Monday, December 31, 2012

Why Common Core Standards Concern Me: A Weather Analogy

For those who skipped the post's title, what follows is an analogy.

The Common Core emphasizes non-fiction, so students should be able to read nonfiction like the following tidbits from the Weather Channel.

The Core's strongest advocates might want students to understand classic literary references to weather or seasons like the following song. They'd probably love this Sinatra version has the benefit of a spelling lesson, but they might bemoan the fact that it's too romantic.

The Core's proponents seemingly don't understand that facts, classics and spelling lessons may not make the point as well as a simple regional story told well. What follows may be hyperbolic, but it combines the realism of a weather report with the literary elements of the more popular song. If it were literature being taught in an English class, it's the type of work that the Core would force teachers to cut so that the teacher could have students read the weather report.

Quotation Of The Day: Republican Party Devoid Of Soul

From former Republican presidential candidate John Huntsman in this Daily Telegraph interview:
"The party right now is a holding company that's devoid of a soul and it will be filled up with ideas over time and leaders will take their proper place,"

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Minor Musing: Will A Student Who Graduates Under Common Core Standards Be Able To Understand Dave Barry's Recent Column?

Dave Barry does an excellent job of reviewing 2012. In the process, he probably gives Common Core advocates a bit of hope when he references Hamlet.
It was a cruel, cruel year — a year that kept raising our hopes, only to squash them flatter than a dead possum on the interstate.
Example: This year the “reality” show Jersey Shore, which for six hideous seasons has been a compelling argument in favor of a major earth-asteroid collision, finally got canceled, and we dared to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we, as a society, were becoming slightly less stupid.
But then, WHAP, we were slapped in our national face by the cold hard frozen mackerel of reality in the form of the hugely popular new “reality” show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which, in terms of intellectual content, makes Jersey Shore look like Hamlet.
The fine folks who are reassuring English teachers throughout the nation that "classic literature will not be lost with the implementation of the new standards" are probably a bit disappointed that Barry does not claim that 2012 was "the best of years and the worst of years" or that "the entire year consisted of the month a April, notorious for being cruel." Those after all are allusions to classic literature that should not be "lost." It's unclear whether Common Core advocates understand the pop culture references.

Of course, the students who are expected to understand Hamlet live in a world dominated by Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo. They probably have not heard of either Dickens or Eliot. Emphasis on non-fiction, something the Common Core demands, makes it impossible to teach all of the literature, classic or otherwise, that has been taught in the past. Longer school years will not occur in the current political environment.

Ironically then, the emphasis on non-fiction will mean that Barry's wonderful column will be less appreciated because the "classic literature" will be taught less frequently and totally divorced from the culture that students inhabit.

more here:

Scripture And Song Of Week: Disaster Prediction Edition

I guess I have been inspired or depressed by surviving the end of the Mayan calendar along with the fiscal cliff debacle and warning that the debt ceiling talks will start up again in late January.

Revelation 6

1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages,[b] and six pounds[c] of barley for a day’s wages,[d] and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Minor Musing About Political Glasses: Rose-colored And Half Empty

I'm catching up on my South Dakota blogosphere reading and came across these little tidbits that I found interesting.

Pat Powers, as his his wont, shills for the Republican monopoly that has dominated South Dakota politics  and points to stats that say that South Dakota is the 7th best run state in the nation.

Meanwhile, Constant Conservative takes the bloom off the rose colored eyewear and points out that South Dakota gets more help from the federal government than most other states: forty-six of them to be exact.
South Dakota is number 4 in the nation for percentage of the state budget underwritten by the federal government. Check out the Tax Foundation for the details.
I know that I have a resolution to say something positive about Daugaard, but boasting about a budget surplus and preaching self-reliance while taking advantage of federal largess seems duplicitous at best.

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Years Resolutions For 2013 (Part 1)

For the past two months there has been much more slogging than blogging. In the spirit of a new year and the hope that springs eternal every January 1, every MLB opening day, and every first day of school, I hope to get back on track. I also hope to accomplish a few other tasks that have eluded me in the past.

The first resolution is obviously to get back on track and publish the requisite two posts a day. I will be satisfied to average two daily posts throughout any given month.

Second, to issue an open invitation to Steve Sibson to visit my classroom when I teach my Bible unit. Sibby frequently bombs the Madville Times comments section with assertions that public schools have banned
Bible reading. At his own site, he posts headlines like "Newtown, an America where Bibles are banned and evil is promoted." Representative Steve Hickey can also visit if he likes. (I should give myself 1/2 credit for accomplishing this resolution. As soon as I hit publish the invitation will have been issued. I just need to finalize the dates. If I follow old lesson plans, I should begin the unit in mid-January.)

Third, I probably shouldn't do any more cheating on completing resolutions like I did above.

Next, I want to find one good thing to post about Governor Dennis Daugaard and Representative Kristi Noem. I don't want to cheat on this one either. For example, claiming that Daugaard is not the most reprehensible politician in South Dakota history won't count nor will asserting that Noem is not the least intellectually gifted politician in South Dakota.

On the personal level, I resolve to spend at least six hours watching foreign language television with my wife even though I won't understand a single word. The six hours does not have to occur at one sitting, but it should occur before the end of the school year. In an effort to afford cheating, I will not force her to watch ESPN Deportes to take up the time.

On a more serious level, I will make an effor to do a few more education posts than I have in the past.

I'll post the rest of my resolutions tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: State Rep. Betty Olson Is Wrong Edition

From this Alan Jacobs post:
But what troubles me most about this suggestion — and the general More Guns approach to social ills — is the absolute abandonment of civil society it represents. It gives up on the rule of law in favor of a Hobbesian “war of every man against every man” in which we no longer have genuine neighbors, only potential enemies. You may trust your neighbor for now — but you have high-powered recourse if he ever acts wrongly.
Whatever lack of open violence may be procured by this method is not peace or civil order, but rather a standoff, a Cold War maintained by the threat of mutually assured destruction. Moreover, the person who wishes to live this way, to maintain order at universal gunpoint, has an absolute trust in his own ability to use weapons wisely and well: he never for a moment asks whether he can be trusted with a gun. Of course he can! (But in literature we call this hubris.)
Is this really the best we can do? It might be if we lived in, say, the world described by Cormac McCarthy in The Road. But we don’t. Our social order is flawed, but by no means bankrupt. Most of us live in peace and safety without the use of guns. It makes more sense to try to make that social order safer and safer, more and more genuinely peaceful, rather than descend voluntarily into a world governed by paranoia, in which one can only feel safe — or, really, “safe” — with cold steel strapped to one’s ribcage.
Cory gives his take on Olson's ludicrous assertion that having more armed people in school will lessen school violence here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Romans Edition

Romans 12
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

State Oral Interp Festival Recap

Blogging has been light for the past few weeks for a few reasons, but the biggest was the effort to complete the tasks on the to-do list for hosting the SDHSAA State Oral Interpretation Festival. Fortunately, the administration, faculty, custodial and maintenance staff, and the food service staff at Yankton High School made the job easy. Lisa Scheve of the Yankton Convention and Business Bureau hosted a great hospitality lounge  and Julia Hussein and the Yankton Parents of Debaters did a marvelous job with concessions. Most importantly, fellow coaches Terri Mandel and Matt Termansen along with the YHS interp and debate students went above and beyond the call of duty to help everything run smoothly. When we host in the future, I'm going to get a lawn chair and sip some lemonade instead of worrying.

I'd like to highlight just a couple of other highlights from the weekend in no particular order:

1. Re-uniting with Darren Jackson, an impressive young man, who suffered through my classes for his entire high school career.

2. Catching up with Cory Heidelberger--one needs to read that term figuratively; no one can catch up with the indefatigable one who walks faster than any other human I have ever seen.

3. Seeing our cat spit his Friday morning pill into the opening of a Coke Zero can.

4. Watching some young'uns from Milbank High School, still wearing their competition dress clothes, use light sabers to complete an assignment over Othello.

I hope to resume regular blogging.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Thanksgiving Edition

Psalm 92
1: It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Trying The Same Thing That Didn't Work, Only Harder

Wayne Lewis, a survivor of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression discusses the attitude that many during the Depression possessed:
“We always had hope that next year was gonna be better. We learned slowly, and what didn’t work, you tried it harder the next time. You didn’t try something different. You just tried harder, the same thing that didn’t work.”
That attitude seems remarkably similar to that of South Dakota's K-12 education community, a group that continually trusts the legislature and the governor to provide adequate funding. Every year, school boards and teachers get the same negative results. Each year, they continue to try the same methods that didn't work during the previous legislative session.

Most importantly, like the Dust Bowl farmers, the education community shows it knows how to work hard.; they work harder to use the same methods on the same legislators every year.

A Minor Musing About Waste And Stupidity

Yeah, I'm gonna be the old curmudgeon who complains that things were better back in the day.

Dana Gunderson notes, "Today, we’re discarding 50% more food in the U.S. than we did in the 1970s." Gunderson elaborates,
People all around the world are investing time, land, water, energy, and loads of other resources to grow, store, process, and transport food, only for nearly half of that food to be thrown away.  Those potatoes on a breakfast platter get shrugged at because of a low-carb diet.  The cheese, for which the kid screamed bloody murder, only gets one bite before that kid is off to play again.  The chips remain at the bottom of the nacho plate because who can really eat that many chips.

In the United States today, about 40 percent of all food goes uneaten.  Each year Americans are throwing away the equivalent of $165 billion in uneaten food, making food the single largest component of solid waste in our landfills. This costs the average family of four between $1350 and $2275 annually.
Maybe there's not connection, but I'm going to blame the increased promotion of Black Friday. The shopping day that's designed to appeal to Americans' irrationality:
The big problem with Black Friday, from a behavioral economist's perspective, is that every incentive a consumer could possibly have to participate — the promise of "doorbuster" deals on big-ticket items like TVs and computers, the opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done at once — is either largely illusory or outweighed by a disincentive on the other side. It's a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.

As Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, "We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains."

This applies to shopping on the other 364 days of the year, too. But on Black Friday, our rational decision-making faculties are at their weakest, just as stores are trying their hardest to maximize your mistakes.
There's something perversely American about turning a day of thanks into a day of waste and then following that debacle with a day of stupid consumption. The combination certainly appeals to lesser angels of our nature.

Monday, November 19, 2012

We Need More Collective Nouns To Identify Political Group

Conor Friedersdorf creates a list of collective nouns to add to one's political vocabulary. I note that none of the groups are associated with "pride."
An axis of wonks.
A muzak of talking heads.
A friedman of taxi drivers.
A scandal of senators.
A capra of filibusters.
A cabinet of secretaries.
A forge (or jones) of Smithsonians.
A molestation of TSA agents.
A hospice of Supreme Court justices.
A stipend of interns.
A deceit of talking points.
A bordello of lobbyists.
A belligerence of neocons.
An obama of drone casualties.
A cyclotron of press secretaries.
A euphemism of atrocities.
An ostrich of climate-change skeptics.
A david gergen of David Gergens.
A cirrhosis of happy hours.
A per diem of fundraisers.
A peroxide of Fox News anchors.
A slumlord of rent-control advocates.
A kabuki of debates.
A baldwin of Romneys.
"A bordello of lobbyists descended on Pierre" does have a nice ring to it. So does "An obama of drone casualties has created a euphemism of atrocities."

Quotation Of The Day: We Iz All Dum Edition

At least according to Professor Gerald Crabtree:
"A hunter-gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his or her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate. Clearly, extreme selection is a thing of the past."

Based on the rate at which harmful mutations in our genes happen, and the particular susceptibility of those genes related to intellectual and emotional function, Prof Crabtree calculated that humans "reached a peak" 2,000 to 6,000 years ago.

"I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues," he said
I'm unsure if I agree with Crabtree, but I will recommend this article to the next student who claims that my grading procedures hurt his self-esteem.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Can't Wait To Hear These Scenarios When I Judge Policy Debate This Weekend

I love listening to disaster scenarios that high school policy debaters run.  This one will be new:

 This one is based on a classic:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Republican Party Perception And Reality Edition

From this Daniel Larison post at The American Conservative:
Regardless, it’s also important to understand that those conservatives interested in a political vision of “rugged individualism, privacy, [and] minimal government” had no major party candidate available in this election. The younger cohorts of voters have never encountered a Republican ticket that supported these things in practice. When it has been in power, the Republican Party they know best has been the fiscally irresponsible, welfare state-expanding party of unnecessary wars, torture, and intrusive and illegal anti-terrorist measures. The modern Republican Party is the party of the entitlement status quo for current beneficiaries, the national security state, and an ever-expanding military budget. That is hardly promoting “rugged individualism, privacy, and minimal government.”
As I have repeatedly said, I am troubled by the "unnecessary wars, torture, and intrusive and illegal anti-terrorist measures . . . the national security state, and an ever-expanding military budget." Equally troubling is the fact many of the current entitlements go to corporate welfare which Republicans nearly unanimously support.

I don't think Democrats have all or even most, of the answers, but perpetual war, torture, the expanded security state, and corporate welfare are a noxious mix that prevent me from ever seriously considering myself a Republican.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Why People Shouldn't Drink And Blog Edition

I have to blame alcohol for this Brad Ford post trying to explain why he believes "racial blending" to be evil and why those who question his word choice and ideas are Nazis. There's no logical reason a sober person could have for writing this post. It's so convoluted that it can't be taken as satire:
My observation that “Gay sex will prosper, racial blending will see a surge, women will be prominent in the consumer-driven workforce” was intended as a statement of fact, not of bias.   Do you really think that Americans are better educated or more intelligent than the Germans who fell for Hitler?
Social engineering doesn’t just happen by itself.  There also has to be effective enforcement.  The Nazis had the Gestapo and Goebbels–all public “officials”.  South Dakota has its left-wing blogs with conservative Republicans and liberal democrats now freely mingling.  A perverse circle jerk where demagoguery and political correctness hold court, unashamed.  Hello more white guilt and censorship.  Goodbye freedom of discussion.  Goodbye freedom.
There are no words to describe the total lack of coherent thought in these paragraphs or the whole post. Male, female, and transgendered Americans have all contributed to pernicious consumerism. Who these people have sex with is not a commercial question unless Ford is contending that all Americans are prostitutes. The connection that any of those issues has with one's race or ethnicity is even more disconcerting

Further, how does the fact that Democrats and Republicans "mingle" on blogs lead to an end of the "freedom of discussion"? How does questioning what Ford meant by "racial blending" in his earlier post or this post constitute censorship? Cory Heidelberger, Troy Jones, Pat Powers, and I all claimed that Ford has the right to express his confused and frightening racial views. Likewise, we all have the right to strongly assert our belief that those views should not become part of South Dakota's political mainstream.

Finally, comparing one's opponents to Nazis and using crude sexual metaphors to describe the consensus concerning the expression of confusing and disturbing ideas doesn't merit rebuttal. It simply proves that the person expressing those ideas has nothing important to say.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Jeremiah Edition

Jeremiah 22

1 This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Person Who Helps Determine What Goes In Nation's Textbooks Claims People Who Voted For Obama Racist Maggotss

Given some of the hyperbolic reactions that South Dakotans have had to Obama's re-election, (sorry, I can't bring myself to link to Howie's site to back up my point about hyperbole) one should have expected that Texas would do it much bigger. Hardin County Republican treasurer Peter Morrison wants to separate from the Untied States:
"Let each go her own way," he writes, demanding an "amicable divorce" from the U.S. and from the "maggots" who re-elected President Obama.

Evoking the history of Confederate soldiers who refused to surrender after Gettysburg, Morrison, 33, calls for Texans to fight "in hopes that Providence might shine upon our cause."

Morrison is particularly angry at Asian-Americans and Hispanics who backed Obama, accusing them of voting on an "ethnic basis."

"'They' re-elected Obama," Morrison wrote. "He is their president."
Given that I don't know who chairs the Democratic or Republican parties locally, I really shouldn't care what a racist Texan writes in a "race-heavy newsletter."

On the other hand, "Morrison was chosen by former State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy to help screen Texas public school textbooks."

It's taken as an article of faith in the education community that Texas has a disproportionate impact on the textbooks used the nation's schools. Even Fox News says so:
Since Texas is the second largest consumer of textbooks in the U.S., publishers often create a book that meets Texas standards and then sell the same version to school districts across the country.
I hope Dr. Blanchard has posts some back up material to help South Dakota history teachers remind students that the Civil War was about slavery and nothing else. I have no desire to parse the sentence: "Everyone who voted for President Obama is a maggot." I don't want to use that sentence as an example of a metaphor either.

Morrision's ideas, however, may make my job as a debate coach easier. Last session, Representative Steve Hickey pushed through a resolution urging schools to teach the Bible. Romans 13 poses some interesting questions about succession or "separation."
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
The Bible also has that pesky little reminder that everyone is created in God's image; it's tough to see how people created in God's image and who did their duty and voted are "maggots," but I don't live in Texas and I'm not a Republican.
Read more here:

Some Musings About Reactions To Obama's Election

First, I want to thank Cory, Pat Powers, and Troy Jones for dealing with the vile bilge that Brad Ford published on Gordon Howie's website a few days ago. The responses are here, here, and here. (Troy's take downs are in the comments.)

I am running behind the past few days, and I have no desire to get to Howie's site, but Cory pointed to separate Ford and Randazzo posts that express dismay over recent political results.

If I may be so presumptions, allow me to off some scriptural advice to Mssrs. Ford and Randazzo.  First, remember that politics is an earthly thing, and believers should not set store in earthly things. From Colossians 3:
3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
If one needs red-letter confirmation of that fact, I think that Jesus' parable in Matthew 7 will make the same point:

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
That whole thing about the 47% shouldn't be a problem. Believers have enough of their own problems to worry about. Philippians 2 points out:
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain
Working out salvation should take a whole lot of time. Besides, Brad and Ed, all of this whining about Obama's victory makes it easy to pull out those other verses from Matthew 7. You know the ones I mean, don't you guys?
5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. . . . . 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Oh, by the way on that 47% point, I know Flannery O'Connor was a woman and all, but the conclusions her short story "Revelation" does tie in pretty well with the preceding verses and some God-fearing folks' concerns about the 47% beneath them on the social ladder.
Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there with her gaze bent to them as if she were absorbing some abysmal life-giving knowledge. At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk. She raised her hands from the side of the pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black[s] . . . in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They, alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grading My Election Predictions

In late June, I made a few predictiosn about election day.  Here's the report card.

I predicted that Romney would win with 57%. The Secretary of State's website has Romney with 57.89%. I'll take an "A" for that prediction.

My guess on the Noem Varilek race was not as good. I predicted Noem would take in 54% if the vote. She got 57.45%. I can only give myself a "B-" on this one. The 4% difference is within most polls margin of error, but I really believed that Varilek would get 45% and that Romney would outpoll Noem by at least 2%.

I predicted that Democrats would make small gains in the state senate but still have a caucus with fewer than 10 members. David Montgomery gives the results as of late last night:
With current results at 2:30 a.m., the Democrats have picked up two seats in the state Senate, for a total of 7. That’s with the Rave-Ahlers race in District 25 still undecided, the Republican Rave ahead by 300 votes with five of 11 precincts fully reporting. Ahlers could conceivably win that and become the eighth Democratic senator.
I'll give myself an "A" for that one.

I also predicted that the sales tax initiative would fail with 60% of the vote. That prediction, like the Noem/Varilek prediction, deserves a "B-." It failed, but 56.72% is barely within traditional polls' margins of error.

My prediction on the large project development fund was, as the young'uns say, an epic fail. I was certain it would pass; it did not. I was also wrong about the HB 1234/RL16 campaign. SDEA ran a good campaign, and Governor Daugaard and his allies did not spend huge amount of cash.

Finally, I'll give myself a "B-" for predicting that Senator Thune would not be Romney's Veep pick. I incorrectly picked Portman instead of Ryan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How I Voted: 2012 Election Edition

For President: Gary Johnson

I'm not a Libertarian, and I firmly believe that a Libertarian majority would destroy the social safety net. Yet, Libertarians are the only party talking about the perils of the security state, the loss of civil liberties, and the need to end foreign adventuring. All three of those issues are as important as, if not more important than, the social safety net.

For House: Matt Varilek

Kristi Noem is a walking chimera who combines the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz; she lacks intellect, the courage to stand up to her own party, and the heart necessary to truly make a difference for South Dakota. I believe that Varilek has intellect and heart; two out of three ain't bad. (Yes, I am channelling my inner Meat Loaf.)

For PUC: Matt McGovern

Fiegen's tenure as a member on various corporate boards of directors strikes me as asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Ballot Measures: No on all

RL 16 is a solution in search of a problem and bureaucratic nightmare waiting to come to life. IM 15 would increase South Dakota's sales tax on food and necessities, so I couldn't vote for it. I also doubted the assertion that the legislature couldn't change the funding formula to use only the new sales tax revenue to fund K-12 education and Medicaid. The other ballot measures seemed faulty.

Local Legislators: Hunhoff, Hunhoff, and Stevens.

  Jean Hunhoff voted against HB 1234. (I am close to being a single-issue voter this election.) Bernie Hunhoff has done as well as can be expected with a permanent minority. Mike Stevens seemed to understand education issues when he served on the Yankton School Board.

I'm not sure if my vote will affect any of the results, but tt's been my experience that I will live long enough to regret every vote I've cast today.

Quotation Of The Day: America's Flawed Voting System Edition

From this David Frum piece on
Almost everywhere else, elections are run by impartial voting agencies. In France, elections are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, which establishes places and hours of voting, prints ballots (France still uses paper) and counts the votes. In Germany, an independent federal returning officer oversees a complex state and federal voting system. In Canada, federal elections are managed by a specialized agency, Elections Canada. Mexico, emerging from a sad history of electoral manipulation, created in the 1990s a respected independent agency, the Federal Electoral Institute. Brazil has nationwide electronic voting, producing instantaneous, uncontested results.
No voting system is perfect. Britain has faced allegations of chronic fraud in absentee balloting. As I write, Lithuanian politics are convulsed by allegations of vote buying by one of its political parties.
But here's what doesn't happen in other democracies:
Politicians of one party do not set voting schedules to favor their side and harm the other. Politicians do not move around voting places to gain advantages for themselves or to disadvantage their opponents. In fact, in almost no other country do politicians have any say in the administration of elections at all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

And One More Election Eve Musing

Tomorrow's elections will change little. The differences between Obama and Romney are minimal. The latter will make me a bit more angry when I turn on the TV, but both will continue to pursue policies that erode civil liberties and expand the security state.

In South Dakota, Kristi Noem will win re-election. She will return to the Oz of Washington DC, but unlike the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, she will never develop intellect, courage, and heart.Governor Daugaard and his administration will continue their war on teachers no matter what the results on RL 16 and IM 15. They will also continue to cut the state's social safety net while enhancing corporate welfare.

Since the big elections will not change anything, one must look for some small victories.  Last night, I got a call from a young lady who got the position she wanted in her sorority. She was happy, and that joy made me smile a bit. For this year, it's the only election that I'm going to care about.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Gospel Of Mark Edition

Mark 10
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Being Analytical And Compassionate Edition

The human brain is unquestioningly an amazing thing. But for all its strengths, it can be pretty glitchy at times. And indeed, as new research from Case Western Reserve has revealed, our brains have two very important functions that tend to work quite well — just not simultaneously. It turns out that when we’re being analytical, the empathetic parts of our brain shuts down, and vice versa. The insight may help to explain not just the limits to human cognition, but also what may be going wrong in the brains of people with social disorders.
According to new research by Anthony Jack and his colleagues, the brain contains two different networks that are in constant tension. Normally, when we’re not called upon to think too deeply or consider moral issues, our brains idle and toggle between two cognitive modes, what are called the social network and the analytical network.
So, when we do things like math or our personal accounting, we’re pulling from the analytical network. And when we’re thinking about the needs of others or certain ethical conundrums, we draw from the social network.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Why The Onion Should Be America's Official Newspaper Edition

From this Onion article:
WASHINGTON—With only a week remaining in the 2012 presidential campaign, the one-third of Americans adults who identify as members of the lower class announced they are still waiting for the first meaningful mention of themselves by either of the major-party candidates. “I’ve heard a lot about how the middle class is vital to the economy and how the upper class may not be paying their fair share, so I’m hoping that, at some point, there’s at least one remark from Romney or Obama on the plight of the lower class,” said Spillville, IA resident Martin Huskins, a cashier who earned $14,600 last year. “Just a word or two would go a long way. Even if the campaigns talk about us in a manipulative or patronizing way—that’d be okay, so long as there’s an actual acknowledgment of the millions upon millions of Americans in my situation. Because it seems like a pretty big problem, right?” Reached for comment, members of the nation’s working poor and underclass said they were pretty sure both candidates must be saving up big speeches on poverty to deliver right before Election Day.

Consolidation: An Education Discussion That Should Happen But Won't

Cory points out that there's an important education policy discussion that isn't happening in South Dakota: school consolidation.
It may also be a policy discussion worth having. Do we overstretch our dollars by maintaining too many school buildings and school districts? Does South Dakota have a fiscal obligation to pull back, let some small schools and small communities die, and concentrate its resources on larger communities?
I have no strong feelings on the matter. I have taught in a Class B school and in a Class AA school. My debaters compete against students from large and small schools.

It does seem, however, that the structure of the South Dakota's school systems should be part of any comprehensive plan to improve education in the state. Discussion consolidation may not allow the state's politicians to think they are part of a national conversation, but that discussion won't be as myopic as the current focus on test scores.

My inner cynic doubts that discussion will happen in the next legislative session or the one after that or the one after that. Politicians at every level have learned that one doesn't need to solve any large problems; they merely need to demonize smaller concerns. Daugaard Inc. has created his perfect scapegoat: teachers. He can begin and end all reform discussions by attacking teachers and ignore any needed structural changes.

A Minor Musing About Politics And Realism And Short Sightedness

Alan Jacobs, who writes better and thinks far more deeply than I do points to a reason that politicians might be so in love with STEM; those "hard sciences" are realistic and politicians love nothing more than poltical realism. That realism is usually concerned with short term gain:
What people call political realism often seems to me a kind of short-sightedness. The idea that valid political action requires us to choose from among the most prominent current alternatives — in short, to decide whether you’re going to be a Republican or a Democrat and then work to bring your chosen party more closely in line with your convictions — makes sense if your chief goal is to gain a political victory and to gain it now. Or soon.
Some politicians might take offense at being charged with caring only for short term political victories. The STEM loving realists may also take offense that Jacobs's reasoning begins in a novel:
We are too prone, I believe, to think that voting is the definitive political act. That would be true only if politics simply belongs to the government. There is a far vaster sphere of politics — the life of the polis — that belongs to everyday acts of ordinary people. In this maybe Gandalf is a pretty good guide: “Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
Offering true comfort instead of empty promises, actually uprooting evil instead of accusing one's opponent of  evil, and admitting that there's a greater sphere of politics than the government should be common sense but this political season those concepts seem radical and unrealistic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Great Reminder That Nothing Is Permanent

Something a little haunting for the night before Halloween:

Quotation Of The Day: Television Is Better Than Politicians Edition

From this Sam Wilkerson post:
I think that people assume that there are pro-government (Democrat) and anti-government (Republican) people occupying the world. I think that’s unfortunate. Seems like there are an awful lot of people who want competent government. Whether or not such a thing is possible might be beside the point; its what those people want, especially when the Wild Wild West is out there beyond the government’s existence. David Simon’s shows have repeatedly made this point. Whether it was Homicide‘s occasionally callous detectives or The Wire‘s innocent bystanders or Treme‘s “city-planning,” it seems clear that people victimized by their government aren’t necessarily against it conceptually so much as they’re against it in reality. There aren’t many politicians capable of making that point in such a way as to get elected.

Monday, October 29, 2012

STEM Politicians Showing Themselves Penny Wise But Pound Foolish

Because Republican governors borrow bad ideas so frequently, this Florida news item frightens:
Highly distinguished universities, such as the University of Florida and Florida State University, could charge more than others. Tuition would be lower for students pursuing degrees most needed for Florida's job market, including ones in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as the STEM fields.

The committee is recommending no tuition increases for them in the next three years.

But to pay for that, students in fields such as psychology, political science, anthropology, and performing arts could pay more because they have fewer job prospects in the state.
Dan Luzer points out that the plan makes little economic sense:
. . . .Florida’s economy is largely based on international trade, tourism, and agriculture.
It’s unclear how this proposed policy change would help Florida’s actual citizens. The chief benefit seems to be allowing colleges to raise money without the legislature appropriating additional funds. That might be fiscally useful in the short term, but it fails to address the long-term problem with the state’s public higher education: the state isn’t providing the institutions with the money they need to continue operating.

It also seems puzzling to charge more for people who want to major in psychology, political science, anthropology, and the performing arts. Those classes are, in general, actually cheaper for a university to teach and administer than classes in sciences, engineering, and technology, which generally require expensive materials and laboratories.
I know that English majors are a pesky lot. Some may be free thinkers, or, God forfend, atheists. Even the liberal arts majors who are atheists, however, spend their lives trying to live out a Biblical injunction from Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I haven't seen anyone engineer virtue or honesty. The mathematical formula for beauty hasn't been developed.  In my cynical nature, I wonder if the STEM folks just want to get revenge on Walt Whitman for this poem:

When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Amos Edition

Amos 5

7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
    and cast righteousness to the ground.

8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    who turns midnight into dawn
    and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out over the face of the land—
    the Lord is his name.
9 With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
    and brings the fortified city to ruin.

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
    and detest the one who tells the truth.

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
    and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
    you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
    you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
    and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
    and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
    for the times are evil.

Quotation Of The Day: Definding The Liberal Arts Edition

From this Alan Jacobs post:
those of us who love the liberal arts don’t have to take a single line of self-defense — indeed we shouldn’t, because if the artes liberales really do liberate, they free us to make many varied choices. The person whose liberal-arts education serves him best as a father of children offers as strong a testimony to that education’s value as the person who instead devotes herself to a life of solitary scholarship; and even astonishingly rich entrepreneurs may justifiably celebrate the marriage of technology with the liberal arts. It’s all good.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Regional Rich Folk

Daily Finance has published a list of the richest citizens of each state. I found it interesting that South Dakota, a state that takes pride in its low wagers is home to rich citizen who has more wealth than the richest citizens of several neighboring states.

T. Denny Sanford, the richest person in South Dakota, is not in Warren Buffet's league. Buffet, of course, is Nebraska's richest resident with a net worth $49.6 billion. Sanford doesn't have the bankroll of Montana's Dennis Washington who is worth $5 billion. In Minnesota, Pauline MacMillian Keinath, a Cargill heiress, has a net worth of $3.7 billion, a total nearly three times greater than Sanford's wealth

Sanford does, however, should have enough money to hand out Halloween candy to everyone who rings his doorbell next Wednesday.

With a net worth of $1.3 billion, Sanford has substantially more wealth than Wyoming's John Martin. Martin, the CEO of Gilead Services has a net worth of $210 million. Sanford also has more wealth than North Dakota's Gary Tharaldson who is worth $900 million, and Iowa's Dennis Albaugh who is worth $1billion.

Quotation Of The Day: Baseball And Oral Interpretation Edition

I got to spend this morning in tab room trying to keep an oral interpretation tournament running on time, Tonight, I plan to spend some time watching the World Series, This description of the Detroit Tigers' legendary announcer Ernie Harwell combines the best of both parts of my day:
It all starts far, far from any stadium. There are no diamonds and no throngs of adoring fans—just a crackling radio hissing through a stale summer garage into air as golden-tinged as the dead, yellow lawn.
There’s a man’s voice: “He stood there like a house by the side of the road and watched it go by…and Thomas is OUT, for excessive window shopping!”
The voice is as thick as the greasy garage air, syrupy and mellifluous from decades of polishing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

America's Election And Unintended Irony: European Election Monitors Edition

Rod Dreher points out that Europeans seem confused by Americans' political angst:
It’s hardly an original observation, but watching the last month of the American presidential contest from Europe really brings home how crackpot Americans are about their elections. From here, there appears to be very, very little difference between Obama and Romney. Obama is generally more conservative than the French conservatives, for crying out loud! Hell, he’s more conservative than Richard Nixon. And for American liberals who think Romney is a right-wing whack job, and that crazy crypto-fascists are steadily advancing, they should be in a country where the National Front is a major political player.
Meanwhile, Tod Kelly reports that the ACLU, the NAACP, and other liberal groups have asked"the UN-affiliated watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)" to supply election monitors. The American groups believe that European observers will “help to improve  [American] citizen’s trust and confidence in election results.” These observers will come come from noted liberal democracies like "Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Albania and Bosnia," so I, for one, am certain that our elections will not be tainted.

Kelly concludes:
I understand liberal activists’ desire to make sure that electoral shenanigans don’t disenfranchise the poor, minorities and the elderly – especially after the voter ID law measures the GOP has taken.  But honestly, what do they expect is going to happen by bringing in monitors from freaking Kazakhstan?  If there is a better way to make sure that Americans actually ignore legitimate instances of fraud or intimidation than having it reported by Eastern European nationals, it’s not coming to mind.  Bringing in the OSCE doesn’t strike me as a way to solve a problem; it strikes me as a way to fire up your base at the possible expense of making it worse.  If I had to think of one word to describe it, it would be “Rovian.”

As for the Republican Talk-Radio crowd using this as a method to get their base to pull out their checkbooks because UN black helicopters are just over the horizon, all I can say is…  ah, fish it.  Why even bother at this point?
Am I the only one who thinks it ironic that people who think Romney may be a fascist are asking Albanians to monitor polling places or that people who think that America's political parties are nearly identical are going to monitor US elections and by doing so give ammunition to a political fringe that believes that Obama and Europe represent the Anti-Christ? Something about these stories makes me believe that a bunch of folks didn't get the memo that the Cold War ended in the late 1980s.

America's Election And Unintended Irony: European Election Monitors Edition

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Kids Are Smart Edition

From his Rolling Stone interview, President Barack Obama spells out what every teacher knows:
“You know, kids have good instincts,” Obama offered. “They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Superman To Become A Blogger

Finally someone more indefatigable than Cory Heidelberger has a blog. USA Today reports that Clark Kent, Superman's alter-ego will quit the Daily Planet and start a blog. reproduces a page in that shows Clark undergoing a bit of career angst.

Somehow it all seems fitting; if politicians resemble supervillains, the world needs Superman as a blogger. It appears that is further evidence that newspapers are going the way of this 1950s TV intro for a Superman television program.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Highbrow Culture Coming To Sioux Falls

Ok, so maybe it's lowbrow culture. Jay Kirsch reports that Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) is coming to Sioux Falls:
Mystery Science Theater fans:  Joel Hodgson is in Sioux Falls on Nov. 4.
Joel is the creator of the enduring cult hit “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and also known as the father of movie riffing – making comments throughout a bad films like people who make fun of bad material do in their own living rooms. Except probably a lot more funny.
Cinema Falls presents MST3K creator Joel Hodgson on Sunday Nov. 4 for a one-man keynote presentation, “How to Have a Job Like Mine.” It will feature what Cinema Falls’ Julie Anderson Friesen calls a “secret screening” of an MST3K episode.
For those totally, unfamilar with the show, the theme song spells out its premse:

Of course, execution is everything. Here's a MST3K clip:

Selective Outrage?

Ann Coulter calls the President of the United States "a retard" and no one seems to care:
Ann Coulter called President Obama a "retard" on Monday night.
She made the remark on Twitter after the third and final presidential debate between Obama and Mitt Romney."I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard," she tweeted
Meanwhile, TMZ reports that multiple people were upset because President Obama reminded the world that the military uses fewer horses and bayonets during last night's debate.
TMZ spoke with multiple people in the bayonet industry who tell us they were shocked and even offended when Obama brought up the weapon during last night's debate.
So it's acceptable to insult the President's intelligence but not acceptable to make wry observations about the changing military. I've never served, but I doubt a horse and bayonet are effective countermeasures against a drone.

On a positive note, I haven't read anything indicating that the horse lobby feels slighted.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Somehow This Performance Epitomizes The United States

A few mistakes, some garish flourishes, and a big finish sum up the US pretty well

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Presidential Candidates Aren't That Different From Supervillains notes that the choices for President seem rather grim this year:
When many American citizens cast their vote this November, they'll be choosing between the lesser of two evils. But why choose the lesser evil when you can choose a supervillain as your president? After all, supervillains can be effective leaders, provided you can get past the lying, unilateral decision-making, rampant murder, and dismantling of your Constitutional rights.
Given that both candidates have no problem with using drones to kill innocents abroad and have no problem destroying civil liberties, it seems advisable to look at the site's other criteria for advocating a supervillain in the Oval Office:
They have a strong vision for the future.

They'll go to great lengths to rebuild the country.

They won't stand for idiotic interview questions.

They make our monuments far more interesting.

They'll keep up morale (in order to further their evil schemes).

They'll eliminate unemployment—albeit through slavery.

They're already part of the shadowy conspiracy that runs the planet.

They're surprisingly easy to depose.

It also appears that our government has provisions for dealing with certain types of evil elected official.

Chances are you won't notice a difference between them and your non-supervillain presidents.
Let's see how Romney and Obama stack up on these other measurements.

Both Obama and Romney claim to have a strong vision and concrete plans to better the country. On the other hand, both answered Barry's stupid question during the town hall debate, and neither will ever get on Mt. Rushmore.

The election of either candidate will enrage opposing partisans, so the national mood will remain somewhat depressed no matter who wins in a couple of weeks. Romney's Bain tenure and his belief that corporations are people makes him more likely to embrace enslaving the populace, Republican hyperbole about health care notwithstanding.

Moving on to the "shadowy conspiracy," Both candidates seem to have shadowy people supporting them, but no one seems to care. If a supervillain wins, this criterion will allow South Dakota's own Steve Sibson and every other conspiracy theorist will get to say, "I told you so." Further, black helicopters look cool.

Given that Obama has been terrible on civil liberties and I'm certain Romney or any supervillain would be worse, having an easy to depose or a rather controllable supervillain might be an improvement.

Looking at the list, the last point seems rather accurate; Americans probably wouldn't see any difference if we elected a supervillain like Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom instead of Obama or Romney. In fact, the country might be better off

Doom is not an American citizen, however. I am sick of the Birther folk who would no doubt become apoplectic if Doom took office. That fact leaves me little choice; I'm going to support Lex Luthor in 2012.

Quotation Of The Day: George McGovern Edition

As recorded by
The Establishment center ... has led us into the stupidest and cruelest war in all history. That war is a moral and political disaster -- a terrible cancer eating away at the soul of our nation.
He may have been talking about Vietnam, but it applies to every war the United States has fought since then.

My sympathies to the McGovern family. 

Ignored Agriculture Study Illustrates Why Corporate Power Hurts Common People

The New York Times reports on a USDA funded study conducted by the University of Iowa that illustrates that farming can be done with fewer chemicals.
The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations.
I admit that I haven't searched every South Dakota newspaper to see if this article has been picked up, but I couldn't find the study mentioned in the Argus Leader or the Yankton Press & Dakotan. The Times points out that many publications seem to ignore this study; it has been ignored by " has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture." The article documents the journals that might fear corporate repercussions if they publish the findings.
The agency declined to comment when I asked about it. One can guess that perhaps no one at the higher levels even knows about it, or that they’re afraid to tell Monsanto about agency-supported research that demonstrates a decreased need for chemicals. (A conspiracy theorist might note that the journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences both turned down the study. It was finally published in PLOS One; I first read about it on the Union of Concerned Scientists Web site.)
The Times points to the obvious conclusion:
So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons.
Since the people who have the knowledge and are willing to work smart aren't going to increase Monsanto's bottom line, it's obvious that the sponsor of most corporate agriculture practices will continue to prefer poisons to people.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Revelation Edition

Revelation 3

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Does The Yankton Press And Dakotan Have Against Emilie Weisser?

I carefully cultivate my curmudgeon credentials; I follow Groucho Marx's advice and avoid joining any club that will have me for a member. The only time I want my name in the paper is for my obituary. I really don't want it in then, but my wife says she's going to publish my obituary, and I want to keep her happy, so I won't argue with her.

I also was taught that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. That's why I was confused last February when the Yankton Press&Dakotan published a front page feature about Sadie Stevens earning a Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic but made no mention of the fact that Emilie Weisser had earned a CLS scholarship to study Russian. I did a bit of rationalization and concluded that Arabic is the hot new language, and Russian is a bit passe. The United States is after all fighting wars in Arabic speaking countries, and the Cold War is over.

Frustration replaced my confusion when the October 10 P&D gave Laura Johnson front page honors because she will begin working with Peace Corps early next year but again ignored the fact that Emilie will be serving with the Peace Corps. Laura is going to Africa; Emilie will begin working with the Peace Corps in Albania next summer. I have no rationalization available for why a service in Africa is more newsworthy than service in Albania.

If I were Emilie, I'd wonder what I'd done to offend the journalism gods or the P&D.

I'm not Emilie, but I find the P&D's selective omissions odd and insulting. If CLS and the Peace Corps service are front page stories when some earn them, those honors should not be ignored when others earn them

I claim no expertise in journalism; I took my only journalism class in the late 1970s. It does, however, seem logical that if one local person has earned an honor, a reporter would contact the organization to discover whether other local people have earned similar honors.

As a news consumer, it seems that local news operates on a basic principle: if one local success story sells, two will sell better. In this case, stories about one attractive recent graduate of Yankton High School would have been enhanced if it had also reported about a second attractive graduate who had achieved a similar honor within the same time frame.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the honors and hard work aren't the newsworthy principle. Perhaps the P&D is governed by the principle the public prominence of one one's parents determines whether achievements are newsworthy. Or maybe, the people running the paper just hate Emilie Weisser.

Saturday Morning Video: The Script Featuring Edition

Just because it was the first video I saw this morning and I kinda like it even though it reeks of sentimentality.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Federal Government Moves To Limit Robo-calls: Will South Dakota Republicans Rejoice?

I have followed  South Dakota Robo-CallGate or whatever the it's going to be called with minor amusement. It will be interesting to see if South Dakota Republicans support this little bit of incentive based federal spending.
After years of using traditional regulatory tools to block billions of illegal marketing calls, the FTC is launching a public contest in search of new technical solutions.
The prize: $50,000
“The FTC is attacking illegal robo-calls on all fronts, and one of the things that we can do as a government agency is to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We think this will be an effective approach in the case of robo-calls because the winner of our challenge will become a national hero.”
The agency will accept entries between Oct. 25 and Jan. 17. Judges will score proposals based on workability (worth 50 percent), ease of use (25 percent) and the idea’s potential for a wide rollout (25 percent).
Applicants may submit ideas to block recorded marketing calls on landlines, cellphones or both. An entry that successfully stops both will be scored higher. The FTC says that many of those calls are deceptive or fraudulent. Such calls are illegal unless the marketer has prior written approval from the recipient.

I'm all for limiting robo-calls. In fact my wife and I seldom answer our home phone because we don't want to listen to a machine or a person telling us to buy stuff we neither want nor need. In this instance, however, I'm disappointed that I have not gotten neither one of these robo-calls. Heck, I'm not even on the mailing list to get a measly postcard. In order to increase my odds of hearing one of these calls that drives South Dakota's only political party's establishment into fits of hysteria, I hope that the incentive doesn't spur radically quick action.