Bass 40

2017 marks my 40th anniversary playing bass. My late mother, Ellie, gave me a bass rig for my 15th birthday, February 1977. My path to becoming a bassist is detailed in an article I wrote about encouraging my son, Brian, in his musical pursuits as I rediscovered my own love of music. The spindly instrument and puny amp that transformed me into a “rocker” are long gone, replaced by sturdier gear in years since. The early excitement of making noise (how many times can a bunch of teens play the riff for “Smoke on the Water” before the SWAT team arrives?) has also been replaced by the steady joy of making real music with a long list of marvelous players, singers and friends.

Music gave me discipline and identity. In recent years, it became a ministry as I take part in worship teams for our home church and other churches in the area. It is the heart of my personal brand as I present my passion for teaching and communication in this blog. The spirit of the jam drives everything I do. I play bass.

The Funky Adjunct, 1982.

The Funky Adjunct, 2012. “Wait! I haven’t finished that bass solo I started in 1982!”

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The Copy-and-Paste Canon: A Brief Examination of Plagiarism

From Cassandra Nix, tes teach

Below is the text of a paper I wrote on plagiarism in the first term of my master’s program at the University of Denver and have previously posted on this blog. In the Internet age, it is easier than ever to commit this act. Plagiarism can be a deliberate deception. It can be due to a lack of knowledge about using and crediting sources. We must all guard against it.

The Copy-and-Paste Canon: A Brief Examination of Plagiarism

“Plagiarism is theft.” This blunt definition comes from Susan M. Hubbuch in her book, Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum.1 Other experts in academic writing invoke images of criminal behavior. Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray equate plagiarism with the piracy of films, videos, music and software.2 The message is clear: plagiarism is a major wrong.

Plagiarism is the act of representing another author’s work as one’s own. Text, data and images can all be plagiarized. This misuse of content can be overt and deliberate, or it can be subtle and unintended. A writer who respects academic integrity protocols (such as those posted on University of Denver Web sites) and who makes sincere efforts to express the work and observations of others in reconfigured language can still commit plagiarism.

Hubbach pays particular attention to unintentional plagiarism, an offense that can be avoided through careful research and writing. Lack of organization can lead to plagiarism if source material sifts into notes or a draft without proper tracking.3 Failure to put quotation marks around verbatim passages is another procedural error that fosters plagiarism.4 Even writers who studiously paraphrase original work or convey it in completely new wording can still be plagiarists if they are presenting the unique concepts and conclusions of others without proper attribution.5

Plagiarism is a serious issue due to the two fundamental failures it comprises. First, it is unlawful use of intellectual property. As Hubbach, Glenn and Gray assert, this is the same legal and ethical breach seen in other forms of stealing with ignorance (unintentional plagiarism), offering no defense. Second, plagiarism invalidates the student writer’s academic exercise. An intentional plagiarist cheats outright. An unintentional plagiarist does not delineate his or her original thinking, the ultimate goal of any writing assignment.

Plagiarism has never been so easily committed, thanks to today’s technology which provides the tools to access and manipulate a literal world of text, data and imagery. Countering this, plagiarism has never been so easily detected, thanks again to technology including systems such as Turnitin.6 Despite these policing mechanisms, the simplicity of appropriating others’ work remains compelling and insidious, creating a copy-and-paste canon—inauthentic, unsanctioned but undeniably prevalent. A thorough understanding of plagiarism will protect the intellectual and artistic achievements of others and preserve the academic integrity of students.

1. Susan M. Hubbach, Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2005), 170.
2. Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray, The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, 17th Edition (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010), 561.
3. Susan M. Hubbach, Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2005), 172.
4. Susan M. Hubbach, Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2005), 174.
5. Susan M. Hubbach, Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2005), 181.
6. Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray, The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, 17th Edition (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010), 561.

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The Affront of Front Groups

“A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers,” a report to allay growing fears of smoking’s health risks, from the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, 1954.

AP reports that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a secret consultant in the last decade to advance the interests of Vladimir Putin’s regime. According to the article, his work included the establishment of front groups. See below a post I wrote on this important public relations topic…

In “Law and Ethics for Public Relations,” a course I developed for Mid-America Christian University, we study front groups, “an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned.” This definition comes from, one of many organizations dedicated to communications transparency that reveal front group backgrounds. Critics of the public relations industry have denounced front groups as communications professionals using their skills to deceive the public, disseminating information from seemingly authoritative and neutral bodies that is an actual effort to sway opinion in favor of the obscured–and often mistrusted–backers of these groups.

Coca-Cola is the among a long list of industries and companies sponsoring front groups. The New York Times and the Associated Press report that Coke gave $1.5 million to the Global Energy Balance Group, a scientific body that claimed physical activity has a significant effect on weight and can offset the consumption of high-calorie foods and beverages. A damning string of emails showed the depth of Coke’s involvement with the group, down to guidance on logo design. Principals of the group, Professors James Hill and Steven Blair had provided numerous quotes to media and received millions in funding from Coke in prior years.

The history of front groups spans decades. Author and professor Patricia J. Parsons cites PR pioneer Carl Byoir as a pioneer as well of front groups. In the 1930s, he launched groups such as the National Consumers Tax Commission to argue against taxation. Such groups’ names and aims sounded noble enough. Less noble was the fact that Byoir did this work for his client, the A&P grocery chain, to stop higher taxes on chain stores.

In the study of front groups, the tobacco industry is frequently used as an example. In the 1950s, new scientific reports presented cigarettes’ health risks. In response, the tobacco industry formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee under the counsel of leading PR firm Hill and Knowlton. The committee released regular communications to doctors and media disputing the link between lung cancer and smoking, citing other possible causes including air pollution. The tobacco industry kept broadcasting messages to defend its position even after the Surgeon General’s 1964 report on smoking’s dangers, including the claim that nicotine increased mental acuity and the demand to “Get Government Off Our Backs.”

The Public Relations Society of America, PRSA, clearly advises public relations professionals regarding front groups:

RECOMMENDED BEST PRACTICE: PRSA members should recognize that assisting front groups and individuals that represent undisclosed sponsorships and/or deceptive or misleading descriptions of goals, cause, tactics, sponsors or participants, even if such activities are lawful such as 527 organizations, constitutes improper conduct and malpractice under the PRSA Member Code of Ethics and should be avoided.

Professor Parsons offers more in the way of best practice:

The bottom line is that there is considerable opportunity for public relations professionals to be more innovative in their approaches to solving PR problems or capitalizing on PR opportunities. But in the heat of the creative process, we cannot afford to lose sight of the potential ethical quagmires into which we may be falling.

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