Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why the Common Cores move from novels is wrong!

One of the biggest concerns that people have with the Common Core is the obsession with non-fiction and teaching students to learn to read instruction manuals.  

Because the actual Common Core exams have not yet been formulated, there is no list of what literature students may or may not be tested on. But critics say the stated policy of emphasizing "informational," or non-fiction reading, in English will inevitably come at the expense of literature classics. Those time-tested books are not simply fun to read, according to Brigham Young University English Prof. Alan Manning, they teach students how to write. 
"An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than fewer exercises where students write stories themselves that are modeled on the classics," Manning wrote in an e-mail to Utah activists opposed to Common Core. "This creates a more stable foundation on which students can build skills for other kinds of writing. The Core standards would prevent public schools from testing these kinds of approaches."
It turns out that if you want to expand children and adults' minds, you should read more novels and more fiction!  A recent study was completed examining the impact that reading a fictional novel can have the brain of the readers.  

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” Berns said. 
“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”
I guess we will read this non-fictional study about why we should be reading more fiction in the classroom. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

How Joe Lowe's running has already had a positive impact on South Dakota.

Joe Lowe is running as a Democrat and Daugaard has taken notice.  If Joe Lowe doesn't win, at least just running will be a positive impact for South Dakota, because Daugaard changed his tune on education funding in a matter of a few days.

On December 1, the Argus Leader reported Daugaard saying that he would only offer a 1.6% increase to education.  
The governor said state revenue is just too uncertain to help schools and Medicaid providers as much as he might like. 
“We have some additional ongoing revenue, but not enough, really, to give people a lot more than the (rate of inflation),” Daugaard said. 
Note in the article that Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave talks about the unexpected $70 million windfall of money coming into the state.

Then enter Joe Lowe:
"If the tactics aren't working day one through seven, do you stick with the same tactics? No you don't, you move on. And you move on and change your tactics or get a new team. We've had the old team for a long time and I haven't seen much change in tactics," Lowe said. 
And that includes more transparency in our state government and higher wages for teachers. 
"Teacher pay, teacher pay we're last. What's our future, our future is children, change the world of a child and you change the world," Lowe said.
There was no big announcement in front of TV cameras for Lowe to declare his candidacy, just simply this press release, for now. 
Then a few days later, the Governor's budget increase for education jumped up to 3%.  It makes a person go "Hmmmm."

I am not the only one that noticed the sudden switch.  Representative Tyler comments about the sudden about face:
The Governor is proposing to pay off some bonds and pay cash for the state’s share of the veterans’ home in the Black Hills. He also upped his percentage of increase to education and Medicaid providers from 1.6% to 3.0%. Interesting how that increase happened right after another gubernatorial candidate threw his hat into the ring. And, no, the funding is still not where it would have been if those programs hadn’t been unnecessarily cut in 2011. 
I hope that South Dakota voters won't be fooled again.  Remember that Daugaard was the one running on the idea that education was just fine in South Dakota in 2010, and then offered a 10% cut one year to be followed by education proposals that were soundly defeated by the general populace the next year.  Governor Daugaard is not a friend of education.  He is not supportive of education in this state.  Don't forget our history, because if we do, Daugaard may cut funding for history classes in the next budget.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pat Powers Proves That He Is No Journalist

Pat Powers was so proud of holding the moniker "journalist," but today he proves that he is no journalist.  He posted that Representative Kathy Tyler mailed out information to representatives regarding the investigations into GOED.  He implies that she probably wasted tax payer money.  She promptly replied that she used personal funds to mail out information for one of the biggest scandals to hit Pierre in a long time.  Bigger than Rounds misuse of the state plane.  Bigger than Pat Powers problems involving the SOS office and a current blogger.  

While he is able to share Christmas cards from Noem (WHICH WAS PAID FOR WITH CAMPAIGN FUNDS!!!!!), helping Mike Rounds raise money while avoiding the average citizens of the state, commercials that have no context our research behind them, I don't think I could call that journalism.  Nice job Mr. Powers!  Nice job.  I do hear that Sixty Minutes has an opening for a "journalist."

Monday, December 2, 2013

The reason that the Common Core will be replaced in about five years

I came across this article that reflects what is my biggest concern with education today:  Text book and testing companies need new movements in education to come up with new materials to sell.  

A new survey by an education marketing organization finds that school districts are making a top priority of shifting materials, instruction and assessments to reflect the Common Core State Standards. 
That's not too surprising, of course, given that all but four states have adopted the standards. But it offers yet another thermometer of sorts to measure the level of attention and activity around the new standards. My colleague Michele Molnar has the details for you over at the Marketplace K-12 blog. She's reporting on a sneak preview of the MDR survey, based on the feedback of about 500 curriculum and technology directors, which will be out in its full form later this month. 
Among the findings? Modifying curriculum and instruction to meet the common core topped the list of district priorities, with 84 percent saying that was a "high" priority. Close behind was modifying assessments to reflect the core, which 79 percent rated a high priority. 
Sixty-eight percent of the districts reported that they plan to buy new curriculum materials for the common core, and 76 percent said they are planning to obtain free materials from the two assessment consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Two-thirds, though, said they were planning to create their own instructional materials.
Cory Heidelberger reported several months ago about the costs of going to the Common Core for a state that doesn't seemed concerned about paying competitive wages for teachers.  This does a lot for companies like Prentice Hall and Glencoe/Mc-Graw Hill but little for the classroom.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I am shocked, just shocked I tell you!

The Governor has released that he is planning a huge 1.6% increase for education and Medicaid.  This, despite the fact that sales taxes have been up on average more than 3% for the last three years.  This despite the fact that South Dakota will have an extra $70 million that was not expected.  This despite tourism taxes and contractor excise tax have grown slightly and stayed steady over the last three years.  

Bob Mercer calls the Governor "frugal."  Leo Kallis compares the upcoming bout over education funding and common core to living in a frat movie.  Cory Heidelberger compares the Governor to the Soup Nazi.  I offer my comparison to that of Dickens's Scrooge.  Here are a few quotations that remind me of our fair Governor:
There is nothing on which [the world] is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth. 
What’s Christmas time... but a time for paying bills without money. 
If [the poor] would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. 

Now that the Democrats have a candidate to run against Daugaard, I would encourage that candidate to remind our current Governor of what he wrote when he first ran for the office.
South Dakota’s system of funding K-12 education is a sound system at its core. To the degree that there is dissatisfaction with the funding formula, I believe it is largely due to the amount of funds distributed through the formula. When our budget picture improves, I hope to increase the funding that is available. 
The funding is available, but Mr. Scrooge in Pierre doesn't want to buy any more coal or give to those in need because it is to important that he hoards is away.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Noem, protecting school lunches, but not the farmers that provide for them.

This thanksgiving, I was able to reflect a lot of what I have to be thankful for.  I have two wonderful boys, a beautiful wife, I enjoy my job, I have a great group of young students on the debate team, wonderful neighbors, and so much more.  As I was partaking in my grandmother's turkey, stuffing, and gravy, I was thankful to be able to share such wonderful food with family.  Many people were unable to do so, thanks to Kristi Noem and the GOP, because they believe that people that are hungry must prove that they need assistance and drug test to prove that they do not abuse the good taxpayers money.
Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said, “Loopholes and fraud … have led to federal spending on SNAP to increase” (Noem has received $503,000 in farm subsidies).
What she did not tell you is that those requirements may be good for SNAP participants, but not for those that receive crop insurance.  
One subsidy lawmakers want to revise is crop insurance—a program designed to protect farmers and ranchers from volatile weather and market forces. Unlike traditional farm subsidies, however, crop insurance is not subject to means testing, payment limits, and conservation requirements, but reformers think it should be. 
None of this may matter since it appears that Kristi is failing on another promise to be a major player and getting that pesky Farm Bill done on time.  She is trying to shift focus to making the USDA changes in the requirements for meat and grain for school lunches permanent.  
The bill, "Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act," Noem said, gives flexibility to schools to help ensure kids get the nutrition they need to be healthy. 
Though specifics on the bill are not yet available, it is supported by another school lunch critic, the National School Boards Association. 
Broadly, the bill is expected to make the USDA's temporary easing of the meat and grain requirements permanent, allowing schools more flexibility in serving meats and grains while still staying within calorie maximums, and give administrators flexibility on some of the rules that have increased costs for school districts.
This is a good idea in my opinion.  I am glad that she is helping push for this, but it does not trump a Farm Bill that will have a much larger impact on hungry children.  The cuts that she wants in the program will have a much larger impact on children's hunger.  The cuts by the sequestration have had a much larger impact on helping feed children.  She is silent on those issues.  

She may be quiet in part because it looks like she has failed to deliver on a farm bill again this year.
Congress left Washington on Nov. 22 for Thanksgiving without reaching agreement on a new farm bill, leaving in question whether the bill will be finished before the end of the calendar year. 
The four principal negotiators — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who is chairing the conference, House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Senate Agriculture ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., met three times on Nov. 20 and 21, and there were signs of an agreement, but they finally gave up for the week.
 I am thankful for the hard work our farmers do.  I am thankful that my children have food to eat.  It is time that both farmers and our children have a Congressperson that will work to actually get something done for them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Pledge To Avoid Real Problems

It seems that the Sioux Falls School District has ended up in a fine mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance being said during school.  So many people are getting into an uproar because the school district doesn't demand that they force students to be patriotic.  So how do these so called patriots show their American spirit?  They leave hate messages and death threats against those they disagree with.  
Todd Thoelke said he received death threats by phone among the more than 100 phone calls and 100 emails from all over the country. One said they would come to his home and “eliminate” him and his “un-American family.”
Nothing says America like death threats to scare little children.  

Our politicians have jumped on the bandwagon.
The uproar has caused some state lawmakers to take action. State Rep. Hal Wick said last week he plans on bringing legislation next session to require all South Dakota students, at public and private schools, to recite the Pledge every day they are in school. 
I would like to know how Mr. Wick plans on monitoring every single student to make sure that he or she is faithfully reciting the pledge.  Will this include exchange students from other countries?  Will we need to spend less time on math or literature to make sure that every students is versed in the pledge?  How will this help students succeed in school?  I doubt I could get a real answer on the issue.

There are more important issues that Mr. Wick and others could focus on in the Sioux Falls district that would better impact the lives of students.

Fighting Homelessness
The number of homeless children identified by the school district's Homeless Education Office has risen sharply from 471in the 2004-05 school year to 1,049 in 2010-11. 
Because a student that says a pledge doesn't need to worry about where they will be sleeping that night.

Making Sure a Child has Food to Eat
Nearly 40% of the state’s school-aged children qualify for free and reduced meals. 
Because saying "I pledge allegiance to the flag..." is more important to a ten year old than getting supper when he gets home.

Preventing Child Abuse
currently in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties of South Dakota over 210 children are the "subjects" in open abuse & neglect cases. 
Because it is more important for a child to cover his or her heart in the pledge than to cover his or her bruises.

So, Representative Wick, I can understand that you don't have time to spend in dealing with trivial issues like homelessness, food security, or abuse because you need to worry if a student is being forced to say a pledge.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Clock is Ticking for Kristi Noem and the Farm Bill

It has been a long time since I have had a chance to post.  Between debate, papers, and family, posting gets to take a backseat.  The only thing that seems to have changed since I have lasted posted is my facial hair (Celebrating Mo-vember).  One thing that hasn't changed is Kristi Noem reminding us that she has no real voice in Washington.  To me it seems that one of the biggest issues for her reelection chances is the passage of a Farm Bill.  

Kristi seems optimistic that something will get done, but that is not the first time that she believed that a farm bill would pass.  She spoke with ranchers already suffering from Noem's inability to push her good buddy John Boehner to get farm bill passed and told them, just wait longer, I am sure this time I can pass something...maybe...possibly...

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-.S.D., told reporters Nov. 14 that farm bill conferees could reach an agreement as soon as a week or two. That bill, if it can muster the votes in Congress, would provide livestock indemnity payments or disaster aid to producers who lost livestock. 
The Senate version would provide 65 percent of the market value of cattle lost, while the House bill has a 75 percent figure. Noem said she expects the program to be included in the final farm bill. 
Even though the conferees might agree on a package fairly soon, it still would have to be approved by both the Senate and the House, which could take much longer but might be done by the end of the year.
It appears that not everyone thinks that a farm bill will get passed.  Just ask Senator Thune:
Thune said he is hopeful about completing a new farm bill by year’s end, but he does not share Noem’s optimism. 
“There’s a lot of skepticism around here that it can happen,” Thune said. 
It not only seems like Congress is going to fail for another 2 years without farm bill reforms, but this could be the last farm bill we ever see.

If Congress fails to pass a new bill, a second extension is likely, Flinchbaugh said.
"There is some talk we will do that for two years because we don't want to be messing with this during an election year," Flinchbaugh said. "Or, we implement the permanent legislation."... 
Given the impasse on this farm bill - which traditionally has had bipartisan support - some farm analysts are suggesting this could be the last farm bill, ending 80 years of U.S. farm policy designed to protect farm price and income. 
"If we remove food and nutrition bills from the farm bill this is the last one," Flinchbaugh said. "If we keep the consumer-farmer coalition together there will be future farm bills." 
"There are 400 urban districts in the House of Representatives and 35 rural districts. When you're a minority like farmers - granted they are a potent minority because they produce food - but you remove nutrition and food stamp programs from the farm bill, the leverage is over.
Kristi reminds me of the blanket comments from my novice debaters who, unsure of what they are doing and lack a complete understanding of the topic, claim that they are undefeated and have won every round that they debated.  Here is hoping that Kristi can be right for once on the passage of a farm bill.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Scandals Follow Mike Rounds

Cory Heidelberger has been going into great detail about the newest scandal surrounding Senate candidate Mike Rounds.  However, this is not the first time Rounds has been immersed in scandal.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reminds us many of the problems associated Rounds.  Issues like fighting tooth and nail to against government transparency
The state’s annual, invitation-only pheasant hunt brings state leaders together with major business interests to showcase South Dakota’s investment opportunities.6 Although the hunt is state-organized, Gov. Rounds has refused to release the list of invitees and has even gone to court to keep the information secret.7 
Gov. Rounds vetoed a popular transparency bill during the 2008 legislative session.8 The legislature failed to override his veto by two votes.9 In the next session, Gov. Rounds signed South Dakota’s first disclosure measure into law.10 Open records advocates have noted that the statute maintains exclusions and loopholes, including exemptions for official correspondence and internal memoranda.11  
And who can forget about Mike Rounds belief that the state's planes were for his personal use.

In 2005, a review of the state’s air travel logs revealed that Gov. Rounds routinely used state aircraft for non-official travel.12 During the 2004–2005 high school basketball season, Gov. Rounds used state planes to ferry himself, family, and friends to five of seven of his son’s road games.13 Gov. Rounds also acknowledged using state planes to attend Republican Party political functions; a certified pilot, he has frequently flown the planes himself. 14 Under state law, the governor is not barred from using state planes for personal use.15 He has, however, reimbursed the state for his personal travel with political contributions from his Governor’s Club; this private fund has raised serious legal questions, including possible breaches of federal policy pertaining to third party financing.16 A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation, however, found no violations of federal regulations.17 Following the revelation of Gov. Rounds’s personal use of state aircraft, South Dakota residents voted by referendum to restrict state aircraft use to official purposes.18 
This could become a huge problem for Rounds.  Maybe Bob Mercer had some deep down feeling when he wrote back in July
Let’s assume a worst-case scenario for Rounds in 2014: He is in a three-way race, just like the 2002 primary for governor, and he gets 44.4 percent again. That would mean a Rhoden or a Nelson or a Bosworth would need to get 44.4 percent plus one to place ahead of Rounds. Short of some immense scandal or unforgivable misstep by Mike Rounds, there isn’t any reason to expect he would get less than the 44.4 percent again in 2014.
It may be a bit difficult to collect all the information surrounding the EB-5 scandal thanks to loopholes and other issues surrounding South Dakota law as David Montgomery reminded us in February:
South Dakota’s open records law specifically excludes “correspondence, memoranda, calendars or logs of appointments, working papers, and records of telephone calls of public officials or employees.” 
So, remember that if you want a candidate that prefer to operate in the dark and known for his scandals, than you can vote for Rounds, but if you want a candidate that is straight forward and has nothing to hide, you should cast your vote this fall for Rick Weiland.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

SD GOP and the Belief Bananas Are More Dangerous Than a Tank

Over at the South Dakota War College, while Pat is not using his "spies" and resources to find out what  is going on with the current investigation in Pierre with the EB-5 Visa program, he does relate a discussion between a NSU college Republican and SD Senate Candidate Rick Weiland.  One of the issues that was brought up by the college Republican is how Weiland feels about the UN Arms Trade Treaty.  Recently Secretary Kerry signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty.  This treaty is a major concern to the gun industry, and since they own the NRA, the NRA is screaming 2nd amendment rights.

What exactly does the treaty do?  It attempts to make it harder for groups that perform human rights abuses, child soldiers, and terrorists to get weapons.  This treaty would have no impact on legal and law abiding US citizens on how they get their guns and ammo.  It will make it harder for arms dealers to make blood money selling weapons to third world dictators and other groups.

Retired Major General Roger R. Blunt points out the Arm Trade Treaty (ATT) is no threat to the US.

We have international agreements regulating the cross-border sale of iPods and bananas, but we have no global treaties governing the international sale of weapons. The ATT would fix that by becoming the first-ever treaty governing the international trade of conventional weapons.  
The United States has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to the import and export of tanks, attack helicopters, guns, grenades and ammunition, but many countries — especially in the developing world — have little to no regulation. This patchwork system of national laws rewards bad actors by making it easy for them to exploit loopholes. These loopholes are used to arm the terrorists and insurgents killing our troops and warlords who are responsible for untold suffering throughout the developing world. 
Since the United States is already widely acknowledged as the gold standard in arms trade regulations, this treaty would have little to no impact on international weapons transfers by the United States and no impact on Second Amendment freedoms. It would also in no way establish a supranational regulatory agency that could in any way violate U.S. sovereignty.  What it would do is maintain our role as a world leader by requiring other countries to meet the example we have already set. 

The Christian Science Monitor's op-ed clearly explains that this will not actually hurt the United States since we already have strict laws of whom US companies can trade and will do nothing about domestic sales.  
Allegations made by some here in the United States that the treaty infringes on the domestic rights of US citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. The treaty only governs international arms transfers and fully respects the sovereign rights of nations to regulate gun ownership as they see fit. No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade.
So if Mr. Weiland is concerned about his answer, I would say, I support fighting terrorism and protecting Americans.  I would support the treaty since it doesn't hurt our rights and makes the world safer.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting Ready for the GOP Education Funding Two-step

Rep. Kathy Tyler reported on the education funding panel that was supposed to meet this summer and provide recommendations.  The good news is that some GOP members recognize that they need to get funding back to the correct level if they want to be able to increase teacher retention and maybe, just maybe show the young people out there that the state cares about teachers and education to encourage them to go into the field.
The major bill that came out of the committee was one to increase the per student allocation to $4805 for the 2014-2015 school year. That is the amount that it would have been in 2012 if the legislature had followed the law. It’s nowhere close to what it should be, but it’s a 3.8% increase, much more than schools would be getting at the current rate. It was a close 8 to 7 vote.
While Rep. Tyler stays neutral with her response, she points out the standard GOP response to education funding.
It’s so frustrating.  Most opponents say they know education needs to be funded. They’ve heard the stories, but there’s always an excuse: state insurance rates are going up, look at the disaster out west, we don’t know what the economy is going to do, the money’s not there (yes it is). A good education system is the foundation for everything else this state wants to do. As one superintendent stated, “We are in crisis mode.”
It appears that she was dead-on.  Take Representative Larry Tidemann's position:
“You don’t just take care of one child and forget the other five,” said Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, who voted against the committee’s proposal. “I fully support education, but $23 million is a sizable chunk. I have to see what else there is to be taken care of.” 
Tidemann said he also felt uncomfortable with giving schools more money with no accountability that tied it to graduation and success rates. 
SDSU students, take notice of these comments and remember when it is time to vote.  Because of all of the cuts to funding, higher education was forced to take a bigger hit.
The annual $1.5 million grant was halted, effective the Oct. 1 start of the federal fiscal year, because the governor and Legislature cut state funding for public universities two years ago.
or our esteemed Governor Dennis Daugaard:
Aside from the health care law, Daugaard also addressed school funding, saying it is unlikely South Dakota will have enough money next fiscal year to give districts much extra aid....The governor said revenues through the first three months of this budget year are up just slightly from projections. If that trend continues, there won't be much for schools beyond the 1.6 percent increase required in state law, he said.
Is it any wonder why honest Representative's like Mrs. Tyler get so frustrated.  If you are frustrated to with the promises on one hand and the slap in the face when it comes to trying to do the work. 

ead more here:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Real Problem With the Common Core

Schools all over the state are trying to get ready for the Common Core testing that will be taking place in the spring.  I know there has been a lot of noise occurring about the Common Core and most of it has been illogical and not based in evidence and, in some cases, reality.  Today I came across a good article on Edutopia that examines the state of the common core testing across the nation.  In my opinion, this is potentially the biggest issue with the common core: the test.

The testing will be done online, but don't think that it will be instantly graded.  Many of the questions require a person to read and analyze the students answer.  This will take time and human power and should not be done with some computer program that would focus on length of answer instead of depth of answer.  

The article on Edutopia shared some findings related to the technology that will be used:
Recent field-testing of PARCC and Smarter Balanced digital assessment reports indicate that schools which are relatively well equipped -- with wireless computers, broadband Internet and IT staff -- needed additional time and expertise for extensive troubleshooting. Glitches ranged from software and wireless device compatibility issues to the actual testing software. Tech-savvy schools that participated in field testing also report that digital assessments assume a level of digital fluency (such as familiarity with keyboard layout and using a mouse to select text), which will affect students who do not have regular access to digital tools.3
My school is a one to one school at the high school level, but we only have a couple of computer labs at the elementary level.  I have taught in schools were there was only two computer labs for the entire district.  

The issue of the tests is one that I keep asking my superintendent who has not heard an explanation.  I know other teachers have heard the question asked of our past Secretary of Education and current Secretary of Education without a clear answer.  I would really like some clarity from the department of education before I will have students students taking a test that will "judge" the worth of my teaching and the schools teaching.  I know I don't want to go through what happened in New York and Kentucky.
New York has been a model in providing supports for transitioning to Common Core, yet principals and teachers there have described the implementation as "rushed" and lacking in resources.4

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Noem and GOP Getting a Little Nervous?

I had taken the last few days off from blogging because I had some full days with the family and school.  Unfortunately I did get the opportunity to follow SDWC and noticed the obvious attacks on recent candidate Corinna Robinson who is running against Kristi Noem.  I was not shocked that they turned almost immediately to the fact that she has not been sort of living on a farm in South Dakota.  That and a comment about a poorly made statement trying to connect terrorism and the minimum wage (I understand that she is trying to highlight her experience, but I don't think that was the best way to do it.), and that was about it.  

Leo Kallis reminded us that we can expect this will probably be the classical move by Noem and the GOP: avoid talking about anything of substance.  Noem has reasons to worry.  If voters care about substance, Noem will have little to hang her hat on.  

1. Corinna Robinson has significant military experience that required her to perform many important tasks.
She assists in advising the senior Agency leadership on a broad range of strategic and policy-related matters affecting the planning, development, and execution as to meet Agency, DoD and National objectives. As a member of the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW), Ms. Robinson served as the Director of Legislative Affairs, for United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I), Baghdad, Iraq, in 2010. This position required sensitive coordination and travel with Congressional Delegations, Interagency, and the Department of State (DoS) personnel to establish unprecedented foreign policy in our Nation’s history.
Noem has failed to get the many time promised farm bill passed.  

2. Robinson is also well aware of the disfunction in Washington and understands that to get things done, a person must be able to work with other groups.
Robinson, a Democrat, said she was prompted in part because of a dysfunctional Congress that has resulted in furloughs, a partially closed government and threats to veterans. 
"It’s very discouraging," she said. "It just seems like the parties can’t work together."
Noem has become the face of the government shut down.  You don't have to take my word for it, you can take the words of the Aberdeen News

On Wednesday, Noem was the only member of South Dakota's congressional delegation to vote "no" on the agreement to reopen the government and raise the country's borrowing limit. That measure passed 285-144 in the U.S. House. 
 When Noem could choose — voting for the best interests of South Dakota and the nation, or staying in the good graces of the fringe conservative movement — she voted with the latter.
In fact Noem has been a classic example of just working toward getting elected and not trying to protect her constituency.

While South Dakota’s ranchers are facing a terrible disaster, they aren’t the only ones to suffer from weather-related damage. Natural disasters hit the U.S. all the time, whether it’s hurricanes in the Gulf states, widespread droughts in the Midwest, tornadoes in the panhandle states or “super” storms like Sandy that ravaged the East coast a year ago. 
That’s why the federal government provides emergency assistance through the FEMA and ongoing assistance through programs like those in the farm bill. 
Noem voted against federal assistance for victims of super storm Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Nevertheless, she’s at the front of the line asking the federal government for money to help victims of the early-October blizzard. 
It appears that Noem is against federal spending until she’s for it.
3. Corinna Robinson is also a woman that I would probably guess would not let Native American women down when it comes to voting on legislation like the Violence Against Women Act.

Kristi Noem has already proven that she is ready and willing to turn her back on a important portion of South Dakota's population when it comes to fighting domestic violence.
The revised bill, which passed by a Republican-infused vote of 222-205, was introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams, (R-Fla.). It eliminates Senate language that would have provided major tribal court jurisdiction and protection order provisions for tribes in the lower 48 states meant to curb the epidemic of violence that exists on many reservations. 
Section 904 of the approved Senate bill recognized tribal court jurisdiction over non-Indian domestic violence offenders. Section 905 allows for tribal protection orders involving “any person,” including non-Indian offenders. The bill also strengthened federal authority to address violent felonies on reservations. 
It seems that Noem might have a few reasons to worry about a strong candidate running against her next year.  With a record like Kristi's, Pat Powers and the GOP had better start up the smoke machines to try and distract potential voters. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kristi Noem Makes Less Sense Than A Dan Rather Analogy

I have always enjoyed Dan Rather's interesting and home spun sayings, but at times he leaves me scratching my head.  A good example is "We used to say if a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a handgun."  While Dan Rather's interesting spin on a situation can leave you smiling, Kristi Noem's spin on logic leaves me a little ill.

After voting against ending the government shutdown and not having the government default on its debt despite pointing out that ranchers desperately need government support and funds, she tries to spin away from the vote.

Noem says she never supported shutting down the government and recently has voted to open government offices. Noem says her vote didn't represent her objection to ending the shutdown but it expressed her displeasure with putting the country further into debt. 
"The problem I had with the bill that we voted on last night was that it tied the debt ceiling to that bill and increased spending at a time when we should be looking at ways we can deal with our federal deficit," Noem said.
I guess that Noem is all about spending money but not pay the bills.  Did you notice that?  Maybe Kristi was channeling Dan Rather when he said, "What I say here won't manage much, nor should it."  Kristi is hoping that we will all forget that she has no real center and votes with the winds.  Kristi is against spending for long term recovery after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, but she thinks that a government agency should reopen despite her parties willingness to maintain a shutdown.  It turns out that people will remember what you do and say.  Like that despite that you claim you wanted the government open you voted several times to follow Ted Cruz and place a vote that you knew would keep government closed.

In the end Kristi should have listened Dan Rather when he offered this piece of advice, "Courage is being afraid, but going ahead anyhow."  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Is One of the Reasons People Are Worried About the Keystone Pipeline

The GOP have remained focused on pushing the Keystone pipeline that would use eminent domain to put a pipeline through people's lands that don't want the pipe running through it.
The Keystone XL pipeline has reignited the emotional issue of eminent domain — the taking of private property for public use — all along its proposed route. The vast majority of landowners have signed agreements with TransCanada, the pipeline owner. But where necessary, the Calgary, Alberta-based company is busy going to state courts to exercise eminent domain and lining up rights to cross properties throughout the Great Plains — even though the State Department and Obama administration still are weighing whether to give TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline a permit to cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
People like Cory Heidelberger have been warning people of the environmental dangers of Keystone to South Dakota from noise pollution to South Dakota's drinking water.  The environmental concerns usually get thrown away from those that want the pipeline as over blown concerns.  "The oil companies claim that they are safe.  We can trust them.  The is no real risk of danger from a leak, and if it does leak, it won't be a big deal," they say.  

Oh yeah?  Have you looked to the north recently?  It turns out that a pipeline from the Bakken oil fields sprung a leak that ended up spewing oil covering over 7 football fields in distance.  An oil spill that took a long time to be made public.
"Farmer Steve Jensen says he smelled the crude for days before the tires on his combines were coated in it. At the apparent break in the Tesoro Corp.'s underground pipeline, the oil was 'spewing and bubbling 6 inches high,' he said in a telephone interview Thursday." 
One day after Jensen spotted the large leak, Tesoro told state officials; 11 days later, the spill became public knowledge.
The oil spill leaked more than 20,000 barrels of oil and it appears that Tesoro may have known of potential problems well before the break.
North Dakota officials are trying to determine if Tesoro Corp. knew about potential problems — including one deemed "serious" in documents obtained by The Associated Press — with a pipeline that leaked more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil in a wheat field in the northwestern part of the state. 
It also turns out that the company keeps changing its tune on how much oil actually got out.  Their first estimate was that it was only 750 barrels of oil.  Then they have changed it to over 20,000 barrels of oil.  It turns out that amount may be a gross underestimation.

Purdue University engineering professor Steve Wereley said Tesoro's calculation of how much oil it released likely is "at best, a guess." 
Wereley, who along with other scientists helped estimate the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf in 2010, said he was unaware of any scientific studies that could back Tesoro's estimates. Wereley and Ian MacDonald, a Florida State University oceanographer who also worked on spill estimates in the Gulf, said detailed oil flow data from the pipeline would provide regulators with a better estimate of the amount of crude spilled. 
MacDonald said properly estimating the size of an oil spill "is not trivial." 
"Both the environmental impact and the liability of the company are directly related to the precise amount of the release," MacDonald said. "That is why it is critical to know."

 It is issues like these that create a sense of distrust and unease when it comes to the Keystone Pipeline.  If a leak of similar nature occurred near drinking water, near a tourist location, or near a town like Clark, it would be devastating.  I really, really, want to make sure every possible caution is taken to prevent any problems, and I want it to be verified and tested by several sources other than Trans Canada before Keystone Pipeline could go through our state and risk another accident similar to North Dakota.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Noem, Thune, and GOP Wrong About ACA and Government Shutdown

Today the South Dakota Democratic Party released a letter in the Rapid City Journal correcting the ideas that somehow the Democrats were the ones that pushed for a government shutdown and should be forced to capitulate to the demands of the GOP as if that was what compromise means.  Zach Crago reminds the paper that 72% of Americans believed that Congress should not shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act.  

Kristi Noem, John Thune, and many of the other GOP live in an alternative reality.  Kristi Noem reminded us how disconnected she is when she proudly declared
"House Republicans will continue to do what the American people elected us to do – keep the government open and get rid of Obamacare," U.S. Rep Kristi Noem wrote in a statement, shortly before voting for another bill that would delay aspects of Obama's health care overhaul in exchange for preventing a shutdown.
This was on the same day that the Farm Bill expired.  So much for doing the business of the people.

John Thune on the same day stated
"When you have got a divided government, you have got to have a little give and take," he said.
However Thune does not tell you that the Senate had passed a clean CR bill that was originally accepted the GOP demands for the budget level and maintaining the sequester.  He also doesn't tell you that Boehner originally said that he could accept this kind of CR bill.

Now they continue to claim that Obamacare is a failure due to the (avoidable) technical glitches that occurred with sign-up on October 1.  However, just because someone promises to have something nearly perfect at a certain date and there are problems doesn't mean we get rid of that person or plan, right Kristi (think Farm Bill)?

Bob Mercer jumps on the delay ACA bandwagon, but it turns out that tens of thousands of people across the nation have already signed up.  A great example is in Paul Rand and Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky.

The state’s healthcare exchange, Kynect, has “enrolled [Kentuckians] in new insurance plans at a rate of about 1,000 Kentuckians a day,” Beshear continued. “The rush of our families and small businesses to enroll in Kynect demonstrates how enthusiastic Kentuckians are about obtaining affordable health coverage.” 
Kentucky’s not alone—28,000 signed up in California and 40,000 enrolled in New York.
Oops, it appears that people are signing up.  This also includes young people.
Access Health CT, Connecticut's marketplace, said earlier this week that approximately one-third of the people who have so far applied for coverage there are under 35. This would hover around the administration's goal of having 2.7 million of the 7 million estimated new enrollees be between 18 and 35. 
So it seems that people are enrolling despite theories that the number was zero.  Young people are signing up despite the Tea Party's false and misleading commercials.  The GOP is seeing their ratings shrink, but somehow it is all the Democrats fault.  I think rational and thinking citizens in America know who was really wrong.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why I Am Optimistic About Our Nation's Future

Seems like an odd title when you listen to the news today.  That is the feeling that many of my students felt when they were faced with the task of creating a speech over the assigned Voice of Democracy speech connected with the VFW.  I heard the complaint that there was nothing to be optimistic about in our country when you are hearing news of government shutdown, debt default, and being told by media and parents that Obama is coming to take away your guns.  I understand my students frustration.  We have become a society that seems hyper-focused on pitting one group against another and turning everything into doom and gloom.

However several other students reminded them and me that there is something of which to be optimistic.  This is a country that allows you to disagree with your leaders.  This is a country that allows us to change our leaders.  This is still the country that leads the world in technology.  This is still a country that encourages education for the masses and not the select few.  This is still a country that has millions of people willing to join the armed forces to defend the nation.  This is the country that has emerged from a civil war, a great depression, and 9/11 to come out stronger in the end.

It seems that the nation is also feeling like many of my earlier students who had a difficult time being optimistic.
Six in 10 people said they would defeat and replace every member of Congress if they could, including their own, a warning to members of both parties just a year before the midterm elections. 
Fewer people seem willing to sign up for military duty as a 2011 survey concludes:
At any given time in the past decade, less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active military duty, compared with 9 percent of Americans who were in uniform in World War II. 
Despite all of the signs of frustration, I am optimistic because I get a chance to work with some fine students.  Students that remind me every day about the ability of grace toward others, students that remind me that despite facing a challenge you can face it head on, and students that may have failings at time, but hopefully will grow out of it in the years left with school.  On good days I can remember that, and I bad days I may focus on the negative, but in the end there are more good days than bad days.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

GOP like Steve King Wouldn't Listen to a Hostage Negotiator

Last night the Daily Show had a great clip which they brought in a real hostage negotiator to try to talk to a Tea Party representative about holding the government shutdown.  The realization becomes that the GOP and the Tea Party actually want the hostage dead and therefore makes negotiations impossible.  

The biggest problem is that the far right has been calling for the death of the government for years.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has also been calling for a government shutdown for years. In 2010, Rep. King asked for a "blood oath" that Obamacare would be repealed regardless of what it took, even if a shutdown was necessary. "I'd like to challenge them to make that pledge," King said, according to Roll Call. "I'd like [Boehner] to make that commitment that if the president shuts down the government, there wouldn't be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved."
We have seen time and time again that reasonable Republicans are being shutdown because of fear to being called a RINO and risk a primary challenge.  
Iowa’s U.S. Rep. Steve King was among the 80 Republicans who asked U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to resist any spending bills that would accommodate the new health care law, which is nearing a critical stage of signing up millions of Americans for health coverage. 
Because it’s virtually certain that President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate would reject such demands, leaders of both parties say the standoff likely would result in a partial shutdown of the federal government, similar to those that occurred in 1995 and 1996.   
Except now that this has occurred, just ask the farmers in Western South Dakota or farmers in Iowa if the lack of the government is a big deal.  Remember if you vote for King and the GOP you get an ugly, ugly mess.  While King sits in Washington, he may have no understanding of the impact that this is having on real people in his district or in most of the United States, but just ask Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation
While Hill said most of the attention of farm organizations has been focused on the farm bill, the government shutdown is an additional concern. First, it diverts attention of Congress from the farm bill. Second, it means the closing of some USDA offices and a sudden lack of funding for a number of government programs. 
Money for trade and research programs has been put on temporary hold, Hill said. And, there is still a question if farmers will get a final direct payment check this fall. 
Organizations such as the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation could see funding issues if the shutdown lasts long, Hill said, because they have contracts with the government. USDA statistical analysis could also be affected. 
And, conservation programs could see issues as well. 
Add those issues to the already difficult farm-bill situation and farmers are frustrated, Hill said. 

Trying to understand the hostage taking mentality on the Daily Show.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Because It Matters To Someone

Today I heard someone talking about that he/she has not been impacted by the government shutdown then it shows that it probably isn't that big of a deal.  I thought, "This is the reason that we have problems like the government shutdown.  When we look at the world only through our eyes, then we ignore those that may be suffering."  Then I read Kallis entry about those with plenty often disregard those with less and it made unfortunate sense.

The idea that this government shutdown is no big deal is not limited to the one person in my earshot.  People like Stuart Varney from Fox News
Look, most people won't notice. If the government shuts down at midnight tonight, most people will not notice. National parks are closed. Eight hundred thousand federal workers furloughed, OK. Most people won't notice that. What Wall Street is worried about is a totally separate issue.
And people like Ted Cruz and the Tea Party,
When the US government runs out of money for the following fiscal year…losing its ability to pay its bills…it’s forced in theory to shutdown. And thanks to the Obama administration’s out of control spending…ignored was Economics 101 which teaches you cannot spend more than you take in…the US will hit the current debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion and go into default in mid-October, which likely will have already translated into a ‘supposed’ government shutdown. 
The government function is never a big deal until it actually affects you.  And then you have all sorts of people that complain why the government isn't there to provide what I want.  That is when you have people that voted to close the government because it is not really important, but then pretend to fit the big evil government shutdown

Thune and Noem fall into that last category.  The both have voted against a clean CR and end the shutdown, but now that a real disaster has hit South Dakota, they are reminding people the importance of government when it comes to helping ranchers and farmers and families hit by the snow storm.  Instead of giving credit to Thune and Noem for their hollow concern, Johnson reminds us that a government shutdown may not impact you at this second, but it does matter to people all over:

“While total losses are still being determined, this major blizzard has killed huge numbers of livestock across western South Dakota. Exacerbating these losses is the fact that the government shutdown has shuttered USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) offices across the state. As a result, producers don’t even have anyone to contact at USDA for assistance in documenting losses.

The closure of FSA offices is another demonstration of the real impact the government shutdown is having on South Dakotans. Like the snow storm, the government shutdown is causing major disruptions in people’s lives and every day business.

While snowstorms happen, government shutdowns are unnatural events. The House needs to pass a clean Continuing Resolution not just for the sake of South Dakota’s ranchers, but for the good of the country.”

Is Noem As Frightened As Boehner?

This shutdown is clearly the Republicans making.  They are the ones that have been talking about shutting down the government since 2011.  If you don't believe me that the GOP is the one behind the government shutdown, ask Republican Peter King.
"We are the ones who did shut the government down," he later added. "Charles Krauthammer called it the suicide caucus. The Wall Street Journal said they were kamikazes. You don't take the dramatic step of shutting down the government unless you have a real strategy and it has a chance of working. It's never had a chance of working."
Today the President and others called Speaker Boehner out.  He told the Speaker that instead of making a claim that 25 Republicans would not vote for a clean Continuing Budget Resolution that passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority, he should just bring it up to a vote and allow the Representatives to record a vote.
“Today, Speaker Boehner should stop the games and let the House vote on the Senate’s clean CR so that the entire federal government can re-open within twenty-four hours,” Jentleson said in a statement, referring to a continuing resolution to authorize government spending.
The question to Mr. Boehner is what is he afraid of?  Why not vote on the bill?  There is no threat of a filibuster.  There is no need of a supermajority.  All you have to do is vote and then you can say, "See, I told you that I was not just a tool of the Tea Party.  The Republican Party will only function if we get everything we want.  You just can't compromise with us.  We care more about preventing people from getting healthcare then we do about maintaining the basic functions of our government."  

Where is Kristi Noem in all of this mess?  She claims that she doesn't want a government shutdown

“No one wants to see the government shut down,” she said. “I think the only person who keeps talking about it is the president and a lot of the media.” 
A shutdown, Noem said, “would be devastating” to the country. 
“I am hopeful that we won’t be in that situation,” she said.
Unfortunately that rhetoric is about as shallow and empty as Kristi's rhetoric on the Farm Bill and so many other things she claims to want to do for the people of our state.  So, Mrs. Noem, if you realize that this shutdown is devastating for our country, then tell the Speaker to allow a vote on a clean CR or you won't let him fundraise for you again.  That would be getting really ugly to get something done.