Email letters, September 19,  2013

Clifton Elementary shows efficacy of grant money

The recent comments of some prospective school board candidates should provoke thoughts of a response in a number of serious-minded citizens across the valley. Candidate John Sluder wonders “if we throw another billion dollars at our education system [is it] going to improve overnight?” His supporters and he claim “no!”

As a 14-year teacher in District 51, I take that comment personally because the real answer is a most emphatic “yes.” As a matter of fact, it has already happened right here in our own school district. Clifton Elementary received a federal grant in the amount of some $150,000 a year for three years to improve educational results as a “turnaround school.”

Those who find high stakes testing to be the most valid measure of school success might be surprised to learn of as much as a 40 percentage point boost in reading test scores, 35 percentage point boost in writing test scores and a 54 percentage point boost in math test scores attributable to this funding (considerably short of the billion Sluder suggests will fail).

When combined with focused direction from all stakeholders, commitment to improved instructional techniques, high expectations and hard work on the part of parents, students and staff, that money is indeed a valuable tool of change in the educational culture of a school.

Sluder also suggests spending the “bare minimum” to comply with unfunded federal mandates. With Special Education being a major “underfunded mandate,” is it Sluder’s contention that the education of students with special needs doesn’t deserve the equitable attention (money) set aside for the education of all other students?

Candidate Sluder’s comments betray a cynical point of view, playing to the fears of taxpayers while schools prove every day to be worthy of all the support they can muster. Virtually every school in this valley receives high marks from the parents of its students. Virtually every individual teacher, as well.

Sluder might want to rethink his approach to education and decide if he intends to serve both students and his constituents as a member of the school board. Will he use a critical eye or more platitudes to achieve his goals?


Grand Junction

Mass shootings have all stemmed from mental illness

As the anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment group gets fired up again over the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, its members might wish to learn a few facts.

• The gunman, Aaron Alexis, had a history of mental instability and gun violence, and the Navy was warned as recently as six weeks ago by the Rhode Island Police Department of his instability. Yet, he held a security clearance that enabled him to access the Navy Yard without being searched.

• Once on the base, he used a 12-gauge shotgun (Joe Biden’s weapon of choice) to shoot and kill a security officer and take his AR-15 and semi-automatic handgun to kill the rest of the victims. These two guns with high capacity magazines are already illegal in D.C. (except for law enforcement personnel).

• The one glaring common thread in all of these shootings is mental illness. Adam Lanza, James Holmes and now Aaron Alexis. All seriously mentally unstable. This is where the problem lies.

Now, what are we going to do about it? It’s not the gun!


In 2016 Clinton would be a shoo-in – if she’d switch to GOP

With the nation’s political climate in turmoil, the timing may be right for the illogical to occur.

Consider the fact that Hillary Clinton is a serious, popular, viable candidate for president in 2016, and
consider the concern that the ailing Republican Party may not have anyone “qualified,” still suffering from two successive election defeats as the result of running weak, ineffective contenders. Also, consider the possibility that many Democrat voters are finally dissatisfied with the party leadership’s support for the failed presidency of Obama.

Could this provide a realistic opportunity for Hillary to change her party affiliation, as Ronald Reagan did in 1962, and for her to run for president as a Republican, possibly gaining the advantage of obtaining the popular vote of the masses of disgruntled voters from both parties?  Now, isn’t that ridiculous?

Battlement Mesa

Letter writer presented flawed information on marijuana use

In response to Diane Cox of Palisade in the Sept. 18 edition of the Sentinel, her facts aren’t really facts at all.

Firstly, the study quoted by The Daily Sentinel showing a decrease in IQ for an average student consuming cannabis once weekly do NOT show a CAUSAL relationship between cannabis consumption and loss of IQ, merely a correlation devoid of other context. Self-reported, long-term studies
require impossible controls to provide more conclusive evidence, and I see NO evidence that this is the case. I’m not arguing that kids should smoke pot, just that the study modality is flawed if you’re trying to determine a cause.

Anecdotally, I know more people in the 90th+ percentile who smoked pot DAILY in high school, this writer included (98th), who suffered no such ill effects. For the record, I am currently not a consumer of cannabis, either recreational or medical, and have been sober for the majority of my adult life.

That isn’t to say that children should use drugs, as we know that they can alter development of the prefrontal cortex, which doesn’t finish growing up until the early-mid 20s.

Cox’s assumption that medical marijuana has directly increased the number of suspensions for possession that occur within our schools is another correlation that is questionable. It doesn’t take into account additional enforcement and educational programs, better-trained staff and security personnel and advancement in reliable detection methods (equipment, dogs, etc.) in the last decade.

A stronger argument is the case for accidental ingestion of medical or other cannabis by children, which does, in fact, increase in frequency as a direct correlation to accessibility in the home — both a reason for parents to do their job and secure their meds, and a more salient point   but I’d offer that if my kid accidentally eats pot brownies, he’ll get disoriented, stoned and hungry. If he accidentally drinks a fruity alcoholic concoction, he could die.

Cox fails to understand that the place where the kids are getting the weed isn’t the pot shops. It’s the black market, the one that is subsidized by the prohibition. See alcohol circa 1919-1933.

The black market for cannabis causes more worldwide harm than what it eases. It also creates more crime in our backyards, fills our jails with nonviolent offenders at our expense and subsidizes the import and sale of harder narcotics. Drug cartels have as much as 60 percent of their cash flow derived from the sale of cannabis, distracting law enforcement from stopping the flow of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, PCP and other “hard drugs.”

Also, the 15 percent THC “law” in the Netherlands that Cox quoted isn’t in fact a law. It’s a proposed law not yet ratified by the Dutch Parliament (since 2011). An analog to this is the 1871, 1912 and 1928 Anti-Miscegenation Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. While proposed as bills, and presented to Congress as such, one wouldn’t point to them as a justification for banning interracial marriage, because laws they are not.

Lastly, Cox asked, “How can we continue social experiments with our most precious resource — our youth?”

Is she aware that every institution that encourages cooperation between individuals is a social experiment   from the small social group to the democratically elected central government to the fascist dictatorship? We live a series of social experiments every day   some good, some bad.


Background check forms should inquire about intent to murder

In the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings, Bill Grant proposes that Colorado legislators “reconsider common-sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of individuals bent on murder.”

Unsurprisingly, Grant offers no common-sense specifics. Perhaps one of his common-sense secret ideas was to make murder a common-sense felony. Oops, that’s already taken. Well, how about adding common-sense questions to the already existing common-sense background check form:

(1) Do you intend to use any of these gun(s) for the purpose of murder, now or in the future?

(2) If your answer above is “No,” do you promise to contact law enforcement immediately if your intent changes, or if your behavior becomes erratic or uncontrollable due to mysterious voices, unexplained force fields, space aliens, demons, drugs (legal or illegal) or other causes?

Grand Junction

Bush, other Republicans deserve credit for standing firm on their principles

Bill Hugenberg’s letter to the editor (Sentinel, Sept. 18) would be laughable if it did not relate to serious issues. I am personally thankful to the “Republican isolationists” who refused to surrender even an “iota of sovereignty to Europeans” despite the urging of socialist President Woodrow Wilson. Now we have a powerless and discredited United Nations that repeatedly votes against values dear to the United States.

“The Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq” was supported and applauded by Democrats in Congress who now condemn the action. Thanks to President Bush for having the backbone to stand up to the terrorists. Thanks to our people who used reasonable means to extract information that prevented later attacks on our country. None of the jailed terrorists are walking around with missing fingers or hands, which would have been the sentence for even minor crimes in their countries.

President Obama was “awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 precisely” for NOTHING. He sure didn’t win it for killing some innocents on the ground with drone strikes.

I am sorry but I could not understand the point of Hugenberg’s last three sentences.

To avoid injury, cyclists must ride respectfully, responsibly

I see on page one that a bicyclist was hit on Lands End Road. I sympathize; I got hit on F Road 35 years ago. I sold my Bianchi and bought a mountain bike. I learned a hard lesson. They don’t watch, and you don’t have a chance. The front rim was tacoed, the seat peg sheared off, the frame cracked, one crank was busted, and I wasn’t any better. Two tons of steel and rubber are very unforgiving.

I moved away, worked, retired and moved back home. People are still riding bikes. I went over the monument [ITAL] once [ITAL] in my one-ton diesel pickup with family from out of town. The bicyclists were rude, cut me off and rode dangerously. I was going way the hell out of my way to cut them slack and give them room, up to and including driving 10 mph to stay behind them on what I knew to be a very dangerous section up there. They cussed and fingered me for driving a “clean diesel,” more than most cars. They then rode dangerously at me and were basically rude. They are no better on the Broadway C340. Not all are schmucks, but a majority.

Hey, guys, I used to be one of the original all-bike commuters in this valley. Back when the college was just “Mesa,” I went to school and work on a bike. The Boulder types seem to have brought attitude and lost all civility. Why is that?

I hope the guy the other night didn’t think me a jerk, but Dude! Riding Broadway, no bike lights, in flip-flops and a black hoodi? Really? WTF and I don’t mean Fruita.

C’mon. You’re just lucky I have extra lighting on that hated and feared diesel pickup, and, y’know, if I weren’t such a——, I would have given you a ride in the rain. Fold up your finger, get the hell out of the middle of the lane and buy some lights, Dude!


Grand Junction

Virginia law on gun sales may have saved some lives

Rick Wagner’s latest offering – “Anti-gun crowd uses incorrect news to push extreme gun-control agenda” – could just as easily have been titled “Wagner uses incomplete news to push extreme gun-rights agenda.”

Reportedly, the Naval Yard shooter attempted to purchase (or at least test-fired) an AR-15 at the same gun shop where he purchased the shotgun actually used in the slaughter.

Also reportedly, Alexis was unable to purchase the AR-15 because a Virginia statute limits sales of assault weapons to instate residents. If true, then Virginia’s common-sense law – a limited “assault weapons ban” – may have prevented even more carnage.

Moreover, if any “assault weapons ban” were unconstitutional – as extreme gun rights advocates insist – then Virginia’s law would also be unconstitutional under both the Second Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article IV, Section 2 (which prohibits a state’s denial of equal rights to U.S. citizens residing in another state).

Recalling that both Republicans and the NRA once supported the 1994 assault weapons ban (until such weapons became big money-makers for gun manufacturers and the NRA), the incident actually supports the proposition that a nationwide assault weapons ban – coupled with closing the “gun show loophole” and limiting magazine capacity — could indeed prevent mentally unstable purchasers from legally purchasing such weapons.

Likewise, while Kathleen Parker’s column – “Mental illness, not gun access, biggest problem in shooting sprees” – may be correct as to mass shootings, addressing that component is complicated by medical privacy laws. Moreover, the element common to all incidents of gun violence is a gun – whether or not “mental illness” is also involved.

Wagner is correct in pointing to inadequate background checks as a contributing factor – which is the direct result of Republican-backed out-sourcing of traditional personnel security functions to private entities paid on completion rates rather than thoroughness.

Grand Junction

Poor energy practices continue to damage environment

Michael Higgins’ letter to the editor regarding fossil fuels, global temperatures, coal-fired power plants, wind and solar energy etc. might be meaningful if he had done some research about any of it.

The Arctic ice cap is larger than last year but smaller than most previous years, so the trend despite annual variation is less ice. Germany has been building coal-fired plants as a backup to its extensive and expanding renewable energy projects. Even most global warming skeptics acknowledge that the planet is heating up but deny human CO2 emissions are responsible.

Here’s a CO2 fact: Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through human activity makes its way into the ocean, thus changing the water chemistry and making it difficult for a variety of creatures to build shells. This includes plankton, a vital part of the global food chain.

Read something about the lakes of toxic coal slurry, view photos of the destruction of Appalachia, and talk to the pecan farmers south of La Grange, Texas, about their trees dying as the result of Acid Rain downwind from the Fayette power plant. These are not “liberal” facts; they are facts.


Grand Junction


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