Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Storm Chelsea v. Storm Skylar

As Storm Skylar pounds New England, the Storm Durham story is slowly beginning to bleed into traditional media. She appeared on "Mornings on the Mall" on WMAL Radio in Washington, DC. She was also interviewed by the Roanoke Times on Monday. Durham says she is working with attorneys supplied by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and has started a FreeStartr funding campaign. As of this morning, the fund has raised $181.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Updating an old blog

Jaclyn LaPlaca Ricords works as a Learning Consultant for d'Vinci International, a company that purports to assist teachers improve their performance.

Years before Jaclyn worked for d'Vinci, she worked for Marywood University as a history professor. Her story is below:

As I've indicated before, I don't talk about my workplace too often, but this is a sad story.

Last year was my first year at Marywood. During the fall semester, the group of new faculty would go out from time to time. One of those new faculty was a new history professor, Jaclyn LaPlaca. She had previously taught at Kent State-Stark, and had her master's and doctorate from Oxford.

Jaclyn really was doing well at Marywood. Students loved her. She accompanied students to Guatemala for a service-learning trip. She had begun a major oral history project of Scranton-area World War II veterans, getting their recollections on video, and having a public presentation of their remembrances.

Unfortunately, Jaclyn won't be back at Marywood this year. Turns out, according to the principal (provost) at Oxford, LaPlaca was never granted a doctoral-level degree and her master's-level degree was revoked when she was found guilty of plagiarism. Because of the plagiarism, Oxford expelled LaPlaca.

How Jaclyn was able to get the job at Kent State-Stark is a bit murky. Oxford provides certificates, not transcripts, of graduate work. Apparently, Jaclyn included a copy of her Doctorate of Philosophy certificate from Oxford, their equivalent of a doctorate degree, when she accepted the position at Kent State. When she applied, she said she had defended her thesis and was waiting for faculty approval. Instead, Oxford had asked Jaclyn to return the certificate they had given her before she was expelled, but she had not. It is unclear how she had such a document in the first place.

Just as Jaclyn was leaving Kent State-Stark, someone at the Stark campus had anonymously contacted Oxford questioning her degree completion, Frances Lannon, the principal at Oxford, contacted Gayle Ormiston, Kent State's associate provost for faculty affairs, in August 2005 to inform him that Jaclyn did not have any graduate degrees from Oxford. Ormiston did not take any action against Jaclyn, or even inform Marywood at the time. The story broke in the Kent State newspaper, the Daily Kent Stater, about six weeks ago. Normally, no one would notice a student newspaper during the summer, but Kent State's is online. Shortly afterwards, even Marywood students were submitting comments about Jaclyn's story to the Daily Kent Stater website (welcome to the Internet Age!). Once the story became that public, Jaclyn's fate was sealed.

I want to shout at her, "What were you thinking? Did you really think you could get away with it? How fair is it that you had a tenure track job in a field where many with legitimate credentials are having to teach adjunct at two-three schools just to make ends meet?"

Then again, what else was she to do? She either kept up the ruse or gave up her career. She was desperate.

The softie in me wishes there was some way to keep her -- reduce her in rank to instructor, take her off the tenure track, cut her salary, etc. Of course, that's impossible. It would be a terrible message to students -- both the fabrication of her credentials and the plagiarism.

It's too bad that someone who had so much promise finds her career in tatters.
This weekend, a woman by the name of Chelsea Durham, who also goes by the name of "Storm" Durham, claimed on Facebook and Twitter that on Friday she had been fired from her city of Roanoke (VA) Department of Social Services job for merely having a concealed carry permit.

The story sounds a bit thin as there is only Ms. Durham's word for it, but that didn't stop the right wing echo chamber from riding the story hard. First the Daily Caller, then The Inquisitr, The Blaze and Breitbart all covered the story. Failed right wing GOP Senate candidate, Chris Stewart, also stepped in, boosting Ms. Durham's story from his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Ms. Durham has a fair sense of how to use social media, as she has been active on Twitter, and has had at least two Facebook Live airings. During her Sunday airing, she said she would be appearing on "Fox and Friends" early this week, and on Dana Loesch's NRATV show on Tuesday afternoon. Durham indicated that Alex Jones' show, "Infowars," would also be covering the story.

The City of Roanoke issued a statement on Saturday indicating that there was very little that they could say publicly about Ms. Durham because her departure was a personnel matter. The City did say, however, that Ms. Durham's departure had nothing to do with her constitutional rights.

It has been interesting to hear the sound of crickets from both the local and national mainstream media regarding this story. Perhaps part of that has to do with some of the pushback on Facebook from those who know of Ms. Durham's work history, which, if true, can best be described as worrisome.

It will be interesting to see how this story ultimately plays out. Are the mainstream media purposely not covering the story because, as some right wing critics have suggested, is because it doesn't fit their "anti-gun" narrative? Or has Ms. Durham dug herself a hole in which her only strategy is to dig further?

As Rachel Maddow says -- watch this space.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Idiot Rush Limbaugh - early March 2012

Following a week of bashing Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke for wanting to testify about the controversy over President Obama's birth control insurance coverage policy -- including calling Ms. Fluke a "slut" -- Rush Limbaugh issued an apology yesterday on his website (I guess the fact that several sponsors have either pulled their advertising from his show or have threatened to led Mr. Limbaugh to be a bit introspective about his behavior):

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

I will let the statement largely speak for itself -- it shows how beautifully Mr. Limbaugh "illustrates the absurd with absurdity." I do have one question, however: when you call someone a "slut," isn't that a personal attack?

BTW, for another opinion on Rush Limbaugh, you should visit Rachel Maddow's blog, http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/ and click on the video "Rush Limbaugh doesn't understand women's birth control."

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Idiot Post-Super Bowl comment

More about Susan Komen tomorrow, but today I have to mention about something idioitic related to the Super Bowl. No, it wasn't the comment from the announcing team that Mira Kraft was the "widow" of Pats' owner Robert Kraft (she died this past summer, so I don't know how she achieved widow status). Nor am I talking about the attempt to make Wes Welker the Bill Buckner of this year's Super Bowl (few humans could've made the catch that Welker could not hold onto in the 4th quarter).

No, I am talking about Mrs. Tom Brady, aka Gisele Bundchen. In defending her husband, Gisele proclaimed, "My husband cannot f*cking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time ... I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times."

OK, Gisele was frustrated by Giants fans who said victorious Giants quarterback Eli Manning "owns your husband [Brady]", but you also don't throw your husband's teammates "under the bus."

I almost feel sorry for Brady -- almost, because I never have been a fan of this guy who dumped his pregnant girlfriend for Bundchen. But, to lose for the second time to the Giants, and then be put in a bad position with teammates because his wife ran her mouth -- well, let's just say it's going to be a lost post-season for old Tom.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Idiot Susan Komen Decision

The Susan G. Komen Foundation decided earlier this week to end $650,000 worth of grant funding to Planned Parenthood. According to a statement released by Komen founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, the decision was made to prevent duplicative grants, make sure grants are directed to actual service providers, and to follow a new policy of stopping any grants going to organizations under local, state or federal investigation.

It was this last factor that most directly affected Komen's decision to discontinue future funding of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is currently the subject of an congressional investigation initiated by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). Stearns, a virulently anti-choice congressperson, is examining whether public money was improperly spent on abortions. Stearns' investigation of Planned Parenthood came after prodding by the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

Fortunately, Komen reversed its decision in the wake of the blowback it got. The organization, whose VP of Public Policy, Karen Handel, is an ardent anti-choice former GOP gubernatorial candidate in GA, really stepped in it. The excuse -- that Planned Parenthood is under investigation by Congress -- doesn't pass the laugh test. It is relatively easy for a Congressperson -- especially one in the majority party -- to launch an investigation, no matter how valid it is. It should also be noted that Republican Nancy Brinker has worked hard to cement ties with the George W. Bush Institute. Brinker insists that politics has played no role in this defunding/funding decision. If she really believes that, does she have a sufficient connection with reality to continue as Komen CEO?

Ironically, Planned Parenthood has raised more money in the last week after the initial Komen decision as it would have lost. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York contributed $250,000 alone. It appears that in this matter, Planned Parenthood ended up much better off, while the Susan G. Komen Foundation has a major black eye from an idiotic, politically motivated decision.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Idiot School Decision

Not long ago, I was chair of a Communication and Theater program at a small, religious school in the northeastern U.S. The students were great and the faculty collegial. The administration was another matter. It wasn't that they weren't nice people (except for a couple). It was that the place wanted change, but they didn't want conflict. I don't mean destructive conflict. No one wants that. I mean any kind of conflict. If you disagreed over the substance of an argument, that meant you were a disagreeable person. I quickly fell into that category. How change was going to occur in that kind of atmosphere was beyond me.

I've moved on, but I guess my former place of employment has not. They just suspended a long-time, popular professor over his assertion of his right to free expression. It began with his posting editorial cartoons in the doors of his office, and now they object to a satirical video he did about the administration of the school. I've seen the video. It's, to say the least, "edgy" and certainly controversial. Some might say that it is in bad taste. But, the protection of free speech means that all speech -- unless it presents a clear and present danger (like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater) -- is protected, no matter where the speech falls on the taste continuum.

My former school is clearly in the wrong here, though I fear that ultimately my friend will be forced into retirement -- albeit with some sort of financial settlement (I really don't think the school wants to fight this in court, and I don't think my friend wants to incur the legal expenses associated with his defense). I have been in academia for more than 30 years and know that if an institution wants to get rid of you, you are gone, no matter if you are clearly in the right.

It's a sad commentary on the state of free expression in the academic world.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Religious Tolerance of the Governor of Alabama

In the category of "you can't make this stuff up" comes the religious bigotry of new Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, who yesterday said, "Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother." Bentley made this statement at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church after his official inaugural ceremony.

Not sure where that puts people of Jewish, Buddhist, or Islamic faith -- not to mention Scientologists. Are they now second-class citizens? Or is Bentley offering to convert them?

What is upsetting about this is Bentley's apparent ignorance of the First Amendment. The first 16 words of the Amendment say, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That means government may not favor one religion over others. It also means that there is a separation of church and state. While the term does not appear in the Constitution, founding father Thomas Jefferson (who should know what was meant in the Constitution) wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 citing that the language of the First Amendment and said that it built "a wall of separation between Church and State."

When our elected officials are ignorant of -- or refuse to adhere to -- the Constitution, it is a frightening state of affairs.