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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bill Clinton in Madison -- Rifle Shot?

If South Dakota votes for her, it will be like a rifle shot....

—President Bill Clinton, on what a South Dakota victory for Senator Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's primary could mean, campaign rally, Madison, SD, 2008.05.31

Bill Clinton in Madison -- Guest Photographer!

Just the tip of the iceberg here: Mrs. Madville Times has beaucoup pix of the 42nd President of the United States at Madison's Library Park this evening. But first, a shot from guest photocorrespondent (and South Dakota blogging godfather?) Jon Lauck. Jon read my review of his book and still sends me this good shot. Thanks, Jon! More to come....

Jacoby on Brains: America Shouldn't Be a "Democracy of Dumbness"

I'm married to one intellecutal, and I'm raising another, so I have a keen interest in fighting America's trenchant anti-intellectualism. So does Susan Jacoby, who offers this epistle in the New York Times:

PITY the poor word “elite,” which simply means “the best” as an adjective and “the best of a group” as a noun. What was once an accolade has turned poisonous in American public life over the past 40 years, as both the left and the right have twisted it into a code word meaning “not one of us.” But the newest and most ominous wrinkle in the denigration of all things elite is that the slur is being applied to knowledge itself.

Senator Hillary Clinton’s use of the phrase “elite opinion” to dismiss the near unanimous opposition of economists to her proposal for a gas tax holiday was a landmark in the use of elite to attack expertise supposedly beyond the comprehension of average Americans. One might as well say that there is no point in consulting musicians about music or ichthyologists about fish [Susan Jacoby, "Best Is the New Worst," New York Times, 2008.05.30].

I will say this frequently to my daughter as well as the electorate: it's o.k. to be smart. Actually, it's darn good for the country to be smart. The Founding Fathers would have expected us to strive for nothing less.

Madison School Board Taking Applications... for School Board

MDL reports that the Madison Central School Board is taking applications for the remaining vacant seat on the board. Application forms are available on the superintendent's webpage in PDF and Word format. Interested applicants need to submit their forms to the superintendent's office by 4 p.m. on Monday, June 9.

Paul Weist and I already submitted applications of sorts -- also known as nominating petitions -- three months ago, and each of us got nearly five hundred folks to recommend us for the job in April. But evidently the board needs another process to help it clarify its thoughts.

I've indicated my thoughts previously about how the third vacancy should be decided. But will I officially apply this month?

Well, that's a personnel matter. My wife and I will have to discuss that in executive session....

Watch Dems Rules and Bylaws Meeting on C-Span

Hey, political junkies! Want to see Hillary's riot in DC against following the rules and keeping one's word and for crass self-interest? Watch the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws meeting live on C-Span now!

--By the way, I'm listening to a pro-Clinton caller saying she is ashamed of the Demcoratic Party and will vote for John McCain in November. Baloney. That's bluff and bluster of the moment, as desperate attempt to put a gun to the head of the DNC to get Hillary's way. Thinking Dems won't pull that trigger. Stand Obama up next to McCain in November, and Dems will realize that voting for a continuation of the Bush-Cheney regime is not only a childish and futile gesture of support for Clinton's failed bid but a flat bad move for the country. Is satisfying your need to stick your tongue out at the winner really worth four more years of disastrous Republican policy from the White House? Talk to me on November 4.

--Wow: as Howard Dean just told the crowd, recalling what Al Gore said to him back in 2004: "This is not about you; this is about your country."

Mike Farrell Visits Sioux Falls Monday

Boy, you'd think South Dakota was on the map or something, what with all these famous folks visiting. The Clintons, governors, reporters... and now on Primary Eve, Mike Farrell. The actor turned activist and author (I know, another one of those darned Hollywood types sticking his nose in politics... kind of like Reagan and Schwarzenegger) comes to Barnes and Noble in Sioux Falls on Monday, June 2, at 7 p.m. to talk about his updated memoir Just Call Me Mike. He'll also take questions, and I'd think he'd sign your books as well.

Farrell is making a 25-city loop of the country and blogging about it on Huffington Post. So keep an eye out for his post from Sioux Falls!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Can We Refer TIF to Public Vote?

...such was the question posed to me by a reader this afternoon. I couldn't answer for sure, so I did some looking. (Remember, I'm not a lawyer, I just like finding stuff out. My legal advice is purely unofficial; your mileage may vary.)

Yes, it appears citizens can refer a Tax Increment Finance district resolution by their city to a public vote. Folks in Aberdeen did it in 2007: after opponents got the issue on the ballot, voters turned out 2-1 in favor of a government handout for Northern Beef Packers.

But if you want to refer Madison's TIF to a public vote, you'd better hustle. The city commission passed the updated TIF resolution on May 19. SDCL 9-20-6 says you have twenty days after the publication of an ordinance to file petitions to refer it to a public vote. I haven't been tracking the Legals in the Madison Daily Leader as closely as I ought, but I would imagine it's been in there already.

Of course, this assumes any Madison residents are cheesed off enough about the TIF to go stirring up trouble with petitions and public conversation and voting. I make no such presumption. I'm just answering a reader's question....

$8/Gal Gas? Look on the Bright Side...

Eight cheers for expensive gas! Marketwatch's Chris Plummer offers eight reasons we should celebrate gasoline blasting through the $4-per-gallon mark and not stopping. Among his reasons:

2. Economic stimulus

Necessity being the mother of invention, $8 gas would trigger all manner of investment sure to lead to groundbreaking advances. Job creation wouldn't be limited to research labs; it would rapidly spill over into lucrative manufacturing jobs that could help restore America's industrial base and make us a world leader in a critical realm.

The most groundbreaking discoveries might still be 25 or more years off, but we won't see massive public and corporate funding of research initiatives until escalating oil costs threaten our national security and global stability -- a time that's fast approaching [Chris Plummer, "$8-a-Gallon Gas: Eight Reasons Higher Prices Will Do Us a World of Good," Marketwatch.com, 2008.05.28].

Don't forget reducing the power of petrodictators like the Saudis and Hugo Chavez, checking urban sprawl, and restoring a little fiscal discipline.

$3.84 at the Madison pumps this week... halfway to the energy revolution?

I'm trying to smile. Really.

Lake Herman Sanitary District Inspires Giles to Public Service

Who says the Lake Herman Sanitary District can't make a difference? From the Madison Daily Leader profile of Lake County Commission candidate Chris Giles [2008.05.22, p. 1]:

MDL: Are there any specific issues or concerns that motivated you to run for county commission? Please explain.

Giles: I began to think about running for county commission a few months ago when I became interested an concerned with actions being taken by the Lake Herman Sanitary District. That process caused me to think about using my past experience as Lake County State's Attorney to serve as a county commissioner.

Mr. Giles must be referring to the January 30, 2008, meeting of the Lake Herman Sanitary District, of which I am a board member. At that meeting, we conducted a very open and well-attended public discussion of a proposal for annexing adjoining land into the district. We held that public meeting so landowners like Mr. Giles would have the opportunity to voice their opinions well before the annexation process reached the county commission or final hearing before our board. Mr. Giles attended and, as a landowner in the proposed annexation, spoke in opposition to the annexation. The Lake Herman Sanitary District took heed of Mr. Giles's input as well as that of several of his neighbors and killed the proposal.

So not only did we respect the will of the people, but we evidently inspired Mr. Giles to become more involved in county politics. You're very welcome, Lake County. I'm glad we could help.

(Heads up, though, to Brant Lake residents: do Mr. Giles's "concerns" about Lake Herman Sanitary District actions suggest he will use a seat on the county commission to block the efforts of any sanitary district to expand? Hmm....)

Latest Poll: Giles Edges Goeman, Kephart Edges Dykstra

The latest Madville Times GOP polls have just wrapped up. The results aren't much different from last time:

Former Lake County States Attorney Chris Giles edged ahead this time in the race for the Lake County Commission GOP nominations, but Giles, Goeman, and Pedersen comprised the top three, just like last time. The Madville Times hazards no predictions based on these results, however: Hagemann has jumped out with yard signs (Dr. Schaff would give him the edge), and Dan Bohl has been out mowing a lot of lawns. Now wouldn't it be something if grass were a voting issue in the GOP primary....

In the Senate GOP primary vote, we should be alarmed that Trent people/animal doctor, obsessed xenophobe, and teller of tall tales Charles Lyonel Gonyo can get any votes, anywhere.

Looking at the semi-rational candidates, Kephart again edged Dykstra. Can Kephart surprise the Republican establishment on Tuesday? Or are his showings in the Madville Times polls just a manifestation of his support among the more liberal thinkers who might find their way to this blog? We'll find out in four days!

Clinton: KELO Video, Argus Endorsement

KELO gets a great shot of the Madville Times family breakfast, as well as of Senator Clinton:

[Click here for the video -- I would embed it, but I don't like the autostart.]

The yawning boy was hilarious. And props overall to KELO rookie reporter (and former Watertown debater!) Erica Johnson for some darn fine video-journalism!

Rhubarb pie must be the decider for that Sioux Falls paper, which has this morning endorsed "long shot" Senator Clinton in the primary vote. The Sioux Falls editorial board makes up some reasons to vote for Clinton that don't distinguish her from Obama at all:

  • "Measured against her opponent, Clinton is philosophically more moderate."
    Baloney. Clinton and Obama's policies are mostly identical. The Clintons' "moderation" is never a product of philosophy, only of pragmatic political ambition. Obama is as capable of sitting down with opponents and finding common ground as -- if not more so than -- Clinton.
  • "Clinton's energy policy is forward thinking and wise. She advocates a broad federal research initiative to help solve our looming oil crisis. It's a plan that would join university researchers, private industry and individual inventors behind a common goal."
    Obama advocates a doubling of funding for research into biomass, solar, and wind resources.
  • "Is ethanol part of the answer? Clinton believes it is but not necessarily corn ethanol.That is not precisely the answer South Dakota wants to hear."
    O.K., then how about Obama's answer: along with boosting cellulosic ethanol, Obama will provide incentive for more locally-owned ethanol refineries and increase the renewable fuel standard (that means more corn-based ethanol).
  • "Clinton has demonstrated a real commitment to Native American issues...."
    Again, how does this distinguish Clinton from Obama? Obama is on record as a fighter for Indian rights, enough to win the endorsement of fifty tribal leaders and all Indian superdelegates who had announced as of May 23.
Failing to make any real policy distinction between Clinton and Obama, maybe that Sioux Falls paper is just thanking Clinton for sending the paper's web hits to the moon last week with the RFK assassination comment video.

Or maybe the Sioux Falls editors are looking at this race from a purely South Dakota perspective. Who's giving South Dakota the love? While Obama took yesterday off, Clinton Hit Madison, Huron, and Watertown. Obama talked with tribal leaders privately before his Sioux Falls rally; as that Sioux Falls paper points out, Clinton "will have visited several South Dakota reservations before the race is over." Obama's surrogates have been making the rounds, but Clinton's most famous surrogate, ex-President Bill, is hitting 12 South Dakota towns between now and Monday.

Back in February, I staked my claim to Obama as the South Dakota candidate based on his small-state politics:

I'll note that Obama is the one campaigning as if all 50 states, including us rural states, make a difference, getting an early (and as we see now, successful) jump on campaigning in relatively small North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Idaho while Clinton plays big-city, big-state politics and will start pouring resources into the rest of the country only now that it looks like she needs us. [CAH, "Obama -- The South Dakota Candidate?" Madville Times, 2008.02.10]

Clinton appears to have finally picked up on the small-state lesson, now that she needs us. In the big picture, the Clinton effort in South Dakota may be too little too late. But at the South Dakota level, for my neighbors who are still deciding, the Clintons are putting on one heck of a show. For South Dakotans who ask, "Which candidate is taking the time to come to my town and look me in the eye?" Clinton is winning hands down.

Obama is spending the weekend here. For the first time in a long while, he's playing catch up to Clinton. Let's see that hustle again, Senator Obama!

* * *
Update 11:38 CDT: Back from a morning stroll with Madville Times, Jr., I see South Dakota Moderate finds that Sioux Falls paper's endorsement of Clinton similarly puzzling. SDM points to an article from that same paper to make our point for us: on South Dakota policy issues, that Sioux Falls paper identifies no clear difference on which to base its endorsement.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

First Hillary, Now Bill...

I just heard it straight from Trudi Nelson -- or at least, straight from a call she recorded for the Clinton campaign. Former President Bill Clinton will speak in Madison around suppertime Saturday at Library Park. Trudi says "doors open at 5 p.m."... odd, since the park doesn't have many doors. When exactly President Clinton starts speaking will be anyone's guess. The Clinton campaign site says Madison is President Clinton's last of five stops Saturday, after Elk Point, Canton, Dell Rapids, and Flandreau.

Saturday's forecast -- ah... partly cloudy, 76 degrees, gentle westerly breeze. Nice afternoon/evening to bring the kids to see real life Secret Service agents, not to mention another slice of history for Madison.

Update 20:55 CDT: O.K., so I'm thinking Bill's speech will wrap up around 7-7:30, maybe later, given all the delays sure to come up from all his stops before he gets to Madison. He'll be tired, he'll be thirsty, and he'll be a block away from Madison's famed Four Corners. Come on, somebody, invite the President downtown for a drink, or at least some gizzards. Mark Janke! Get him to come to Rumors! You'd get unbelievable press!

Clinton in Madison: On the Issues

Senator Clinton covered a fair amount of policy ground in her quick tea-and-pie pitstop at the Second Street Diner here in Madison this morning. Some highlights:

Glad to Be Here... Really!

The junior Senator from New York said she's excited to be here in South Dakota... although you know her advisors are kicking themselves for having to be here after blowing inevitability back in January. If the Clinton camp had mounted a 50-state strategy from the start and done the sort of small-town politicking we saw here today, they might have kept the junior Senator from Illinois from building a delegate lead on a big string of small-state wins like the ones Clinton is hustling for in South Dakota and Montana now.

HRC, Down-Home Girl

Clinton hit a number of good South Dakota points. She advocated a "more effective and sensible policy toward Indian Country." She argued her rural economic development chops by reminding us that she's the Senator not just from New York City, but New York State, which includes that great upstate area that feels a lot like South Dakota. (Andrea, the Clinton organizer from upstate New York who's been in the state all month and came to our Lake County Dems meeting May 2, said that South Dakota feels a lot like her home turf; Clinton made a similar observation this morning.) Clinton also noted that even in New York, the #1 industry is agriculture.* So don't think she's just some city girl -- Clinton has dealt with rural and ag issues.

Barack Who?

Senator Clinton mentioned her "highest regard and respect for Senator McCain." She made no similar mention of Senator Obama. She did mention that she has traveled to Iraq with McCain, a veiled reference to Obama's refusal of an invitation from McCain to travel together to Iraq.

Energy Policy: Go Brazil, Not Begging

Senator Clinton pointed to Brazil as a model of good energy policy. After 30 years of building its sugar cane ethanol industry, Brazil has achieved energy independence (or something darn close). Meanwhile, the President of the United States (that would be George W. Bush) goes to Saudi Arabia and begs unsuccessfully for his sheik-buddies to pump more oil. "That's not an energy policy," said Clinton.

No Child Left Behind -- Clinton Doesn't Pander

Clinton took two questions from the audience. The one I could hear came from a gentleman who identified himself as an insurance agent who sees the need for health care reform. Interestingly, his statement of support for Clinton's health plan (of course he supports it: requiring people to buy private insurance offers a captive market to the profiteers) was just cover for his real question: the man said he also works (or perhaps his wife does... sorry, I didn't hear it perfectly!) as a private tutor who has seen the good No Child Left Behind can do and wanted to know why Clinton wants to repeal that law. This statement drew strong boos from the crowd, and I joined them. This gentleman sounded like a corporate shill just trying to funnel more federal funding into private tutoring programs. Nothing like free-market folks enjoying their slop at the public trough.

And Senator Clinton, bless her heart, stood her ground. She defused the man's question as effectively as possible: after acknolwedging the good work that he and his wife may be doing as tutors, Clinton said that nationwide, No Child Left Behind isn't showing the kind of results that justify the investment of federal dollars. She repeated her call for repeal of the law, to the applause of the crowd. To hear a Clinton say something that a voter didn't want to hear was unusual and refreshing.

Sibby Alert: Clinton on Preschool Funding

Alas, Clinton set off the Sibby-Marxism-global-cabal alarms, saying that instead of No Child Left Behind, the federal government should make a commitment to pre-kindergarten education. She said investments in kids before age 5 produce the biggest returns. I didn't hear the words "universal" or "mandatory," but I'm sure my conservative friends will.

Clinton on the Abortion Ban

Had Clinton taken more than two questions, I wanted to ask what Senator Clinton could do to help defeat South Dakota's retread abortion ban. Alas, Clinton took two questions, then sat down for pie (and can you blame her? Shari makes good pie!). However, I lined up with the photo- and autograph-seekers, and before I knew it, I was right there at the Senator's seat.

I put out my hand, introduced myself, and said, "We're proud to have you here in Madison."

"I'm proud to be here," said Senator Clinton.

"And I hope you'll come back in the fall, whatever happens in Denver, and help us defeat the abortion ban and protect women's rights."

She smiled at me and said she will help. I thanked her and asked her to at least keep us on her radar. A few minutes later, I mentioned the question to the Wall Street Journal guy, hoping maybe he'll get a chance to ask Clinton a little more deeply about the issue.

Whether she returns as the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party or simply as the most prominent female political voice in the country, I hope we will see Senator Clinton here again in the fall to stick a fork in the abortion ban.

*Interesting ag facts for New York and South Dakota: In 2002, NY had 32,654 individual/family farms, 87.6% of the total farms in the state. The same year, SD had 28,189 individual/family farms, 88.8% of the total farms in the state.

HRClinton in Madison -- Photos!

Madville Times photojournalist Erin Heidelberger snapped these photos of Senator Hillary Clinton during her visit to the Second Street Diner in Madison this morning. (I was busy holding Madville Times Jr. up to get a glimpse of history. And readers, feel free to click the Tip Jar to the left and chip in to buy the Madville Times some better photo equipment!)

Senator Clinton is in the house! "Mmmm... how's that omelet?"
Senator Clinton addresses a hundred-some Madisonites, as well as a crowd of press. Credit to Shari Eliason, owner of the Second Street Diner: on probably the busiest morning in Second Street Diner history, she did not run out of coffee... or, as far as I know, anything else! (I did see the Wall Street Journal reporter eating pie later with his fingers, but not for lack of forks: he was just too hungry to wait!)
Senator Clinton sitting down for pie and autographs. That's the back of local Dem committeewoman Trudi Nelson's head to the right -- she's a Clinton diehard, surely in seventh heaven today!
District 8 Senator Dan Sutton made the trip over from Flandreau to see Senator Clinton. (Go ahead, PP, that's a freebie for you. :-) )

For more photos, see fellow Madison blogger JN's snaps at Horseshoe Seven. Good work, JN! (And if you look closely at photo #5, you can see the the Madville Times family -- me, Jr., Erin, even Grandma Madville!)

Update 15:55 CDT: More photos of Clinton's Madison visit at KJAM, the Boston Globe, and AP via Yahoo News.

Update 16:40 CDT: MDL's Chuck Clement gets a good photo of HRC next to Madison's Diane Krueger.

Clinton in Madison, Tackles No Child Left Behind, Apple Pie

Senator Hillary Clinton made Madison history this morning, becoming the first presidential candidate to visit our fair city since... well, since anyone I've talked to can remember. The last time any visit like this happened was President Nixon's visit to dedicate the Mundt Library back in 1969.

Senator Clinton made an "unplanned" stop at the Second Street Diner this morning around 10:00. ("Unplanned" evidently means the Secret Service guys come just a couple days beforehand to case the joint, according to Second Street Diner staff, who took some mirth in the efforts of slickly coiffed New Yorkers and others in nicely fitted suits trying to be inconspicuous in Madison.) She worked the crowd of about 100-150 diners who had come for breakfast and the worst-kept secret in town. Clinton addressed the crowd for several minutes, took a couple questions (including a tough one about No Child Left Behind, and she stood her ground!), then sat down for apple pie with some local folks. More folks lined up for handshakes, photos, and autographs (Elta Woodard brought her copy of Clinton's autobiography; my mom got an autograph on an ace of hearts she borrowed from the diner.)

And then, in the midst of rain and even a little hail ("We don't have weather like this where I come from," said one Clinton staffer -- he couldn't have been Secret Service, since he actually smiled), Clinton slipped out, and the bus rolled on to Clinton events in Huron and Watertown.

Speech highlights and more photos coming up!

Impeach Rounds?

Even the local Republican party cheering section -- also known as the Madison Daily Leader -- recognizes Governor Mike Rounds has gone too far in assuming the power of the Legislature to fund an expansion of his classroom laptops program. Writes publisher Jon Hunter in Tuesday's MDL:

Gov. Mike Rounds extended his laptop program for another year, after the legislature rejected the idea in February, using state money the legislature didn't know existed.

Rounds should not have funded the program this way....

During the most recent legislative session, Rounds asked for another year's worth of funding but lawmakers declined. Disappointed, Rounds said he would like to find "private" sources to fund the program for another year. Most observers believed that meant a corporate sponsor.

Instead, the Rounds administration announced last week that it would use $770,000 left over from a settlement with Citibank. The settlement fund began in 1999 with $4.2 million, and had worked down to $1.2 million by January, when administration officials testified before the Joint Appropriations Committee. But Department of Education officials said all the money was already committed to continue previous obligations.

So two questions arise:

1) Did the money always exist and information was withheld from the legislature?

2) Did the administration bypass the will of the legislature by funding a program lawmakers defeated? [Jon Hunter, "Rounds Shouldn't Have Extended His Laptop Program This Way," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.05.27, p. 3]

Mr. Hunter has advertisements to sell to local Republican donors, so his editorial dissolves into a gentle call for the Governor and the Legislature to "get together and work things out." Hunter suggests this flap, along with the tussle over Governor Rounds's attempt to increase the ethanol tax by executive fiat, is just a failure of communication.

Failure of communication? Try breach of the state constitution. Try grounds for impeachment. We don't need the Dems to take over the House this fall to make this happen; Governor Rounds has angered enough Republicans with his imperial reign that a majority vote for impeachment might not be hard to obtain. If Rounds insists on further expropriation of legislative power, it might not be hard to find two-thirds of our Senators willing to make a stand for constitutional government.

Heck, even Lt. Gov. Daugaard might see some benefit for his 2010 gubernatorial aspirations. Daugaard may want to distance himself from Rounds's falling star as much as possible. Upon impeachment by the House, a governor is immediately suspended from his office until and unless the Senate acquits him. Impeachment would give Daugaard a couple weeks or more of practical on-the-job experience!

Clintons in Madison!

The Obama campaign has a busy office here, but can eager staffers compete with the Clintons themselves? Senator Hillary Clinton is coming to Madison today. KJAM has snagged an interview with her, scheduled for shortly after 8:30 this morning; then if there's time before her next event up in Huron, Senator Clinton may stop at the Second Street Diner (which, ironically, is not on Second Street). Then husband Bill gives KJAM an interview at around 2:10 this afternoon -- I haven't gotten clear word on whether that's just a call-in affair or if the ex-President will be stopping by the studios this afternoon. KJAM is reporting that President Clinton will be in town Saturday.

Marketing note: KJAM's Dairy Queen Secret Word of the Day is "Clinton." Now if we could just get President Clinton to stop by for one of DeLon's triple cheeseburgers....

Update 08:00 CDT: While the Clintons hammer away at South Dakota voters, Senator Obama "is taking a breather back home in Chicago." Sure, it's important to project the image of a frontrunner confident in his lead over the desperate Clinton camp, but might that position change if Clinton's efforts turn into a final win in South Dakota?

AP's Chet Brokaw also offers good analysis of the South Dakota race. Forget that old DWU poll from April: Professors Burns (SDSU) and Smith (USD) see a close race. Brokaw also invokes West Virginia and Kentucky, saying South Dakota's demographics match those states that Clinton won. Sounds like Obama has some catching up to do this weekend!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Clinton Agrees to Honor DNC Rules on Primary Calendar...

...until it no longer suits her desires.

Keep your word should be somewhere in the top 10 rules for the President of the United States of America. As the Clinton campaign begins its final push in South Dakota, I am reminded of Hillary Clinton's September 2007 promise with respect to the primary calendar:

The following is a statement by Clinton Campaign Manager Patti Solis Doyle.

"We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process.

And we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role.

Thus, we will be signing the pledge to adhere to the DNC approved nominating calendar."

Just for backup, here's the video version from NBC:

Contrary to her own words, Clinton has not "consistently said that the votes cast in Florida and Michigan in January should be counted." Clinton was willing to disenfranchise Michigan and Florida back when she thought Destiny would hand her the nomination anyway. But then Hillary Clinton never thought she'd be touring Kyle, South Dakota, in May. What a difference a primary season -- and a great challenger who knows how to organize at the community level -- can make.

Homeland Security to Deport DeSmet Priest

"Committed to keeping America for Americans" -- Dr. Charles Lyonel Gonyo, Republican Candidate for Senate

Local media man Matt Hendrickson draws my attention to this story of Homeland Security and immigration policy gone haywire: Father Cathal Gallagher of DeSmet, a Catholic priest and Irish citizen who has served three churches in Kingsbury County for over ten years, faces deportation. The Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls put in an application for permanent residency for the good father back in 2001. The immigration branch of Homeland Security actually approved the application two years later, but since then some "technical error" has taken place, and Uncle Sam is giving Father Gallagher the boot.

Not only can't the Bush Administration catch Osama bin Laden, they can't even keep the paperwork straight on a Catholic priest doing the Lord's work in South Dakota. Good grief.

Father Gallagher has the support of his parishioners: they've set up a website -- HelpFather.com -- that tells his story. After 23 years of service in Japan (the feds must think he became an operative for Aum Shinrikyo), Father Gallagher came to the windy prairies at the personal request of Bishop Carlson, and what was supposed to be just a brief stay turned into a decade of deeply appreciated service.

Now Father Gallagher suffers from no entitlement complex. He knows rules are rules. As he tells KSFY:

I have no right to live in this country. It's your country. I depend on your graciousness and goodness of your government to allow me to live in this country [quoted by Caitlin Haedicke, "DeSmet Catholic Priest Forced to Leave U.S.," KSFY.com, 2008.05.27].

Good Catholics all, Father Gallagher's parishioners aren't going to sit around and wait for grace from the bureaucracy; they're going to save Father Gallagher by works. Says Matt H. at KJAM:

It's funny. My aunt Patty and her family go to St. Thomas and when Father Gallagher said what was happening he said it was "God's Will." Before he left the station today, I grabbed his hand and said, "Father, God's will is also having friends and people who are willing to fight for you" [Matt Hendrickson, personal e-mail, 2008.05.27].

Father Gallagher's flock are praying and tying green ribbons around the trees in DeSmet. They're also collecting signatures online (yes, go sign now), calling our elected officials, and trying to get the word out to as many people as possible about our government's bungling.

12 million people working here illegally for unpatriotic businesses who don't want to pay full wages, and our government concentrates on deporting an Irish Catholic priest? This is big government (brought to you by the Bush Republicans) at its worst.

p.s.: I lay even odds that Bob Ellis posts something about Father Gallagher's deportation as evidence of the ongoing war on Christianity.

Hy-Vee Shrinking Cereal Boxes?

Here's a 100% breakfast blog post: is it just me, or are Hy-Vee's cereal boxes getting smaller? I'm looking at my Honey Oats & Flakes and Cocoa Peanut Butter cereal (you know, the one with the cute little alien corn puff in a flying saucer!). They look small. They say "13 oz." I could swear these boxes were 16 oz. just a couple months ago. Could my favorite out-of-town grocery store be pulling that old trick of keeping prices the same but giving us less? Perish the thought!

Colman Still Looking for New Revenue Source

Better keep your speed down as you head for Sioux Falls on Highway 34: the City of Colman is still looking for easy cash. An eager reader points me toward this article from the Moody County Enterprise (as a Star trek fan, I really shold read that paper more often) that notes the defeat of a city tax opt-out earlier this month. The city asked for $40,000 to balance the budget. Remember, Colman lost a $21,000 annual revenue source last year when its new city cop decided to issue only legal speeding tickets on Highway 34. Evidently, charging for paper and labor on copies of city documents didn't fill the coffers. Maybe Colman just needs to set up a toll booth during Looney Days....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Housing Prices Fall -- Let It Ride, Congress

Home prices fell 14.1% in 2008 Q1 -- uff da! I hope Lake County will refigure my property taxes accordingly.

As I noted last week, the housing bubble has popped in part due to rising gas prices. Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., makes a similar point in this op-ed:

Look at a very instructive map found on the Web site of RealtyTrac.com. Not only are the big foreclosure hotspots concentrated in just three or four parts of the country – but a disproportionate share of foreclosures are concentrated in a single, nearly contiguous blob reaching from Sacramento to the environs of Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Another hotspot is southern Florida, and along Interstates 25 and 70 in Colorado.

Many of these homebuyers are underwater not just because they bought more house than their incomes could support, and not just because prices are falling. They were also betting on commute patterns and demographic expectations that are proving invalid.

These were bets on location, location, location – premised on the idea that people would be willing to live hours from anywhere for a chance to own a single-family home they could actually afford. No federally sponsored haircut can put these housing bets back in the money, or stop these houses from coming back on the market at distress prices [Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., "Why a Housing Bailout Won't Help," Wall Street Journal, 2008.05.21, p. A17].

Jenkins goes on to contend that the housing collapse isn't triggering a depression. Banks and investors are figuring out the dimensions of the subprime mortgage beast, says Jenkins, getting over their uncertainty, and realizing they can weather the correction.

An idle financial hypothetical for your morning: Suppose Americans had overinvested in another big ticket item that suddenly lost value and became unaffordable... like, oh, say, gas-guzzling SUVs. Would there be calls for Congress to hand out money to SUV owners to ease the pain of their costly investment? I should hope not... and I hope Congress will hold back from any further intervention in the housing market. Let the correction happen, let the banks and buyers learn their lessons... and let's get back to the idea that a house is a home, a place to live, not simply a material investment.

Clinton Appointee Mabus Campaigning for Obama in Madison

KJAM and the Obama campaign offer details on an Obama campaign event coming up tomorrow right here in Madison. We still haven't landed Senator Obama himself (and come on, what could be more perfect than making his South Dakota victory speech at his campaign office at Hope Studios in Madison?).

Details: Former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus (has a nice Southern ring to his name, doesn't he?) is coming to Madison to visit with us about agriculture, education, small-town economic development, and whatever else is on our minds. He'll be downtown at Common Grounds (right across from KJAM) for an hour starting at 12:15.

Mabus was an early supporter of Obama, signing on in April 2007 (back when someone else was the frontrunner). A glance at Mabus's Wikipedia bio suggests several reasons his advocacy for Obama is important:

  1. Mabus is a small-town boy: his hometown, Ackerman, MS, is about the size of Volga, although Ackerman's median per capita income is about half that of Brookings's western suburb. So much for the argument that Obama can't connect with small-town America.
  2. Mabus is a Navy veteran, having served on the cruiser USS Little Rock. So much for the argument that Obama doesn't have the experience to win the respect of the military.
  3. Mabus was Governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992, same time Bill Clinton ran neighboring Arkansas. Mabus's successful executive experience apparently tells him Obama is the better choice for the most powerful executive office in the world.
  4. Mabus served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (not exactly a Switzerland or Liechtenstein appointment) from 1994 to 1996. He was also a "vigorous supporter" of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Mabus is thus another of a growing line of Clinton appointees who have made the tough choice to look beyond that past favor and support Obama as the best choice for President.
If you're still on the fence, Governor Mabus's visit to Common Grounds tomorrow will be a great chance to ask questions of a man who, on face, you might not expect to pick Obama over Clinton. And who knows: Mabus's visit might also be a chance for us to meet the next Vice-President of the United States!

Pure B.S. p.s.: By the way, Governor Mabus is also notable for appearing in Nostradamus's mumbo-jumbo about the end of the world. Google Mabus, and you'll get a nice collection of nuttiness about how voting for Obama the Antichrist. But don't worry -- everything in Nostradamus is anagrams and riddles. Even if it wasn't pure hokum, if Nostradamus had mentioned the name "Cory Heidelberger," you can bet he would have meant some gal named Yolanda.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Never Forget -- Avenue of Flags at Lake County Courthouse

Avenue of Flags, Lake County Courthouse, Madison, South Dakota, Memorial Day, 2008.05.26

Memorial Day brings the Avenue of Flags display to the Lake County Courthouse here in Madison.

Volunteer walks the rows, checking the flags

Flag honoring Lake County soldier Captain M. P. O'Loughlen

Each flag honors a Lake County veteran. Each pole also carries a small plaque honoring a veteran.
Flags in stiff morning breeze; view toward Madison Post Office

The flags fly until 4 p.m. this afternoon. (Volunteers are welcome -- if you have a moment this afternoon, come help take these flags down.)

Veterans Memorial in front of Lake County Courthouse

Gonyo Embarrasses South Dakota Republicans

Dakota War College looks through the campaign materials for Republican US Senate candidate Charles Gonyo and smells a xenophobia that "no one in their right mind would consider voting for."

Now I tend to be sympathetic toward underdogs like Gonyo who appear to come from outside the typical political/business establishment. But hearing Gonyo on Inside KELOLand last night confirmed for me that Gonyo is simply a racist menace to his party and civil society. When asked by Perry Groten if he think we are in a recession, Gonyo said maybe not, talked about the dollar being down, lamented that we can't get back on the gold standard...

...and then Gonyo dropped his bombshell: Gonyo said our economy would do better if we just got rid of all 40 million foreigners in our country. He didn't say illegal immigrants. He didn't say criminals. He said "40 million foreigners."

Appalling. Embarrassing not just for the Republican Party but for all of South Dakota that a man with such backwards, ignorant views could think that he could effectively represent our state in the United States Senate.

On this Memorial Day, don't forget: more than a hundred noncitizens have given their lives in service to the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Bush himself has honored immigrants serving in our military. A full quarter of the Union Army was foreigners.

Spout your thoughtless hatred of foreigners all you want, Dr. Gonyo. Recite your nutty claim to be "at least a 10th-generation Dakota Territoial resident" whose family came here with the Verendryes. You're still an immigrant, just like the rest of us. And immigrants will keep coming, and fighting, and dying for the Constitution that protects your right to speak such foolishness.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Clinton Wrong About 1992

Sure, you can argue that Senator Clinton's reference to RFK and the 1968 campaign was simply "an historic fact." The RFK comment was more incendiary, but the other part of her historical justification for staying the race, her husband's 1992 primary fight until "the middle of June," is more spinful and specious. Says AP's Devlin Barrett:

In the same breath, she maintained that her husband had not wrapped up the nomination until June. In truth, he did so in March with the Illinois primary. While California made his victory a mathematical fact, the outcome had not been in doubt for month [Devlin Barrett, "Analysis: Clinton's Latest Off-Key Remark," AP via Yahoo News, 2008.05.24].

For more detail, check out this bullet list from tremayne at OpenLeft:

1. The 1992 primaries ended on June 2, 1992, a day earlier than this year. Several states, including California, had primaries that day. It was not mid-June.

2. According to wikipedia: "Clinton effectively won the Democratic Party's nomination after winning the New York Primary in early April."

3. Clinton's chief rival was Paul Tsongas who dropped out of the race in mid-May, 1992.

4. According to polls, Clinton led in every remaining state except California where Jerry Brown was polling well (his home state). Brown was not going to catch Clinton for the nomination in any scenario.

5. From the May 11, 1992 New York Times: "Aides to Mr. Clinton say that in most of the remaining primaries he will ignore the former Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown Jr., and will try to give voters a clearer sense of his own personality and his positions on major issues, in preparation for a general election campaign against President Bush."

So was Clinton trying to make the point that she was glad Jerry Brown stayed in the race through June? By comparing herself to Jerry Brown, Clinton herself seems to be implying that she is the new Kucinich, the new Nader, the new radical victimized and marginalized by a corporate media and political machine determined to coronate a mainstream frontrunner and exclude true progressive voices...

What the heck am I saying? Senator Clinton, you're no Jerry Brown. And it's silly to compare your campaign to the 1992 campaign of Jerry Brown, who had only 388 delegates versus Bill Clinton's 2,059 going into the June 2, 1992, primaries. You actually have a mathematical chance of winning (see this hoepful conservative thinking from National Review's Byron York). Your 1968 analogy may have offended common decency, but your 1992 analogy defies logic.

Update 2008.05.25: More on Clinton's fuzzy history at the Houston Chronicle open blog. Plus, she wins a "Barely True" Truth-o-Meter rating from Politifact.com for spinning the same yarn back in March. Of course, Bill has been spinning that same yarn.

Update 2008.05.27 10:12 CDT: Oh, wait -- Bill hasn't always spun that yarn. SD Moderate does the homework and finds this quote from Bill's memoir My Life:

On April 7, we also won in Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. On April 9, Paul Tsongas announced that he would not reenter the race. The fight for the nomination was effectively over.

Obama seeks to make history. The Clintons only fabricate it to suit their message of the moment.

Readers Voice: Obama Working Harder, But Losing Margin

The second Madville Times South Dakota Democratic Presidential Primary poll has just wrapped up. The results:
A couple weeks ago, the first Madville Times poll found Obama with a larger margin, 59%-38% over Clinton. Slippage, or simply absurdly large margin of error? And what to make of the opposite results at SD Watch showing Obama's strength only growing? Have what fun you will with those numbers. But the Clinton folks have yet to post an edge over Obama in any South Dakota poll, scientific or otherwise.

Clintonistas, you'll get one more shot to put Hillary on top (and Obamanistas, to fend her off) in a few days, when the Madville Times runs the final SD-Dem primary poll. We look forward to both campaigns pushing to make South Dakota the big exclamation point at the end of this remarkable primary season.

Patricia Stricherz: Testing the Republican Big Tent?

Back in March, I posted about the full slate for the District 8 South Dakota State House race. I highlighted the second GOP candidate to enter the race, Patricia Stricherz of Dell Rapids. I lamented the paucity of information about her available online (although her fellow Republican Jerry Johnson and Dems Gerry Lange and Mitch Fargen have yet to establish much online presence, either -- send those links, fellas!).

Over the past couple days, Stricherz supporters and Stricherz herself have obliged with some helpful information about the candidate. Among the highlights:

...[Stricherz] and her husband have been foster parents in Brookings county prior to Jay's deployment to Iraq, Patricia has also been a CASA volunteer since 2002, sworn in by Honorable Rodney Steele, Patricia worked as a paralegal before deciding to attend college at USF for Social Work. She also has taken in homeless teens and has helped them to get their feet planted on solid ground, she is a very devote Christian and stands by her values ["Anonymous" -- according to Stricherz, actually her daughter Mimi -- 2008.05.21].

she is tossed on the hyperion oil refinery that is being considered in Elk Point. She lived in Cheyenne Wy. as a teenager and has said a number of times that the smell was unbearable, the cancer/population ratio within a 60 mile radius is high, and she doesn't want that for South Dakota...

...[Stricherz] would like to see the oil companies be given a cap as to how much they can charge the public for fuel...

She is also concerned about the pipeline coming through S.D. for several reasons, safety to community and environment, and eminent domain issues.

...she believes that education is vital for our children and would like to see more Masters programs in the state [ed: don't let Sibby hear that: he'll think Stricherz is trying to create more secular humanists...]

...BIG on veterans issues, huge advocate for human rights, and has a desire to start a non-profit organization to assist low income families with transportation issues. [Anon/Mimi, 2008.05.22]

Now certainly veterans issues and human rights are non-partisan issues. But the statements on Hyperion, eminent domain for TransCanada, and fuel price caps would seem to distance Ms. Stricherz from Governor Rounds, Rep. Dykstra, and the other Big Oil boosters in the Republican Party. Does the South Dakota GOP have room for such progressive thinking?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Smokey on Two Wheels -- Aberdeen Motorcycle Cops

When we were little, my brother and I watched CHiPs religiously. I still hum the theme every now and then when I go buzzing around on the scooter.

I am thus pleased on a sentimental level, not to mention an economic level, to see the Aberdeen Police Department encouraging its officers to get out and ride. Officer Mike Law (can't make that name up!) tells KELO that riding his Harley for work is fun and saves the city money. A happy cop might be a little more inclined to give you a friendly warning rather than a speeding ticket.
Plus every day patrolling on a motorcycle could easily cut fuel costs for an individual officer by over 50%. Consider that a standard 2008 Crown Victoria gets 15 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, while a new Buell Ulysses police motorcycle can get 51 city, 64 country.

Cops on motorcycles are also a statement against the "bigger is better" argument that gets everyone in SUVs. Too many drivers think they need to drive a tank down the Interstate or to the mall to keep themselves safe in a wreck. Police probably face more automotive threats than anyone else on the road, and yet they are willing to take to the streets on two wheels, without two tons of metal around them.

I don't expect to see the South Dakota brethern of Ponch and Jon out on their service Harleys in December. But if Officer Law can face the mean streets of Aberdeen on his open Harley every now and then, the rest of us can consider driving smaller vehicles.

Update 2008.05.27: An eager reader submits this photo of one of Madison's finest on the city police motorcycle during a DSU homecoming parade. The reader says we have a lot of riders on the force. Let's hope we see more of Chief Pulford and Officers Haug, O'Loughlen, et al. out patrolling with their big, buggy smiles!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why Clinton Is Losing

Future historians won't blame Senator Hillary Clinton's failure to close the deal on the Democratic nomination on her Robert F. Kennedy assassination comment in Sioux Falls today. Rather, they may point to the statistical flatline of Clinton's poll numbers since October 2007, caused perhaps by the apparent gravitation of supporters of the other failed candidates -- Kucinich, Richardson, Edwards, et al. -- to Senator Barack Obama. Consider this passage from Doug Wiken's latest post at Dakota Today:

As I have previously indicated, I supported John Edwards and have been watching the primary mostly undecided about Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton as the candidate choice. But, I have steadily become less impressed with Hillary and more impressed with Obama. Obama and his organization have demonstrated management skills that exceed the much vaunted Clinton team. The Hillary campaign debt is enough reason to suggest that her administration might not be what is needed to undue the Bush damage to the US economy and federal and state deficits [Doug Wiken, "Until the Last Super Delegate Has Sung," Dakota Today, 2008.05.23].

That's not sexism or sensationalism. That's a fair look at how the candidates perform in a real life test of their administrative skills. And with many voters whose previous favorite dropped out and who thus had to take a fresh look at the remaining choices, Senator Clinton is failing that test.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wiken on Conservation: Jalopy Beats Prius!

Doug Wiken at Dakota Today is producing a series of posts on "non-obvious" ways to reduce energy consumption. The counter-intuitive suggestion of the morning (actually last evening, but I just read it): used cars may do more eco-good than Priuses (Prii, anyone? :-) ). Not any old used car -- resurrect my dad's '74 Dodge pickup and take it smokin' down the highway, and you're not doing much good for anybody's lungs (or eardrums). But buying a used car that gets decent mileage makes use of resources that have already been processed. Every Prius (every car) takes a lot of energy to produce -- the equivalent of a thousand gallons of gasoline, reports Doug. Buying a used car involves no new production inputs.

The same principle applies to any durable good: buying used clothes, used appliances, used books is the best form of recycling. You don't even incur the processing costs involved in recycling aluminum cans or plastic or all that other stuff we haul to the recycling center on Saturday.

Of course, Doug misses the best answer for automotive eco-friendliness: buy a used Prius!

We look forward to more unconventional enviromental thinking from Dakota Today. Stay tuned!

Huron Ethanol Spill: Reminder That Conservation Is Cleanest

Saturday's 6000-gallon ethanol spill at Huron's Heartland Grain Fuels Plant reminds me that no energy solution is perfect. The spill has killed some fish in Broadland Creek (ethanol lowers the oxygen content of the water), and folks shouldn't take a swig from or dip in either the creek or nearby Ravine Lake anytime soon.

However, the environmental impact of this accident doesn't seem as bad as a comparable oil or gasoline spill. Ethanol breaks down naturally. When six DM&E tanker cars derailed and spilled 30,000 gallons of ethanol near Cambria, Minnesota (between New Ulm and Mankato), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency decided they didn't need to clean it up. They considered excavating or at least aereating the soil to help the ethanol evaporate faster, but they figured disturbing the soil would do more damage to the organic material there than the ethanol itself [see Tim Krohn, "Ethanol Spill Decision: No Cleanup Required," Mankato Free Press, 2006.12.08].

Biodiesel also appears to pose less danger to the environment when spilled than petro-diesel. One gentleman I read this morning says biodiesel is "less toxic than table salt, more biodegradable than sugar."

Of course, even if we never spilled a drop, the mere production of biofuels may turn out to do more harm than oil in the emissions and other externalities that come from producing them: remember, all that fertilizer is made from oil.

Energy never comes for free. No matter what techno-whiz-bangery we come up with to fuel our cars and our economy, there will be some kind of mess. If we're serious about keeping the planet livable, we will need to stop looking for more things to consume and resolve to simply consume less.

Update 08:40 CDT:
More trade-offs: I figure cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other non-food biomass would make a great improvement over pouring corn into our gas tanks. But then the New York Times reports concerns that such "second-generation biofuels" may create more problems with invasive plant species -- i.e., weeds that spread from the biofuel plantations and still crowd out food crops.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clinton -- The New Kucinich... or the New Nader?

Senator Clinton and her supporters are sounding more like my man Dennis Kucinich -- not on real universal health care, alas, but on why she should stay in the race until the very end. You don't tell the runner in second to give up, said one supporter on SDPB's Dakota Midday yesterday. You don't quit just because it looks like someone else is going to win. You keep running, keep fighting, keep adding to the conversation and giving voters a choice.

I would be curious to rewind the tape and find out how many of Senator Clinton's supporters offered the same defense of Dennis Kucinich in 2004, who was still campaigning against Senator Kerry at this point in 2004 and didn't endorse the presumptive nominee until July. Kucinich could at least claim to offer some clear and discussion-worthy differences from Kerry that were worthy of voters' consideration: the differences Clinton enunciates as her justification for remaining in the race are mostly personal -- electability, experience, being a fighter, etc.

Perhaps an even more potent comparison would be found in considering what Clinton has said about Ralph Nader's Presidential aspirations:

“His being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we could have had, and I think that’s really unfortunate. I think we paid a big price for it. I’m pretty sad about that,” Clinton told reporters on the campaign plane as she was en route to several appearances in Rhode Island and Boston.

Clinton was unaware, until questioned about by reporters, that Nader had announced Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had decided to enter the 2008 race, and she was clearly surprised at the news.

“Well that’s really unfortunate. I remember when he did this before. It did not turn out very well for anybody, most especially our country,” she said. “This time I hope it doesn’t hurt anybody. I hope it’s kind of a passing fancy that people don’t take too seriously” [Beth Frerking, "Clinton Slams Nader over Presidential Bid," Politico.com, 2008.02.24].

Indeed, how dare someone with little chance of winning divide the voters and cost the frontrunner the election....

Speaking of frontrunners, remember the good old days when Clinton was that frontrunner? Take a look at today's historical chart of the Real Clear Politics Poll Average for the Democratic Presidential nomination: Clinton peaked at 48.5% in October 2007, around the time Senator McGovern endorsed her. Obama was actually down from some initial buzzy ratings, around 21%. Seven months and millions of dollars later, Clinton hasn't managed to build any support. Her numbers have stayed stuck in the same 40%-45% range all this time. Obama, meanwhile, has produced a return on his investment, evidently drawing a lot of the undecideds and folks like me whose preferred candidates dropped out.

As a Kucinich man and as a June 3 South Dakota primary voter, I can't tell the second-place candidate to drop out. But understand: Obama is going to win in South Dakota and Montana in June, in Denver in August, and nationwide in November. If Clinton has something to add to the conversation about different visions of policy and mission for America, by all means, bring it on. I will respect that effort... but I will expect Clinton and her supporters to accord the same respect to the Kuciniches and Naders who will offer voters differing visions and choices in future elections.

p.s.: Kucinich remains an uncommitted superdelegate... have you called Dennis lately, Hillary?

Update 2008.05.25: Another hint of the Clinton-Nader parallel appaers on Dr. Blanchard's corner of SD Politics.

Clinging to Guns, But Can't Afford Ammo

Obama won't take our guns, but China may take our ammo... or at least price the metal for casings out of reach:

Ammo prices for many popular guns have more than tripled in the last three years, driven in large part by surging demand for metals in rapidly industrializing China.

As the Asian giant becomes wealthier, millions of tons of copper, lead and zinc, which are also used to make bullets and brass shell-casings, are being snapped up.

Shooters, gun dealers and sheriffs say the impact has been further aggravated by competition for limited ammo stocks with the U.S. military, currently fighting wars on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan [Tim Gaynor, "U.S. Shooters Feel Pinch as Ammo Prices Soar," Reuters via Yahoo News, 2008.05.19].

Dang -- so if fewer hunters can come pump up the South Dakota economy this year, we won't have lily-livered liberals to blame: the fault will lie with capitalists in China and neocons in the White House.

TIF Part II: In Defense of Old Fixer-Uppers

MDL's Chuck Clement provides this coverage of the discussion of the tax increment financing district at Monday's Madison City Commission meeting:

Schaefer proposed a new housing development with homes in the $115,000 to $125,000 price range for low- and moderate-income owners. Hess told the commissioners that Madison already has housing available in the below-$100,000 price range. Schaefer said many of those homes are older houses.

Commissioner Scott Delzer agreed with Schaefer, describing many of the older, below-$100,000 homes in Madison as "fixer-uppers" that would require significant modernization to make them similar to a newly-constructed house [Chuck Clement, "City Moves Ahead with Tax Increment District," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.05.21].

Mr. Schaefer and Commissioner Delzer are correct: many of the houses currently available for less than the LAIC's $120,000 affordability criterion are older structures, and many could use some renovation. But Schaefer and Delzer both operate from the unstated and incorrect assumptions that old is bad and that everyone wants a house similar to a newly constructed house. Consider the beauty pictured here, the home built by Madison's first mayor at 401 NE 1st. You don't see newly constructed homes with that sort of character.

Instead of dedicating $330,500 to building 11 new dwellings, might not the city have an interest in supporting the restoration of existing dwellings? Consider this radical notion: instead of providing a $330,500 subsidy to a single developer, the city could divide that money into $10,000 renovation incentives for 33 existing homes... which just happens to be the number of Madison homes I find listed this morning on HomeViewSiouxFalls.com for under $120,000. $10,000 could go a long way toward helping each of those homes move on the market and encouraging low- and middle-income buyers to move in and fix up these old gems.

Again, think big picture: What would make Madison look better? 11 typical new dwellings in one cluster out back of the strip mall, or 33 existing houses all over town with new owners ready to renovate?

Mayor Hexom: TIFs for Everybody!

The Madison City Commission gave unanimous approval Monday night to the 63% increase in the debt it will take on to support Randy Schaefer's tax increment finance district. Local businessman John Hess attended the meeting to voice his disapproval of what looks to him like a handout to one specially chosen developer that gives that developer an unfair market advantage.

Mayor Gene Hexom apparently sees no unfairness in the TIF district. "The same opportunity exists for you, John, if you want to do it," the mayor told Hess at the meeting.

I think you missed the point, Mayor Hexom. Hess is making the argument that the city shouldn't be offering this "opportunity" to anyone in the first place. Certainly any of us with business interests in Madison could apply for a TIF to support our hopeful building projects. But would the city really finance every applicant? The city does have a debt limit (which we are $330,500 closer to now). Surely it would have to sort the good from the bad, pick some projects over others. And if the city can identify some private development projects, like Grant Circle, as more beneficial than to the city than others, woldn't those superior projects already enjoy the competitive advantage they need in the free market to succeed without tax subsidies?

Furthermore, Mayor Hexom seems ignorant of the fact that the TIF "opportunity" may not be available to John Hess. Mr. Hess owns some residential properties around town, but state law prohibits the use of TIF notes for strictly residential development. As I understand it. the only reason Randy Schaefer qualifies for this handout is that he happens to have a strip mall next to the proposed development, and his lawyer made sure the boundaries of the TIF district included that commercial property.

So for Mayor Hexom to say this "opportunity" exists for any interested developer is no more than technically correct: Hess could get a TIF district, if he owned a commercial property right next to a planned residential development, if he gets his bid in before the other developers swamp the city with requests and gobble up the 10% of citywide assessed value allowed for TIFs...

...and if John Hess wanted a government handout in the first place. John Hess and most businesspeople don't want a handout: they want a level playing field where their goods and services stand or fall on their own merits, without subsidy, and without having their own tax dollars going to help their competitors.

Hip Waders vs. Lava Lamps? Obama: Come to Lake Herman Now!

Professor Blanchard offers the metaphor -- or dare I say synecdoche? -- of the morning to explain the disparity in Senator Obama's tallies in the primaries:

This is the problem that the Democrats face. Their party is divided between hip waders and lava lamps. When some who appeals to the hip waders gets nominated, the lava lamps fall into line. But it doesn't necessarily work in reverse. We might be about to watch the Party of Jefferson once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory [Ken Blanchard, "Oregon & Kentucky, Hippies & Hillbillies," South Dakota Politics, 2008.05.21].

Heck, I've been saying since April that Obama needs to come to Lake Herman and go fishing:

Obama in waders holding up a stringer of walleye -- boom! That's an automatic ten-point boost for Obama in the South Dakota vote! [CAH, "Obama First in South Dakota Again," Madville Times, 2008.04.11]

Of course, when Senator Obama comes to Lake Herman, he'll meet plenty of folks like myself and Gerry Lange who might well be categorized as hippies with hip waders, a phenomenon I'm still struggling to explain within Dr. Blanchard's paradigm.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obama Campaign Working Lake and Moody -- Clintonistas Lying Low?

Senator Obama's Presidential campaign is making the rounds in Lake and Moody Counties (full disclosure: I've been making some calls and knocking a few doors for them, not to mention helping Lake and Moody coordinator Iain Robertson find office and sleeping space). The campaign is holding a meeting for Obama supporters Tuesday (hey, that's tonight!) at the Madison Public Library at 7 p.m. The campaign has set up shop at Hope Studios (211 SE 4th Street -- the old Garfield school) here in Madison, right in the coffee shop there. Obamanistas (Obamaniacs? Obama-ramans?) are also scheduling a number of local events, including a barbecue at Madison's Library Park on Sunday at 1 p.m. Bring your appetite and maybe some good walking shoes, so you can go knocking on doors afterward!

Just curious: we've gotten a call or two from the Clinton campaign, and they're certainly busy in other South Dakota towns. Has anyone seen Clinton campaigners walking the beat in Lake or Moody County?

Peace vs. Sword, Obama (and Baker?) vs. Bush

A Christian friend of mine floated the Bush appeasement theology over the weekend, claiming weak Democrats will destroy America by chatting with insane and evil dictators. My mention of Nixon's visit to China and Reagan's frequent sit-downs with the leader of the Soviet Union (a.k.a. "the focus of evil in the modern world") made no difference. My appeal to the Gospels brought this response: "Jesus said he came to bring not peace but division."

Interpreting Matthew 10:34-36 and Luke 12:49-53 is deeper water than I care to tread this morning, although I will suggest that intepreting these passages as normative statements on foreign policy is a countercontextual stretch.*

Instead, I turn to the gospel of foreign policy according to James Baker, President George H.W. Bush's Secretary of State and Republican co-chair of the Iraq Study Group. Remember the Iraq Study Group? They recommended talking with Iran and Syria (see page 7 of the ISG report). Secretary Baker himself made sixteen trips to Syria in 1990-1991, when Syria was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. Said Baker in 2006, "My view is that you don't just talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies, as well. And the diplomacy involves talking to your enemies."

The current Bush Administration is conducting discussions with Iran about Iraq and has explicitly approved diplomatic discussions between Iran and our allies Britain, France, and Germany. Bush fils has also sent diplomats to chat with Libya and North Korea [see "Bush's Appeasement Malarkey," Boston Globe, 2008.05.17].

Conversation and negotiation aren't for sissies. They're essential components of the statecraft toolkit. Fortunately, Senator Obama recognizes that real toughness is the Baker model of talking, not just talking tough.

If you'd like to read more on the sanity of Obama's foreign policy, the nuttiness of continuing the Bush Doctrine, and the weakness of all this Munich talk, try these sources:
*For the Biblically inclined, some links for discussion:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kephart, Goeman, Obama Top Local Polls

So Sam Kephart, Rod Goeman, and Barack Obama walk into a bar... if only!

All three of those men did jump the highest bar of public support in our local polls. Kephart topped the choices in the Madville Times South Dakota GOP Senate primary, while Goeman drew the most support in our Lake County GOP primary for County Commission. Chris Giles and Scott Pedersen tied for second: if they can repeat that feat at the polls June 3, they'll join Goeman as the three standard bearers for local Republicans against Dems Craig Johannsen and Gene Anderson.
Meanwhile, news director Dylan Hunter* provides the final numbers for the KJAM presidential poll, conducted over the past couple weeks:

  1. Barack Obama: 42.4% (87 votes)
  2. John McCain: 33.5% (69)
  3. Hillary Clinton: 18.9% (39)
  4. Ron Paul: 5.3% (11)

I guess the Madison/KJAM-listening audience doesn't quite have the same political preferences as our small-town West Virginia counterparts.

A reminder: I make no pretense to science with these polls. But if you think about it, elections themselves are far from scientific. The winners are those who get their people to show up. So keep showing up here at the Madville Times -- more polls to come!

*By the way, Dylan Hunter can play dobro, slide guitar, and mandolin, and he's looking for musicians to jam with! Pickers and grinners, give Dylan a ring at the station (256-4514). Talk about Discovering the Unexpected™... at KJAM!

Hyperion Refinery? No Way! 26 Reasons

Kelsey at Dakota Women turns a well-deserved spotlight on "From Z to A," where Union County native Karen Eidem lists 26 darn good reasons for her parents and other Union County voters to say no to the Hyperion refinery in the election June 3. Here's just a sample of Karen's arguments:

Young people

On May 5, the Sioux City Journal reported that many Young People will consider leaving the area if the refinery is built. Of Young people aged 18-24 years, 38% said they would consider moving if a refinery is built. Of Young people aged 25-34, 29% would consider moving....


Oil is not progressive. We know (and have known for a long time) that we have limited amounts of Oil -- it is a non-renewable fossil fuel....

VIABLE ENERGY OPTIONS EXIST to heat and cool our homes and businesses, to create products, and -- yes -- even to run our cars. But we as consumers need to demand it; we do not need to propogate a 20th century way of thinking and consuming....

Gas Prices

It is all over the news and you feel it every time you fill up -- Gas prices are high. But this particular refinery will not ensure they will go down:

1) The dirty, heavy crude from the Tar Sands is extremely difficult and costly to refine. In fact, the only reason oil companies are pursuing this oil right now is because Gas prices are high; otherwise, it is not worth the cost of investment. Therefore, oil companies need Gas prices to stay high in order to make a profit from Tar Sands crude and it would be better for their profit margins if gas prices go higher.

2) On April 24th on South Dakota Public Television, Hyperion said that there is no guarantee that anyone in South Dakota will be using the Gas they produce. In fact, the only way South Dakota will get the Gas is if the state offers the best contract at the best price.

3) To add insult to injury, many areas near refineries have an extra Gas tax to offset auxillary costs of a refinery. That's what happens elsewhere; will it happen here? [Karen Eidem, "From Z to A: 26 Reasons to Vote No June 3," May 2008]

Still think a refinery is going to save us money at the pump? Think again...

There's much much more at From Z to A, which I highly recommend. Good arguments, lots of links so you can do your own reading, and even colorful yet tasteful typography! And Karen provides her e-mail address, so she's not afraid to put her name to her words and talk to you about the issue. Good work, Karen!