Archive for December 2010

God and Man

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 4:58 pm
By: Joel Rosenthal
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Straight Talk Commentary – There have been many stories on the Web and in the MSM about the end of the trail for Kodak’s Kodachrome film. Gone Digital! But there is a fascinating story in “The Jewish Daily Forward” about its beginnings.

Sidebar – I         cannot believe they are scrapping the processing machine rather than putting it into a museum.

On this New Year’s Eve, reflecting on the year past and the coming year (family, ageing and future retirement are the on the highlight reel) this story puts in perspective the quality of one’s life. Public Affairs and Politics being my numero uno interest, it is hard to believe GOP victories in November didn’t make the top of the list.

In reflecting on personal values this article strikes the symbolism of how life can be transformed by not the basics but those special enhancements or spices we add to each day.

Paul Simon (as the article points out – the third Jewish musician) said it best:

“Everything looks worse in black and white.”

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.


Showing Their True Colors

How Two Jewish Musicians Developed Kodachrome

The Jewish Daily Forward

By Eric Schulmiller

December 30, 2010


Everything looks worse in black and white.”
– a lyric from “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon

The last picture ever to be developed with Kodachrome film was slated to be processed Thursday, December 30 at the lone processing lab still handling this film — Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kan. A year after Kodak announced that it was retiring Kodachrome film, after nearly 75 years of production (making it the oldest and longest-running film in production of all time), the last shipment of processing chemicals had finally run out, and the last Kodachrome processing machine was due to be sold for scrap.

So what’s so special about a roll of film that everyone from The New York Times to NPR is running its obituary? Besides the eponymous 1973 paean by singer Paul Simon, Kodachrome is best known for its durability, vibrancy and rich colors. It was the film used for many iconic color images, including the Afghan girl on the 1985 cover of National Geographic and the Zapruder film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Kodak retired the film because of the widespread adoption of digital formats, and because Kodachrome now represents only a fraction of 1% of its total film sales.

But what’s remarkable to me is that this groundbreaking innovation, which forever changed the face of photography, was invented by two Jewish musicians. Kodachrome was created by Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes (known together within Kodak as “God and Man”) in 1935.

Godowsky’s father was Leopold Godowsky, one of the great pianists and composers of the early 1900s, and Leopold Jr. was himself a prominent musician, becoming a soloist and first violin with the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. He later married Frances Gershwin, sister of George and Ira Gershwin. Leopold Mannes also hailed from a musical family — his parents founded what is now Mannes College The New School for Music, in New York City, where he later served as president. Mannes studied piano at Harvard and was, in addition, a noteworthy composer.

Godowsky and Mannes were teenage friends who were always interested in seeing things in their truest colors. Dissatisfied with the washed-out pictures of early color film, the two boys built their own color camera and projector while still in high school. They remained in contact as each pursued his musical career, and continued to perfect their color film technology. Their landmark work in this area soon attracted the attention of Lewis L. Strauss, an associate of the investment firm Kuhn, Loeb and Company, who financed the construction of Godowsky and Mannes’s laboratory, where they patented their revolutionary color film invention. Their work gained the attention of Eastman Kodak, and in 1935, Godowsky and Mannes made history with the introduction of their patented Kodachrome film.

But besides being invented, marketed and rhapsodized by Jewish musicians, there’s another connection between Kodachrome, Judaism and music. Unlike any other color film, Kodachrome is purely black and white when exposed to light. The three primary colors that mix to form the full color spectrum have to be added in three separate stages.

This complex process of adding vibrant color to a black and white world is similar to the Jewish notion of keva and kavanah.

The sages divided ritual practice into two distinct categories. The elements that were unchanging and static, such as the words of prayer recited daily, were termed keva — Hebrew for fixed in place. This was the black and white reality that formed the foundation for our world and our place in it. But then there is kavannah — the fluid, dynamic way in which we constantly color our practice with life’s ever-changing perspective. As any good musician will tell you, written music will only get you so far. Until the notes are infused with the kavannah that each artist brings to every performance, they are simply monochromatic dots on a page.

So the next time you upload your images to Flickr or YouTube, say a word of thanks to Godowsky, Mannes and Paul Simon — three Jewish musicians from New York whose work inspired countless millions to see the world in all its rich and vibrant complexity.

Eric Schulmiller has served as Cantor of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore in Long Island for the past 12 years, and has a degree in Jazz Piano from the University of Miami


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Top 11 Posts of 2010: My Best Work

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:15 pm
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Wednesday I compiled a list of the top ten stories of 2010 based on number of reader comments. Now let’s slice and dice 2010 purely by personal preference. Out of over 1350 blog posts published this year, here are eleven stories, not necessarily in order of importance, that I think represent my best blog work in 2010. These stories may not have affected the most people or drawn the most fire, but they’re stories that make me feel proud to say I’m a blogger.

1. Local Candidate Forums: If blogging paid the bills, I’d cover local politics like this every day. Even without a big paycheck I managed to give solid coverage to the October 20 and October 27 candidate forums (fora?) held here in Madison. My notes and video from both events provided the most complete online record of our local candidates’ positions. As for commentary, well, where else will you find this kind of in-depth opinion and analysis on candidates for state legislature, county commission, sheriff, and county auditor?

Bonus: Quality local political coverage like this got my friend Matt Groce to invite me onto KJAM for some live Election Night punditry. What a blast! Thanks, Matt… and thank you, neighbors, for listening!

2. Veblen Dairies Collapse: In one of the biggest stories ignored by South Dakota’s mainstream media, serial feedlot polluter Richard Millner lost his mega-dairy fiefdom collapse. His dairies in Veblen, South Dakota, as well as operations in North Dakota and Minnesota, all went into bankruptcy. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rebuffed Millner twice and shut down his stinky Excel Dairy in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources declared it will not issue a manure permit to a dairy where Millner holds decision-making power. Millner tried to reorganize his investors to cling to the two giant Veblen dairies, but those efforts fell apart, and the bank will likely take possession of both facilities.

I hit this story hard because Rick Millner has left a swath of illegal environmental and economic destruction in every community where he’s done business. Why the media largely ignored this story, when Millner’s Veblen operations constituted 15% of South Dakota’s dairy industry and when his operations received special government support through the EB-5 Visa program, continues to puzzle me.

The Veblen dairy story also demonstrates that collaboration makes good online journalism. My coverage of Richard Millner’s environmental abuses and financial collapse was supported by numerous sources, folks who wanted to get the Veblen story out so Millner would not be able to take advantage of others the way he’s taken advantage of them. We owe these good people our respect and our thanks.

3. TransCanada Keystone Leaks: Four pump stations in a row, three in South Dakota, one in Nebraska, sprang leaks as TransCanada brought its Keystone I pipeline online. Four leaks in a three-month span; that’s three more leaks than TransCanada said we’d get in 65 years. And even with TransCanada now digging up sections of the Keystone I to check for defective steel, our mainstream media remain mostly quiet about TransCanada’s errors.

4. Clark Schmidtke, Russell Olson, and Court Records: Indy-Dem Clark Schmidtke challenged Russell Olson for the District 8 State Senate seat. For his trouble, Schmidtke got his criminal record brought to light in the South Dakota blogosphere. I reported both Schmidtke’s fraud conviction and jail time in Minnesota and Olson’s own lengthy court record. The local paper covered Schmidtke’s record, but not Olson’s.

5. Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem at State Fair Debate: If I had any doubts about voting for Blue Dog Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, witnessing her dismantle Kristi Noem on stage at the South Dakota State Fair Congressional debate completely dismissed them. That debate fueled ten full blog posts that convinced me South Dakota would be worse off with Kristi Noem in Congress. 52% of South Dakota voters agreed with me… but since 6% of them picked B. Thomas Marking, the 48% who backed Noem got their way.

6. “Summer Storm in the City as I Wait to Drive Home: Speaking of Democrats, my first state Democratic convention was blogworthy; so was the thunderstorm afterward. Sometimes it’s nice to trade the political pen for the poetical.

7. Colton Turning Stimulus into Energy Independence: When he runs for re-election in 2012, President Obama should make a campaign stop in Colton, South Dakota, to show the results of his stimulus package at their best. My blog post on Colton’s energy independence initiative combined original reporting and good pix on a sunny fall day to highlight innovative thinking in small-town South Dakota, helped by smart investment by Uncle Sam.

8. How to Promote Arts, Culture, and Community in Small-Town South Dakota: The Madison Dairy Queen staged another successful Miracle Treat Day fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network. The fun kids games and live music on the street (and the Mason’s rooftop!) didn’t just help sick kids and their families; the event also provided an object lesson in creative community development in rural South Dakota.

9. IgniteSD: Speaking of creative cultural development, my friends John and Scott Meyer started IgniteSD, a fun community event that brings folks together to talk about their passions and big ideas. I had the privilege of delivering the inaugural IgniteSD talk in Brookings in April, an event that inspired this rhapsodic post. Then I helped pack Mochavino for IgniteSD #2 right here in Madison in May.

10. Lake Madison Public Access Area: Lake County opened its new public access area on Lake Madison this spring, giving me an excuse for a new bike route and a fun blog photo essay. If only everything worth blogging were within bicycling distance….

11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pacifism, and Blogospheric Multilogue: My post on the great Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his spiritual and physical struggle against the Nazis was just one thread in a conversation that involved numerous South Dakota bloggers and commenters. This conversation about theology, history, and politics represents the South Dakota blogopshere at its best: South Dakotans of very different political and religious persuasions engaging in thoughtful conversation about challenging issues. Let’s hope 2011 brings even more multivocal conversations like this.

*     *     *

1350+ blog posts is a lot to review! I’m sure I left out some of your favorites. So I’m open to nominations from the floor: what 2010 stories did you like best?

Mendacity, Medicare, & Social Security

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 1:02 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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hottineroofFriends and faithful interlocutors A.I. and Donald Pays have been jousting with me over the Social Security System.  Contrary to what they may suspect, I find a lot to praise about these institutions.  They have virtually eliminated poverty among the elderly, and that is no small achievement.  For precisely that reason we ought to be very honest about what is wrong with these systems, and there is a lot wrong.

If I understand my interlocutors, they more or less concede my point that, in fact, the Social Security Trust Fund is not a reserve of wealth that the system can draw on in the future.  It is merely a collection of IOU’s, or promises of future payment.  They think, however, that the “full faith and credit of the United States” is more reliable than any private contract would be.

Given the trillion dollar plus deficits the United States is currently piling up each year, I am less confident than they are.  But let us assume, arguendo, that they are right.  Privately managed savings always involved a tradeoff between risk and returns.  The savings are always invested in something that is expected to hold or increase its value.  Someone hoping for a high return on his or her savings will have to accept a greater degree of risk.  Someone wanting security will generally accept much lower returns.  Privately managed accounts can pay returns because the money invested in a way that creates wealth, enough wealth to cover both the returns and to allow the managers to make a profit.

Almost everyone will expect some return on their savings, so that the money they eventually end up with is more than what they put in.  If an “investment” offered no return, you might as well put the money in a pickle jar and keep it behind the wine in the basement.  What sensible person would put his money into an account that paid back less than what he put into it?

Apparently, Social Security does exactly that, at least for a lot of investors.   Powerline brings to our attention a very revealing article from the Associated Press.

Consider an average-wage, two-earner couple together earning $89,000 a year. Upon retiring in 2011, they…will have paid $614,000 in Social Security taxes, and can expect to collect $555,000 in benefits. They will have paid about 10 percent more into the system than they’re likely to get back.

Social Security, being mandatory, is also confiscatory.  In return for that full faith guarantee of benefits, it seizes more than it is likely to pay back.  Maybe that’s a good bargain, but it’s not one that would sell in the marketplace.  Whether it would sell politically isn’t clear, for the average couple doesn’t know about this because the system isn’t honest.

What does Government do with that extra 10%?  As we have established, it doesn’t put it aside to pay future benefits.  It spends it.  The surplus that Social Security has been running for decades goes into the Treasury.  Perhaps this ought to be common knowledge.

Medicare, by contrast, pays benefits beyond all reasonable expectations.  When our average couple retires in 2001

they would have paid $114,000 in Medicare payroll taxes during their careers.  But they can expect to receive medical services — from prescriptions to hospital care — worth $355,000, or about three times what they put in.

Well, that’s a good deal!  Try getting a 300% return on any market investment.  No problem, mon, if you can pick the next Microsoft or Google.  Private investments have to create enough wealth to cover all returns.  Medicare, by contrast, has to fund payments out of receipts.

The system has worked for 45 years, with occasional fine tuning. But the retirement of the baby boomers, the first of whom become eligible for Medicare in 2011, threatens to push it over the edge.

Medicare covers 46 millions seniors and disabled people now. When the last of the boomers reaches age 65 in about 20 years, Medicare will be covering more than 80 million people. At the same time, the ratio of workers paying taxes to support the program will have plunged from 3.5 for each person receiving benefits currently, to 2.3.

“With Medicare, we are all still making out like bandits, shoving all those costs to future generations,” said Steuerle. “At another level, we know that this system is totally unsustainable.”

In fact, both Medicare and Social Security are totally unsustainable in their present forms, and for the same reason.  The number of retirees drawing out is growing faster than the number of workers paying in.  Soon enough Social Security will reach the breaking point.  Medicare is approaching that point now.

I can’t resist pointing out that ObamaCare is financed in part by hypothetical cuts in Medicare.  “Mendacity,” Paul Newman said in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, is the system we live with.”  Ain’t that the truth.  Maybe it’s time for all of us to see the system for what it is.

Madville Times Top Ten of 2010: What Readers Said

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 7:53 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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There are many ways to determine an annual “Top Stories List.” In the blogosphere, one useful measure is the amount of conversation provoked by a story. So here’s my list of the this year’s big conversation starters, as measured by number of comments, here on the Madville Times:

  1. Full-Reserve Banking? My Cousin Must Be Kidding…: Didn’t expect that, did you? My wingnut cousin Aaron (who works in finance and should know better… unless he’s in with Glenn Beck on trying to push gold prices) proposed requiring banks to maintain full reserves instead of doing what George Bailey and every other banker does: loan your savings out to borrowers who want to build homes and business. A host of other interested parties joined in to explain why the free market has rejected this economy-crashing system.
  2. Christians, Get with the Program: Ditch Creationism for Real Science: I noted some more theologically inclined writers’ position what the church should stop fretting over creationism and embrace evolution.
  3. Want Nazi Tactics? See Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law: mention Arizona, immigration, and fascism, and you’re sure to get people talking.
  4. Gordon Howie, Please Quit: Retiring State Senator Gordon Howie failed to get his health care reform nullification act through the Legislature. He then failed to gather enough signatures to place it on the general election ballot. He kept flogging the issue, thinking it would propel him to victory in the June gubernatorial primary. No such luck.
  5. Brothers’ Keepers: Cognitive Dissonance in American Health Care: We Americans pay for our health care almost entirely through the collective means of insurance. Yet we reject efforts to use the most effective, inclusive collective health insurance system possible, a nationwide risk pool created through single-payer or a strong public option. I still don’t get it.
  6. President Obama: “Government Is Us”: Our President said that to graduates at the University of Michigan. I’ve been saying that readers here from the start. The Tea Party still doesn’t get it.
  7. Dog Bites Man; Bob Ellis Wrong; Howie Is Teabagger: Various conservatives preferred to bog us down in a debate over an obscene term that Gordon Howie and other Tea Party sign-wavers publicly embraced.
  8. Gordon Howie Campaigning to Stop Deportation of God: Howie slurped up all sorts of my bandwidth, here by manufacturing the false issue of God’s imminent expulsion from South Dakota.
  9. KELO Editorializes, Says God Exists: Fortunately, our liberal media asserted that, even after Howie’s defeat at the polls, the Deity was still among us.
  10. Religion and Politics: Engaging the Beast Versus Becoming the Beast: Legislative candidate Pastor Steve Hickey got me thinking more about the proper role of pastors and religion in politics. Pastor Hickey led off the comments by assuring us he seeks no theocracy or oppression of atheists like me. With the good pastor now ascending (take a moment… think about that) to the State House to make laws amidst a Republican supermajority, I will be watching to hold him to that word.

Honorable Mentions: a few stories didn’t draw quite as many comments per post but did draw lots of comments over several separate posts as the stories developed.

  1. The Madison Central School District new gym and high school renovation plan has elicited a great deal of discussion, including details of the MHS video tour, practical alternatives to put more priority on academics and arts, and concerns that the school’s early voting scheme bends if not breaks state election laws.
  2. The Blog Control Acts, HB 1277 and HB 1278, proposed in the State Legislature in February got bloggers riled up and speaking out on both sides of the issue. Mr. Epp and I and many others debated the extent of the First Amendment.
  3. Kristi Noem and her supporters dissembled and spun her way to South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat, while South Dakota Dems wreslted with finding the right balance between defending and challenging our Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

120 years: the anniversary South Dakota would like to forget

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm
By: David Newquist
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29 December 1890:  Wounded Knee

Tim Giago recalls:

On crystal clear nights when winter winds whistle through the hills and canyons around Wounded Knee Creek, the Lakota elders say it is so cold that you can hear the twigs snapping in the frigid air.

They called this time of the year, “The Moon of the Popping Trees.” It was on such a winter morning on December 29, 1890 that the crack of a single rifle brought a day of infamy that still lives in the hearts and minds of the Lakota people.

After the rifle spoke there was a pause and then the rifles and Hotchkiss guns of the Seventh Cavalry opened up on the men, women and children camped at Wounded Knee. What followed was utter chaos and madness. The thirst for the blood of the Lakota took away all common sense from the soldiers.

The unarmed Lakota fought back with bare hands. The warriors shouted to their wives, their elders and their children, “run for cover,” Iynkapo! Iyankapo!

Elderly men and women, unable to fight back, stood defiantly and sang their death songs before falling to the hail of bullets. The number of Lakota people murdered that day is still unknown. The mass grave at Wounded Knee holds the bodies of 150 men, women and children. Many other victims died from their wounds and from exposure over the next several days.

The Lakota people say that only 50 people out of the original 350 followers of Sitanka (Big Foot) survived the massacre.

Five days after the slaughter of the innocents an editorial in the Aberdeen (S.D.) Saturday Pioneer reflected the popular opinion of the wasicu (white people) of that day. It read, “The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

Ten years after he wrote that editorial calling for genocide against the Lakota people, L. Frank Baum wrote that wonderful children’s book, “The Wizard of Oz.”

The federal government tried to forever erase the memory of Wounded Knee. The village that sprang up on the site of the massacre was named Brennan after a Bureau of Indian Affairs official. But the Lakota people never forgot. Although the name “Brennan” appeared on the map, they still called it Wounded Knee.

Read the entire remembrance here.

Olson, GOP: No Money for Schools, Plenty to Subsidize Economic Development

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 9:00 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Incoming (that’s what teachers and school boards should start shouting any time Republicans enter the room) South Dakota Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson demonstrates the warped free market fundamentalism that pollutes our public policy.

At the end of the 2010 Legislative session, Senator Olson voted to short K-12 education millions of dollars, despite the fact there was 2.2% more wealth available in South Dakota. He doesn’t appear to have any vision for avoiding even deeper cuts to education in the 2011 session. Education just isn’t worth more creative thinking and funding in Olson’s world.

But check out what he told the city commission and economic development corporation in Colman about how Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts work:

Russell Olson, manager of community and economic development for Heartland Consumers Power District in Madison, gave the group an update on Colman’s TIF district.

A TIF is a mechanism used to promote economic development on a local basis. The increased tax revenue is the “tax increment,” which is dedicated to financing debt issued to pay for the project.

“This instrument allows the use of property taxes on a specific project while not harming the general fund of the school district,” Olson said. “The state of South Dakota makes up any shortfall to the school, thus keeping them secure” [Staff, “Colman Officials Discuss TIF District, Future Growth,” Madison Daily Leader, 2010.12.27].

Now consider: in Olson’s thinking, Pierre can’t spend more on education itself. Show Olson a school district where they need a foreign language teacher or classroom renovations or cost-of-living increases for staff salaries, and he’ll turn his pockets inside-out and shrug. But show Olson a school district where the city is subsidizing some private developer’s effort to put up new businesses or houses (which just might use more of the electricity Russ’s organization sells), and Pierre can find more money to send.

Education funding should be simple. Kids need to learn. Teachers need to eat. Find the money, invest in our future workers and leaders.

But maybe that sounds too socialist for our Republican leaders. They can’t just spend money on people. They have to construct these Rube Goldberg machines of subsidies for their entrepreneur pals and paste comforting labels of “economic development” on the front, even though TIF districts are a much greater intrusion of government into the free market than funding schools.

I’d suggest that schools could take the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” route, get their local governments to establish TIF districts everywhere they can, and then hit Pierre up for the difference in school-funding revenue. But that only gets more Rube Goldbergy. Let’s just raise revenue by imposing a corporate income tax and use the money to meet the basic democratic and constitutional mandate to provide free education to all citizens.

The Rich Pay Way More than their Share

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 12:50 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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tax burden

I am not at all sure that the recent extension of Bush tax cuts was good policy.  I understand the argument that we shouldn’t raise taxes during a period of economic stress, but I wonder whether the stress might not be better addressed by serious attempts to put our fiscal house in order.

That said, the argument from the Left that the rich are being coddled is utter nonsense.  The top 1% of income earners in the U.S. pay almost 40% of income taxes.  The top 2-5% pay another 20%.  That means that 5% of U.S. taxpayers pay more than the other 95% combined.  The bottom 50% of earners pays just 3.1% of income taxes.

There are all kinds of things wrong with this.  One is that it gives the rich an unfair advantage politically.  The 5% who pay 60% of the bill are going to figure out how to leverage that financial weight.  They didn’t get rich by being stupid.  Just ask a nephew in a family in which Grandma controls the fortune.

The other problem is that it conceals the cost of government from most of the voters.  If my taxes are going down, why should I care if the cost of government is going up?  I should care because those costs have to be paid out of the productive economy.  It is the latter that produces all the wealth and all the real jobs.  It is too much to ask that each citizen should calculate the cost of a government program in terms of all of its effects on the economy.  Maybe he should know what it costs in terms of his or her own tax returns.

At any rate, we need to evaluate tax policy in terms of who actually pays what.  In the debate over the tax cut extensions, we certainly weren’t doing that.

A Silver Bond for Christmas

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm
By: Tim Gebhart
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Former state legislator and current prison inmate Ted Klaudt is continuing the otherworldly efforts that recently led to his federal lawsuit against the state officials and the state judiciary being dismissed as “frivolous” and “meritless.” Seems now that “Ted a. Klaudt©, NON-CORPORATE ENTITY, (without the U.S. 28 USC § 1746(1)) Inventor” says he is posting a “Silver Bond to discharge and vacate” all his state court criminal convictions.

This week Klaudt filed a notice in federal court dated December 22 that he will be filing the Silver Bond. A Silver Bond is another of the many myths of some in the so-called Patriot movement, in whose Kool-Aid Klaudt is now eyeball deep. According to material too bat-crap crazy to link to, a Silver Bond is evidently a pledge of 21 Dollars “in silver Coin, minted by the American Treasury (at legal and lawful 24 to 1 ratio prescribed by law) united States of America, Lawful coin Dollars of the united States of America, personally held in [the pledgor’s] ownership and possession.”

Since we don’t know in what manner Klaudt holds his lawful coin dollars, perhaps federal court clerk Joseph Haas is lucky the Silver Bond is a piece of paper. In it, Klaudt directs that Haas is “responsible for loading and delivering the cargo, i.e. the Silver Bond, to the appropriate person(s)” to vacate Klaudt’s convictions. Although Klaudt says a copy of the Silver Bond itself will be sent separately, it is unclear whether it is Haas’ job to load and deliver it to his own office.

In Klaudt’s legal universe, the State has 10 days after receipt of this notice to object. If it does not, Haas then has only five more days within which to see that Klaudt is discharged. So, if reality is as loony as Klaudt’s world, he will be on the street by mid-January.

Who knew you could vacate a prison sentence for only $21? Evidently only people as smart as Klaudt, a man who somehow served four terms in the state House, running three times unopposed and serving on the Appropriations Committee, before being term-limited and losing a state Senate race 54 percent to 46 percent.

Health Care Reform Will Save SD Budget… in 2014

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 7:31 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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South Dakota’s budget crunch is coming in part because of increased enrollment and costs in Medicaid. It’s funny, then, that South Dakota is trying to block one way to fix that fiscal problem: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As Matthew Blake at Understanding Government reminds us, come 2014, Washington will pay 100% of Medicaid for folks earnign less than 133% of the poverty level. States resume paying 10% of that share in 2019, but that’s still a healthy break from the 40-50% share states currently shoulder for all patients.

Blake points to John Bouman’s summary of three studies that say states will enjoy significant savings thanks to the PPACA:

  1. The Urban Institute calculates increased costs and savings and finds in the worst case, the states save $40.6 billion from 2014 to 2019. In the best case, the states save $131.9 billion.
  2. The White House Council of Economic Advisers looked at sixteen states last year (not South Dakota—darn!) and estimated nationwide, states would save $11 billion by reducing the insurance premiums they currently pay on their employees to cover care for the uninsured.
  3. The Lewin Group found PPACA saving the states and Uncle Sam money. States could save over $6 billion in small change between now and 2014 and $106.8 billion in real money over the whole decade.

Instead of waging futile lawsuits against the PPACA, governors should be begging Washington to kick this plan into gear sooner!

But remember, Kristi Noem is determined to repeal this legislation next month… and thus guarantee that the Daugaard administration sustains the Rounds structural deficit until Matt Michels or Dusty Johnson takes the helm in 2018.

Relinquishing educational leadership

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010 at 11:22 am
By: David Newquist
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The current fad in education is to assign blame to the teachers.  Rather than examining how the attitudes and issues that students bring into the classrooms are controlling factors in the failures and successes of education, the current efforts are focused on managing teachers.  To some, the key to improving education is to break the teachers’ unions and to reduce teaching to the status of  bonded servitude.  The controlling idea is that teachers should be held totally accountable for the educational performance of their students, and when the students fall behind in the competitive measures, the answer is to fire the teachers and replace them with  more diligent servants.  Put more starkly, the emerging concept of a good teacher is guided by reality television.  Just as a bunch of striving survivors are put on a remote, isolated island and subjected to a process of getting voted off the island on the basis of their survival skills, teachers are put in classrooms to see how much pressure and stress they can withstand before being voted out of the classroom.

The moral and intellectual standards of reality television may well define the emerging, dominant national culture.  As  far is it applies to education, the attitude has been building for a long time.  During the 1980s, the first in a series of dire reports on the state of American education was issued, called “A Nation at Risk.”  It examined the failures of education.  However, it was most notable for what it omitted, not what it included.  In examining the ills of education, it consulted with everyone except teachers.  One would assume that any effort to examine the reasons for declining measures of educational success would include observations from the people who are on the front lines of the educational effort and have the most immediate perspective.  But the report, and subsequent ones, dismissed teachers as part of the problems to be examined; it did not  regard them as cognizant resources of information who could identify and solve any problems in the delivery of education.

Nor did the report examine the role of school boards.  In the past, school boards generally served as conduits of information between the taxpaying constituents and the professional staffs, the teachers.  Policies and procedures were worked out in consultation, with the public and the teachers acting as partners in the community.  When teachers were granted collective bargaining rights, the role of boards of education changed to that of corporate boards of directors charged with managing a bunch of employees, employees who they assume would shirk their duties and slough off if not placed under stringent work rules and constant monitoring.  Teachers were no longer part of the process of communication as the voice of the profession.  They became low-level employees who were told what to do, how to do it, and any voicing of their concerns was limited to the collective bargaining process.  In other words, they were stripped of their professional status.  And so, their observations and ideas were ignored in “A Nation at Risk.”

This is not to say that teachers should not be accountable for their performance and that some, for numerous reasons, need to be removed from the classrooms.  But they should be held accountable only for those aspects of teaching over which they have control.  In the current fixation, they are the scapegoats for all the the ills–social, administrative, financial, political–that beset education.

After a series of reports and efforts to address the deficiencies of education, we are left with the idea that the key to improving education lies in the ability to fire teachers at will.  Find enough non-performing teachers and fire them, and our kids will return to the level of excellence in learning.

As this attitude toward teachers has developed, one is left to wonder why anyone would choose teaching as a profession, why anyone would want to be put on an island and subjected to a weekly vote of who gets to keep their jobs and who doesn’t.  The mastering and successful delivery of subject matter seems to count for less than the process of  being held accountable.  Accountability is no longer measured by acquiring knowledge and imparting it to children, but is a matter of how well one stands up under competitive stress tests.  It is difficult to find just where education and learning fits into this scheme of things. To hold a teaching job, one must learn how to suck up to the administrators and conform to the notions of education of whoever happens to be in charge.

During my last decade or so of teaching college, I and my colleagues noted a marked decline in the quality of students going in to education.  When I came to Northern State, education was its premier area of study.  The strongest students were the education majors.  One of the happier duties was to write letters of recommendation  for accomplished and capable students looking for teaching jobs.  Northern State supplied the highest percentage of teachers to the State of South Dakota, but we began to notice a trend.  The most promising young people in teaching were heavily recruited and were taking jobs out of state.  The reasons were obvious:  money and professional status.  Students who had been in my classes were going to places such as Oregon, Massachusetts, Nevada, Minnesota, Florida, and American schools in foreign countries. Those who took jobs in South Dakota often moved to better-paying locations after a few years. Another trend was that after a few years of successful teaching,  the young teachers were often lured into other kinds of work.

After “Nation at Risk” had been around for a time, another trend became evident.  The smartest and most ambitious college students were choosing other vocations.  The teacher education program began having problems with the quality of students seeking admission into the program.  Many of our faculty meetings became devoted to dealing with students whose level of scholarship was marginal.  In the past, students who did not measure up to the established standards were routinely dropped from the program or were put  on probation.  But as fewer strong students showed an interest in teaching, it also became more difficult to attract enough students into teaching education to maintain the program.  Consequently, more students who had weak areas in their preparation were admitted under special provisions.

It became a joke among the faculty that the graduation ceremony needed a provision contained in the marriage ceremony.  That provision was borrowed from the part in the marriage ceremony where the minister asks if any one in the audience knows of any reason why a couple should not marry; if so,  they should speak up then or forever hold their peace.  We thought that as each graduate crossed the stage to be handed a diploma, the college president should ask if anyone knew a reason why an education major should not be permitted to teach; they should  speak up then or forever be silent.  We said that in some cases the faculty would burst into a roar of disapproval.  Some students squeaked through the program; others simply did not have the personalities or motivations needed for teaching.  And some of the  young people headed for coaching careers were definitely not equipped to teach academic subject matter.  While there were still strong and able students going into teaching, there were also a growing number about whom the faculty had serious doubts.  We more frequently had to inform students that their performance was disqualifying them from the teaching program, but we also noted that among the capable students, a growing number decided not to take teaching jobs after their student teaching experience.  After the realities of being in a classroom, they decided on different careers.

For 20 years, I was co-director of a remarkably successful program devoted to honing teachers’ skills in the teaching of writing, the Dakota Writing Project.  Initially, the program, which had co-directors from Black Hills State and Dakota State, was literally run out of the trunks of our cars.  We had some administrative support, but had to obtain grants from outside sources for funding.  What was successful about the program was that teachers taught each other.  People who had experienced success in teaching writing exchanged information and ideas about what worked with other teachers.  It was not limited to teachers of English, and it included teachers from kindergarten through graduate school.  The idea was to use writing as a learning tool in all disciplines, not just English classes, and to design ways to foster and measure student success.  Teachers ran the program on a volunteer basis, with the idea of having its methods and procedures incorporated into the institutions.  But when it was made part of institutions, it soon faltered and died.  The educational bureaucracies snuffed it out.

American education when it was in the hands of  teachers fostered a spirit of innovation and development geared toward succeeding with all students.  That spirit has been exterminated by the rigid prescriptions of the No Child Left Behind requirements.  Instead of improving education, NCLB has increased the drop out rate, chased competent teachers into other career choices, and while America has been teaching to the test, even developing countries, such as China and India, have surpassed America in educational achievement.  That is ironic, because the biggest worldwide movement to improve education was based upon the American model after World War II.

For years, foreign students have come to American colleges and universities to have access to the best education, but now they are developing higher learning institutions in their own countries that rival, and in some cases, surpass ours.  America is so mired down in the muck of partisan politics that it cannot see that its obsession with trivial and inane bickering is allowing the nation’s most conspicuous flower of success to wither away.

There is much that is wrong with education in America, but there are also many solutions to its problems.  If education is to be saved, America might try something drastic in defining and solving its problems:  ask the  teachers.