, extolling the virtues of other candidates while poking fun at himself for his nerves, with a nifty segue to hitting his opponent).

But one of his lines became the theme for the day. He said "Four weeks ago I attended my first caucus; in fact, I wasn't even worthy of being a full delegate (as he held up his "alternate" name badge); today, I'm a candidate."

One candidate for a state house race was recruited just this morning; there is still at least one state house district without a Republican candidate; one state Senate district is without a candidate; and the candidate for the 7th Congressional seat (currently held by Ed Perlmutter) described himself as a "sacrificial lamb."

For the record, DC7 was drawn by a judge specifically to be a competitive seat and Perlmutter is a one-term incumbent who is startlingly weak--THERE SHOULD BE NO REPUBLICAN SACRIFICIAL LAMBS!!!

The point is, the Republican party has an odd situation on their hands: it is wonderful to see new faces, get new perspectives and new energy, and it feels like a period of renewal; on the other hand, the lack of candidates, much less experienced candidates, can only be described as disturbing. I'm not sure what to make of this, or if there's anything at all to be gained by trying to figure out WHY we're in this situation right now.

But, more importantly, we need to figure out where to go from here. I don't know if Dick Wadhams has "Build the Bench" high on his list of priorities, but it seems like that's something that's been too neglected for too many years, and I certainly hope the entire GOP establishment recognizes this and gets to work on it.

Then there needs to be a concerted effort to communicate the message more effectively. This blog, and the other Alliance blogs (see blogroll over to the right), certainly attempt to communicate those arguments, but I'm afraid the message isn't quite breaking through.

At any rate, I want to encourage everybody out there to find the name of your local candidates and GET INVOLVED. This election will turn on the energy and the enthusiasm of the people who want it more. The other side has the money--we're gonna need something more.


Improbable Story Line? 

Imagine this: an established figure in the Democratic Party in a primary battle with an attractive, eloquent upstart; that battle, improbably, goes all the way to a brokered convention.

In the meantime, a very senior member of the Republican Senate--who has a history of going against some of the core tenets of the Party--wraps up his primary battle early and starts o establish a presence in all fifty states for the Fall campaign. Early appraisals look like it could be a 45-50 state victory. Knowing the importance of keeping the base, the candidate chooses a young ,attractive, unimpeachably conservative southern governor for his running mate.

You think this primary season is too improbable to believe? Has the word "inconceivable" been uttered by enough pundits yet?

Then give a shout out to the prescient powers of Tommy Schlamme and the other powers-that-be in charge of season 7 of "The West Wing." This is almost exactly the scenario they built that season around, right down to the running mate (wonder why Mark Sanford's name is part of the discourse now?)

Oh, and, if you were wondering how it ended . . . The Republican was headed for a 5-8 point victory, until with three weeks left an "Act of God" (a meltdown at a nuclear plant) throws the whole campaign on its head. In the end the Democrat won.

It was "The West Wing," after all.


Ritter's Education "Reform" a Bit Too "Un"Formed 

Gov. Bill Ritter's proposal to overhaul the public school system is meeting with cautious support among education groups.

But education leaders said the hard part will be filling in details of the sketchy plan, which Ritter and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, have termed "revolutionary."

"Sketchy" plan? Doesn't that sound a little bit like a "Dangerous Scheme?"

Here's my problem with this: NOBODY knows what is in this plan. Even the educators who are being asked to "give input" aren't sure what this plan actually is.

"There's not a lot of clarity about what teachers need, what principals need in terms of training and professional development and resources to complete the revolution," said Bruce Caughey, deputy director of the Colorado Association of School Executives,

But, thank God, there's a solution: ANOTHER panel (though nobody's attached "Blue Ribbon" to it yet).

Under the bill, an 11-member "preschool to postsecondary alignment council" will devise a definition of readiness for either college or the work force.

Whew. So at least we got that going for us.

So let me get this straight: the Governor has started circulating, in effect, a blank piece of paper to education advocacy groups (I'm an educator, and I haven't seen this, so I'm thinking it's only going out to unions) which will create a panel which will define one word from which new education policy will flow.

Does anybody else see a problem with this?

In principle, I like the idea: schools should start to recognize that not all kids are college bound, and should start preparing them accordingly. Also, the bill's co-sponsor is Josh Penry (R), who has never yet given me reason to doubt his fealty to conservative ideas.

But when your first, mostly empty draft is distributed to the unions first, I think you're bound to end up with something that STOPS resembling reform and starts resembling job protection. And besides, since when did it make sense to ask people who have never been without a ten-week summer vacation what sort of skills people need in the "real world?"

When you ask people who work in schools what kids need to know, you get school kinds of answers," Wilensky said.

"That's not what we want to make as the universal standard for everybody, because most people aren't going to work in schools. So what is it you need to know in real life?" Wilensky said.



One More Democratic Payoff 

[hat tip Colorado Senate News]

A Democrat bid to raise the stakes in lawsuits against physicians squeaked through the Senate today by one vote despite objections from Republicans--and even a dissenting Democrat--that it would drive up health care costs and drive docs out of rural Colorado.

Republicans are calling Senate Bill 164 "payback" to the trial-lawyers lobby, a key Democrat ally, because it hikes statutory caps on lawsuits to the benefit of lawyers--at doctors' expense. Doctors credit the caps under the current law with reining in their liability insurance rates so they can afford to continue practicing medicine.

Shawn Mitchell (R) estimated in debate that this bill would quadruple the damages plaintiffs could recover from doctors.


But it begs the question: if (when) the Democrats slam through some version of single-payer in Colorado over the next couple years, what's going to happen to all the doctors/ liabilities? Will the single-payer program have caps on damages, as it also has caps on fees and salaries?

If it doesn't, then the Dems are managing to destroy our health care system much faster. Look at it from the doc's perspective: higher liabilities, which means higher insurance, while being dependent on an inefficient government body for payment, which also limts the amount of payments possible. Wonder how hard it is to transfer a medical license to Wyoming?

And if it does cap damages, then clearly this is nothing more than a Democrat attempt to get a little something to their primary constituency--the trial lawyers--under the wire.

Now taking over/under bets on the amount of time its going to take Colorado to recognize what a FUBAR the Democrats are making of health care. Current line is 4 years.

Thank You, Hillary 

In her desperation, Hillary has run the one ad that John McCain should have run in the Fall campaign, but probably wouldn't have been able to.

It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?”

The media was already likening this ad to the Goldwater playground ad from '64 and the Reagan "Bear" ad for its incendiary nature. The beauty part is that this ad was from a Democrat against Obama. Which means that, while it probably won't earn her many votes in Tuesday's primaries, that very ad is on the airwaves where Independents and Republicans are watching it, answering the question for themselves.

And, I suspect, their answers are a wee bit different than the ad would like them to be.

John McCain could never get away with running this ad himself. What's more, John McCain probably WOULD never run this ad--while he's very comfortable going after Mitt Romney and other Republicans on military credentials, he's much more likely to be colleagial with a Democratic opponent.

So, in the end, Hillary has done for voters something vitally important that was highly unlikely to happen otherwise. Way to go, Hill. Desparation becomes you.

Not Just The "Professionals" Who Are Dangerous 

Prince Harry has been serving on the front line in Afghanistan with the British Army, calling in airstrikes on Taliban positions and going out on foot patrols, the Ministry of Defense announced today. . . .

"The planned deployment had been disclosed to reporters, with no specific date, and was not reported previously under a pool agreement between the Ministry of Defense and all major news organizations operating in Britain, including The Associated Press. The news blackout was intended to reduce the risk to the prince and his regiment.

The news embargo was broken, however, after reports of the prince's deployment were leaked by an Australian magazine and a German newspaper, and then reported on a U.S. Web site, the Drudge Report.

One wonders which was the camel that broke the prince's back: the magazines or Drudge. In either event, this good and honorable service was cut short by irresponsible SELF-service by various media.

The good news, I suppose, was that the notoriously tabloid British "professional" journalists managed to kep the secret safe for ten weeks, which, presumaby, means at least a few of their American colleagues also kept it secret.

It's just sad that the others couldn't. What does it say for those of us who have been highly critical of the American "professionals" that Drudge couldn't even keep a secret that they had? The magazines we have no control over, but conservatives who value military service should repudiate Drudge for running this story. Sure, it had already broken--but one of the favorite "news" sources for conservatives should recognize that he DOES NOT have to be a party to operational leaks.

And, by extension, we out here in the 'sphere DO NOT have to be a party to such actions, either.

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