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


How The Media Lies 

Channel 4 News in Denver (KCNC) touts itself as "The Whole Story."

Never mind that that moniker has been in use for many months by an unnamed blogger trying to point out media lies . . . .

But, in that context, focus on this story from the Wednesday 10 o'clock news (from the link, click on the video screen to see what made the 5 o'clock news--NOT the written story by Terry Jessup, and a longer version of what showed up at 10).

[Jim Benemann] A new study is strongly suggesting that last year's raid at the Swift Meat Packing Plant is taking a heavy toll on the children of illegal immigrants.

[Molly Hughes] The Urban Institute released its findings just today. CBS 4 political specialist Terry Jessup in our newsroom tonight, and, Terry, this study looked at raids in three cities across the country.

Now, let's just pause here for a second. "The Urban Institute released its findings today"--that sounds innocuous enough, right? Except that, in the written story (way down in the seventh paragraph), and what gets completely omitted from the on-air story, is :

The study was commissioned by The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization, . . .

I wonder why THAT got left out of the story. Do you suppose that little factoid might contribute the "wholeness" of the story? And, honestly, I can think of many ways to describe LaRaza, but I'm not sure I would lead with "Hispanic civil rights organization."

And, secondly, why is the "political specialist" handling this story? Do you think that News4 is leading the . . . .er, helping . . .er, a party to the beginnings of a new pushback against last year's enforcement of existing laws?

Moving on . . .

[Terry Jessup] And Molly, the researchers found that, as a result of those raids, about 500 children abruptly lost contact with their mother, their father, or both parents. There were 267 people arrested in the Swift raid in Greeley, where some of them gathered today to put a human face on the new study's findings.

[cut to video of woman holding infant, with Jessup's voice-over] This undocumented Guatemalan was one of 267 arrested in last December's Swift meatpacking raid, as she was pregnant with her now one-month-old child.

Okay, let's stop again right there.

Once again, we have a video of an undocumented worker--as in, an ILLEGAL ALIEN--which the news media has an easy time finding but immigration has so much difficulty.

And, then, we have the one month-old child. Where was this child born? How did this woman pay for the services? What sort of prenatal care did she receive?

According to a 2004 study, the average cost of having a baby was $7600; women on Medicaid paid, on average, about 1% of the total cost out-of-pocket. That means a Medicaid/Welfare baby costs the state--YOU AND ME--about $6800. Is that roughly the cost of an Illegal Alien birth? I don't know--but don't you think it's probably very comparable.

So, let's be generous and say that childbirth for an illegal alien costs the state only $5,000 per child: is it safe to say that those 500 children who were without parents suddenly cost the taxpayers $2.5 million? Is it?

So those same children who were suddenly without a parent after the Federal Government went to the extraodinary steps of actually enforcing the law had already managed to eke out of the hospital system $2.5 million, not to mention the costs associated with education and other free government services as they grow, not to mention that all of those children are now U.S. citizens.

That's hardly the sort of stuff that should be left out of "the Whole Story."

Then, when you figure in that in the 10 o'clock tease Jim Benemann describes them all as "victims," and that the video accompanying the story never shows a child over the age of 2--all the better to evoke your sympathies--you get the impression that News4 is pushing an agenda.

Simple questions that WOULD have told "The Whole Story":

:who commissioned the Urban Institute study, and what is their political agenda?

:how many of those 500 children were born in American hospitals at little or no cost to the family?

:how many of those 500 children are currently enrolled in American schools, on the Free/Reduced lunch program, at little or no cost to themselves?

:how long did it take the Swift plant to replace those workers with legal workers and/or American citizens who "don't want to do that job?"

Don't you have to wonder why those questions/answers got left out of the story?

And that, my friends, is how the media lies to you.

An Interview Worth Reading 

I missed this yesterday when it was first run, but was fortunate to stumble across it tonight. For any of you interested in affairs of the soul, you should read what Cardinal Stafford has to say on a few topics.

Among my favorites:

Q: The world was both puzzled and fascinated by the accounts of Blessed Mother Teresa's "dark night of the soul" — not that she lost her faith, but that she lost the comforting feelings that God was there. Have you ever experienced that, and if so, how was it resolved?

A: When I was a young priest I read and memorized part of the 13th chapter of the Ascent of Carmel by St. John the Cross. It has remained a foundation for my life. In sum, it says, "To come to be all, desire to be nothing. To come to know all, desire to know nothing etc." It is that kind of distinction that John of the Cross has made that is foundational to understanding the spiritual life of Mother Teresa.


Tancredo Stepping Down 

And that's probably for the best.--especially since the CO6 is about a safe a Republican seat as there is in the country.

I respect Rep. Tancredo for the work he's done on immigration, and he often speaks with clarity about issues that seem to bumfuzzle other Republicans.

But all too often he became the voice of extremism in a party that should be known for its logic and its reason. The word "firebrand" was invented for people like Tancredo, and it would be nice for the 6th District to be represented by somebody who has the ability to convince other people of his position. Unfortunately, I think Tancredo became a caricature too much.

So, thank you for your service, Rep. Tancredo; I hope you continue to speak out on issues that other Republicans trip on. If you could manage to leave a little bit of your backbone at the GOP caucus door on the way out, I think they could find some use for it.

RoxBlogging, post-mortem 

First of all, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox--they were the better team over the course of, not just the last five days, but the majority of the 2007 baseball season.

Were they as much better than the Rockies as it seemed these past five days? I don't think so. As my Jedi Master reminded me, you take a team out of their routine (like a bye week), and screwy things start to happen to them. I still don't think we beat them over seven, but I think there's a pretty good chance we can get a few more runs out of Schilling, Dice-K, and John Lester, but I don't know if we beat them.

That said, is there a SINGLE person in Rockies' Nation that wouldn't have thought you were drunk if in mid-July you'd said out loud that the Rockies would lose the World Series this year? I don't think so. By any--ANY--measure this was a spectacular season that can only lay groundwork for the next five years and a Rockies near-dynasty.

If they can get Holliday penned to a good contract, the nucleus will be locked up for years, and there's still plenty of young talent in the minors to keep filling the bullpen. I'm uncautiously optimistic about the future of this team.

Ah . . . there's major-league baseball in Colorado.

About damn time.



Oy, again.

And, again, for those of you who don't regularly watch the Rockies: that is why Brian Fuentes is no longer the closer for the Rockies.

It's not that he never gets any outs--his record over the last four weeks says otherwise. But, when he was the closer, this is what every ninth inning was like. That is, get an out, walk a guy, give up a dink hit--suddenly we're in trouble. Many times, he would strike a guy out and manage to get out of the situation. But, ocassionally, that didn't work out.

Tonight, with the Rockies finally breaking through and scoring a few runs, getting to within one run in the eighth, . . . it didn't work out.

Remember that the first run across was on base because of a walk.

And then remember that the Rockies are striking out at a rate of about ten per game during this series, and you see why it's 3-0 Sox.

I guess I may have to revise that "Rockies in Six" prediction.




Note to Rockies bullpen: Boston has several good outdoor stores where you can purchase a map and a compass . . . so you can find the strike zone!

On the plus side, the two teams that PREVIOUSLY held the record for largest World Series loss both won the Series.

Also on the plus side, Helton hit well, and, even though it didn't translate into base hits, Holliday scorched the ball a couple of times.

But Taveras continues to look a bit . . . uncomfortable . . . at the plate, and Hawpe was responsible for four out of the 12 Rockies strikeouts.

Oh, well. Down one with six to go.

Ed Perlmutter's Fish Tales 

This cracks me up.

Here's the headline on Ed Perlmutter's website:

"Congressman Ed Perlmutter Instrumental in Passing Homeland Security Legislation."

Good, right? Finally, the far-left Perlmutter comes to his senses and tries to protect the American people.

But you have to read a little further. Here is what the good Congressman has actually accomplished:

The House passed H.R. 1680, the Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act on a voice vote.

Huh? The "Secure Handling . . . "? On a "voice vote"?

In other words, Perlmutter has managed to be but one of 400 some-odd votes to monitor the purchase and handling of . . . manure. Sure, it's advanced manure, but . . .

Way to go, Ed. Way to be "instrumental" in shoveling . . . .er, "securing", the crap.

Seriously, THIS guy beat us last time? Please tell me there's somebody better running against him in 2008?


World Series Prediction 

Rockies in 6.

That's allowing for two losses to Josh Beckett.

Though, to be fair, the list of starting pitchers the Rockies have blown through in their improbable run to the Series reads like a ballot for the Cy Young: Jake Peavey, Brandon Webb, Brad Penny, Chris Young, Cole Hamels . . . You get the feeling these guys don't worry too much about the resume of the guy throwing at them.

But I think it takes the Rockies one game to figure out how to use the Wall to their advantage--especially the Lefties; and then I give the Red Sox one for desperation here in Denver.

Other than that, I think the magic holds up for the next seven days and the Rockies will bring home a pennant.


Well, This Came As A Surprise To ME 

Members set out to drive down the price tag after a consultant told them Thursday that their latest stab at health care reform would cover more than 85 percent of the state's 791,800 uninsured at a cost of at least $1.4 billion in new taxpayer dollars. [emphasis mine]

NO! Really?!?! Gov. Ritter's Blue-ribbon panel has a proposal that will cost the taxpayers more money--a LOT more money.

Imagine my surprise.

While you're considering that, also keep in mind this other shocker:

On arriving at the hospital the day prior to the operation, I went to the toilet. No soap or hand-wash. Spoke to nurse. Yes we know we will get some tomorrow when the cleaner is back!!!!! The patient in the next bed informed me he had said the same the day before. Basic hygiene. After the operation, excrement from a spill from a colostomy bag was left on the floor for 2 days until the next bed patient’s daughter brought in disinfectant to clean up.

THIS outrage brought to you by the socialized medicine of England. THIS is what Governor Ritter has in mind for you, Colorado! Sure . . . not at first. At first, it will be all shiny and new and work fabulously well and everybody will want to model on it.

But inevitably it will succumb to the atrophy that infects all government bureaucracies. Just like England's system has, just like every other socialized program in the world.

Coming soon to a publicly-funded hospital near you.


Education Reform That Matters, part last 

The Big Picture

If we increase the rigor of classwork for the college-bound, and if we do not allow students to pass out of those subjects that they have not demonstrated a mastery of, than we have to have something to do with those who we do not automatically matriculate.

I mentioned in my last post that we should create more options for students, that we should value trades and skills and arts more. And, to that end, I find it encouraging that the Denver Schools' reform plans includes adding more specialty schools for the arts and for other "non-academic" pursuits.

And that brings everything back to, I suppose, the beginning.

We MUST begin with the premise that every student is somebody special, and has the potential to be somebody spectacular. God created each of them in his image, with his spark and with a infinity of possibilities for their lives.

But if we spend the entirity of their educational experience trying to pigeonhole them into a mold of what WE think they should be, they will never get a chance to explore those possibilities; or, worse, in many cases we will do it in a way which DIScourages them from ever exploring their possibilities on their own.

I just came home from watching 1500 students perform from 7 to 9 minutes of incredible music, with intense choreography and very mature demands on their energy, their intellect, and their commitment to their friends and their best selves. In many cases, these performances were in . . .unpleasant . . . weather.

And what I saw was 1500 students finding in themselves the will to perform, the courage to lay themselves on the line, and the faith to do it with their friends and comrades in a situation that requires trust and skill.

In short, I saw 1500 students find in themselves the potential to be GREAT. And greatness, as Gene Hackman said in a bad but entertaining movie from a few years back, no matter how brief, stays with a man--or woman.

And this event had absolutely NOTHING to do with increased graduation requirements.

But I believe firmly that every student is vastly better for their role in tonight's competition. And that this sort of event provides a young person with a far greater insight into their potential and into their ability to fit into the world than any three math classes.

So to blindly go forward with increasing graduation requirements--which actually rarely improve actual skills--at the expense of other important programs in the schools does a MASSIVE disservice to students.

Bring reforms--obviously, there's reason to think that American public schools aren't accomplishing what they purport to.

But bring SMART reforms that will prepare students for the post-high school world without sacrificing all of the great opportunities we currently provide for students to explore their humanity . . .and their almost-limitless potential.

Because, after all, if we don't try to find the upper limits of what our students can accomplish, then they will always be content to work around the lower limits of what we expect.

And THAT is the greatest failure of American education.


What Does This Say About Me? 

I had quite a long drive today for a special event, and I noticed something as I was driving along.

Whenever I see somebody driving with an "Obama for President" bumper sticker on their car, I tend to drive a little more defensively around them. As if that sticker reveals the driver to be something other than a serious person.

Is it just me?

Global Warming??? 

Tune in tonight (Friday Oct 19) to ABC News' 20/20 to see a report from the intelligently critical John Stossels.

I suspect very few Lefties will bother to watch, but WE should, at the very least, have all the available information.

Memo To GOP Candidates 

This courtesy of Hugh.

P[ete] S[tark--senior and powerful Congressional Democrat]: You’re going to tell us lies like you’re telling us today? Is that how you’re going to fund the war? You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement.

Note to all GOP candidates for anything: if you want my support, if you want me to walk neighborhoods for you and work phone banks, MAKE A COMMERCIAL FEATURING THIS IDIOT AND CALL HIM OUT!

Take off the damn gloves, and mix it up with these guys. Throw into the commercial clips of Harry Reid declaring surrender and Dick Durbin comparing our troops to Nazis and Pol Pot. Make the case that there's a reason the country hasn't trusted the Democrats with the national security for forty years, and that that reason hasn't gone away.

As Mark Steyn pointed out in the same interview:

. . . it’s not possible to have civilized political discourse in a functioning two-party democracy if that’s one party’s contribution to the debate.

So STOP TRYING!! You cannot be the idiot trying to fight by Marquis of Queensbury Rules when the other guy pulls a rhetorical knife; or be the damn fool who brings a knife to a gunfight.

When a wise man enters into an argument with a fool, he merely glorifies the fool and diminishes himself. It's the same way with the lunatic fringe . . .er, Democrats.

Don't waste your time being civil or trying to be "above the ugliness." Go after these guys, and do it in a direct and unmistakeable way. And, if you can manage to throw in some humor, do it.

But do it. And soon.

And then I'll decide who to support.


Education Reform That Matters, part VI 


If you begin with the premise that EVERY student who enters a public school has the potential to become somebody special, then you have to alter the look of the school a little bit, don't you.

The current wave of "reforms" are all intended to make every child who comes out of the schools look, essentially, the same. All the same classes, all the same competencies, all the same skills.

And, to a degree, there are some skills that EVERY student MUST have. I am not one of those that thinks it's okay to turn students out of the schools without minimums.

But there are many skills that not every single student needs. And many passions that not every student possesses. If it is our intent to maximize the potential of every student, then we need to recognize that every student is different.

THEREFORE, a greater emphasis needs to be put on tradescrafts in the schools. Not because every student needs them, but because those students who walk through our doors who are not headed for college must have some useful skills to take with them out into the real world. My transmission guy makes more every year than I do (with two college degrees), and he was able to get started early in life. So should our current students have choices and skills.

A greater emphasis must also be put on the Arts. We could be very effective teachers of geometry, but if our students have no idea of what Beethoven, Shakespeare, Picasso or Gerschwin used for inspiration, then we crank out soulless automatons who can solve a quadratic equation but never realize WHY it ever matters.

And then, for the college bound, we need to increase the rigor and the expectations for everything we and they do. They, too, need to be prepared for life after high schools, and colleges are getting pretty tired of teaching them 7th grade stuff so they can keep up.

More thoughts on this tomorrow.



Live-Blogging the 9th

By the way, for those of you who don't know . . . THAT is why Brian Fuentes is no longer the closer. Even when he was successfully closing out games, they were always adventures.

Salazar up: piece of cake--Helton doesn't blow those and a nice pitch by Corpas

Young up: why the hell is Atkins . . . check that, Carroll . . . playing so far off the line? I thought you tried to cut off the extra bases late in the game. WHOOPS! Now we gotta see Eric Byrnes.

Drew up: WHOOPS! heh heh heh! What are you doing swinging at 3-0? Thank you, thank you, thank you. Heh Heh Heh!

THIS time Carroll makes the smart play and lets Tulowitzki make the play.


From somebody who remembers whooping and hollerin' about the old Denver Bears winning the AAA pennant, and the Denver Zephyrs winning a July 4th game with a 9-run 9th inning, you just cannot imagine how awesome this is. I love football, basketball and hockey, but I've played baseball, I've coached baseball, and there is NOTHING as cool as winning a pennant in the Mile High City.

And to do it with a 21-1 run, two sweeps through the Division and League Championship Series . . . It doesn't get much better than this!

And now . . . nine days off before facing the Cleveland Indians.

Let's just say . . . I like the history of Denver teams facing Cleveland teams in championship games.

Hugh . . . care to venture a friendly wager?


Re: Al Gore 

I was going to avoid saying anything about this at all.

But then the irony stuck me: Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Global Warming; the shortest route between here and a CO2 friendly world is the end of a lot of the development around the world; the result of ending US and others' economic work in the world would be to create more and more poverty around the world; and extreme poverty is often, if not always, the cause of a great deal of conflict around the world.

So, congratulations, Nobel Committee. You've just rewarded a man whose life work is devoted to a cause that could actually cause the EXACT opposite of what your awarded is supposed to be about.

Education Reform That Matters, part V 

Destroy the Teachers' Salary Scale

Here comes the most controversal idea I have to propose to reform American public education.

The way schools are run now, a teacher can go online to a school district's website long before they ever even submit a job application, and see exactly how much they will be paid in salary. They can go down the page and see how much they'll make every year they survive after that; they can go to the right on the page and see how much of a raise they'll get for every 15 or 20 semester hours of college work completed.

And nowhere on the scale is there any consideration of the quility with which they do their jobs.

If you want to improve education, you MUST improve teaching. Study after study has shown that THE number one factor affecting student performance is the quality of teaching. And, from experience, I can tell you that you can train teachers to a point--but if you really want to improve the quality of teaching you have to attract more quality people to become teachers.

But there are a huge number of quality people who look at that same salary scale I mentioned earlier, and say to themselves "I can't raise a family on THAT!", and stay out of teaching. Then there are those who get into teaching and decide that, for the work it requires, it's not worth the money.

But, hey, how about that prestige and universal respect?

Hah Hah Hah . . . whew, I crack me up.

I believe that quality people would be more attracted to the teaching profession if they believed that the quality of the work they do mattered, and that they would be rewarded for it. As it is now, a 25-year veteran who's just marking time until retirement probably makes twice as much as the fresh young teacher full of passion and drive. Does that make any sens at all?

Teachers should be in a position to negotiate their salaries with their school on their own. Great teachers who continually have students who make more than one years' progress in their classrooms should be the subject of intense manhunts resulting in 6-figure salaries. Teachers marking time should do nothing more salary-wise than "mark time", also.

Football has collective bargaining for benefits and labor practices, but the individual players negotiate their salaries on their own. Teachers should be in the same position.

Are there logistical hurdles to such a setup? Of course.

But if you begin with the premise that not all teachers are equal, and that we, as a society or as a school, VALUE the work that teachers do, than this becomes a more realistic idea.

Would unions hate this? Of course. Would school disticts hate this? Probably--it might end up being more expensive for them.

Would society benefit? I believe so.

And then it would merely require schools to budget and to make the case to their fans that it might be worth a few more tax dollars' to get an education worthy of America.

Based largely on the free market principals that made this country great.

How's that for radical?


Education Reform That Matters, part IV 

Authentic Accountability

What do I mean, "authentic?" The Colorado Student Assessment Program already has accountability--when a school fails our students repeatedly, it gets turned into a charter school. Isn't that enough accountability?

Well, NO.

You see, the schools do not take the test, the students do. And the schools have no authority to use the tests to make decisions about student advancement or metriculation or graduation or any other way to "encourage" the students to perform well on the tests.

In fact, every year we are regaled with stories at testing time of students who refuse to take the test--or, to be more accurate, of parents who refuse to "let" their students take the test. If this were real accountability, every student would take the test, and every educational decision would take those test results into account, at the very least.

Let me say that again--EVERY student would take the test and EVERY educational decision would be at least partially based on those test results.

You mean educational decisions don't take into account the results of the test?

Not at all. In fact, when CSAP results were first announced, I had a lot of fun with this little nugget of wisdom:

For the first time, the department this year dissected data from the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests to show how students progressed over the past two years. . .

Two-thirds of the third-graders who scored "unsatisfactory" — the lowest level — in reading in 2005 are still at that level, the data show.

There IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THE STUDENTS. If you fail the exam in third grade, what test should you be taking the next year? does it make any sense to ANYBODY that the answer to this is "the fourth grade test?" That's insane.

On the worksite, if one of your people fails the skills test for driving the heavy machinery, next week does he get to move on to operating the cranes and back hoe's? I hope not. If so, then remind me to stay clear of your construction site!

But it's far more disturbing than that. The fact that skills assessments of this order are only administered once a year, at the end of the year, and that the results don't even come out until the following August (which, by the way, is probably past class registration time in many schools) is laughable. First of all, if we want to hold teachers and schools accountable, how do you do that when most students change teachers at semester for at least some of their classes?

Mr Norton, Bobby did really bad at the math portion of the CSAP last Spring. Do you have any explanation?

Well, Prinicpal Evans, he was doing fine in my class when he left it in December and went to Miss Hawkings' class.

Miss Hawkings, what happened to Bobby second semester last year?

He just didn't come to me with the skills and understandings we expect second semester to be successful.

You see the dilemma.

But even better, wouldn't it be good to know what the truth was? Wouldn't it be nice to have a record of Bobby's actual achievement in the first semester? That way we could know if he should have moved on to the next level at all.

Isn't that, after all, what colleges do? If you fail Physics I first semester, do they just blithely allow you to be in Physics II second semester? Of course not.

What I would propose would be several-fold:

First: testing should happen three times a year, in December, May and August (with August being primarily for make-up or the hyper-ambitious). This would require the test to be far more focused on a specific skill set for each subject in each grade level. It would also require the test to be shorter, so that it could be graded relatively quickly. As it is, the test takes elementary schools roughly 22-30 hours of class time--OF CLASS TIME--to administer; by contrast, the SAT, which measures ten years worth of learning, takes FOUR hours.

Secondly: students MUST demonstrate competence on one skill set before being allowed to progress to the next level. Does this mean it's likely that there will be many MANY more students held back? Almost certainly. But, hopefully, it also guarantees that either a. students will take both their learning and their testing more seriously, or that b. students will require far less remediation, because they HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT to move on.

This is certainly the harshest portion of my proposal, which will impact the most students and families BY FAR. It is also, I think, the the one most likely to create a real energy for improvement in our education system. And, oddly enough, some part of this is already being embraced by the Denver Teachers' Union.

Third: student achievement must be measured in terms of semester-to-semester progress, and EVERY SCORE MUST HAVE THE STUDENTS' TEACHER'S NAME ATTACHED TO IT. If you really want to know how teachers and schools are doing, then you have to create enough data to evaluate this. If one teacher, or one school, is continually failing to get students to make one years' progress in one years' time, then you will know that you have a problem on your hands. One that can be addressed.

Fourth: there MUST be the ability or the opportunity to allow advanced students to demonstrate their skills early, so that the really high achievers have an opportunity to shoot for college classes and etc before the end of twelve years of public schooling.

Now, I feel as if I've addressed some of the myths around education, and tried to propose reasonable solutions for some of the systemic failures of the current education system. Many of my conservative friends out there will now be wondering "What about the teachers unions that encourage mediocrity and reward survival over achievement?"

Never fear--they're next.


Oh, and, yes . . .we are just as happy to let you beat yourselves as we are to do it for you.

The big thing, though, is that Jose Valverde had to throw 42 pitches tonight, and the last six were all pretty far away from the strike zone.

Pitchers--for those of you who have never been around too many of them--are a bit mental, as a rule. So you have to wonder how this is going to play on his psyche if he's called on to do it again this week. Or if he'll have lingering fatigue from throwing so many pitches.

Either way, it's good for the Rockies.

And the beat goes on . . ..



It's not just that they won.

It's how they won.

Arizona jumped out to a lead, but the Rocks didn't grip or fold under the glare of Brandon Webb. They get that run back right away, and then throw up three more the next time they get to bat.

Arizona jumped out to an early lead, but Jeff Francis didn't get tight, didn't start trying to overthrow anything. He kept his composure, induced three double plays, only walked one, and got a couple key strikouts to kill rallies.

It was the same formula as the last month--two-out hits and great baserunning to keep the pressure constantly up on the defense.

And not an errant throw to be seen from the best defensive baseball team in history.

I was worried about the four-day layoff, but I see I had no reason to. They played just as loose and with just as much joy as they have for the better part of four months.

Rockies in 5.

To face the Indians.


A Personal Note To My Fellow Republicans 

STOP IT!! Stop Eating Your Children!

I've done a lot of reading lately about how "disillusioned" the party's base is with the current crop of candidates; I've heard on the radio how "none of them represent me;" you see commentary on TV and elsewhere (including from prominent religious conservatives) about how certain Republicans would be as bad as any Democrat for their issue.

And I say that those people are really being myopic and self-destructive.

Yes, Rudy is a Pro-Choice Republican who has had a few wives in his life. To quote Dennis Miller, "So what if he's had three wives? That's still about fifteen less than the guys I want him to kill." And Rudy has committed to picking judges in the mold of Roberts and Alito. Even if you don't believe him all the way on that one, wouldn't you rather have Rudy picking a replacement for Justices Ginsberg and Stevens? Think about it--if you replace Ginsberg with a Kennedy, that's a far cry better than replacing Ginsberg with another Ginsberg. And make no mistake: Hillary, with a Democratic Senate, will pick a Ginsberg for EVERY open judgeship.

And, yes, Romney is a Mormon who has had a fairly late entrance into the ranks of the Pro-Life. He's also the only one up there who has a proven track record of MAKING MONEY, creating jobs, meeting a payroll, making money for other people, and then turning those skills loose on a massive government (Massachussetts) and a failing international event (the Olympics). So what if he's a Mormon? Mormons are just as much targets as us Christians and the Jews and everybody else for the Radical Islamists--I'm comfortable that this particular Mormon would have no qualms about returning the favor.

And Thompson has a mixed record in the Senate of both accomplishment and judgement (he did support McCain-Feingold). But the icon of the Republican "movement", Ronald Reagan, has a bit of a limited record of accomplishment, and he also showed lapses of judgement (Lebanon, the '86 amnesty). But he was able to do two things: stay focused on the things that really mattered, and, through his enormous communication skills, keep the country focused on the really big things. Fred has the skill set to do the very same thing.

I understand that none of the main candidates are perfect--I get that.

But the three I've mentioned have all shown the willingness to get in the ring and spar a little bit--sometimes amongst themselves or with the press, but all of them have their eyes on Hillary.

And that is what it's going to take if you want to keep Hillary out of the Oval Office.

So be disappointed, be disillusioned, wish for a Tom Tancredo ascendancy, whatever. But get over it in time. A third-party candidacy that "better represents you" almost certainly means kissing off all of the close Senate races--including Colorado. Which leaves Hillary a filibuster-proof Senate.

Picture Hillary's world: A Supreme Court with six Ginsbergs and Roberts, Alito and Thomas; a state department run in absentia by Bill; a military run by Wesley Clark; a national security team that includes Sandy Berger; and an economic team populated by disciples of George Soros.

And then get your head on straight and focus on what matters. Win the War; Cut the Taxes; Confirm Judges.

A spaghetti sauce that has too much pepper is still better than bread and water.

And Hillary wants to take all your water away, too.


Education Reform That Matters, part III 

Systemic Accountability

Over the last couple nights, I've explored--in the context of Denver Public School's reform movement--the potential effects of spending more money and of simply increasing requirements.

And dismissed both.

So what, you might ask, would make for effective reform?

I think it has to start with a fundamental look at the whole system. I think society as a whole must examine the public schools and decide exactly what the priority scheme of the public schools should be.

For instance, schools spend a lot of time and energy, not to mention resources (read: money) on giving students with severe learning and developmental disabilities an education in an integrated setting. Why do they do this? Because the powers that be have decided that there is an inescapable value in exposing "normal" students to those with disabilities, and vice-versa. Does this contribute to the development of cognitive skills in either the disabled or the normal student? Doubtful.

Is the value of that experience worth the price of diminishing the skills-development of students? Perhaps.

Is this an experience that should be a priority for schools? And, if yes, then what efforts should we go to to guarantee that every student at every school gets this opportunity? Should special education students be manditorily bussed from a school with a large population to another with fewer "opportunities"?

But, before we get too bogged down in a specific discussion of special education, let's just use that as a springboard to a broader discussion: what really matters in education?

I think it's absolutely crucial that schools do a better job prioritizing what really matters in the curriculum. And, I think, schools are starting to do a much better job of that. Why? because they are now having to take tests which hold them accountable for a certain amount of information.

But are we still asking for too much breadth and too little depth? Why, if we are asking for a specific demonstration of a skill set, are employers still complaining about the ineptness of recent graduates and colleges having to spend more and more resources on remedial courses?

Clearly, the answer is that we are asking for a faulty skill set.

The powers that be, the educational testing centers and what-not, need to be put in a diminished role with regard to designing these tests. Instead, university professors (not named Churchill) and community members need to be added to the mix, and we need to come up with a coherent idea of what is important for students to know.

For instance, what's more important to know: how many American Indians were massacred in the 1860s and 70s, or what steps were taken to reconcile the South back to the North, or what diplomatic arrangements had to be made with the international community to restart the American economy and etc . . . You get the point: most high school students could tell you a great deal about how "we" abused the indians (which, by the way, we really did) but may not be able to even get the Civil War into the correct 1/2 century.

So the first reform that should happen is the development of a coherent set of skills and knowledge that is deemed essential to the success of students after graduation from high school. This set will probably be smaller than we might think, but the expectations for mastery should be VASTLY higher than they are at current. We should abandon any evaluation that might lead to a "partially proficient" sort of rating, and go with simple binary: either you know it, or you don't.

And, by the way, since the whole point is to reach and unleash the potential of every student, that DOES NOT mean that we eliminate the arts and athletics and other such "extras;" actually, we should make certain that artists and athletes are included in the mix of deciding curriculum and testing criteria. Since Howard Gardner has identified at least ten types of intelligence, we should make sure that at least five or six are represented. I know some Core Knowledge proponents might disagree, but I believe that success beyond the school years does involve at least a minimum of cultural literacy.

So, once we've decided what they should know, how do you go about producing results with the students? That topic . . .tomorrow.



Rockies SWEEP--On Their Way To NLCS 


Hey, look, East Coast media--there's a pretty good team here in the Mountain Twilight Zone!!

We'll beat you in your park in a pitcher's duel, we'll beat you in your park in a slugfest, . . .

And then, just to top things off, we'll come home to the so-called launching pad of Major League Baseball and hold the top offensive team in the National League to ONE RUN while yet another "who's that guy?" gets the game-winning RBI.

It's pretty tough at this point to make a case for anybody BUT Holliday for MVP and Tulowitzky for RotY. Not necessarily for anything they did in this series, or even tonight, but these guys were absolutely crucial to the success of this team which just swept the other MVP candidate's team (Jimmy Rollins) and which was in the playoffs--as opposed to the swoon of the other RotY candidate's team (Jason Braun).

Oh, and, by the way--we can pitch, too.

Look out, Diamondbacks. We took the season series from you . . . we took the closing weekend from you . . . we're not afraid.

Ever notice how when the home team is winning, everybody becomes a part of the team ("we"); when they're losing, nobody wants to be a part of it ("they").

Education Reform That Really Matters, part II 

Debunking "More Requirements"

A great hubbub was raised last year when the Democratic-led Colorado state legislature declined to increase the graduation requirements for students in Colorado public high schools. Granted, much of that was due to the folly of the same legislature deciding to tackle the difficult and crucial subject of requirements for Sex Ed curricula statewide but refusing to take up real, academic requirements that influence college admissions decisions.

But a great deal of energy was spent lambasting the Democrats for their seeming weakness on education. And, while I tend to agree that Dems are weak on education, I don't happen to think that this was a case in point for demonstrating that.

My contention boils down to a simple question: will it work? Will increasing the requirements of math and science for students produce a student body better versed in principals of math and science?

I say: no.

Look at the evidence. Chemistry is required--are our students generally really good at chemistry? Algebra is required (mostly)--are our students generally very adept at Algebra?

So, what, pray tell, makes anybody think that simply adding another class or two to each students' workload will make them better?

But, for even more support of this hypothesis, I turn to "expert" research on the subject:

The U.S. intends teachers to teach—and students to learn—more mathematics topics each year in first through eighth grade than do the vast majority of other TIMSS [Third International Mathematics and Science Study] countries. In grades 5-8, the U.S. expects between 27 and 32 topics to be taught each year. This far exceeds the international median (21-23 topics per year) and contrasts sharply with the 20-21 topics intended by the highest achieving TIMSS countries.

Logic dictates that if you reduce the number of things you are trying to accomplish by 37%, you might just be able to spend better quality time on the other 63%. And, since the U.S. ranking in this study is about "middle of the pack", it must follow that several of the countries we're talking about when comparing breadth of curriculum outperformed the U.S.

So, why teach so much stuff? Do students in CTOPU ("Countries That Outperform Us")actually know more stuff than American students, or do they just know what they do know better than we do?

When specific topics are introduced to students also differs. In the top achieving countries, students are introduced to an average of seven topics during the first three grades and about 15 during grades four to six. U.S. students are introduced to nearly three times as many topics in the first three grades (20) and a few less during grades 4-6 (12). In seventh and eighth grade, to-achieving countries introduce almost twice as many topics as does the U.S. (10 vs. six). Thus the overall pattern for the U.S. appears to be to introduce students to many mathematics topics in the early grades, to continue to teach these every year, to move on to other topics before students achieve mastery, and to introduce few new topics to students in the last two years of middle school.

Does this strike anybody else as insane? If this analysis is true--and this seems to confirm it--then we are clearly operating on massively faulty premises. If the thought process is to introduce, move on, introduce, move on, come back to it a year later, move on, come back to it a year later, move on, etc . . . then it shouldn't surprise anybody that we don't perform as well as should be expected.

Tell me this: is there a single industry who trains their people through this model? Do athletes learn by this sort of model? I don't think so.

It is as if we're trying to teach little leaguers how to throw, how to catch, how to hit, and how to run the bases in their first season . . . along with how to do the hit-and-run, how to turn double plays, how to throw the split-fingered fastball, how to do a good defensive bunt rotation, and how to switch-hit. "That's okay that they don't get it all right now--they'll get better at it every year." Of course, the problem being that if they can't throw, catch, and hit, none of the other things even matters.

If a student doesn't know, for instance, their multiplication tables, then how, exactly, are they supposed to be any good at Algebra? Can you think of a single Algebraic function that does not include multiplication or division?

And, just to further the point, in a laughable display of incompetence, I will relate that TWICE last year my daughter came home with a note from her grade-level team saying "We continue to have difficulty with computation skills." Well, no kidding.

The point is this: from a philosophical standpoint, American education has, in many regards, abandoned the idea of developing skills, in favor of introducing concepts. Unfortunately, that philosophical shift has left our students sadly unable to accomplish much of what our counterparts in CTOPU take for granted.

So a critical component of any education reform must, in my opinion, include returning to the developmentof skills as the critical first step and first priority of schooling.

That does not, by the way, mean that skills development is the end point of education; but I would argue that all the conceptual understanding in the world is meaningless if you can't do the computation at the end to get THE RIGHT ANSWER.

In music, the most beautiful phrase in the world is largely unlisten-able-to if the players are hideously out of tune; somebody could memorize Hamlet and emote until the cows come home, but if they mispronounce every other word or if their voice cracks uncontrollably, nobody will want to watch them.

The most elokwent, wel-reezond argument in the wurld will cunvins nowun if it so porlee speld as two bee unreedabul.

Skills matter.

Then the question becomes "how do you encourage/guarantee that students obtain the necessary skills?"

More on that tomorrow.


Education Reforms that Matter, part I 

Ben brings our attention today to a wonderful article by Vince Carroll regarding the liberals' favorite mantra (that Colorado ranks 49th in education spending).

Colorado does not rank near the bottom of all 50 states in its per capita support of K-12 education. Not close. This canard has been repeated so often over the years that it has been transformed into an article of faith among many education-spending advocates.

Even the liberal Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute acknowledges that the state doesn’t rank nearly so low in straight-up comparisons of dollars spent. “Using data from U.S. Census’ Public Education Finances Report,” the institute concluded in a June report, “ . . . Colorado ranked 34th in per capita spending” for fiscal year 2003-’04.

Meanwhile, Governing magazine’s sourcebook (sourcebook.governing.com), a nonpartisan compiler of data, ranks the state 25th in per capita spending on K-12 education for 2005 (the latest available year).

Does this ranking give me a prticular tinge of pride? No--being near the middle is not really something to write home about.

On the other hand, spending in this range, with results in this range (8th grade math tied for 12th highest) or this range (8th grade reading tied for 15th highest) seems to indicate we're getting a great return on our investment.

So, when we're talking about reforms that may actually matter (as I will over the next several days), let us immediately dispense with the old canard that we merely need to spend more money on the issue. Simply putting more resources at the disposal of our schools will not be enough to unlock the unfulfilled potential in our students.

Such a thing can only happen if we start thinking of a different system altogether, rather than simply making a bigger system.



The fun continues.

Actually, it is difficult to say anymore that this is mere fun. The improbable run to get to a playoff game was one thing; the 13th-inning comeback win over the Padres was the stuff of legend.

But now the Rockies have gone to one of the most hostile sports environments in America and taken two games from the Phillies. And not just typical Rockies-type games--the first was a pitcher's duel which the Rockies won; and in the second the Rockies out-slugged the Phillies after falling behind.

It's hard, at this point, to imagine a formula that the opposing manager could conjure up to beat this lineup. After a day off tomorrow, the bullpen will be rested; the designation of Jorge Julia to the disabled list pretty much shores up any weakness the bullpen has shown of late; and, out of the blue, the Rockies are suddenly a power-pitching team, managing to strike out about ten batters a game for the last week or so.

And all that is before you have to deal with our 2 through 7 hitters.

This has the same sort of feel as the Broncos run from wild card to Super Bowl Champions in 1998. We'll see how well the comparison holds up over the next week or so.


Bold Educational Reforms In Denver . . . 

. . . maybe.

A proposal to close eight Denver Public Schools and remake five others - while expanding preschool seats and creating a pathway for innovative new schools - won some initial nods of approval Monday. . . .

But to sell the closures at a time when DPS is trying to draw some families back to the district, Bennet had to offer something in return. And he did, from more preschool seats to programs some communities had been clamoring for, such as a second middle school-high school for the arts.

This is interesting. The closures are fairly simple budget-think, and I think it really is a logical approach to obvious problems (leave it to a businessman like Michael Bennett to actually try to solve problems). But the other things, while nobody knows yet if they will work, are at least an attempt at reform.

But, I'm afraid, none of these reforms seem to address any of the twelve questions I posed a couple months ago. And, perhaps, they are not supposed to. I don't believe that any of these reforms are aimed at preparing Denver students for college.

And that's fine. I've written before that college has become too much an expectation of American education, and not enough of a pathway. Some students really need to go to college to learn the skills and background to prepare them for a career; others would be much better served by learning some skills in a setting other than college (trade school, etc . . ) to prepare them for life.

So, Denver, if we're not reforming in the interest of college prep, why aren't we doing a better job of reforming in the interest of life prep?

But I must concede that Denver is, at least, making steps to shake up the traditional metropolitan school district model which has so poorly served this country for the last fifty years. And I must commend them for that.

So over the next few days I'm going to propose some public school reforms that might ACTUALLY produce a transformational change in the public schools. Some are no-brainers; some will be quite radical.

But all of them will have at their core one question: how can we best guarantee that the public schools are not an impediment to, and may actually serve to realize, the potential that every student holds when they walk through our doors?


Good Day To Be A Cardiologist 

As the Rockies continue to run together strings of improbabilities to win the National League Wild Card Race tonight with a 9-8, 13th-inning win over the San Dieo Padres.

And, even at the that, the final margin was a run which--it would appear--never scored, as Matt Holliday's face-plant head-first slide never quite reached the plate.

But, seriously, folks--after winning 14 out of their last 15 and only making up 4 games in the standings, wasn't it about time the Rockies caught a break or two? They've been the best team in baseball over the last three weeks, and they've won games in every way imaginable (except a sacrifice squeeze play--which might have been the right call at one point tonight AND yesterday . . . but I digress), but every night seemed to need some help which just wasn't coming. So I don't feel at all bad about that last play.

And, now we're at a point where the Rockies are more fun to watch than the Broncos, and by the time the Rockies run is over, we'll be into Avalanche season.

A good run, indeed.


We're Not Dead Yet . . . 

How many Sundays in the last . . .oh, forty-eight years can it be said that the Denver Broncos lost . . .

and almost nobody in Denver cared? I barely watched the Broncos, so wrapped up in the Rockies game I was.

And, in true Rockies fashion, they even forced it down to the wire, requiring being on the right side of a bang-bang call to seal the win.

Ahhhhh . . . what a great game.

But, perhaps, the most impressive thing was how little celebrating the team did right after this win. As if they know they have one more game they gotta win--all business.

I have a feeling the city-wide economic activity may take a little hit tomorrow afternoon. Heh.

Not Content With Their Senatorial Smackdown . . . 

some on the Left have decided to up their attacks on the troops.

Petraeus is a Republican hack that somehow had other priorities in Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, etc. Why does this matter and why am I going after him? During Operation Iraqi Enduring Freedom (OIEF), there have been issued 554 Bronze Stars with "V" devices, he has one of those and I say he hasn't earned it.

I hate giving any oxygen to these people, but it is very instructive to the rest of us to understand how much contempt these people have for those who serve their country with distinction (they love those who serve poorly and get bounced . . . ahem ahem), and how filed with hate they are for military success.

And, to answer the charge, I'm guessing, just maybe, that he earned that Bronze Star for the work he did in pacifying Fallujah before the "Big Army" rewarded him by shipping him to Leavenworth to teach the Army War College how to replicate his success (sadly, before the Army bothered to teach the other Generals in Iraq). Maybe, just maybe, that success was impressive enough to earn him that fourth star and put him in line to become the Commander-in-Theater. Maybe he earned it for overall strategic, tactical brilliance, rather than the sory of battlefield heroism we normally hear about inspiring these awards.

Oh, wait . . . in this War, we actually DON'T get to hear those stories.

And, by the way, I--and I think the vast majority of Americans--very much consider a General "one of the troops." So, naive, hateful, Lefty: your attack on Gen. Petraeus and continuing efforts to diminish the reputation of this career public servant are far worse and more insidious than the execrable attacks you perpetrated on the troops during and after Vietnam. Luckily, General Petraeus has better things to do than worry about your pathetic backstabbing.

He has a War to win.

How about you? Would you prefer an American loss? Would that assuage your sense of moral superiority?

Or do you just want to deny George Bush a victory? Are your political fortunes more important to you than the fortunes of your country? Do you really imagine that a forced surrender from Iraq would accomplish anything to make the mideast more stable or America any safer?

Sad how well we know the actual answer to all those questions.

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