Ben Too Long …

I have not posted in quite awhile. New job. Lots going on. Sorry.

But I did come across this and had to share. Nailed it.

Posted in Culture, Humor, Politics | 1 Comment

A Few Phone Fundraising Tips

I received a call today from the local Police Benevolence Association.  They carry out a program annually where they take children in need shopping to clothing and supplies – it’s a great program.

But when I received the call, this is how it went:


“Umm, is this the proprietor of the business?  Umm, is this Ben?”

“Ummm, yes.”

“How are you today?”

“I’m doing well, thanks.  How are you?”

“Well, I, umm, woke up a little late today, but other than that I’m doing okay.  Anyway, I’m from the Normal Police Benevolent Association and ….. (entered into a description of what they do and the program – which I was already familiar with by the way)…”

“Yes, I’m familiar with that.”

“Well we’re hoping to take 20 more kids than we took last year.  Can we count on your this year for your support?”

“Well, actually not right now.  Thanks.”

“Can I ask why?”

“I’m already involved with a number of local charities and right now can’t extend myself any more.”

“You don’t think you could even just give $10?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yes, and if you continue to ask I can guarantee you it will make me much less likely to consider giving in the future.”


Okay … a few thoughts and observations…

1. How about calling and asking “May I speak with Ben, please?”.  Don’t ask if I am the proprietor of the business.  Can you get less personal?

2. When I ask how you’re doing, I don’t actually care if you won’t up late.  In fact, don’t say anything of the sort.  A simple “I’m great, thanks for asking!” will make me much more encouraged and inspired to listen to you.

3. Don’t go into your speech about the project … ask if I am familiar with it first.  Otherwise you insult my intelligence – and refer to point number 1 – can you get less personal?

4.  When I tell you “no” once … that should typically be enough.  If you want to ask why, I’m more than happy to tell you.  But respect me enough to not continue to push after I’ve told you why.  Simply say “Well we appreciate all you do in the community and hope that next year you’ll consider us.  Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.  Have a wonderful day!”

Then next year when you call, I might consider it.  But after that phone call today, you might as well remove me from your list.

Posted in Rants | 2 Comments

Does Bernie Miklasz have another case of the runs?

As soon as I heard the reports about Scott Spiezio, I knew there’d be a column from Bernie on the topic. And I knew it would fuel the fire he continues to help ignite … is hard partying an institutional problem for the Cardinals?

For starters, maybe Bernie knows something I don’t. Heck, maybe he knows something none of us know. But minus that, it sounds like more of the same – jumping to conclusions and making ad hoc arguments.

For starters, last I checked, drinking a couple glasses of wine doesn’t constitute hard partying. Sure, maybe La Russa shouldn’t have driven when he did, but let’s not turn it into more than it was.

Josh Hancock absolutely made some major mistakes and showed some real lack of judgment. He apparently did like to party pretty hard.

But where’s the evidence that Scott Spiezio=Josh Hancock? Am I missing something. It appears that Spiezio was experiencing some physical issues as a result of some drug(s) he was taking. Maybe they were illegal, maybe they were prescription … no way to know yet. But a player acknowledging he’s struggling with such an issue, maybe even an addiction, doesn’t become hard partying in my book either. In fact, if anything, maybe this is positive fruit from the Cards’ prior experiences? Maybe Scott Spiezio wanted to make sure he didn’t become the next Josh Hancock.

In his latest two-ply column, Bernie claims he doesn’t blame La Russa – that ultimately it’s up to players to police themselves, etc. That’s not what he said after Hancock’s tragedy … in fact he all but specifically blamed La Russa directly for Hancock’s death. He and I exchanged some pleasantries following that ordeal.

The reality that Bernie seems to want to ignore is that this is not a St. Louis Cardinal problem. It’s a much larger issue that includes MLB, professional sports, the celebrity culture in general and American culture at large. And, it appears Bernie would know that compulsive and addictive behaviors, which it appears is the case with Spiezio, are outside a team’s control, or even a person’s individual control at times. Maybe Spiezio getting help isn’t the “third strike” that sends the Cards out of control, but the best thing that could have happened … maybe it will encourage others to do the same. Maybe it’s the cure the Cardinals needed.

Now if we could just find a cure for Bernie’s case of the runs.

Posted in Rants, St. Louis Cardinals | 3 Comments

Why I feel good about this season. Again.

I was excited this Spring following our World Series Championship.  I felt good about our season going into it, though I knew there would be some holes to fill.

But since then, it’s been a tough year to be a Cardinal fan.  Between the off-field issues and the on-field inconsistencies, it has been tough to consistently be excited.

But this week a few things happened that give me tremendous hope and made me feel good about this season, again.

1. The starting pitchers actually have pitched well for a week straight.  The bullpen desperately needed a rest and they got one. And the Cards went 5-2 over the span, including a game they should have won over LA when Wainwright pitched a complete game but took the loss.

2. Adam Kennedy went on the DL and will undergo surgery. It’s rare to celebrate a player going down, especially for an extended period … but celebrate doesn’t even begin to describe my response to this news.  I was optimistic about AK’s signing at the start of the year, but have been nothing but frustrated and disappointed since then.  He’s been absolutely killing us, especially in crucial situations.  And honestly, I like Ryan in the field, on the base paths, and at the plate better right now.  And it proves we have a middle infielder in the system who can do the job.  The other positive from this?  Aaron Miles is almost guaranteed more playing time – and he’s proven himself capable, especially in the clutch.

3. Rick Ankiel appears to be ready (translated: Encarnacion will finally get the bench he deserves).  I’ve been on record from day one saying I didn’t thing Encarnacion deserved to wear the birds on the bat.  Sure, his offensive numbers have been decent – he’s gonna get you 20 HR’s, knock in 75 runs, and hit .275.  But there are A LOT of guys who can do that.  His loafing in the outfield and on the basepaths doesn’t cut it.  I can recall seeing an outfielder who appeared more lazy or who frustrated me more to watch.  Sure, Duncan may be rough out there, but he busts his butt.  Every play.  Those words don’t appear to be in Juan’s vocabulary.  If he had trade value I’d trade him.  If not, I’d play Ankiel and Ludwick until they do something to lose the job, because the both play like they want it.  And Rick’s arm could be lethal, which is another thing Juan lacks, in my humble opinion.

It’ll be an interesting and important road trip to play the Cubs and Brewers, and if we keep this up, the central could look a heck of a lot different in a week.

Posted in St. Louis Cardinals | Leave a comment

Biden Addresses the NEA-RA

4:10 > Biden is introduced wearing a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie.

My paraphrase:

Isn’t it a sad state of affairs when you have to fight to raise Teacher’s Aid salaries up to the poverty level.

It takes all education personnel to make sure no child is left behind.

I understand my friend, the Gov. or New Mexico was here the other day and said he would appoint a teacher as Secretary of Education. I have one better. How about a teacher in the White House living with the president? (a reference to his wife who is a teacher) …

You can tell I live with a teacher … I’ve always gotta tell my wife to put the papers away that she’s grading.

Until you teach, you have no idea. People don’t get it.

Part of teaching is understanding their struggles. One student at a time is the only way to educate our kids. It’s about shining the light, opening new doors and helping students realize their potential.

Want to hold every child to the same test? Make sure you spend the same amount of money on every kid.

I guarantee you I will give you the tools you need … there will be no more blame the teachers excuse in a Biden administration.

Don’t tell me we can’t pay for it. Don’t tell me what you value – show me your budget and I’ll show you what you value.

You can’t tell me it’s a higher societal value to give a huge tax break to those who didn’t ask for it and whose average income is 1.45 million a year than education …. I can do it for less than 85 billion a year.

I have a detailed plan to end the war. This war must end. Everyone says we need a political solution. The only way it ends without chaos is to separate the factions and a political way forward.

My mother has an expression – “children tend to become that what we expect of them.” I want this country to expect a great deal from our children … high school graduation, access to a college education regardless of income.

Childen need more than test scores.

We need to start education early.

Pay teachers more.

Reduce class size.

Make high education available.

No more experts … you know what we need. A Child Is More Than A Test Score.

How can we expect our students to think critically and build a local economy if all we do is have them fill in bubbles and test their ability to take a test. You don’t teach children by testing them…. you test them after you’ve taught them.

Lower class size and support teachers – everyone says it … it means MORE TEACHER and PAY THEM MORE.

I have a plan to hire 100,000 new teachers in classrooms in America and pay them to do it.

That will cost a lot of money – $6 billion a year … no where near the $85 we spent on the tax cut for the very wealthy.

I’m giving you numbers because I’m not playing a game … I’m telling you how I’m going to do it.

In Japan the starting teacher salary is the same as the starting salary of an engineer . why not in America?

In my administration you will be cherished, not chastised.

In the Biden administration you will be valued and supported.

On a personal note … education for my wife and me was our ticket to freedom, independence, self-awareness and self-confidence. They can never take away your education.

There would be no shot of me standing before you, had my parents not sacrificed to give me an education. Making that available to all our children it essential to keep the faith for this generation and to leave them a better situation than we had for ourselves.

These are not someone else’s children … they are our children. And you are their hope. You deserve for our own sake, a lot more than you’ve been given.

My colleagues always kid me for quoting Irish poets … they thing I do because I am Irish. It’s not. It’s because they are the best poets … “History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave, but then once in a lifetime that long forward tidal wave of justive rises up and hope and history rhyme.”

Join me in making hope and history rhyme for our children.

Posted in Education, Politics | Leave a comment

Huckabee Addresses the NEA-RA

2:40 > Huckabee was introduced wearing a dark suit, white shirt and indigo tie.

He is a great story-teller and a great speaker, with a great sense of humor … He really did very well.

My paraphrase:

I am aware some believe a Republican at the NEA is as out of place as Michael Moore at the NRA … but personally I am surprised more Republican candidates are not here.

Education has to stop being a vertical issue – left and right, liberal and conservative. Education must be a vertical issue – it will either move our country up or take us down.

I propose we unleash some Weapons of Mass instruction.

Music and art in every grade level in every classroom in America. A computer is more than just a database, it’s an operating system. Education is more than just data download … it’s about the left and right side of the brain.

When I was a kid my parents paid off for a year an electric guitar and I loved it so much I played until my fingers bled… I wish I could said made me a rock-star. I’m aware the rock-star of politics has already been here today, Barack Obama. I would not be here today if it were not for music. It is essential for every young American citizen.

Education needs to be comprehensive, creative and child-centered. \

We need to wake our students up … with a curriculum that excites out students. We need personalized learning, in addition to core curriculum, allowing students to focus on areas that wake them up and shake them up. They should be at the center of learning.

“if you do one more thing that adds one more page of paperwork to my life, I’m coming after you” my sister, who is a teacher, would say. So we need to put some of that responsibility on students.

I had a great teachers who said it didn’t matter where I started – I didn’t have to finish there.

Never once did I come home and say it was the teachers fault. My greatest fear was not getting in trouble at school, which I did, it was my parents finding out I got in trouble at school.

Teachers ought to be compensated with salary and benefits that recognize the professional training and work. There ought to be a way to elevate that …. to make it attractive so we can train replacements so they can do even a better job than us. I want to believe the greatest generation is not the one about to die, but the one that is yet to be born.

Personalized learning is not an IEP … it puts the responsibility on students. It would not be done so teachers have to do more paperwork … that’s the last things teachers need more of.

Posted in Education, Politics | 4 Comments

Obama Addresses the NEA-RA

11:40 > Obama is introduced wearing a navy suite, white shirt and light blue tie. There was a rousing welcome from the delegation. He gave a shout out to those of us from Illinois and IEA President Ken Swanson.

Throughout the speech and answers he also references his love for Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada, to much laughter.

My paraphrase:

These are our kids – not “these kids” …

I couldn’t be here today if it were not for you and people like you.

There was always someone who saw something in me, who saw my God-given potential, who were willing to work with me, until that lvoe of learning caught up with me.

My sister is a teacher. I know the work she puts in, the blood, sweast and tears on behalf of our kids. SHe’s a parent, a social worker, sometimes a doctor. I don’t want to hear anyone say the teachers are not working hard. They are working hard every day for Our Kids.

You have made the children of America your life’s work …

We need to raise a new generation of citizens.

The work you do and the difference you make has never been more important.

The single most important factor ini determining a child’s success is who their teacher is. It’s you.

It’s you who can make the difference, it’s you who goes beyond the call because you believe, it’s you …

Washington needs a remedial course in how education works.

We praise educators in speeches and photo ops and then abandon them when it comes time to give them the resources they need to do their job.

How many “Education Presidents” have we had?

No Child Left Behind … we left the money behind. We left common sense behind.

This is what I will try to leave behind as President: Slogans without Substance … and if we don’t fix the NCLB law when it comes before Congress, I will fix i when I become President of United States.

I’ll also say this: fixing the worst aspects of NCLB can only be a starting point. We all understand the status quo is unacceptable for teachers and for students. We still have to make changes for the future. In the face of a global economy, we don’t need more blame, inaction and half-steps … we need a historic commitment to American’s educators and that’s the kind of commitment I intend to make as President.

We know we have a million teachers getting ready to retire. We need to recruit a new generation of educators. Let’s do it by raising salaries across the board, not through shortcuts. If you are willing to put yourself through college, we should be willing to help you pay off some of those college loans. We can’t ask someone to teach if they can’t support themselves as a teacher.

I know from my sister, and other educators, that no one goes into teaching to get rich … but no one goes in to stay poor. You should be able to support a family.

I love all of you, but I really love Iowa, and New Hampshire, and South Carolina right now.

I was talking to a teacher who worked in a donut shop before school. Those who are working up to teach shouldn’t have to wake up to make the donuts. Letthe donut-makers make the donuts, let the teachers teach.

We believe educators are the professionals you know you are. We need to reward you. We need to invest in early childhood education.

Children are not stupid. They know if they are behind. And then they push away and make your job even harder.

We need the best teachers in the toughest classrooms. Where we need to make “these kids” our kids again.

I believe in collective bargaining … workers have to be at the table.

We can find ways of increasing pay that involve teachers, not based on test scores.

(His pay for performance words were not received well by some) …

Let’s work to develop assessments that really assess and aren’t just intended to make students good test-takers. Tests should be tools, not used for punishment. They should support learning, not just account.

There’s a lot of talk out there about accountailibilty in education … I believe in acc. in every profession, including politicans. But i also believe before we hold educators accountable for the results, we have to hold ourselves accountable for giving teachers the support they need. We need to put our money where our mouth is. I am tired of hearing teachers take the blame for our collective failures.

All of us are responsible.

A few months ago, I took a bus ride with a group of Iowa teachers. One of them said no one minds being accountable when the tools and measurements are fair to educators.

I am proud to be a sponsor of a bill that is going to repeal the Social Security offset.

There is no policy that can substitute for an involved parent…. we are all responsible. We all have a job to do.

Don’t blame the teachers if we’re not parenting.

We’ve got great challenges ahead … but we’ve overcome great challenges before. It is our turn to make sure our children won’t be let down. And I look forward to standing right next to you in that fight.

I am not going to make the claim to be the Education President, I am going to be the President that works with educators.

This may not be popular, but remember I did get some cheers 🙂

The most experienced teachers are not always going where we need them … and we should be willing to provide those teachers some additional help if they’re willing to do that. Every study I have seen says when we lose teachers, it’s because inexperienced teachers just dropped into a classroom have a tough time. We need good mentors and master teachers, and they should be compensated for providing additional assistance. The most controversial aspect is merit pay. I know folks here object to it properly if it’s based on student performance on a test, and not accounting for what those kids come to school with. Then it’s not fair to pay teachers who are pouring their heart out based on arbitrary measures.

There should be ways we can work with the NEA and teachers to see if there are ways to measure success and determine ways to set those kinds of standard … but I’m not going to do it to you, I’m going to do it with you.

Don’t sit out this election … we have a lot of strong democrats in the field. There are a lot of good people. You won’t hear me saying a bunch of bad stuff about them. But I will say – who is going to walk the walk and not just talk the talk …. who has been with you? And who has the capacity to bring the country together around an agenda of change?

People tease me about talking about hope … they call be a hope peddler and monger. Hope comes form bottom-up change. You represent that. Make your voices heard in this election and we won’t just win, we will transform the country.

Posted in Education, Politics | Leave a comment