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


A Caution 

I'm as pleased as the next guy that a Court denied Gov. Ritter his tax "freeze" money grab.

BUT . . .

This is the sort of issue that is tailor-made to a 527 attack on the Independence Institute, conservatives, and the Republican Party.

Imagine: "Some far-right interest groups filed a lawsuit against the Democrats' real attempt at improving the state's school-finance situation, and the result is that $117 million is being taken away from kids. Call your Republican legislator and ask them to please give the money back to the kids" [all while staring at a picture of a classroom with only 3 ratty old textbooks]

You all know how the game is played--I fully expect to see this ad on the air in October.

Now, any body want a nickel's worth of free advice?

Republicans MUST NOT go out in public and seem too giddy about this. They should talk about checks and balances, and limiting the governor's ability to act unilaterally, and the majority's clear disregard for the Constitution.

But if they seem like they're just glad to have the money taken back by the general public, it'll be a lot harder to convince the electorate that it's not about handicapping the schools. We've seen the Dems win with just such arguments, before--and this time they have Douglas Bruce in the legislature as a target for their ire.

Republicans have to Jiu-Jitsu this and start talking about school innovations, about schools that are succeeding very nicely on the old budget, about New York and Washington schools that get almost twice as much money but are miserable failures, and about how the Dems have voted to remove accountability while turning over more money to schools and a system that is not showing any results. If we get bogged down strictly on the issue of money for the schools, we lose; if we can turn it into a discussion of genuine education reform, I think we can hold our ground on this issue.

Oh, and, it would help to have those ideas out in front of the press and public by Labor Day.

Ritter's Money Grab Gets Shut Down 

A Judge in Denver has ruled unconstitutional Gov. Ritter's "freezing" of property tax valuations as a violation of the Constitutional Amendment known as TABOR.

For the reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that SB-199 is
unconstitutional, as measured by the standards of TABOR. Accordingly, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiffs’ request for Declaratory Judgment on this issue, and enters this Order
finding that SB-199 is unconstitutional. . . .

Further, due in large part to the express statement contained in TABOR § (1),
which mandates that these enforcement actions “shall have the highest civil priority of
resolution”, this Court hereby determines that there is no just reason for delay of entry of
Judgment and directs entry of JUDGMENT . . .

Remarkably, the Court itself gave the reason for its judgment:

However well-intentioned and commendable the purpose and consequences of SB-199, this Court must be concerned only with enforcement of the Colorado Constitution. While this Court candidly expresses its concern as to the resulting consequences of this decision, it must nonetheless perform its duties in a manner consistent with its oath to uphold the Constitution.

Imagine that.

Then try to imagine a world in which that last sentence is unnecessary, because it is taken for granted that a judge would "perform its duties" in a Constitutional Manner.

Be warned: this is only round one.

Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said the state will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court and also ask for a stay of the ruling, so that the state can continue to collect revenue from the mill levy freeze in the next fiscal year.

"It's not a surprise," Dreyer said. "We knew all along that this was going to be decided by the Supreme Court regardless of what happened at the district court level."

Just round 1. But, at least, our side--the small government side--won.

I would expect the CO Supremes to find in the public school section of the Constitution ample justification for overturning this judgment. Something about "compelling interests" and so forth.

Just a guess.


Quick Hits 

--Scott McClellan Wrote A Book

I hear the working subtitle, scrapped at the last minute, was "These Guys Wouldn't Listen To Me, Either."

Seriously, though, is there any spectacle more predictable or depressing than watching mediocrities make last, desparate grasps for media love at the expense of the people who put them in the positions that they so did not deserve? McClellan was a bad PS, the Left mocked him and regularly tied him in knots, and he may almost single-handedly be the face and reason for the collapse of the Republican Party.

But, by all means, come back to the limelight to stab your boss and friend in the back one more time.

--Colorado Charter School One of Nation's Best Schools (courtesy Denise)

Peak to Peak High School is a Newsweek Top 100 High School, ranking as the 40th best high school in the nation out of 27,000 public high schools. Peak to Peak is the only Colorado school to rank in the top 100. This follows Peak to Peak High School’s ranking by U.S. News & World Report as a 2008 Gold Medal School, ranked 47th in the nation, and 5280 magazine as the best high school in the seven-county Denver metro area.

--If It Walks With The Ducks, and Eats With The Ducks, and Funnels Money To The Ducks . . .

. . . is it safe to assume that he's a Radical, too?

[Their relationship spans decades. Pfleger has given money to Obama's campaigns and Obama as a state legislator directed at least $225,000 towards social programs at St. Sabina's, according to the Chicago Tribune. ]

Add Pfleger to the list of friends that Obama has to disown that includes Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn and Tony Rezko.

--At Some Point, It's Not A Bad Stretch--You're Just A Bad Team

The Rockies--the National League Champion Colorado Rockies--are going through a bit of a tough stretch.

To say the least.

Sure, they have three starters on the DL, but . . . when your batting average with runners in scoring position is hovering just above the Mendoza Line and your bullpen ERA is in double digits, that's not just bad luck. That's bad baseball.

And we here in Colorado know bad baseball when we see it, last September notwithstanding.


So, What Was That Theory About The Sun Having Something To Do With Global Warming? 

Just two little pieces of heresy, neither of which are brand new, but which just came to my attention today courtesy Glenn Beck.

Scientist: Melting Martian Ice Caps Prove Solar Cause of Global Warming

Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Want to have some REAL fun? Try this one out on your lefty friends:

"The solar irradiance began to drop in the 1990s, and a minimum will be reached by approximately 2040," Abdussamatov said. "It will cause a steep cooling of the climate on Earth in 15 to 20 years."

And, then there's this:

Hubble Shows Storms On Jupiter Growing More Violent, Too

Hubble has sent back the clearest pictures yet of Jupiter's new red spot. . . .

The newly released images may give weight to the idea that Jupiter is in the middle of significant climate change. Temperatures at some latitudes could be changing by over 5°C, scientists suggest.

Another link to climate is that Red Spot Jr is forming at a latitude of 34° south. Theory has it that this is the where the transfer of heat from the equator to the pole grinds to a halt.

Now, what IN THE WORLD could possibly account for simultaneous climate change on the third, fourth, AND fifth planets of the same solar system? Thinking, thinking . . . could be . .no, not that . . . maybe . . . .

THAT'S IT!!! The hole in the ozone layer of the earth allowed so much "Earthiness" to escape that we have infected Mars and Jupiter, as well. Not only do we have to protect the flourishing polar bears from our own activities now--apparently somebody should go try to block the earth's influence from our two fellow-planets.

May I suggest Jimmy Carter?


Watch the Coverage of Udall Today 

Our Green Man-Who-Would-Be-Senator kicks off his campaign for Senate today.

I know . . . I was pretty sure he's been running for months, too.

At any rate, here's his itinerary:

745 Colorado Springs
1015 Gunnison
1230 Grand Junction
300p Craig
530p Denver

Hey, look--candidates can do whatever they feel is necessary to win the office they seek. But THIS candidate--this particular candidate--should really be aware of the carbon footprints he's spraying around the state during the campaign.

Somebody might think to call him a hypocrite.

I wonder if he's going to fly over the Roan Plateau on his way around the state, burning up hundreds of gallons of foreign oil?


In Memoriam 

. . . in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain . . .

Words specifically composed for one battleground resonate for all of the men and women of all of the battlegrounds Americans have fought on. We here in these latter days stand on the shoulders of giants, and hope--pray--that we are able to forge a link to their greatness.

Let us not forget.


Our Hunt For A New School 

Indulge me. I write the following post because I think it might be useful for others to see the thought process we went through. If not, so be it . . .

My family has chosen to move our children out of our home school. This is not an easy decision, and it has been growing on us for several years. Finally, though, after a year of our 12-year old being absolutely miserable, combined with seeing some of the work one of our 6-year old's peers produced from a local charter school, we decided to look around, and finally act.

When I say this decision has been growing on us for years, it really started three years ago when our oldest came home every night with two hours worth of homework--most of which was not covered or explained at school. I don't mind the homework--I do mind being expected to do the teachers' job at home.

There's a difference between helping with homework and actually being the teacher.

Then this year she starts to experience bullying--not the violent, physical bullying of boys, but the petty, socially stigmatizing, and spirit-killing subtle bullying of girls. At some point, we asked a few other parents about their experience, and we heard the same story often enough to make us believe that the sort of girl cannibalism I wrote about the last two nights was an integral part of the culture of our particular school. It was more than just one bad group of girls--it was the sort of value system that forms indelibly within any society given enough time.

It was only after this sort of consideration that we even looked at the school's record of test scores. What we found was the last two cohort groups to go through our home school had started with extraordinary scores--but that they had shown the sort of drop that is, unfortunately, common in the public schools. The raw numbers are these:

Class of 2008 (Scores available only for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades)
Reading: 3rd--89 4th--88 5th--86
Math: 3rd--88 4th--86 5th--76
Writing: 3rd--87 4th--75 5th--80

Class of 2007 (Scores for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades)
Reading: 4th-- 73 5th--82 6th--85
Math: 4th-- 80 5th--80 6th--75
Writing: 4th--69 5th--76 6th--67

Really, these scores are not at all bad. And, compared to many, if not most, schools around the area, they are pretty good. Over the three year period, fairly small dips in performance.

So we compared those to the local charter school, the one whose 6-year old students' performance impressed us, and these were the scores:

Class of 2008 (Scores available only for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades)
Reading: 3rd--59 4th--65 5th--54
Math: 3rd--73 4th--69 5th--58
Writing: 3rd--41 4th--48 5th--38

NOT terribly impressive. And, while I know (I KNOW BETTER THAN ANYBODY) that test scores are NOT everything, they are something. And since this particular charter school is a Core Knowledge school, which prides itself on its academic rigor, I would expect their scores to improve over time, not showing the same dip as the regular public school. And, unfortunately, when we took into consideration that there is no music program, and that the specials program is . . .unimpressive . . . then it became clear that this charter school was inadequate to our needs.

So then we looked at another local public school:

Class of 2008 (Scores available only for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades)
Reading: 3rd--82 4th--70 5th--84
Math: 3rd--63 4th--71 5th--85
Writing: 3rd--70 4th--61 5th--78

Class of 2007 (Scores available only for 4th, 5th and 6th grades)
Reading: 4th--68 5th--83 6th--85
Math: 4th--76 5th--87 6th--85
Writing: 4th--59 5th--79 6th--79

See that? Actual IMPROVEMENT over time; in every subject, both cohort groups improved over the three year span. Then we looked at the other important factors: this school has the greatest participation and achievement of any school in the area in band and orchestra, and it has a specials team that is unmatched. This was easy.

I know many people find other reasons to put their children in charter schools. But, using the criteria we adapted, it was clear that the second public school was superior to both our home school AND the local charter school.

We feel fortunate to have been accepted on open enrollment to the other school. Like I said, it was not an easy choice, as we have formed friendships within our home school community that we value, and we really have liked many of the teachers we've come into contact with.

But a school's culture is an immeasurable and priceless component of the school experience. We wish a culture of excellence and mutual benefit were the norm; but wishes don't make it so.

And as long as there is choice in the public schools, we will pursue the best choice for our family.

Teachers' Unions Throwing Up More Barriers To Meaningful Reform 

I have long held that one of the greatest impediments to education reform is the teachers unions.

And let me--again--emphasize UNIONS. Teachers are usually too busy working to make bonehead decisions like this one. Only the Big Education interests that run the Unions would make a dumb choice like this.

Denver Public Schools is eager to offer the largest annual pay increase in memory to its classroom teachers - one of its proposals would hike base salaries an average of 7.7 percent.

There's more. With incentives available through the ProComp performance-pay system, average salaries, the district calculates, would rise by a jaw-dropping 18 percent.

Given the slumping economy, stagnating wages in the private sector and the fact that salaries at other local school districts may not keep pace with inflation, you'd think the Denver Classroom Teachers Association would be all over the offer. Instead, the union has flatly rejected it.

The problem seems to be that the union wants more money directed to the older teachers, with an even distribution of money, while the district wants to dedicate more money to younger teachers and to teachers willing to take on difficult assignments, along with the pay-for-performance program that's already in place.

I agree with the Rocky's assessment:

We hope the district wins the support of rank-and- file teachers because its plan puts the welfare of students first. And it honors the wishes of residents who passed the ProComp mill-levy in 2005 and expected a system that rewards teachers who assume greater risks and accept tougher challenges.

This reminds me of how the JeffCo Teacher's Union held out for a few weeks last year when they had a 6.6% raise on the table because rookie teachers didn't have the same job permanence that tenured teachers enjoy.

Seriously, this is the sort of organization that Bill Ritter wants in the room to help solve the big education issues in the state? I find it laughable to think that any group so narrowly focused on their own well-being would have anything meaningful to add to the discussion of actually improving kids' lives.

But, that's part of the liberal pathology--the needs of the few outweigh the needs of anybody else.


Sympatico From Across The Sea 

So no sooner do I go on a tirade last night that includes this:

But, it turns out, I think the first round of "women's lib" was vastly more damaging to women than they even had it before. With sexual freedom came disease and a lack of commitment from men; with lack of commitment came greater poverty, as women get left with most of the responsibility for unwanted children; and so on, and so on . . . As women found their voice, I think it was increasingly raised in shrillness and childishness. "Women's liberation" became turning princesses into frogs, and that means there's a lot of princes stuck as frogs, also.

Then I see today, thanks to Katherine Jean Lopez, an article that includes this:

Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families.

and this:

My mother would always do what she wanted - for example taking off to Greece for two months in the summer, leaving me with relatives when I was a teenager. Is that independent, or just plain selfish?

I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill and the Brontes died prematurely. My mother had me - a 'delightful distraction', but a calamity nevertheless. I found that a huge shock and very upsetting.

According to the strident feminist ideology of the Seventies, women were sisters first, and my mother chose to see me as a sister rather than a daughter.

and this:

The ease with which people can get divorced these days doesn't take into account the toll on children. That's all part of the unfinished business of feminism. . . .

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating. . . .

I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

What's even more shocking is the author of this: Rebecca Walker, daughter of 60s feminist high priestess Alice Walker.

Now, while I wasn't writing specifically about feminism last night, this plays very much into what I was talking about. In a world where women want to compete and be strong, the poor relationships that have been molded by the first wave of feminism carry over to their daughters, who are unable to form good relationships with their peer group. The generations who have been removed from the culture of modesty, abstinence, and social skills fill the voids in their repertoire with slutiness, bitchiness, and shrillness.

Not a good trade.

This is not the world I want my girls to grow up in. But I know that, as much as I work to influence them in a better direction, they are likely to be either influenced by their peer group or cast out for their individuality. Either way will make for painful days coming over the next couple decades.

Unless the next generation begins to learn the power it could have.

And, by the way, guess who has the strongest influence on girls as they grow into adulthood?

Dads. And not just my thoughts--proven by actual scientists and stuff.

So, men--step up.

I love the irony of telling men to start working with their daughters to give them the influence that men ignore right now.

Why Women Should Rule The World, But Don't 

[Warning: diversion from normal subject matter]

Somebody should get a hold of every young woman when she is 10 to 12 years old, and work to convince her of one thing: she has ENORMOUS power, if she and all her friends are smart enough to wield it.

To begin my defense of this statement, I draw your attention to the fictional Greek comedy Lysistrata. In it, the title character, fed up with the men of Greece being off to the Peloponnesian War for so long, organizes all of the women of Greece to one purpose: end the war. How? you might ask; by withholding their "spousal duty" from the men. If memory serves, there comes a point where a few of the women go weak in the knees, but ultimately Lysistrata convinces them to hold firm. After a while, the men give up on war (for a variety of reasons) and return home to better behavior.

Warning: if you are tempted to go out and find this story, be aware that the Greeks were not particularly modest, especially in their comedic tastes. Subtlety was not a strong suit.

At any rate, I meditate on this story tonight because every day that I am in a school, or that I see a "reality show" with women, or that I think about the world my daughters are going to soon be ready to inherit, I grow increasingly angry and frustrated at the culture I see.

Women are cannibals. And it starts early, too--my pre-teen is experiencing some of that already. I don't know where it comes from, or why it exists, but there seems to be this odd dynamic among groups of women that discourages them from building each other up; or, more specifically, encourages them to tear each other down.

And the result seems to be the gradual collapse of the social order.

Let me propose a different idea. Imagine that every young woman in, say for instance, a school, decided that--together-they were not going to reward the boys for stupid or immature behavior. Suppose they could come up with, and stick to, a pact that no girl would go out with a boy who did not meet their standards of behavior.

Do you think the culture of the school might change?

I do.

There is no excuse for young boys to be able to treat young women as shabbily as they do, and yet, they do. Why? Well, poor upbringing, for one thing. But, for another thing, because young boys don't pay a price for being an idiot. "If Lisa won't go out with me when I refuse to walk with her to class, then I'll just go out with Erica. She'll be good to me, and I don't particularly have to do anything for her."

If Lisa, Jane, Alice, Julie and Sheryl refuse to date a guy who "cheated" on their friend, then that would be powerful; but if just one of them broke ranks because "he's cute," then the guy will always "cheat." That behavior which gets rewarded gets repeated.

But it's more than just that. Women--girls--have many of the same hopes and ambitions as men (boys) do, and are usually just as capable as their male counterparts of accomplishing anything. But, it seems to me, all too often, whenever a young lady attempts to step forward from the safe cluster of girlfriends to do something truly different, she has to deal with not only her own self-doubts (which boys deal with also), but she'll have her whole cluster behind her commenting on her hair, or her figure, or whether she thinks she's suddenly "too good" for them.

It's brutal, and its hard. And I think its a big part of why women--who tend to make up majorities--don't seem to have power in nearly the same proportion as their numbers.

Women need role models. And not just role models--like Oprah--of success; role models of how to build up other women and encourage each other to be strong and modest and well-treated. I sincerely believe the entire culture of our society could turn on a dime if women refused to be manipulated into thinking Heidi Klum has a normal body, or that having a man on your arm was a necessary precondition to happiness, or that every interaction with other women was a subtle battle for control.

I say this as a teacher, and as a father of daughters: women should rule the world. But as long as they--as any one of them in any given social group--are willing to hurt each other, then they will not.

Is what I am encouraging "women's lib?" Yes. But, it turns out, I think the first round of "women's lib" was vastly more damaging to women than they even had it before. With sexual freedom came disease and a lack of commitment from men; with lack of commitment came greater poverty, as women get left with most of the responsibility for unwanted children; and so on, and so on . . . As women found their voice, I think it was increasingly raised in shrillness and childishness. "Women's liberation" became turning princesses into frogs, and that means there's a lot of princes stuck as frogs, also. Boys are easy to manipulate--believe me, I am one. And if the Bewitching Mrs. BD asks me for something in the right way, or if I have reason to think that my compliance will earn a good mood, it's an unbelievable sure bet that that thing will get done. There's another way to get it done, too--nagging. And, eventually, whatever it is will probably get done, but in a vastly different way.

Real women's liberation would be to foster the sort of self-image--and group-image--that encouraged women to value themselves more than they do now; that encouraged them to refuse to be treated badly, and to refuse to treat each other badly; and that encouraged them to chase after their dreams and passions with the same safety net of friends and mentors that men seem to find it easy to build.

I want my daughters to look forward to taking risks in their lives because they believe it would be fun to share an adventure with their friends; I want my daughters to know that men are going to treat them well because the social stigma of treating them poorly would be devastating; I want my daughters to feel safe and welcome among their peers because they know that they wield power together to accomplish great things.

I know that boys have issues, too--but it has been my experience that boys confront each other and then go to their separate corners for the duration. Girls are different. And wonderful.

But they could be even more wonderful if they would just try to help each other out a little bit.

If it sounds like I might be on the brink of developing a program, I may be. I welcome thoughts and input, particularly from dads out there, because I think we all have the same interest.


Why Republicans Are Losing, part I 

I'm not sure if this is going to be a nightly series, such as I do those (meaning every two or three nights, as I get around to it), or if I'm simply going to revisit it every once in a while. At any rate, I'm going to start off by drawing your attention to a very thorough analysis at a very smart website; it just so happens that that analysis is also of all the regions immediately surrounding the BD domicile.

So, what's the problem?

1. Messaging

. . .Hillman believes the Democrats have been successful because they “have been really good about figuring out what really appeals to unaffiliated voters. In the long run it’s a much better strategy compared to the Republican one that has focused on preaching to the choir and turning out Republicans.”. . .

2. Money

Toward the end of the [2004 State Senate] campaign, people were getting two or three mail pieces in support of my opponent from unions or outside organizations every day," said Corry. “We depended heavily on the support of small businesses, and we just couldn’t keep up with that pace, which probably cost them up to $30,000 a day.”

3. Messaging (oh, did I say that already?)

John Andrews: “In recent years, where Jeffco and my home county of Arapahoe have gone from reliable red to purple or blue, we haven’t done a good enough of a job of appealing to Reagan Democrats, . . . We need to be able to get our message out there in a more common-sense and less ideological way than we have been doing in recent years.”

Like I said, very thorough analysis, with fairly self-explanatory implications for candidates everywhere.



I'll Be There With Popcorn and A Digital Video Camera 

This just makes me giggle:

Glenn Spagnuolo says the name of his group "Re-Create '68" shouldn't cause people to brand it as a group on favor of using violent means to get society to its desired ends.

"What we want to recreate is an era when people got together to cause people to move their government in a certain direction," he said.

Monday he announced "Re-Create '68" has secured a permit to use the State Capitol grounds on the eve of the DNC. The group had sought Civic Center Park but lost out to the host committee during a recent lottery.

The group expects as many as 50,000 people to take part in the protests.

If you don't want the branding, senor, then why invoke the '68 Convention in your name? There were protests at every other convention, but '68 was notable for its violence--why invoke it at all?

The fact of the matter is that, no matter how much we think the country as a whole has gone off the rails during this election cycle, there will always be groups that come out in what they percieve to be a friendly environment, who are WAY out in left field when the Democrats come to town.

And the more I can do to point them out, the happier I think I'll be.

Since we all know the "professional journalists" won't touch them.


More Climate Change Heresy 

I've come to enjoy a certain schadenfreud over the past couple of years over the fairly regular trickle of stories that have been coming out for the last few years debunking one or another of the central tenets of the Church of Climate Change. Tonight I have found another:

Global warming isn't to blame for the recent jump in hurricanes in the Atlantic, concludes a study by a prominent federal scientist whose position has shifted on the subject.

Not only that, warmer temperatures will actually reduce the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and those making landfall, research meteorologist Tom Knutson reported in a study released Sunday. . .

Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, hurricanes have often been seen as a symbol of global warming's wrath. Many climate change experts have tied the rise of hurricanes in recent years to global warming and hotter waters that fuel them.

At some point the weight of stories coming out will be enough to tip the scales of the climate change debate back towards sanity. I know the Left has come to believe that the President and all his religious-zealot friends are the ones that disbelieve science, but its really the High Priest himself, Al Gore, that wants to live on science that is five years old and constantly getting refuted.

Look, I'm not trying to say that global warming and climate change do not exist--the numbers tell the story. But only sort of. There are a lot of numbers that tell a little bit different story, and it's one that shouldn't cause anywhere near the hysteria the Left needs to take control over our lives and our economy.


Of Bad Cycles and Star Trek 

Long time readers of this blog (both of them) know that, in spite of my veneer of pure logic, I do have a few "trivial" enjoyments in my life--one of them is Star Trek. And it is from Star Trek that I take tonight's lesson.

In the second movie, officer trainees are presented with a scenario in which the standing protocol for dealing with a distress signal overrides any consideration of the immediate safety of their "ship". Eventually, the ship is destroyed, and all its crew killed. It's called the "Kobiashi Maru" Scenario, and it became shorthand for "no-win situation" in the Star Trek lexicon. It was a test of character, not of strategy or command.

Unfortunately, as I look ahead five months, I'm looking at the GOP's prospects as a "Kobiashi Maru." The face of the Party, as of right now, is a man alternately mocked and hated by a very large percentage of the population; the signature policy of the face of the party--pre-emptive war--has been dismissed by most of the public, thanks in no small measure to bungling by the civilian leadership; the Party brand is in a shambles, as demonstrated by the poll from last week that showed generic candidates with conservative positions outpoll gereric "Republicans" by something like 20 points. On top of that they are faced with an energized Democratic Party, who will, no doubt, coalesce around their candidate in the Fall and campaign with a spirit and an energy--and a bankroll--that could swamp the Republican efforts. Even on the level of recruiting local candidates, the GOP is woeful (the candidate in my Congressional district, which was drawn by a judge to be as balanced as possible and was won in its first two elections by Bob Beauprez (R), described himself as a "sacrificial lamb" at the county convention. As if our current Representative (D Ed Perlmutter) was invincible, in spite of two years of VERY little achievement legislatively)!

And then Arlen Specter pulls one of his remarkably insightful moves by calling for a Congressional inquiry into "SpyGate." Sadly, what the public sees--and has seen for four years now--is a Party able to muster up the gumption to intervene on Terry Schiavo's behalf and investigate professional sports, but that can't quite get their arms around balancing a budget, ensuring that FEMA does its job, or securing our border. What the public sees is what the Republicans have become: a Party of perks, entrenchment and incompetence.

And so November 2008 begins to look like the Kobiashi Maru.

In the Star Trek series, only one candidate ever beat the Kobiashi Maru--James T Kirk (of course). He did it by sneaking into the simulator the night before the test and changing the parameters of the test--he escaped the "no-win scenario" by cheating.

Got a commendation for original thinking, too.


If the status quo remains, essentially, the same as it is right now, there is virtually NO WAY that Republicans avoid getting killed in the Fall. John McCain? He's practically a symbol of the system that created this scenario--he's not going to change anything. House Leadership? Not likely, after rolling over on a bad farm bill this week, they look dead in the water.

Somebody's got to change the test, or November is going to be sad. I don't know if that will be bloggers (like how Powerline changed 2004 with the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth), or a dynamic vice presidential pick--somebody nobody expects.

But I'm really hoping that somebody comes up with something, and fast.

I'm not sure the national GOP can take any more "character lessons" like the one we got handed in 2006.


More Quick Hits 

--"Methinks She Doth Protest Too Much . . . "

Let's review.

President Bush: "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history,"

And now, Senator Obama: "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said in a statement his aides distributed. "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."

I'm not sure why Obama is so up in arms, as the President never actually mentioned his name or quoted any of his "famous" rhetoric.

Yet, Obama assumes that the President was talking about him.

Probably a safe assumption, though--I thought he was talking about him, too.

--My brother, the wit:

A fascination with the weak is a creation only of the Western civilization's romantic mind, and I don't think there are a lot of those in the Middle East.

We always thought he was the smart one. Leave it to him to nail a liberal pathology right on the head.


Of Polar Bears, Judicial Activism, and The End Of All Things 

Not enough time to tonight to do the right kind of reading and thinking to write lucidly, so I'll just drop a few thoughts at you:

--We've seen in the past, in Massachussetts, how a decision by an out-of-control judiciary vis-a-vis gay marriage has galvanized the electorate and actually been a good thing for conservatives; I can only hope that the same dynamic works for ProtectMarriage.com and the rest of the election season.

--Once again, the Bush administration has demonstrated an unwillingness to fight the battles that need fighting, and allowed the Polar Bear to be listed as "threatened" by global warming. I don't know if they just ran out of steam, or if they were never that good at this, but got served up a hanging curveball in 2001. In either case, as much as I like this President, and admire him, I think his administration will go down in history as a TERRIBLE Republican administration. I don't see how it would be possible for them to regain their footing in the next 8 months.

--I've had a growing sense of foreboding for the last eighteen months or so, and not simply from a partisan Republican point of view. I will elaborate more on it over the weekend, but (as I wrote once before) unless we find a Churchill or a Reagan in the very near future, we're in for a long, bumpy ride.

Public Service 

Jim is running another "Project Letters From Home" right now. His goal is to collect 250 letters to deliver to troops in the field.

It is a noble project, that has the absolute best intentions, and makes an immediate impact directly on the men and women who protect us.

Join his effort, won't you?


Movie Review: Prince Caspian 

My wife, the bewitching Mrs. BestDestiny, applied to the 9News website and won us tickets to see a special advanced screening of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Monday.

Yeah, she's pretty good.

I'm going to try to review this without giving away any spoilers--not that anybody who is the least bit familiar with C.S.Lewis' work will be surprised by any of it, but . . . Let me start by saying that I loved this movie, and expect to see it in the theaters several times.

On the first, most obvious level, the entertainment value of the movie is very good. While it lacks some of the innocent charm of its predecessor, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, it makes up for it with substance and humor. Fans of the first movie will feel right at home, as, early on, the movie uses many of the same musical themes to help the audience remember the world of the first movie. However, we're re-introduced to a Pevensie clan that is a little bitter about its "exile" back to our earth, and starting to doubt their Faith just a little bit. We're also shown a Narnia that is not in the grips of a magical enchantment, either, but rather, consumed by the all-too-familiar familiar politics of human ambition. Given that the source material from C.S. Lewis is decidedly more grown-up and darker than the first, it is only appropriate that this movie have a different tone; however, there are plenty of magical creatures and wondrous sights to keep the little ones entertained and engaged. In particular, the mouse-warrior Reepicheep is a wonderful addition to the cast of humans, and provides constant humor.

Since fans of the first movie learned all about the quirks of Narnia in the first one, this tale takes other devices to keep the audience engaged. For the younger--and particularly younger male--audience, there are plenty of well-staged battles and exciting acts of daring-do to keep things moving along. I was actually quite impressed by the swordplay in this installment: it seems both more realistic and more impressive than the first time around (because, deep inside, there is still a younger male impressed by the flash of metal). And for mature audiences, there are questions of Faith and Pride and Honor that keep the cast interesting and the conflicts moving along. Also, this movie does not seem to suffer from the "lull" that slowed down the middle portion of The Lion, . . ., nor is it plagued by weak acting from secondary characters, as the first one was. I know both my wife and I were completely interested for the 2 hours, 20 minutes of the film, and I strongly believe both our pre-teen and our younger child will be completely engaged throughout (though, at 2:20, try to hold off on drinking the "medium" soda until after the previews).

From a craft standpoint, this film is stronger than its predecessor. As mentioned before, the sworplay is better, the acting is overall better, and the pacing is better. As with the first, the filmmakers took liberties with the story line--moreso than the first time around. I can see, on some level, how this made for a much better film than the original story would have made--the characters were a lot more three-dimensional, the conflict had more chance to build tension, and the emotions of the audience were evoked across more range. However, strict adherents to the original text may take exception to some of the changes (in much the same way, I'm sure, as strict adherents to the original work had problems with LOTR: The Two Towers). For me, I would rather have a great movie story than worry too much about the source material--especially since that source material was written for an audience substantially younger than myself.

One small complaint from me from a craft standpoint: the musical score relied too heavily on the music from the first movie. While, as I mentioned earlier, this does have the power to help the audience recapture some of the feelings they had in the first movie, it can be overdone. And, in this case, was overdone. I can appreciate borrowing thematic material and musical motifs to convey the world to the audience; but using, almost verbatim, several of the pieces from the first movie was, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity. On the other hand, there were also some absolutely brilliant moments of scoring and instrumentation during the film, so . . . I guess I would say it was "uneven" from a soundtrack perspective.

Small complaint, though. Not essential to the story.

Being very solid on the first two levels, it was easy for me to get involved enough in the movie to hear a message. Different people will take from this film different ideas, as my wife pointed out to me afterwards, and all of them are unabashedly Christian themes. While this should come as no surprise to anybody who knows anything at all about C.S.Lewis, it is still a bit surprising when it comes out of a Hollywood product. Kudos to Walden Media for remaining true to the spirit of Lewis, though I expect it will cause them much critical consternation.

Unlike The Lion, . . . , whose theme could be dismissed as universal and was delivered somewhat subtly, Prince Caspian makes no bones whatsoever about the Christian nature of its message. From the crisis of Faith the Pevensies had in the beginning, to the obvious failures that accompany Pride and Doubt, to, ultimately, the last reconciliation between the believers and their Savior, it is obviously an allegory of Christian life, one that I doubt anybody would be able to ignore (though children may not get it). This will cause the secular media much distress, and I predict this movie will be widely panned (watch for it to get very carefully rated just below whatever the critics gave The Golden Compass--Hollywood's paean to atheism which got killed at the box office), but still manage to pull in very close to the $291 MILLION that its predecessor made. But for the people most likely to see this film, I expect that the message will be welcome, will be a source of much discussion, and will draw Christians back to this film over and over again.

Be warned: there is one particular question of Faith that comes up in this movie that left me very troubled, and has been on my mind much in the last three days. People stronger in their Faith than I may not feel the same impact, but that is how powerful this movie is, and how well-made it is that one line of the movie has the ability to linger in my heart for so long.

Go see this movie. See it the first weekend. See it again and again. With your children. And then talk with them about it. I think you will be surprised by how rewarding it could be.


Udall: We're Starting To See A Pattern Of "Courage" 

Oh, Mark Udall . . . there's a danger in going into prevent defense mode so early in the campaign.

Schaffer told the group he wants seven unmoderated Lincoln-Douglas-style debates over the summer, a proposal he put in a letter he gave to Udall at the luncheon. . . .

But Udall later rejected Schaffer's proposed format.

Now that, by itself, is not so horrible. I'm sure there are dozens of candidates for Senate all over the country who are terrified of the idea of going off script and having a real debate with their opponent.

Oh, wait . . .no . . . there's even a Presidential candidate who's afraid of such a format.

At any rate, his excuse is lame, and comes after initially reacting positively to the idea.

First reaction on Friday:

“Of course we want to debate,” Udall said after the event. “Of course I want a chance to tell the people of Colorado why I’d be the best choice as the next United States senator.”

But just a few hours later--perhaps after his campaign staff got a hold of him (?):

"I firmly believe that the debates we do should allow us to answer questions from the people of Colorado about the issues that are most important to them, but Bob's proposed events do not,"

For really good coverage of this whole kerfuffle, check out the work of Ben and El Presidente at the best site for coverage of this whole campaign from now until November.

But I'm more interested in the emerging pattern of cowardice from Mark Udall. Consider this weak moment as entry number one; then think about this brilliant moment of nothingness from the Man-Who-Would-Be-Senator just a few weeks ago.

. . . when Petraeus came to Washington recently to report on progress in Iraq, Mark Udall let the whole hearing go by without asking a single question - tough or otherwise - of the General. (Hearing transcript available at Congressional Quarterly - registration required.)

Which, again, wouldn't be that big a deal--I suppose it happens occassionally that politicians pass up an opportunity to be on camera.

I suppose.

But this follows on the heels of Udall getting himself placed on the Armed Services Committee. Must have just been for show.

Oh, but then there's this statement from Udall at one point BEFORE the hearings:

"Taking over Central Command may give Gen. Petraeus context and perspective to answer the question he couldn't answer last year, namely, whether the war in Iraq has made America less secure."

Well, Mr. Udall, if that question were so hellfire important, then why didn't you ask it when you had the chance?

Maybe because you know that it doesn't play well in most of Colorado to attack Generals and substitute your own political judgment for their military judgment.

But asking that question would have taken courage, I suppose.

Like I said, we're starting to see a pattern.


More Wit and Wisdom From Our Legislature 

I continue to work through the CAP4Kids Law. Of couse, one thing I noticed was that the legislature is not actually doing anything--it is directing the State School Board to do something.

But further down the line in this heap of mumbo-jumbo comes this line:


Too. Many. Jokes. So little . . .time.

So, until 2012, are we to assume that only some of the students enrolled in high school are there to complete something?

And, is it just me, or is "each student who enrolls . . .shall enroll?" Which is, of course, a useful piece of instruction from the legislature.

Allright. That's enough.

I guess the point is that the more I read of this "reform," the less it seems like anything useful. It effectively ends the CSAP, and replaces it with something vague and still-undefined.

The whole thing just reeks of "doing something," with little actual purpose or accomplishment. Were I the cynical type, I would think that the whole purpose of this was to put in law something completely ephemeral, as long as it took out the accountability piece. It does, almost hilariously, include a few little caveats to do this "as soon and to the extent practicable." Which leaves an awful lot of room for fudging.

And I don't know why I would think that, given this:


Just chew on that for a moment.

In other words: no matter how bad a student is performing, if he or she wants to start in on college coursework the school may prevent it.


Kinda blows that accountability piece out of the water.


Sound and fury, signifying nothing.


CAP4Kids: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing 

It requires a little bit of painful reading (legislative-ese), but Governor Ritter's signature education reform from this session is a meaningless bit of bureaucratic shell-gaming. All you really need to know is this pair of exceptions built into Part 3:



So, exactly, what is the point of the "readiness assessment"? If they may not be used to influence admission or progression, then we are really doing nothing but forcing ourselves into another test?

What? You think a teacher doesn't know within two weeks whether or not a student is ready? Of course they do. So what's the point of the test? Let me submit to you that the only useful purpose of the test would be to screen children who are not ready for school.

Seem harsh? Imagine the cost of condemning a room of 25 5-yr. olds to slow and/or no growth for a year because the teacher is too busy trying to keep the 3 kids who are not ready for school on task. It's a recipe for mediocrity.

It's about time we started looking at THAT as harsh.

And,I suppose, it matters very much what "publicly reported" means; will the schools be reporting to the parents their kids' readiness result? Is THAT public? Or is this simply talking about media reports? Because I think its fine that you don't make the results of a specific 5 yr-olds' readiness level the stuff of a newspaper article; but there are a number of people who deserve to have that information about their kid--it may influence certain behaviors!

At any rate, if the program is designed to start by hiding the meaningless results of a new mystery test, then I don't think I'm going to get very excited about the rest of program.

I'll dive more into this bill tomorrow.


This Actually Sort Of Scares Me 

So, it's clear now that the night went to Scenario 1.

That surprises me. Not too much, given my track record on predictions, but still . . .

Obama's 14-point win in North Carolina, plus a very tight Indiana race, guarantees that Obama can credibly lay claim to the status of presumptive nominee.

And, as heartening as that seems like it should be, given the perceived weakness of Obama in a general election, it actually scares me a great deal.

You see, it occurred to me that my prediction of a good night for Hillary was actually, I think, just a projection--in the psychological sense. I was hoping that, at some point, the Democrats would come to their collective minds and choose a responsible, credible candidate.

Failing, of course, to take into account the innate pathology of the liberal mind: responsibility is a shackle on the dreams of the free, and must, therefore, be shunned.

So the liberals have stuck with their man, and seem determined to put the least qualified candidate for President up against a man who may be the MOST qualified candidate in a generation.

And what that tells me is that, on a basic level, the Democrats have ceased being a serious party.

Its one thing to have a way-Left woman in charge of the House, and another to have a surrender monkey in charge of the Senate--it is altogether a different thing to put a man with NO executive experience, NO military experience, NO significant legislative achievements, and NO foreign policy experience in charge of the U.S. military, our nuclear arsenal, and all foreign relations policy.

And then when you consider John McCain's odd assortment of legislative accomplishments over the past 12 years, which could hardly be described as faithful to any set of core values, much less those articulated by Lincoln and Reagan, you may have to conclude that the Republicans have their own issues.

All of which makes for an . . . odd . . . election cycle-to-be.

With the Left lurching through its own 60s-esque upheaval, and the GOP tragically unable to get its footing over the last four years, it's very hard to see how this isn't a time of seismic change in the American political world.

This is a time for ideals and orators and men of character and greatness. I don't know who those men--or women--would be, but I'm a little bit fearful that if this country can't find them soon, we might just be in for a long, bumpy ride into relative irrelevancy.


Idle Speculation 

So, today is the big day . . .or, at any rate, the next big day. Indiana and North Carolina, to be specific.

I think there are three possible outcomes of today's primaries.

: One: Obama wins NC by double-digits, and makes Indiana very close; in this scenario, Obama can reclaim the momentum he has let slip away with his month of bungles; he can take a deep breath, and look forward to a summer s the presumptive nominee

: Two: Hillary wins Indiana by double-digits, and finishes closer in NC than anybody expects; she can lay claim to having all the scenario, plus the best electoral scenario for November; this leads us to a summer of open warfare among Democrats

: Three: each wins the state they're favored in by the expected margin of 6-10 points; this leaves everything up in the air, with each side having a strong claim for front-runner status; I think this scenario makes it likely that Hillary will scale back campaigning, but stays in it just to see if Obama commits another major blunder

Of all these scenarios, I think the second one is the most likely. I think there are a number of people, particularly in the south still, who won't tell a pollster that they won't vote for a black man, but have no intention of voting that way. I would expect an easy win in IN--maybe 10 points--and a fairly close finish in NC.

At that point, Hillary gets to make the (all too reasonable) case that she's the only one who can hold the Democratic coalition together, and hold enough Bush-hating moderates in the fold to win in the Fall.

And she will have a point.

But Obama is too ambitious to give up now, and his supporters are far too deranged to allow him to accede at this point.

Just guessing, but I see the superdelegates start breaking for Hillary in the next couple weeks, bringing the delegate math much closer together; perhaps Howard Dean makes some crazy pronouncement in the next couple weeks, forcing the hand of some Democrats who DO NOT want their hand forced, and they then break harder for her, hoping to forestall an electoral disaster in November.

But, either way, combine Hillary's logic with the "Obama phenomenon," and all signs point to an August disaster in Denver.

And it might get worse than even Rush Limbaugh can imagine.


Surprise Agreement 

I don't often find myself on the same side of an issue as the Denver Post editorial board, but today I do. So I thought I'd point out their, . . .er . . . wisdom.

Rather than change the measurement system, why don't we change the education system?
Supporters of the bill will say they're doing exactly that by aligning standards from kindergarten through college.

It's an important and laudable goal, but it's not the monumental overhaul that's needed. . . .

Unfortunately, any plan that invovles more than bureaucratic nibbling around the edges is doomed for failure because it gouges too many sacred cows. Instead of considering ideas like year-round schooling, longer days, vouchers for low-income students and more school-level flexibility and autonomy, lawmakers and education officials merely tinker.

Ditto that, folks.

You KNOW an idea is lacking something when even the Post notices it.



I Told You Not To Get Too Worked Up 

If only the political class had any such restraint.

CSAP may be on its way out

Essentially flat scores since '01 signal need for different approach

. . . .Ritter is calling for a "revolutionary shift" in public education, one that includes revising academic standards and developing new tests to measure them.

His plan, the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids or CAP4K for short, is working its way through the legislature

I don't even know where to begin the deconstruction of this one. So I'll defer to Ben, who does so very well:

The problem here is that some people want to get rid of the CSAP because having kids learn to read is not exactly their primary goal for schooling. Others don’t like the fact that it highlights the failures of some schools in the public education system. While updating the CSAP may yield some measure of success, don’t think that getting rid of the test will make Colorado’s education problems go away.

If there's anything at all useful coming out of the discussion of CSAP these days, its that maybe--MAYBE--we need to truly examine public education and start to have a fundamental discussion about the purpose of public education in a democracy. If we're so distracted by other things that we can barely get 2 out of 3 third graders to read, then clearly we've lost our way.

If, as happens, every year our students drop more and more off the map, as fewer and fewer of them pass "the test", then we have lost our way.

If, on the other hand, we are allowed to take a good, honest look at our kids, our society, and the respective needs thereof-IRRESPECTIVE of political correctness--then maybe we cand start to move this thing forward again.

Otherwise, we are going to continue to have a system that produces good results in neighborhoods where parents are there for their kids and read to them from day 1, and produces bad results in places where our students start out behind, anyway.

There MUST be a better way to handle this!

So if flat CSAP scores are the impetus to really look at what we're doing, then I welcome those scores, as unfortunate as they are for the 3rd graders.

If, on the other hand, they are simply the impetus to eliminate public school accountability, then the forces of Big Education need to be called on their failures.

And, by the way, this is a discussion that conservatives MUST get involved in, to bring elements of personal responsiblity and accountability to the table. If we are unwilling to engage, or simply run and hide behind a blanketing idea like "vouchers", then we deserve to have to deal with whatever Big Education comes up with.


Preliminary CSAP Scores Are Released 

The state department of Education released the first batch of test scores from this year today, with the release of the "unofficial" 3rd grade reading test scores.

Once again this year, I feel compelled to urge everyone out there not to get too worked up over this one set of scores. This is but a snapshot, and really tells you very little about the school. Even comparing this years' scores to last years' tells you very little, because it's a completely different set of kids taking the test. Long-term trends may be useful to look at, but PLEASE don't go overboard looking at this.

That said, a couple pieces of data jumped out at me:

(by the way, you can get the scores in Excel spreadsheet format by going to the link on this page; once you have the spreadsheet, its easy to manipulate the data)

: there are five schools that had EVERY 3rd grader reading at or above grade level this year--four of them are Charter Schools. Coincidence? But hat's off to Haxtun Elementary School in little Haxtun, CO: I don't care how small the school is, when every single kid can read, you're doing something right.

:across the state, only 70% of third graders can read at or above a 3rd grade level--really? That's it? That bodes very ill for the future

:related question: of the 30% who are NOT proficient, how many of them do you suppose will be blithely moved up to 4th grade in a month, as if nothing at all was the matter?

:there are 41 schools that scored less than 33% proficient--that is to say, there are 41 schools that have less than 1/3 of their kids reading; of those 41, 22 of them are Denver elementary schools. That should be an embarrassment to every single person even vaguely associated with DPS.

But I bet their "cultural awareness" and "diversity" programs are strong and well-respected.

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