Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Politicians and Plagiarism

It is just a few weeks until school starts, and a news story involving Democratic Senator John Walsh pops up reporting that he plagiarized his Master Thesis from U.S. Army War College.
Walsh submitted his thesis, titled "The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy," to earn his Master of Strategic Studies degree in 2007, nearly two years after he returned from Iraq and about a year before he became Montana's adjutant general overseeing the state's National Guard and Department of Military Affairs. 
The paper includes a series of unattributed passages taken from the writings of other scholars.
The first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer called "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror."
There are several other sections that were plagiarized throughout the paper.  The part that bothers me the most is that he is trying to use PTSD as an excuse:
Walsh told The Associated Press when he wrote the thesis, he had PTSD from his service in Iraq, was on medication and was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran's recent suicide. 
"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," the senator said. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."
Now, before you start with any partisan statements,  remember that politicians on both sides are responsible of this crime.  Conservative politician Rand Paul has been accused of plagiarism several different times.  It is also not specific to United States politicians.  Recently, several German politicians have been found to have committed plagiarism.  Even John McCain and Barack Obama have been accused of plagiarism.

Every it seems, I deal with plagiarism in my class despite severe warnings.  Students always act surprised when I tell them that they will be redoing their paper and receiving a significant grade deduction.  They claim that they didn't do it, despite the fact that they are using words they have never heard or I show them copies of the websites that they copied.  Despite that I catch students, I know that some are able to sneak it past me.

The reason usually for plagiarism is the student put of doing the assignment until the last minute and doesn't want to do the real work.  I think that Senator John Walsh should do a PSA on why plagiarism is wrong, redo the thesis paper (by himself without any staffer being able to assist him), take a 20% grade deduction and be stripped of any honors he may have received.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Reminder That the GOP Celebrates in Taking Healthcare Away From People

The GOP is still trying to kill Obamacare since they can't to it through electing officials, since they have already lost in the Supreme Court, but they won't stop.  A recent 2-1 ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court  (2 very conservative justices), ruled against the subsidy portion for states that use the federal exchange.  The South Dakota GOP immediately jumped on the ruling to link the ACA to Rick Weiland.  Posted on South Dakota War College:
“President Obama and his loyal foot soldier Rick Weiland were given an emphatic ‘no’ today by the D.C. Court of Appeals on their failed Obamacare law,” said Dick Wadhams, spokesman for the South Dakota Republican Party. “The court ruled on what the Obamacare law actually says, not what President Obama and Rick Weiland say it says....”
 “The current Obama-Weiland health care law is bad enough but Weiland actually wants Obamacare on steroids,” Wadhams said. “Weiland would dramatically expand Medicare and make that federal health care program for seniors available to everyone. Weiland’s Medicare/Obamacare expansion proposal would destroy Medicare as we know it for seniors.”
It will be interesting to hear what the GOP will say when the ruling is reversed.  It seems that the two judges wanted to ignore precedent and ignore the whole context of the law (2,000 pages) based on one line.
The Fourth Circuit in Virginia upheld the subsidies—indicating the government had the better argument, but regardless applying the longstanding rule that when a statute is not clear, courts defer to the agency administering the statute (in this case, the IRS). The D.C. Circuit, however, ruled the other way, reading one provision of this massive and complex federal law out of context. That opinion not only misinterprets the statute—with enormous practical consequences—but also does a deep disservice to conservative jurists and lawyers who have spent the last 30 years arguing that text-based interpretation is sophisticated, not literalistic, and serves democracy....
It is true, as the plaintiffs argued, that a single provision of the statute provides that subsidies shall be available to exchanges established by states, and that that provision does not also mention the federal government.But it is also emphatically true that the rest of the statutory text makes quite clear that the subsidies were also intended on federal exchanges. Another provision of the statute requires reporting to the IRS of subsidies doled out on federal and state exchanges alike—and that provision expressly mentions the federal exchanges. The statute also, in several other places, mentions state exchanges in ways that clearly are intended to refer to exchanges operated by the states or exchanges operated by the federal government for the states.

So the realistic probability of this argument continuing is actually slim.  It does serve as a reminder that the South Dakota GOP and Mike Rounds looks forward to increasing the number of people that are uninsured.  (Remember that Daugaard is hoping to use the ACA foe health insurance for state employees.)  We are reminded that the ACA is working to lower uninsured rates the United States.  That South Dakotans of all ages are benefiting from the law.
·         92,000 uninsured South Dakotans will have new health insurance options through Medicaid or private health plans in the Marketplace. 
·         In the first ten months of 2013, 8,200 seniors and people with disabilities have saved on average $714 on prescription medications as the health care law closes Medicare’s so-called “donut hole.” 
·         9,000 young adults have gained health insurance because they can now stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.

Americans for Prosperity Here for Rounds Or the Minimum Wage

The Koch Brothers have decided that South Dakota is not anti-worker enough for their tastes and have decided to open an office in Sioux Falls.  This has caused the Senate candidates to start discussing concern (as reported on South Dakota Public Radio) over the influence they might have on the election.  Weiland called for candidates to back away from outside influence and raised the biggest concern:
"Their approach to politics is pretty straight-up. If you have a big enough checkbook, you can literally buy yourself a government," Weiland says. "And if they follow their usual pattern here in South Dakota, they could spend literally millions of dollars on this Senate seat."
Pressler and Howie also have concerns, but don't think a calling to prevent outside money from influencing South Dakota politics is going to work:
Independent candidate Gordon Howie says he believes outside money is bad for the campaign, but he’s not going to make a declaration. He says money from outside the state already influences South Dakota politics. 
"For me to be presumptive enough to think that, by me just calling for big money to stay away, that they’re going to listen to me, are we kidding ourselves? Big money has a real interest in this South Dakota Senate seat," Howie says. 
I agree with Pressler and Howie.  Rounds obviously is not concerned, but there will be no way to keep out outside money from trying to buy the election.  The only problem is I think the Koch brothers will be more focused on fighting minimum wage than helping Mike Rounds maintain his crony capitalism support for big oil, EB-5, and other business friendly practices.  I think they will be major players in fighting minimum wage initiative.

The Koch Brothers plan for a major spending spree across the nation to influence politics the way they think all of us should live.

The Koch brothers’ main political arm intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group. 
The projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms.
The Koch Brothers view a minimum wage as a major barrier to allowing businesses to take advantage of human beings to make sure that they can make more money.  They feel all regulations on businesses are evil and wrong.

The point of it, Koch said, is that he believes prosperity grows where economic freedom is greatest, where government intervention in business affairs is kept to a minimum. He hopes his ideas will help the country grow, he said. In his interview he emphasized several times that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. Government regulations – including the minimum wage law – tend to hold everyone back, he said.
This is the same guy that thinks if you are living on $34,000 a year, you should be thankful.   You are one of the richest people in the world!  You are one the 1%!

The video, available on YouTube, starts by saying that if you earn more than $34,000, “you are one of the wealthiest 1 percent in the world.” Koch, one of the richest men in the world, acknowledged that assertion might be pounced upon.
The only way to cut through the upcoming AFP disinformation campaign is to fight back with activity and providing real facts.  It is wrong that any single individuals can have so much influence on a campaign.  The difference is that critical thinking people can overcome the money the Koch Brothers will be throwing against the Minimum Wage campaign and Rick Weiland. 

Read more here:

Monday, July 21, 2014

GOP-More Proof of No Need To Worry About Teacher Shortages

The back to school specials can only signal one thing: Christmas specials will be starting in about 4 weeks.  It also means that parents are eagerly looking forward to send their children back to school and the teachers that are starting to worry about getting everything ready in time for the start of the new year.  That is if there will be a teacher at the school for the teacher.

Leo Kallis posts several tweets reflecting concern of superintendents all over South Dakota worried about find the best applicant to teach your child.  They are some scary statements.  Superintendents from small schools and big school, from East River and West River, from elementary level concerns to high school staffing concern are voicing huge red flags about the state of the teaching profession in our state.  

A few of the tweets include:
-RC Supt. @tmitchell212 said one elementary in his district has had 5 offers declined by teacher applicants because of salary.
-DeGroot [from Brookings] said he has to "convince" applicants to take a job. Added that applicants used to be giddy to be hired.  
-Timber Lake Superintendent Jarod Larson said all teaching positions are "hard to fill" not just certain academic areas.  
The problem is compounded by the fact that more people are getting out of the teaching profession altogether.  A report on NPR stated:
"Roughly half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year," reads a new report from theAlliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy group. And this kind of turnover comes at a steep cost, not only to students but to districts: up to $2.2 billion a year. 
It is clear that something has to be done.  I know that this may come as a shock to basically no one except several member of the South Dakota GOP.  Remember that in January of this year a special education committee reported that there is a teacher shortage crisis in our fair state.
According to a resolution approved on a 10-4 vote by the interim education funding formula study committee, “teachers are in short supply in this state, and that school districts of all sizes are now struggling to retain qualified teachers and to fill teacher vacancies.”  
The resolution suggests the Legislature explore tuition-reimbursement programs, other programs or policies “that could help attract more good people into the teaching profession in South Dakota and to keep the good teachers that are already here.” 
The resolution points out that teacher salaries are higher in neighboring states and some teachers are leaving South Dakota for those jobs. 
The resolution also argues that “fewer and fewer” college students are seeking education degrees with plans to become teachers. 
Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterell, District 6 members of the South Dakota Legislature, voted against the resolution.  They chose to ignore a clear study that was done and that also had no specific mandates included in a resolution to say "Hey, teachers will be just fine."  Isaac Latterell never made his reasoning clear behind his vote (because why bother with the little people of his district that he likes to visit when it is time for re-election).  Ernie Otten's reasoning was very troublesome.  He didn't want to be put in the corner in the future when someone might ask for more money.  To put it another way: This is going to be really hard and might require me to do something to find funds or be clever to deal with a real problem facing the people of South Dakota.

It is time to start realizing the fact that something must be done.  We need to stop treating teachers as villains and support them.  The South Dakota legislature can make a positive impact towards restoring faith in our teachers.  It will require courage.  It will require out of the box thinking.  It will require people who are not afraid to embrace the problem.  It will require someone other than Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterell. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Every English Teacher Should Have This Song

Weird Al Yankovic is a genius in my mind.  I love his comedy.  He is right on target with the issues of the day.  He is also releasing what he says will be his last true "album."  To celebrate the album, he has been releasing eight videos in eight days.  The song "Word Crimes" was the second video released and is based on Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines."  It is amazing and shows the importance of actually learning grammar rules to the texting generation.  Here it is for everyone to enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mike Rounds New Campaign Advertising Team

You remember the kerfuffle that Marion Mike Rounds got into a bit of egg on his face with a commercial based on stock photos and France.  Marion Mike Rounds has claimed that he will repeal ACA when elected and that he would shut down the Department of Education because that is what the primary voters wanted to hear, but he probably won't do that.  I think that he has found the person that fits his campaign style perfectly: Gil Fulbright, the "honest" politician.  The video is below for you to enjoy.  When I saw it, all I could think of was Teflon Mike, his fake South Dakota video, and all his comments about things he really won't change.  Enjoy!

SD GOP "Nothing to See Here."

The other day I was listening to Minnesota Public Radio and a report came in about how China is trying to tackle the air quality problem in the country.  The reporter commented that the problem is incredibly severe much like many of the large cities during the 60's.  As the reporter tried to interview people about the problem, the state officials and those that strongly support the state government had a basic response:  "There really is no air pollution problem.  Things are just fine in our beautiful country."

This, in many ways, is the response staunch GOP leaders and their supporters take when it comes to the danger of corruption and lack of transparency in South Dakota government.  Several months ago a report was released that studied the potential and level of risk in state governments.  South Dakota ranked eighth.  The South Dakota government, lead by the GOP, prefer everyone to "keep moving, there is nothing to see here."

Over at South Dakota War College, the response was basically come on, there is no real problem.  It is all wonderful here.  Which Pat Powers wrote:
So, South Dakota is ranked the 8th most corrupt state in the nation, because there was maybe 1 state employee in the ten years of the study who was a bad actor? One as in a single person? But let’s not forget it’s also based on where the study authors think states should be spending money, further biasing it against a small state like South Dakota. 
Look, South Dakota state employees are a pretty good lot, often doing fairly difficult jobs in less than ideal conditions. When you see this kind of nonsense, it really does them a disservice.
There is no denying that many, many of the people that would for the state are a "pretty good lot."  It still doesn't mean that there may be some misuse of funds, unknowingly accepting bids that are just a little too high, or misleading the voters of South Dakota.  

Who is this one person that Pat refers too?   He must be talking about Mike Rounds.  Who, as the governor, endorsed and encouraged the privatization of the EB-5 program, who misused state funds for airplanes, handing over no bid contracts to family members and hiring other family members.  Pat Powers himself was under scrutiny while working in the SOS office.  Don't even get me started on the problems with Jason Gant as SOS.

The response should have been, "I don't know if I agree with the report, but I know that there are several things we can improve on when it comes to openness of government and fighting corruption on all levels."  However, when it comes to the SD GOP, we are not likely to hear that from the majority.  If they claim that they want an open government, start with the EB-5 scandal.  Get them to agree with Susan Wismer and Kathy Tyler to honor their promises to give us a clear and open account of the handling of the EB-5 program under Rounds and Daugaard.