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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rounds Chooses Technicalities, Not Life

When Governor Rounds stayed Elijah Page's execution last night, the news carried comments from relieved protestors, including one woman on KELO TV who said she knew that the Governor had it in him to spare Page's life. She averred that Rounds is a good man, as demonstrated by his support for the abortion ban (now Referred Law 6 on the November ballot). Others now may draw the conclusion that Rounds holds a consistent pro-life vision.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In his press conference yesterday laying out his reasons for the stay, Rounds said absolutely nothing about sparing Page's life or even sparing the convict cruel and unusual punishment. Rounds couched his decision entirely in terms of the particularities of South Dakota statute. South Dakota's death penalty law, written in 1984 (and evidently not reviewed by the governor until yesterday afternoon around 4 p.m.), specifies the use of a two-drug combination in the lethal injection chamber. Board of Corrections officials had made plans to use the 3-drug combination that apparently has become the standard in other states. The only reason Governor Rounds postponed the execution was his concern that state employees participating in the execution might have faced legal penalties afterward. He thus has stayed the execution until July 1, 2007, by which time he expects the legislature will have addressed the issue in its winter session and cleared the way for the execution to take place in a legal fashion.

As he did on the first abortion ban to come to his desk in 2005, Governor Rounds has avoided making a moral decision and instead played the bureaucrat. He has successfully delayed the execution, South Dakota's first since the 1940s, until well after the election, when he can calmly oversee the state's killing of a man without facing any awkward questions from his voters on their way to the polls about the depth and consistency of his pro-life stance. Governor Rounds has not answered anyone's prayers besides his political consultants, who know that the two-drug mix of abortion and the death penalty, while perhaps not guaranteed lethal, could cause Rounds some cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of his fellow Catholics and other riled voters in his effort to be re-elected governor.

The debate on an issue as serious as the death penalty, the state-sanctioned pre-meditated killing of individuals who have already been contained and deprived of their state-given rights, should not center on technicalities. True political leaders would engage us in a conversation about the fundamental values involved. True political leaders would face up to and either defend or resolve the apparently contradictory position of forbidding a rape victim from seeking an abortion because of our dedvotion to the sanctity of life but allowing a brutal criminal to dictate the terms of his punishment and assisting in a suicide. Governor Rounds is failing to show that leadership on this moral issue.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Comment Moderation -- The Madville Times Policy

Update 2009.05.01: I'm trying out a new comment policy. Given my experience that anonymous comments foster unneighborly, unproductive, off-topic ranting, I'm banning anonymous comments. Very simply:
  1. Leave your real name with your comment.
  2. If I don't recognize your name, and if you don't provide a hyperlink to a profile or other identifying information, I delete the comment.
  3. If you have something to say but are unwilling to say it publicly, send your info privately, and we can talk.
  4. Don't like it? Get your own blog. It's easy, it's free.
My rules of civility outlined below are worth reading. And if you think I'm picky, feel free to compare comment policies from NPR, Huffington Post, and New York Times.

--earlier comment moderation policy, repealed 2009.05.01--
sections rendered wholly irrelevant by nymity policy
appear in red italics

The Madville Times does not moderate comments. If you submit a comment—pro, con, or neutral—it will appear (barring gremlins) uncensored. The Madville Times reserves the right to delete comments at whim, but will use that right sparingly. The Madville Times assumes no responsibility for illegal content (e.g., libel); commenters retain sole legal responsibility for the content of their submitted material.

Cuss words are generally unnecessary.

On anonymous comments: The Madville Times recognizes that some citizens want to participate in public discourse but are afraid that other citizens may retaliate in some fashion against them for expressing unpopular views. The Madville Times does not share such fears and urges all citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights respectfully yet fearlessly.

Nonetheless, recognizing that a call to fearless speech is more easily said than done, the Madville Times is currently willing to tolerate anonymous comments. Please note that this policy runs counter to established practice for most social institutions:
  1. The Madison Daily Leader, as well as nearly all newspapers, will not publish anonymous letters to the editor and requires verifiable contact information with every letter.
  2. The school districts I have worked for will not act on anonymous complaints.
  3. The legal system permits witnesses to testify anonymously only in the most extreme cases where a clear threat to the witnesses' safety can be demonstrated.
  4. People who show up at public meetings wearing masks are generally viewed with suspicion.
In general, the Madville Times frowns on anonymous comments because they represent a weaker form of civil discourse. As members of a community, we should speak with each other as equal partners in the great endeavor of maintaining and improving the quality of life in the city and state we share. Even when exercising the privilege of anonymous commenting, readers should moderate their own comments by the following criteria:
  1. Would you be willing to say these same words in a face-to-face conversation with the person to whom you are directing your comment?
  2. Would you be willing to say these same words in person with other people listening?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

SD Schools Throw Money Away on Outside Speakers

School is resuming at Montrose. We had two days of in-service, Tuesday and Wednesday, which consisted entirely of a presentation by Dr. Ed Porthan, a former teacher and administrator who now makes an apparently better living in the private sector as a consultant who presumes to tell teachers who stick with the profession how to do their jobs. I was hoping the money spent ($1500, according to one administrator) to bring Dr. Porthan down from Minnesota would turn out to be well spent. Alas, I found myself sitting through yet another in-service that offered no new information or practical knowledge that left me better prepared to step into the classroom and educate children next week Wednesday. For my assessment of the debacle (the address of which I have already mailed to the profiteering Dr. Porthan), see my essay "Teacher In-Service: More Taxpayer Dollars Down the Drain -- A Review of Dr. Ed Porthan's Educational Consulting."

The question for taxpayers to consider is this: if funds in our school budgets and small towns really are limited (and the proliferation of expensive boats and RVs sometimes leads me to question even that premise), wouldn't school boards better invest those limited funds by paying their teachers more, knowing those dollars will turn over more as local teachers spend that money locally, rather than handing spare funds over to out-of-state consultants with litte knowledge of our school districts' specific needs who will take the money and run without leaving us with any useful knowledge?