Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Not Voting = Not So Logical

So you've decided not to vote or you're just too busy to do so or just too lazy to be bothered or you don't think your vote will count.  I know some who say, "Until they offer me a candidate, I am not going to vote for any of them." I understand the disenchantment with our current slate of candidates, but your distrust - your dislike - is not a first.  Every generation has had this feeling.  Waiting for a candidate that will be one of the greats is kind of like waiting for that special someone to discover you while you sit in your home.  It's like waiting to win the lottery without ever buying a ticket.  Not voting is not a protest because too many other people don't vote for too many other reasons.  Not voting in protest while waiting for another better candidate just isn't logical.  Historically speaking, we all hope for that one great candidate rising to the top, but it remains a craps shoot.  There really is something to that old statement "some have greatness thrust upon them" especially in politics.

Take for example Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He was actually ran by the political bosses not because he was the best candidate, but because he was related to Teddy and carried the Roosevelt name when he first started in politics.  No one dreamed that he would actually become president, let alone be elected to the office four times.  Lincoln, too, was considered a weak candidate.  Truman was supposed to lose to Dewey. Washington, hero of the Revolution, lost most of the  battles he fought. Teddy Roosevelt was sure his career was over when he was nominated and became vice-president. After he was president, he feared that he would never be remembered as a great president because he had no major war.He believed every great leader had a war to lead his people through.  He was told on a regular basis growing up that his life span would be short.

The problem is whether you are voting for Lincoln or Harding, you are never really sure if you will get a great leader or Richard Nixon, who won by a landside, by the way.  Most politicians, be they state or federal,also come and go.  A few are memorable for their leadership, like Daniel Webster or John C. Calhoun or Robert LaFollette.  There are also some who will live in infamy for their abuse of the office like Joe McCarthy or Boss Tweed or Huey Long.

 There is also that in not voting, you aren't just not voting for candidates.  You are also not voting for ballot measures and amendments and the host of people who will effect you on a local level.  No, waiting for the right candidate ignores more than just your disdain for the current crop of politicians. You also ignore those who are counting on your vote to help them make a statement by passing measures that will help schools. Your vote can help to  prevent amendments from taking away the vote.  Your vote may even get one that limits advertising and dark money.

So choosing not to vote as a protest really does nothing.  No change will occur for you. You did not participate.  If your too busy or too lazy or think your vote won't count then guess what? You aren't just ignoring a great gift you are also letting down a bunch of people who need you to vote.  You are actually making sure that the oligarchs win.   The specail interests and dark money are counting on you protesting or believing your vote doen't count. History may be passing you by.  After all, you get the government you don't show up for.

Monday, October 27, 2014

John Wick Is A True Action Flick

When I first heard about John Wick, to be honest, I was a bit uncertain.  Keanu Reeves has always been something of an unknown quantity.  When I heard one of the advertising tag lines of "the best role from Keanu since The Matrix," my first thought was well that wouldn't be too hard.  John Wick is, however, really a good,  classic style action flick.

The key for Keanu has always been not to give him too much to say.  It's not really his skill to deliver lines that hurts his performance.  It is just that for as long as he performs, his voice will always be tagged as a part of Bill and Ted.  I know, it's an unfortunate thing to happen, but it is also the way it is. John Wick is a retired hitman.  He is actually more of a hitman's hitman.  He is the killer according to Russian bad guy, Viggo, that you send to kill the bogey man.

The movie starts with the retired Wick mourning the passing of his wife, the woman who got him out of being a hitman.  From there, of course, a series of events cause John Wick to come out of retirement and go after the very bad people which he once worked for.  It is a revenge story.  The central bad guy Viggo Tarasov is played by Michael Nyqvist.  He has an unruly son, Iosef, played by Alfie Allen.

Into the mix we add fellow killers.  One we are none too sure if he is a bad guy or a good guy.  He is Marcus performed by William Dafoe.  There is also Ms. Perkins played by Adrianne Palicki who is a definite baddie.  The movie has a few twists and will easily hold your attention.

After we spend just a little time  at the beginning of the movie getting the sad and silent John Wick story, the movie kicks off.  The action sequences are quick with over-the-top violence.  It is a continuous shoot 'em up and far away from realistic.   They are frequently juxtapositioned with ironic or funny moments.  The timing of these scenes brought open and delighted laughs from the audience.  It is the kind of movie that you can root for the ruthless anti-hero because he is also the legendary action hero.

 John Wick is rated "R" for violence and language.  I enjoyed the movie. If your looking for a true action movie that hasthe right elements and something that isn't terribly deep but just fun storytelling, then John Wick will easily fit the bill.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Party Line

I take voting seriously. I have never really understood why anyone would vote for someone because they have an R or D by their name.    Still, even that is better than those who don't vote at all, especially in a state where every registered voter receives a ballot in the mail.  I also have never understood why the popularity of the president or which party is in the White House during midterms can expect to lose seats.  It seems to go against all logic. You vote for a president whose agenda is something you want and then turn around and vote for a party or allow a party to be voted in that will make sure the agenda cannot be achieved.  Make sense to you? Me either.

I also do not understand why the Republican led house has the lowest favorability rating in history expects to easily maintain its control. Not only will the Republicans maintain control of the House, but they are odds on favorites to gain control of the Senate. The logic of putting the same people in power back into power astounds me.  Never in our history have we had a government do so little to help its people or listen to them.

When I vote, I weigh what the candidates have done.  I must also admit when I see candidates that have catered to extreme groups, it makes my voting choice that much more simple.  I find it fascinating when a candidate who was once attacked by his own party in primaries as too wishy-washy is suddenly a strong leader who has a plan a few years later.

Ad campaigns use a term like "career politician" to describe an opponent. I hate to tell you this, but the guy approving the ad is also a "career politician." It also doesn't really matter if a politician has other members of the family in politics. It doesn't matter whether your father or cousin was a politician or a farmer.  What matters is the record. Politicians will, in fact, say just about any moderate sounding thing to get elected after having said all the correct extreme things in the primary to the base.  I will look to see what positive ads a politician has ran.  If he hasn't ran any or very few, I will probably not vote for him or her.  If he or she can only run against the other guy's record, it actually says something pretty positive about the other guy.

There have also been a few "anti-ads" that have actually made statements that pretty much ensures my vote going for the guy the ad is against.  As someone who has directly witnessed the damage TABOR has caused, announcing you will protect that law means you've probably lost my vote. The same goes if a politician attacks someone for supporting something I support.  I suppose that's why so many of the ads are vague.

I also look at, now, what dark money supports them.  Some groups, I don't have a problem with. These groups, in all honesty, are just trying to support a person who supports their interest.  Others operate through fear and lies. Others want to own the election.  These groups also frequently involve themselves in issues and not just candidates. For example, the group "Don't Turn Racetracks into Casinos," oppose the issue of Amendment 68.  This is the amendment that would give moneys to schools.  Don't Turn Racetracks into Casinos is funded primarily by Colorado Casinos. Gee, I wonder if they have an agenda they are protecting?

The fact is I try to do my research and make an informed decision.  I do not vote a party line. Even if the guy I voted for loses or the proposition fails, I had a say. I never have voted a party line, and I am hopeful others don't either.  I find it amusing when ads announce that Gardner supported Republican agenda or Udall voted for Democratic sponsored bills. Wow. If you are shocked by this, then you might want to try reading a newspaper or cereal box. Imagine a Democrat or a Republican voting with their party most of the time. Who knew such things could happen?

The point is you need to vote.  I am amazed at people who complain about the system but do nothing to change it.  I know.  I know.  You've heard it all. "If you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem" or  "if you don't vote, you have no voice."  And on and on... I have no platitudes.  It's not the faithful who don't vote.  The extremes will make sure they exercise their right.  Ignore the ads and the phone calls and the emails.  Even voting by a dart throw is more than sitting there.  There are plenty of folks out there counting on you not voting.  Show them they are wrong.  No poll votes and no poll should control the vote.  So I have one more cliche for you:

Every Vote Counts.

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves-and the only way they could do this is by not voting." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Please vote.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Education: Going into Battle for Your Child

I taught for over thirty years.  This means not only did I meet a bunch of students along the route, but also I met a bunch of parents.  All of us have again and again been bombarded about how horrible the American education system is.  It is a political ploy.  Hate schools.  Hate teachers.  Hate curriculum.  Hate...hate...hate.

When was the last time you actually saw a positive movie like Stand by Me or Dead Poet's Society or Lean on Me that is not a sports movie?  When was the last time you saw a TV series that supported education instead of one that depicts silly or angst ridden teens with even dumber teachers?  We have moved away from the belief that teachers were someone who is there for kids, was to be respected, and wanted to raise truly independent thinkers.

At the beginning of every school year, many of my former students, now parents themselves, talk about issues they are having with teachers.  They are "battling" the teacher for what is best for their child.  Their poor child is over-whelmed by homework.  They seem to have forgotten that they too did or failed to do homework. They are not working with the teacher, or helping the teacher, or making sure the responsibility is shared by parent,  teacher and  child. No, they are battling the teacher.  Guess what? If you think that your child's teacher is your adversary and you must battle them, then there will be one loser: your child.

Invariably, another parent will chime in with  her horror story about doing battle and protecting the child in the comments on Facebook or publically over a cup of coffee.  The story will eventually end with "I finally had to pull the child out of that horrid school" and move him to the charter school or into a home school program.  I can tell you when such a parent does this, there is probably a relief at the school. Not for the loss of the child, but for not having to deal with a parent who is often more about herself than her child.

Another instance was when George Takei posted an over heard statement. It was one of those dumb things we hear all the time.  It was something like, "What if Canada decides to separate from the United States like Scotland thought about doing from England?" The comment that struck me was that one person  commented, "Another shining example of the failure of the American education system." This is the trained response. It is also terribly wrong.

The fact that Takei posted it means that most people will get how stupid it is, including the one who indicted all US schools everywhere.  The problem is that at no point does Takei say the statement was from an American.  We don't even know if the person went to school in public education.  They could have gone to private school or been home schooled or learned everything they know from Honey BooBoo. They could be Canadian, Irish, or Samoan for all we know.  Mr. Takei is a well-traveled person.  The fact that this person jumps to the position of blame teachers and the schools makes my point.

It's kind of like "Jay-Walking" where Jay Leno would go out to ask easy questions of people on the street.  Humorous? Yes.  We have no idea though how many people were asked that question before the perfect, moronic answer was found.  It is all founded on the premise that schools have failed us, even if they haven't.  Lies do not become the truth if repeated often enough; they become a lie that too many believe is the truth.

So as many of you are now getting ready to go to your child's parent-teacher conferences please keep in mind the vast majority of teachers are there for your child.  The ones that do the job badly are actually in a very small group. If you've run across a bad teacher, remember you must also teach your child that they must work in life with the good and the bad.  There are bad doctors and bad lawyers and bad parents.  There are super lawyers and super doctors and super parents.  There are super teachers, too.  Most though, be they lawyer, doctor, or parent, are doing their best.  They want to succeed.  The only way a teacher can succeed is if you are there for your child, not as your child's warrior knight.  The teacher does not need an adversary; the teacher needs a partner.   We all know that no matter how much testing we do or how much irrelevant junk politicians attach to evaluations, kids are not some inanimate object like a car.  Kids are individuals with needs that they don't even understand.  You see, teachers, like most parents, are doing the best they can.

If you are listening only to your child's story from school, you don't have the whole story.  I am not talking about ignoring stories of abuse but the typical kid stories. I would, on occasion, tell parents in conferences that if they would promise not to believe half of what they heard about me, I would promise not to believe half of what I heard about them.  I am not saying your child is lying to you, although that may be the case.  If you spent any time with a kid, you know the kid's perspective is usually pretty unique.  Remember some of them really do believe that they can grow up to be giraffes. Adolescents, besides having raging physical changes,  frequently see  in terms of a universe that centers on them.  There is no big picture, and time is of the moment not what might occur twenty years from now.  There is a reason that health care calls young people "The Immortals."

Teachers and schools are not the adversary.  No teacher worth his or her salt  wants to battle you.  Hiding history or moving it to reflect your political or religious beliefs proves only one thing, your child will never think and make good decisions.  The loser will be the kid.  If that's what you want...then go into battle, just remember who loses every single time you do.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Turn It Off: Dark Money

I know this may surprise you, but all the political ads on TV are for the most part misleading you.  The ones that are not paid for by candidates themselves, are using what is called "dark money." These people are experts at twisting facts and lying by omission.

Last election cycle, I wrote that you need to mute the ads.  The fact is that most political ads' impacts are fleeting.  They are most likely paid attention to by those who already support what they are advertising, but if you spend more than thirty seconds checking the facts on sites other than the biased ones, you wild discover how twisted they are.

Political ads by the politicians that pay for them are usually stilted or ignoring essential facts.  For example, here in good old Colorado, candidate Cory Gardiner announces he is for over-the-counter birth control.  It's not a new stance for the Republican candidate.  What he is not telling you is that Congress has no say in what prescription medications are sold over the counter.  Another ad announces the Senator Mark Udall voted against the Keystone Pipeline effecting jobs in Colorado. Yes he did vote against it and no it does not effect jobs in Colorado.  The fact is the Keystone Pipeline will be nearly 200 miles away from Colorado at its nearest point. The permanent jobs it will produce is projected at  35.  Another add demands that Obamacare should be repealed.  Anyone, whether they like the program or dislike the program, knows that The Affordable Care Act is not going away anytime soon. It is an ad clearly aimed at the Tea Party base.

The most insidious of the dark money ads though are the ones that pedal fear.  The NRA is particularly adept at this one.  One of the current best fear monger ads this season is the one against amendment 68 which will allow gambling at three horse tracks, two of which are not even built, in Colorado.  The ad is most likely paid for by casinos in Nevada and Atlantic City who also own casinos in Colorado. It actually seeks to make people who vote for it afraid we might be giving money to Rhode Island.  You know, that scary state, the smallest one in the Union, Rhode Island?  After all, we should be concerned more about allowing a business in Rhode Island to make money than the 100 plus million dollars that it is projected to bring into schools in a state that is now 40th in student funding K-12 and 50th in higher education.  The irony of this ad is that it attempts to scare voters about an out-of-state company making money in an ad paid for by an out-of-state company.

You may have noticed that I said the ad was "most likely" paid for by out-of-state gambling interests. That is the problem with dark money.  It does not have to reveal who its donors and supporters are.  For all we know the anti-68 movement is paid for by one rich guy sitting in a loft apartment in Hoboken.  Why scare us? Will it really cut into the other casinos? I doubt it.  What it could do, if we pass it, is perhaps start us thinking that it really might not be such a bad idea. It might help our poor state, which is hobbled by TABOR, by raising taxes on existing casinos.  Hey, if 68 gives us money for schools, and the sales tax on pot gives us a boost...why not  look at what we are charging the other gambling establishments?

If an ad does not say it is approved by the candidate, it is dark money no matter what the name of the organization.  They may be owned by the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson or Michael Bloomberg.  Dark money is not the voice of the many but the few. It's time to hit that mute button and