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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin, Silver-Tongued Devil

That thunking sound you hear is another campaign slogan falling off the McCain table, thanks to his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Turns out making great speeches is a qualification for the Presidency:

For all the focus on Pawlenty, Romney and Lieberman, Palin was the leading candidate by the beginning of last week. Davis had spoken with her a number of times. The McCain camp had reviewed everything it could find on her, including videotapes of her public speeches and interviews. "She makes a great speech," one adviser observed [emphasis mine; reporting by Dan Balz & Robert Barnes, "Palin Made an Impression from the Start," Washington Post, 2008.08.31, p. A01.].

Good to know that we'll hear no more campaign ads (or blog comments) from the McCain's supporters about youth, lack of public service, lack of foreign policy experience, or the dangers or excellent public-speaking skills.

Sarah "Tom Eagleton" Palin Giggles at Misogyny

"Giggleton" pick to unite Hillary vote... behind Obama!

Courtesy of Badlands Blue (who gets paid to find stuff like this), here's Governor Sarah Palin, your next Vice-President, standing up for civil discourse and decent treatment of women last January on The Bob and Mark Show on KWHL, Anchorage, Alaska (careful, foul language):

"I'm going to say what I wish you could say..." and Palin says nothing to challenge that. Radio host Bob Lester questions Republican State Senate President Lyda Green's fitness as a mother, calls her a "cancer" (Green survived breast cancer) and the b-word, and makes a joke about her being fat. Palin responds by saying she'd "be honored to have you guys" at the State of the State Address. She then returns to the same program to talk about her joining the McCain ticket... and one of the first things the host says to her teenage daughter and the governor is, "You look so great". Host Bob Lester goes on to refer to Palin as "girl" twice... and then talk fishing with Senator McCain (who also says he'd love to be on their show).

I have a hard time imagining Hillary Clinton voters giggling along with Palin in response to anti-feminist language like that, let alone voting for her and McCain.

Palin was looking like the next Dan Quayle, or with her Big Oil subsidies maybe the next Dick Cheney. But now I'm thinking McCain has actually found himself a Thomas Eagleton (and it only took a couple hours for this idea to hit the Web), a lesser-known candidate, insufficiently vetted, soon to be dumped, and raising campaign-killing questions about the judgment of the nominee who picked her.

Dan Fagan of the Anchorage Daily News offers an insightful local analysis of Governor Palin's giggling and her half-hearted apology.

Update 10:05 CDT: More traction for the Palin-Eagleton parallel: see Steve Snyder, "Is Sarah Palin the New Tom Eagleton?" DigitalJournal.com, 2008.08.31. (And if you check out some of Snyder's other writings here and here, you'll see he's no Obama booster.)

Update 10:38: Ah, but McCain won't dump Palin: she shares his sense of humor.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

South Dakota Republicans Divided on Palin

For more on the Palin nomination, see the debate at South Dakota Politics, a conservative granddaddy of the South Dakota blogosphere. SDP's Dr. Schaff appears to think McCain may have just settled the election—in Obama's favor—by picking Palin. His SDP colleague Mr. Heppler finds Palin a brilliant choice who brings real executive experience to the ticket. Both are worthwhile reads.

Jon Hunter: Regents Fund Wireless with Absurd "Deception"

In a Tuesday post, I noted that the Board of Regents want to pay for expanding the wireless Internet capacity of state campuses with the shady accounting trick of delaying payday for all BoR workers by one day. That trick would push $11M off one year's payroll and produce the illusion of savings to be applied elsewhere. Madison Daily Leader editor Jon Hunter agrees that this is sheer "deception":

The absurdity is that there is no money saved. University employees still worked and earned their pay. The state legitimately owes June's $11 million payroll to employees.

For an individual, it's like not paying a mortgage payment, then spending that money on a vacation. It's not as if the mortgage payment isn't due. In fact, it's due right now.

If a business were to do this, it would have to recognize the money it owes as both an expense and a liability that it owes. If it tried the shell game the Regents are suggesting, the company's auditor would blow the whistle.

Fortunately, such trickery would need to be approved by the Legislature, which is the body that gave the Regents enough money to meet its true payroll obligations in the first place. We can't imagine the Legislature falling for it [Jon Hunter, "Regents' Proposal Is Simply a Money-Shifting Shell Game," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.08.28].

It takes a lot to pull our man Hunter out of his editorial shell to issue such a direct condemnation of the shenanigans of his friends in Pierre. When even he will call the Regents out, their plan must be a stinker.

Palin in Bed with TransCanada

Here's another good reason for South Dakota landowners (not to mention real free-market Republicans) to vote against John McCain: his running mate Sarah Palin is helping TransCanada pay its lawyer bills:

TransCanada Corp., the nation's largest pipeline company, won approval from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to build a $27 billion pipeline to carry natural gas from the Arctic to U.S. markets.

...Under its license agreement with the state, TransCanada will get a $500 million subsidy in return for seeking federal regulatory approval for the project and finding customers for the pipeline. The license doesn't guarantee construction of the project [Eduard Gismatullin, "TransCanada Gets Alaska Governor Palin's Approval for Pipeline," Bloomberg.com, 2008.08.29].

Governor Sarah Palin is sending 500 million tax dollars to foreign-owned TransCanada, the same company that spent the past year siccing lawyers on South Dakota landowners to seize their land through eminent domain.

Wow: I was thinking Palin was the new Dan Quayle. But with Big Oil favors like this, maybe she's more Dick Cheney.

Update 18:10 CDT: More on Palin and TransCanada at Dakota 21!

Higher Feed Costs Send Cattle to Pasture

Whatever is driving higher grain prices—ethanol, inputs, overseas demand—there may be at least one bright side (and you know how I like to look at the bright side): fewer cattle in feedlots. Instead of crowding cattle into messy, stinky concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), farmers are taking advantage of good grass conditions and letting more cattle run longer to eat a more natural diet out in the pastures [or so I learn from "Feedlot Numbers Continue to Shrink," Dakota Farmer, 2008.08.24].

I was paging through Dakota Farmer since I was following up on the CAFO situation in Grant County, where a little citizen activism has scared off (for now) Riverview Dairy from building a 5,700-head feedlot in Kilborn Township. There's still some county business to be done: on Tuesday, Grant County commissioners will consider changing the setback requirements for livestock feeding operations. CAFO opponents originally wanted the county to increase the buffer zone between new CAFOs and homes and wells from a half mile to up to two miles. They have since agreed to a compormise proposal by the township association to create a sliding scale, with the setback distance increasing with the number of cattle in the feedlot [see Terry O'Keefe, "Grant Co. Preps for Petitions," Watertown Public Opinion, 2008.08.28, and same author, "Set-back Discussions Continue," WPO, 2008.08.25].

But even with high feed prices, good grass conditions, and citizen activism, don't expect the drive for bigger CAFOs to disappear. There are big corporate interests putting big money into promoting industrial agriculture and displacing small, independent producers. A Grant County correspondent reports his frustration with a CAFO regulation meeting August 21 at which Ag United exec Steve Dick, state Ag Secretary Bill Even, and other experts offered a hearty defense of the corporate "bigger is better" line.

Funny: Mr. Dick actually believes that we need bigger farm operations to stem population loss, when the trend of the past century shows that bigger farm operations mean fewer farmers on the land.

Growth can be good, but the growth of industrial agriculture doesn't just concentrate cows, manure, and stink: it concentrates wealth, ownership, and independence in the hands of the few big operators whose interests are served by lobbying groups like Ag United.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin Comparison: McCain Takes Youth and Inexperience off the Table

Bless you, Senator McCain. By picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as your running mate, you have just removed some of your most bogus arguments about Senator Obama from the campaign.

Let me explain this slowly:

1. The primary qualification for serving as Vice-President is the ability to serve as President.

McCain has pointed to Obama's youth, lack of experience in elected office, and lack of foreign policy experience as reasons Obama is not qualified to be President.
  • 2a. Obama is 47.
  • 2b. Obama served four 2-year terms in the Illinois State Senate and is in the fourth year of his first term in the U.S. Senate. Total experience in elected office: 11.6 years.
  • 2c. Obama lived in Indonesia for four years as a child. In the U.S. Senate, he has served on the Foreign Relations Committee, Homeland Security & Governmental Relations Committee, and the subcommittee on European Affairs.
3. McCain has selected Palin to be his Vice-Presidential running mate.

4. Therefore, McCain must believe Palin is qualified to serve as President.

5. Compared to Obama, Palin is younger, has one more month of experience in elected office, and less foreign policy experience.
  • 5a. Palin is 44.
  • 5b. Palin served two 2-year terms on the Wasilla (Alaska) City Council, two 3-year terms as mayor of Wasilla, and is in the second year of her first term as Governor of Alaska. Total experience in elected office: 11.7 years.
  • 5c. Palin lives near Russia.
6. Only two conclusions are possible:
  • 6a. McCain believes his running mate lacks the age, experience, and foreign policy chops to serve as President
  • 6b. McCain just gave up age, experience, and foreign policy chops as arguments against Obama's qualifications for the Presidency.
I feel like John McCain just poured a bunch of fish in a barrel, handed me a gun, and said, "Start shootin', Cor!"

And I don't think you'll have much more luck comparing Palin to Biden.

Other comparisons are welcome—like, oh, say, actual policies—but McCain just took the age and experience bush-wa off the table. Thanks, John!

Update 2008.08.30 08:45 CDT: But don't take my word for it; ask the McCain campaign:

The risks of a backlash from choosing someone so unknown and so untested are obvious. In one swift stroke, McCain demolished what had been one of his main arguments against Obama.

“I think we’re going to have to examine our tag line, ‘dangerously inexperienced,’” a top McCain official said wryly [Jim Vandehei & John M. Harris, "6 Things the Palin Pick Says About McCain," Politico.com, 2008.08.30].

Update 08:55 CDT: (Hat tip to Politico.com!) Or ask a Republican from Wasilla:

The reaction wasn't so rosy elsewhere. State Senate President Lyda Green said she thought it was a joke when someone called her at 6 a.m. to give her the news.

"She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Green, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"[Sean Cockerham & Wesley Loy, "Choice Stuns State Politicians," Anchorage Daily News, 2008.08.29].


Palin Pick Loses Mitchell Wesleyan Vote?

I think the double standard is about to treble...

"I think Stephanie needs to focus on her family first."

Anessa Klumb, faithful Wesleyan from Mitchell, stating why she's supporting Chris Lien for South Dakota's lone Congressional seat instead of incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who is expecting her first child in December.

Oh my... so now that Senator John McCain has picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, mother of five, including a four-month-old son with Down's Syndrome, whose left for Anessa and others of her "family first if you're a woman" ilk to vote for on the presidential ballot?

Update 2008.08.31 10:18 CDT: Let's hear from Governor Palin herself:

"I'm very confident that a pregnant woman should not and doesn't have to be prohibited from doing anything, including running for vice president. Or working in the home or out of the home. The world is our oyster also, whether carrying a baby or not." [Gov. Sarah Palin, quoted by Erika Bolstad, "All Abuzz About Palin," Anchorage Daily News, 2008.03.09].

Sounds like Governor Palin just took away Anessa's best reason for supporting Chris Lien. Try again, kids....

Speech Smeech: Obama Wins on Organization, Not Oratory

If you thought Barack Obama's Mile High Stadium convention speech was just another ego trip for the silver-tongued rock star to show off his oratorical prowess before 84,000 screaming fans, you missed the point. The massive open-air stadium event wasn't about oratory; it was about organization.

Yeah, yeah, Obama gave another decent speech. But his campaign showed off the constant organization and citizen engagement that helped Obama beat the Clinton machine and will give him a similar advantage over the old-school electioneering of John McCain. Instead of just sitting around congratulating themselves and crafting media images, the way political parties usually do at their balloon-drop coronations, the Obama campaign threw a huge public event that drew thousands of eager citizens ripe for campaign organizing:
  • The campaign engaged folks in the stadium with text-messaging activities about key issues.
  • Obama's people set up volunteer sign-up stations throughout the stadium to get folks to help with Labor Day weekend campaign activities.
  • Visitors could sit down at several phone banks in the stadium to call for Obama; folks who made at least 12 phone calls were entered in a raffle for good seats on the stadium floor.
  • The campaign set up voter registration booths to urge everyone coming to make sure they could do their most important part in November.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told the crowd that Republicans had wondered why the Obama camp moved the Democratic convention to the stadium for its final night.

"I think it's time we taught them a lesson about how to win an election," he said. "Every day, every hour is critical. The stakes in this election are too big. We need all of you. We have to out-hustle, out-work, out-think them" [Burt Hubbard, "Crowd Urged to Share Moment and Tout Obama," Rocky Mountain News, 2008.08.29].

Hustle, work, and think—sounds like a winning formula to me. While the GOP sneers about stage dressing, the Obama campaign is turning conventions upside down with its constant focus on getting the job done. Obama knows that running a campaign—and running a country—is more than making nice speeches. It's about using every opportunity to engage and organize people... a little something called leadership.

We're here to elect the most important leader in the world. Obama's Mile High Stadium event—not just the speech, but everything his campaign did throughout the day—shows Obama is ready for the job.

Pierre Sports Broadcast Rights: School Board Appoints Self to FCC?

PP and the Pierre Capital Journal note the controversy in Pierre, where the school district is getting ready to take local radio station KCCR to court to stop them from broadcasting Pierre Governors and Lady Govs sporting events. Last year the Pierre School District asked local stations for proposals to broadcast its athletic. Dakota Radio Group, owner of KGFX Radio, beat out KCCR, with an offer of $40,000 for five years of exclusive broadcast rights. KCCR made no proposal for exclusive rights.

Since then, KCCR has changed ownership, and the new owners, Riverfront Broadcasting, contend they are free to broadcast out-of-town games. WNAX can surely broadcast a Govs-Bucks game when the Pierre team comes to Yankton, so why not KCCR... or so goes the argument.

And I'm liking that argument. Since when are the airwaves, a public resource regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, a commodity any local public body can control and sell? And since when can a local school board assume control over media reporting of public events supported by taxpayers?

A couple hypotheticals for your amusement:
  • Suppose my Uncle Dale wanted to get the play-by-play of a Govs game in Brookings and asked me to drive over and report on the game for him. I buy my ticket, sit in the stands, and call on my cell phone to give him play-by-play throughout the game. Do the Pierre School District and Dakota Radio Group sic their lawyers on me?
  • What if I drive out to Pierre to see my Uncle Dale, we go to a Govs game in town, and I decide to live-blog the game—more lawyers?
The idea that the school board—any school board—owns the airwaves just isn't making sense to me this morning. The school board just isn't in a position to determine that First Amendment press rights are available only to the highest bidder. Stick with it, KCCR! Not that I'd wish a lawsuit on anyone, but I look forward to getting some legal clarification on this issue from the courts.

Dems Surge West: GOP, What Are You Waiting For?

In case Anonymous still hasn't figured out how hyperlinks work, here's more documentation on how the GOP is losing voters and may be about to lose the general election big time, even in the supposed Republican Western strongholds like Nevada:

The match that sparked this Western political brushfire: By holding the Democratic caucus on Jan. 19, a date earlier than ever before in Nevada and early enough to actually matter, voter turnout exploded. Fewer than 10,000 Democrats bothered to show up in 2004. More than 10 times as many — 117,599, to be exact — attended in 2008.

Democratic voter registration has likewise surged, giving the party a 60,000-voter edge over Republicans, according to July figures compiled by the state. That’s a reversal from 2004, when Republicans held about a 10,000-voter lead. And as a result of caucus organizing efforts, Democrats now boast the most extensive and sophisticated volunteer network the state has ever seen [Victoria McGrane and Charles Mahtesian, "How the West May Be Won," Politico.com, 2008.08.29].

Obama organizers are also surging to make New Mexico and Colorado battleground states as well: 17 Obama campaign offices in NM, over 20 in CO, and close enough GOP-Dem margins in each state that even small efforts may be enough to make a difference.

But not to worry, GOP: your leaders promise they'll reclaim the edge:

“We’re going to have just as good or better of an organization,” said McCain’s regional communications director, Rick Gorka, dismissing the notion that the McCain ground game is lagging behind Democrats in Nevada. “We’re going to be fully prepared” with the volunteers to ensure victory [McGrane & Mahtesian, 2008.08.29]

Going to. Going to?!? It's Labor Day weekend, and the McCain people are still talking future tense? Memo to GOP HQ: the campaign is now.

Celebrate Labor Day South Dakota Style

A random sampling of goings-on around our fair state this sunny Labor Day weekend:
And much, much more... commenters, feel free to tell us where you're headed!

But with all this sunshine, I think a couple bike rides and a nice long family walk in Lake Herman State Park will be all the holiday excitement I will need. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Limbaugh and Obama Agree: Praying for Rain Futile

Several days ago I listened to Rush Limbaugh argue that there's nothing mankind can do about climate change. Well, his friends in Jim Dobson Land may be proof of that. As the estimable Mr. Epp reminds us, Focus on the Family put together a cute video encouraging its followers to pray for rain ("abundant rain, torrential rain... rain of biblical proportions") during Senator Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech outside at Mile High Stadium.

Current conditions in Denver, about two hours before Obama's speech:
  • Temperature: 77.2°F
  • Humidity: 34%
  • Dew Point: 45°F
  • Wind: 1.0 mph, gusting to 3.0 mph
  • Clouds: clear
  • Visibility: 10 miles

Better luck next time, Colorado Springs.

Obama, Dems, America Make History Tonight

Tonight, August 28, 2008, a black man will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party to run for the Presidency of the United States.

Once again, in presidential politics, I didn't get my man. Anna didn't get her woman. And most of our conservative blogging colleagues aren't facing the GOP nominee they wanted.

But Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis reminds me this morning on NPR that our partisan disappointments pale to insignificance before the historical import of this moment (listen to the audio for the full impact):

"When Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination to become the president of the United States of America and starts speaking, I think all of America and many parts of the world — the hopes, the longings, the aspirations and the dreams — will be hanging on every word he says," Lewis says.

"It's going to be incredible. You know, people died. Some people didn't make it to the March on Washington. They were beaten. They were tear-gassed. Some were shot and killed. And even after the March on Washington, where there had been so much hope, so much optimism, we had to deal with the bombing on a church in Birmingham, where four little girls were killed. But I've cried all my tears," he says.

Lewis says he feels blessed to have lived to see this day come around.

[Linda Wertheimer, "Lewis Sees New Racial Era with Obama's Success," NPR Morning Edition, 2008.08.28.]

As should we all. In a nation with a long history of slavery, segregation, and racism, a black man is running for President, and enough Americans are willing to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and listen to what he has to say that he stands even odds of winning.

Rep. Lewis was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963, to hear King proclaim his dream for America. Lewis will be in Denver tonight, in sight of the mountaintop, to himself address the convention and then to hear Obama proclaim the continued pursuit of that dream.

Lewis was asked what he thought King would say about Obama's nomination. He said he couldn't say for sure, "but I have a feeling he would look down and say, ‘Hallelujah.’

Hallelujah, indeed.

Lewis addresses the convention in the 5 o'clock hour Denver time (6 p.m. Central). Obama speaks in prime time, 9 Central, 8 Mountain. Tune in. See history.

Update 10:15 CDT—It's LBJ's dream, too: read Robert Caro, "Johnson's Dream, Obama's Speech," New York Times, 2008.08.27.

Update 11:37 CDT—Can I get another Hallelujah? More on history, racism, fear, and hope from Lewis and other veterans of the 1963 march on Washington who are now delegates in Denver: read Michael Powell, "Witnesses to Dr. King's Dream See a New Hope," New York Times, 2008.08.27

Denver Police Go Chinese on Press, Arrest Reporter

(Hat tip to Sibby!)

Denver police arrested ABC producer Asa Eslocker yesterday as he and a camera crew gathered footage for a report on wealthy donors and the Democratic party. The Brown Palace Hotel, where Democratic Senators were meeting with top donors, called the cops to complain about those darn reporters outside, and the cops came thundering in to break up those dangerous First Amendment devotés.

Evidently in Denver, standing on a sidewalk taking pictures is "trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order."

Push a reporter into the street, grab him by the throat... that's China, not America. The Denver police should be ashamed of themselves.

In God KJAM Listeners Trust...

...or maybe they're just all focused on more important issues?

KJAM is running a poll this week, asking "Should the motto In God We Trust be removed from U.S. currency?" Results so far:
  • Yes: 8.1%
  • No: 91.9%
Uff da—looks like Madison has the strict separationists on the run!

Endlessly Henpecked, Autonomy Destroyed

90% of you readers probably don't know who I, Sibby, or Bob Ellis are. 99% likely don't care: you're here for news, commentary, and maybe a chuckle.

But let me open this morning with a personal confession: even though he's never set foot in my house and never met my family, Bob actually has the Heidelberger household all figured out. I am henpecked to no end. The dominant-type female in my house demands having her way in everything. If I don't do what she wants, there's nothing but kicking and screaming. I try explaining my wants and needs, but she never listens. Every minute of the day has to be planned around the boss's schedule.

But hey, that's what life is like with a two-year-old daughter.

(Guess I need to read more Jim Dobson to learn how to beat those beneath me into submission.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Howard Industries Exec Donates to Tough-on-Immigration Candidates, Hires Illegals

The Howard Industries electrical equipment plant in Laurel, Mississippi, was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Monday. ICE rounded up 350 suspected undocumented workers in the raid.

Howard Industries CEO Billy Howard couldn't be reached for comment right away. But he and his wife can be reached for campiagn donations. OpenSecrets.org lists contributions to candidates like GOP Congressman Chip Pickering, Dem Senate candidate Ronny Musgrove, GOP Secretary of State candidate C. Delbert Hosemann, and GOP Senator Trent Lott, all of whom have talked the need to crack down on illegal immigration.

By the way, Howard Industries got a $31.5-million subsidy (er, "taxpayer-backed incentive plan") from the Mississippi Legislature in 2002. Howard Industries also got $20M in Gulf Opportunity Zone tax credits from the federal government (i.e., us— see this PDF July 2008 report from the GAO, p. 46).

Good capitalist patriots, all, those big business owners. Sure wouldn't want to arrest pillars of the community like that. Just the poor folks they take advantage of.

Rosebud Mfg. Adapts to New Energy Economy

Originally posted at RealMadison.org:

Buried at the bottom of Elisa Sand's front page story on Rosebud Manufacturing's move to the Lakeview Industrial Park is the most interesting part of the story: the changes Rosebud is making to adapt to rising energy prices:

In response to higher fuel prices, the company has also made some changes.

[Rosebud owner Don] Grayson said that last week was the first week employees worked four 10-hour days as a way to give those who commute one less day of driving.

The company plans to install a wood-burning stove this fall. Grayson said scrap wood that typically would be thrown away will now be burned and used to heat the building [Elisa Sand, "Rosebud Owners Happy with Move to Industrial Park," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.08.26].

Making use of every scrap of wood -- good thinking, Don! Of course, we'll have to say what the EPA says about the increased airborne particulate matter... ;-)

Focus on the Family: Marry a Feminist

There goes Kelsey from DakotaWomen again, telling us to read actual science....

Hey, fellas! Want to have a more stable relationship upon which to build your loving family? Marry a feminist:

[Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan of Rutgers University] found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women. Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. According to these results, feminism does not predict poor romantic relationships, in fact quite the opposite ["Feminism and Romance Go Hand in Hand," ScienceDaily, 2007.10.16].

Go figure!

By the way, as I peruse the original article [PDF alert!], I find this interesting observation on some women's negative responses to the feminist pioneers who have fought for women's rights:

Feminist stereotypes are also unflattering; feminists tend to be stigmatized as unattractive, sexually unappealing, and likely to be lesbians.... The fact that women are just as prone to these views as men is particularly disturbing. It is difficult to imagine any other group stigmatizing the pioneers who struggled for their equality; for example, if African Americans disdained Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights workers, it would be inconceivable and cause for alarm. [L.A. Rudman & JE Phelan, "The Interpersonal Power of Feminism: Is Feminism Good for Romantic Relationships?" Sex Roles (57), 2007, pp. 787–799. DOI 10.1007/s11199-007-9319-9]

When women choose to follow traditional gender roles, that's fine. But they shouldn't need to impose those roles on all other women (and criticize other women for not following them) just to make themselves feel better about their own choices.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Patriarchical Insecurity So Shocking It Needs No Explanation

or, "You Know You've Run out of Good Arguments When..."

Sibby spins an argument so amusingly convoluted I would have to grant the possibility that Chris Lien might sprout a uterus to make sense of it.

But Sibby at least avoids the ad hominem against me... and my wife.

His pal Bob Ellis is not so honorable. Again, insisting on ascribing to his opponents characteristics that he wishes were true, and saying much more about himself than about my family, Bob offers this comment:

The more I read Cory's writings that touch on marriage, family and women, the more I become convinced that he may be something akin to what we used to call "henpecked."

In a healthy family, couples recognize that men and women are suited to different roles...but even if those roles are reversed, someone needs to provide more hands-on care for the children. They deserve to be treated better than pets.

Cory seems like an insecure male, possibly with a dominant-type female for a wife, and so he never misses an opportunity to pay the "proper homage" to feminine superiority in order to keep himself in the good graces of the boss. [Bob Ellis, comment on SibbyOnline, 2008.08.26 08:12].

Drive Pro-Life: Slow Down... and Double the Gas Tax!

Another cheer for high gas prices: research by Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute finds this year's high gas prices coincide with a steep drop in traffic fatalities.

Yes, Tony, coincides... although Sivak is willing to speculate as to the actual cause:

The study's author, Michael Sivak, said that high fuel costs have not only kept more cars off the road, they have transformed the way people drive. There is evidence that many motorists are slowing down to conserve fuel, which contributes to fewer and less severe crashes, he said.

In addition, drivers are cutting back on nonessential trips and leisure driving, which tend to occur at night and on weekends when driving is more hazardous than during a slow commute. And low-income teens and seniors, who have been hit harder by high prices and tend to have more crashes, are driving less to save money, Sivak said.

"There's a major behavioral change afoot," he said. Such decreases in fatalities are "unheard of in traffic safety literature" [Jonathan Mummulo, "Study Links Increasing Fuel Costs to Steep Drop in Traffic Fatalities," Washington Post, 2008.08.26, p. B03].

So even if drilling here and drilling now would restore our God-given right to cheap gas, it could well mean more deaths on the highway. If gas prices slide, maybe we should compensate with a gas tax to keep those highway deaths going down. (Commenters, knock yourselves out with that cost-benefit analysis!)

Funny how a combination of common-sense conservatism (drive less, drive more slowly) and a supposedly "liberal" policy (raise the gas tax to discourage consumption) could be a practical pro-life position.

Review Sivak's numbers yourself—here's his original report (in PDF format):
Michael Sivak, "Is the U.S. on the Path to the Lowest Motor Vehicle Fatalities in Decades?" Report No. UMTRI-2008-39, The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 2008.

Gateway MPC Blows DSU Tablet Deal; University Goes Fujitsu

Here's another reason the Regents should expand their Mobile Computing Initiative to all South Dakota campuses around the student-purchase model rather than the student-lease model: when the university leases the computers, the whole batch can get delayed. Last year, Gateway managed to botch delivery of 500 Tablet PCs to DSU, making a minor mess of the first week of classes. This year, Gateway/MPC (Gateway sold its Business, Government, and Education units to Idaho-based MPC last October) has blown it again. Shipment delayed, freshmen and seniors left hanging...

...and DSU fed up enough to switch its business to Fujitsu! Consider: Gateway knows for a year the order is coming and still can't meet deadline. Fujitsu gets maybe a month's notice, and they may have the computers in DSU's hands next week. Good choice, DSU! (But remember: we could save the university a lot of trouble by leaving it to students to purchase their own machines....)

DSU isn't the only state institution finally shedding their Gateway goggles. As Gateway dissolves into MPC and Acer, the Legislature is looking at switching to Tablet PCs from Hewlett Packard. The minutes of last week's LRC Executive Board meeting (PDF alert!) report that the LRC's Computer Technology Subcommittee has recommended moving to the HP2730 Tablet PC. The specs say the HP2730 can operate at –20 °F... maybe not a bad option for a Legislative session in January and February! The HP2730 also has a webcam—Representative Noem, I want live video blogging from the House floor!

Grain Export Bottleneck Suggests Need for More Local Ag

Maybe there's a natural limit to how big agribusiness can get: the bottleneck in grain shipments shows that, no matter how much demand overseas for American ag products may be booming, America's rail, barge, and port systems can only move so much grain. Without more transportation capacity, the piles of wheat and corn sitting on the ground outside the elevators will only get bigger, meaning more handling costs and more product lost to weather and varmints (see Christopher Leonard and Catherine Tsai, "US Grain Exports Snagged by Infrastructure Delays," AP via Yahoo Finance, 2008.08.24].

Maybe we can solve the bottleneck by building more rails, bigger locks, and more ships. Of course, we also have to pay that transportation capacity and the fuel and workers to run it. More capacity won't do us much good if we can't afford to use it.

So maybe we can pursue a different solution to the bottleneck: pour less through the bottle. What if we moved some of our production away from the agri-industrial commodity export model and used more of our land to produce food we eat right here? Instead of pouring more grain on the ground to wait for ships to carry it to China, what if we raised more grain, fruit, vegetables, and livestock that traveled no more than 50 miles to feed the farmers' immediate neighbors?

Local ag, self-sufficiency... just something to think about!

Regents Want Computers Everywhere, Money from Nowhere

The South Dakota Board of Regents has approved its budget proposal for next year. They're asking the Legislature for an 11% bigger slurp at the trough.

The budget proposal includes another shot at persuading the Legislature to let the Regents spend $3.8 million a year to turn every campus into a big wireless hotspot. In the modern world of mobile computing, being able to access the Internet from anywhere on campus makes perfect sense. Going wireless can also free up space currently dedicated to fixed computer labs for other uses (as is happening with a "computer lounge" here at DSU). But let's make sure the Regents don't include a Tablet PC mandate with their wireless plan. We love wireless, but we also love being able to buy our own computers (and keep them!) for half the price of the bloated leases of Gateway equipment that the Regents force on DSU undergrads.

The Regents want us to get Internet from thin air; they also have a way to make money appear from thin air. The Regents want to inject another $11 million into the budget by shifting payday one day forward. Move payday from the end of the month to the beginning of the next month, and the final payday of the fiscal year, June 30, disappears from this year's budget and moves to next year's, giving the Regents and extra $11 million to play with.

Now that sounds like a free lunch for the Regents, and that sounds fishy. $11 million dollars doesn't come out of nowhere; someone's pockets have to get picked. Regents exec Tad Perry says there could be some impact on retirement fund calculations and promises to work that out. But before we even get there, we're asking 5,500+ FTEs (see SDBOR Factbook 2008, p. 40 -- PDF alert!) to wait an extra day for their paychecks. I'm not sure exactly how you calculate the lost utility there: If I divide my current Regental salary by 365, that day's wait is worth $87, and the Regents will make me wait that extra day every month for the remainder of my employment. Over a year, that's a thousand bucks worth of utility lost.

Even if you don't buy that calculation—a day's wait isn't that big a deal— the Regents' money scheme sounds like the old hacker bank robbery trick where you break into the bank's computer and transfer a fraction of a penny from everyone else's account to yours: it's not a big deal to each individual, but it's still theft. Let's keep our funding honest and not base our universities' fiscal sustainability on bookkeeping tricks.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Republican Jim Leach on Failure of Republican Party

I used to be a Republican. What happened?

Former Republican Congressman Jim Leach from Iowa addresses the Democratic National Convention in Denver to remind me why:

The party that once emphasized individual rights has gravitated in recent years toward regulating values.

The party of military responsibility has taken us to war with a country that did not attack us.

The party that formerly led the world in arms control has moved to undercut treaties crucial to the defense of the earth.

The party that prides itself on conservation has abdicated its responsibilities in the face of global warming.

And the party historically anchored in fiscal restraint has nearly doubled the national debt, squandering our precious resources in an undisciplined and unprecedented effort to finance a war with tax cuts.

[Jim Leach, remarks as prepared for delivery at the Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado, 2008.08.25]

GOP faithful, are you wondering why your party is losing voters, legislators, and governors? Congressman Leach just explained a big part of it. If you're going to win elections, you have to stand for something... preferably your own platform.

GOP Courting Madonna?

Headline of the week:

McCain Camp Lashes "Outrageous" Madonna

Well. McCain's camp has figured out how to get on Madonna's good side. Now for the rest of the electorate....

Money: The Root of All Community-Weakening Individualism?

Not that Mitchell blogger Steve Sibson is lacking for blog fodder, but here's a warm fuzzy from the secular humanist camp for my favorite culture-warrior:

Hey, Sibby, maybe it's not secular humanism tearing civilization apart: maybe it's just money. Greg Mankiw points us toward a study that found people given even little reminders that get them thinking about money are less helpful and more solitary than folks who aren't thinking about money:

Trivial reminders of money made a surprisingly large difference. For example, where the control group would offer to spend an average of 42 minutes helping someone with a task, those primed to think about money offered only 25 minutes. Similarly, when someone pretending to be another participant in the experiment asked for help, the money group spent only half as much time helping her. When asked to make a donation from their earnings, the money group gave just a little over half as much as the control group.

Why does money makes us less willing to seek or give help, or even to sit close to others? Vohs and her colleagues suggest that as societies began to use money, the necessity of relying on family and friends diminished, and people were able to become more self-sufficient. “In this way,” they conclude, “money enhanced individualism but diminished communal motivations, an effect that is still apparent in people’s responses today” [Greg Mankiw, "Does Money Undermine Community?" Greg Mankiw's Blog, 2008.08.24].

Boy, Sibby, sounds like we need the socialist utopia of Gene Roddenberry, where science and reason have gotten rid of antiquated concepts like currency and vanquished crime, poverty, and want.

More details and commentary for Sibby and everyone else in this Peter Singer commentary (knock yourself out on that secular humanist, my friend!).

South Dakota State Fair Seeks Permanent Legislative Funding

...Local Blogger Proposes Alternatives to Tax Subsidy

The Prairie Village Steam Threshing Jamboree just wrapped up, so it must be time for the South Dakota State Fair. It's also time for State Fair Manager Jerome Hertel to contend that the Legislature should make the state subsidy of $750,000 to the fair a permanent line item in the state budget.

Hertel makes the rather odd argument that making the fair subsidy permanent would "relieve some of the skepticism" about the fair. (That's a quote from the AP reporter, not directly from Hertel.) To be fair, the skepticism Hertel has in mind is the skepticism of vendors, who he says can be tough to recruit when funding for the fair is uncertain. Hertel obviously does not have in mind the skepticism of many lawmakers and taxpayers, who wonder why the State Fair can't generate the revenue to support itself.

There is a role for government to support culture and recreation. Heck, even the successful Sioux Empire Fair gets $230,000 from Minnehaha County (if I'm reading the 2008 budget right—see this PDF, page 3, line 524).

But in case Hertel can't convince Pierre to make the State Fair subsidy permanent, here are some alternative funding possibilities:
  • Turn the unclaimed property booth into a raffle. Folks can still come and claim their property, but the state can also raffle off any checks or land not claimed by the last day of the fair. Or heck, after the fair, just declare any unclaimed property abandoned and apply it toward next year's Fair budget.
  • Put the winners of the new market meat goat show to good use: gourmet sandwiches! Goat-lettuce-tomato brushetta at the Women's Building... mmmm....
  • I have a soft spot in my heart for .38 Special, but maybe, just maybe consider recruiting a rock act that has put out more than one disc of new material in the past decade?
Whether you like goats or Golden Oldies, The Big One starts Thursday. Enjoy!

Sex and Sexism at the Olympics

Oh, those wacky Olympics. No free speech, but plenty of free condoms. Evidently the Olympic Village is always a hotbed of hot beds. Thousands of the healthiest, hunkiest bodies in the world, lots of spare time... what do you expect?

Matthew Syed's report on sex at the Olympics identifies another manifestation of the double standard successful women everywhere face:

Before we get to that, however, it is worth noting an intriguing dichotomy between the sexes in respect of all this coupling. The chaps who win gold medals—even those as geeky as Michael Phelps—are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes. There is something about sporting success that makes a certain type of woman go crazy—smiling, flirting and sometimes even grabbing at the chaps who have done the business in the pool or on the track. An Olympic gold medal is not merely a route to fame and fortune; it is also a surefire ticket to writhe.

But—and this is the thing—success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating. Sport, in this respect, is a reflection of wider society, where male success is a universal desirable whereas female success is sexually ambiguous [Matthew Syed, "Sex and the Olympic City," TimesOnline UK, 2008.08.22].

No, I'm not saying it's a darn shame that the strongest, most successful women may have a harder time obtaining partners for promiscuous sex than non-medalists. But this Olympic Village attitude against successful women is a manifestation of the same sexism that allows a South Dakota woman to say with a straight face that Stephanie Herseth Sandlin should knock off all her unwomanly striving and go home to raise her child.

Google, Phone, and Self-Awareness Could Save Pennington County Thousands

The Rapid City Journal reports that Pennington County is considering paying human resources consulting firm Condrey and Associates of Athens, Georgia, to study the county's salary scale and job desccriptions:

County Commissioner Nancy Trautman believes the county could benefit from a salary study and a staffing level comparison as a tool to be used for future planning. Currently, the county doesn't know if its job classifications and salaries are correct or adequate, she said.

"We don't know if we have the right staff to accomplish what we need to. We don't really have a base," Trautman said. "It'll cost us money, of course, to get the base established. But in planning in any business, you have to start somewhere" [Scott Aust, "Salary, Staffing Study May Be in the Works for Pennington County," Rapid City Journal, 2008.08.25].

Condrey and Associates apparently makes its money convincing governmental agencies across the country that you need to hire someone to tell you whether your organization's job classifications and salaries are "correct" and "adequate." I would suggest that knowing whether your county has the right staff to accomplish what you need to do isn't an unreasonable do-it-yourself project:

  • To find out what other counties are paying their workers and how they describe their jobs, call up a few of your friends in the South Dakota Association of County Officials and ask.
  • Google "county job description," start reading.
  • Look at your own staff. Are you recruiting and retaining the best people? When you hire, what percent of your first picks say "Yes!" and what percent say, "Sorry, got a better offer in Wyoming"? How long do those first picks stick around?
  • Accomplishing what you need to do? Walk through your courthouse. Talk to your people and your residents. Are there backlogs (other than those caused by Pierre)? What frustrates your employees? What frustrates your citizens? What personnel changes could solve those frustrations?
If you're a county commissioner, it's your job to figure those things out. It's not hard. You don't need some out-of-stater's paid opinion to back up the conclusion you can probably come to yourself after doing a little homework and talking to your own people.

(Let's see, that's about 15 minutes... $100 an hour... Pennington County, send your check for $25 to Madville Times Consulting, 1883 Cottonwood Cove Trail, Lake Herman, SD 57042. ;-) )

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Water Project District Organizers Get Signatures, Ready to File

I hear via e-mail that Robert Todd and others from the Interlakes Water Quality District have successfully completed their quest for signatures on petitions to form a new water project district encompassing Lakes Madison and Brant. Organizers needed around 165 signatures; they say they have 210. Keep an eye on the paper for official notice of the next step, would should be a formal meeting at the courthouse and (we hope) a public vote.

Dennis Kucinich in NY Times: The Race He Could Win, The War We Might Fight

Hat tip to Ohio blogger Jill Miller Zemon!

Just in time for the Democratic National Convention, Dennis Kucinich gets some press in the New York Times, a friendly howdy from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Among the highlights of Deborah Solomon's Q&A:

Solomon: Before you ended your quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and continued on as a congressman from Cleveland, did you believe you could really be president?

Kucinich: No one runs unless they think they can.

Solomon: But you’re a vegan. Do you think America is ready to elect a non-beef-eating president?

Kucinich: I think America is ready for a president with a blood pressure of 90 over 60 who could beat most people half his age in a sprint [Deborah Solomon, "The Wild Card," New York Times, 2008.08.22].

Even my man Dennis can fall into some macho posturing. But it's not macho B.S.: 62 years old, no beer gut, still sporting that slim runner's build... put Dennis and any random sampling of Americans on a track, and he just might come out in the top 3 every time.

Of greater interest is Kucinich's worry that the Bush Administration may use the Georgia-Russia conflict to boost the McCain campaign:

Solomon: Are you saying the Bush administration is likely to declare war soon just to help Republican candidates pick up some votes?

Kucinich: Well, you know, they increased the funding to Georgia a while back for military purposes.

Solomon: You think President Saakashvili of Georgia was encouraged, possibly by the American government, to cry victim?

Kucinich: Look. Saakashvili had an American lobbyist who is now part of the McCain campaign, and I am sure he was given advice. The idea of striking during the Olympics would have to come out of Madison Avenue. We have to be able to see through this. And the one thing I have shown an ability to do is to cut through the b.s.

Kucinich's comments here complemented a discussion I heard on Friday night's BBC world news broadcast. Alexander Nekrassov, Russian investigative journalist, BBC commentator, and former Yeltsin advisor, sees the Bush Administration manufacturing the Georgian conflict to promote U.S. interests and blowing the crisis out of proportion to scare Americans into voting for John McCain to keep them safe in a new Cold War. Stay tuned on that one....

Solomon also notes that Kucinich is speaking to the DNC Tuesday. I don't see his name on the official schedule yet, but he's a superdelegate, so hey, Joe Prostrollo! Get me a Dennis photo!

Olympics Remind Us Chinese Are Tyrants

The Beijing Olympics are over. Thank goodness.

I watched very little of the Games. Not because I'm anti-sports: I happened to see the men's 5K last night, and I was riveted, watching a dozen-plus men engaged in perhaps the simplest, most elegant sport (captured most aptly by Montrose track coach Ken Greeno in four words: "Go hard, turn left").

For all the grace and power of world-class runners, I'd still rather go for a run myself than watch others doing it. And I'd rather not give any of my time to a PR campaign orchestrated by a totalitarian regime. No, not NBC—China. You know, the dictators who have been happy to take advantage of the Olympics to make themselves look good while crushing dissent.

This morning's case in point: The Chinese government's offer of three public spaces in Beijing for peaceful demonstrations during the Games was really just a ruse to lure protestors to apply for protest permits. Over 70 applications were submitted. The Chinese government approved none of them. Instead, the Chinese government used the applications to track, detain, harass, and even arrest and punish potential troublemakers.

Among the threats to Chinese security: two elderly, illiterate Beijing grandmothers, who applied to hobble down the park on their canes and complain about how the city government demolished their homes and never compensated them. The Chinese government's response: sentence the women to one year of "re-education." The government is actually giving them a break: the women can serve their sentence at home, but any more trouble from them, and it's off to a labor camp. Meanwhile, plainclothes cops are staking out their neighborhood, and their neighbors are under orders to watch the old ladies.

And those ladies didn't even mention Tibet. Ugh.

Read more on Chinese oppression:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aberdeen Downtown Going Wireless; Madison Should Follow!

today's special from RealMadison.org!

Supposedly someone at the Lake Area Improvement Corporation is working on downtown revitalization (although I'll be darned if I can get them to reply to my e-mails about the project).

Don't think too hard, kids: here's a great idea for Main Street development from our friends at the Aberdeen Downtown Association: make downtown one big wireless Internet hotspot!

When Margot Gillette took a job with the Aberdeen Downtown Association a few years ago, she started a to-do list.

No. 1 dealt with the [beautification] and revitalization of downtown Aberdeen. But the next item required a bit of technology.

"On my list of to-dos, No. 2 is to make downtown Wi-Fi," said Gillette, economic manager of the downtown association. "And that's just what we're doing."

The Aberdeen Downtown Association has partnered with Tel Serv Communications Inc., a local technology company, to make Main Street - from Sixth Avenue to Railroad Avenue - wireless. Downtown patrons will now be able to get wireless connections along the street and inside most downtown businesses. Eric Hanson, co-owner of Tel Serv, said about 20 businesses are participating so far. Others have shown interest.
[see Emily Arthur-Richardt, "Wi-Fi Now Available to Downtown Businesses," Aberdeen American News, 2008.08.21]

Among the pluses of a downtown wireless Internet hotspot:
  • Wireless access can draw more students downtown (remember, every high school and college student in Madison has a wireless-equipped laptop).
  • Employees can move around the store or office with wireless devices while helping customers.
  • Visiting sales reps and other professionals can access Internet while calling on downtown businesses (sales reps like that kind of thing).

Tel Serv Communications is working with the Aberdeen Downtown Association to provide the free signal. Tel Serv co-owner Eric Hanson estimates the project cost "amounts to thousands of dollars." Heck, if Madison can spend $12,500 just to study the potential for high-tech business development, we can probably swing a few thousand to build a practical high-tech service that immediately and directly benefits thousands of Madison residents and visitors. Find a corporate partner (Knology? Midco?), give 'em ad rights to slap a little company logo on the hotspot welcome page, and let it rip!

Downtown hotspot for Madison -- add that to the to-do list!


In this morning's blog headlines, Rosenthal exclaims, Powers questions, I shrug.

For one brief shining hopeful moment, I thought maybe the delay in Obama's VP announcement yesterday was a result of some staffer reading the Madville Times, slapping his forehead, and shouting "Herseth! Why didn't we think of that?!"

Yes, I'm a dreamer... and that's just the problem. I want politicians who inspire us, who challenge the status quo, who defy expectations and exhort us to do the same. At the very least, I'd like my politics to have a little drama, a little surprise.

Instead, I get Biden. An insider. A pragmatist. Another Senator. An old white guy. A pick that shows a lack of confidence in the message of real change. A guy who voted for the Iraq war, just like Clinton and McCain (have fun selling that one to the kids who got all excited in the primary season).

I know, I know: if it's difference I want, I already have a Kenyan-Kansan who'll give the rednecks among us a wonderful four to eight years of re-education. And campaigns are about winning, not about dreams or philosophy. If I were Obama, I'd have said, "Darn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" and picked Dennis Kucinich as my running mate. Now that would be Change... and that would be why I'll never be President (of the United States or the school board!).

I understand you don't pick a VP to ignite a revolution; you pick someone you can work with who shares your goals for the country. I'll read up on Biden; I'll find out he's fine. He's realized his vote for No Child Left Behind was a mistake; he opposes drilling in ANWR; he supports Roe v. Wade; he's got foreign policy chops... hey! He even voted to strike telecom immunity from this summer's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance bill, and when that effort failed, voted against the full bill (unlike his running mate)! Good man!

Politics isn't drama. It's getting things done for the good of the nation. And the policies promoted by the Obama-Biden ticket will do more good for the country than those promoted by McCain-TBA.

But at this moment, I can't help feeling disappointed in Obama's choice of Biden. The mass text message announcement was clever PR, but instead of shaking folks' cell phones with the announcement, Obama could have shaken up the status quo with a bolder, less conventional VP choice.

Update 10:45 CDT: For the perspective from someone usually on the other side of the aisle from me, see NYTimes's David Brooks, who says Biden is exactly the VP Obama needs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama to Name Herseth Sandlin VP

[begin sarcasm]

Top reasons why Senator Barack Obama is about to name South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin as his vice-presidential running mate:
  1. Obama reaches out to the women's vote by picking a female running mate.
  2. Obama nods to Clinton supporters by picking a woman from a state that voted strongly for Clinton.
  3. Obama tweaks Clinton supporters (deep down, you know he wants to) by picking a woman who backed him over Clinton.
  4. Obama picks first pregnant vice-presidential running mate; moms vote en masse for him.
  5. Obama defuses any chance of bounce for McCain by picking popular Alaska mom-politician Sarah Palin as GOP VP.
  6. Obama plans anti-Cheney vice-presidency; he and Herseth Sandlin will win election, then he will run the show and leave VP to visit funerals and cast tie-breakers in Senate. That way, Herseth Sandlin can stay home and focus on her family, the way Chris Lien thinks she should.
Stay tuned to those cell phones, kids: text message from Obama HQ coming soon!

[end sarcasm]

Superintendent Schaefer Mixing Politics and Education?

And now from our department of semi-substantiated rumor...originally posted at RealMadison.org!

Word on the street is that Madison Central School District teachers were treated to some unpaid political advocacy at work yesterday by their boss, Superintendent Vince Schaefer. Addressing the staff on their second day of pre-school workshops, Superintendent Schaefer noted that Russell Olson, GOP candidate for State Senate from District 8, would be bringing coffee and rolls to the staff in all three buildings next week.

Yum -- coffee and rolls! Who doesn't love that?

But now things get interesting: Superintendent Schaefer proceeded to tell the staff that we all need to put partisanship aside and really give Russell Olson some consideration. Superintendent Schaefer said Olson is a friend of education. To support that statement, Schaefer cited a vote by Olson in support of legislation that would have protected teacher tenure.

Now I'm all about free speech and the idea that public employees retain their right to speak out as citizens on matters of public concern. And heck, I would welcome Mr. Schaefer, Mrs. Knowlton, and all of the Madison Central staff and school board members to drop in here at RealMadison.org and exercise their First Amendment rights to their hearts' content.

But in the workplace, during work hours, can a supervisor make a political statement -- perhaps a political endorsement -- to his or her employees? Next week during teacher meetings at DSU, can our dean tell us we should consider voting for Gerry Lange for State House? Can I, a teaching assistant, stand up at that meeting and respond that Patty Stricherz also deserves our consideration, if not our vote?

Note that I'm a public employee, as well as a volunteer for Scott Parsley, Olson's opponent. I'm happy to tell folks to consider voting for Parsley... but I wouldn't think of doing it on the job, in class or at a formal staff meeting.

I've been reviewing the professional code of ethics for school administrators, and on first reading I don't see anything that clearly says Mr. Schaefer's comments to his staff were improper. The teachers' code of ethics does include these lines about what teachers shall not do:

Not exploit the local school district or governing body to promote political candidates or partisan political activities [South Dakota Administrative Rules 24:08:03:02, "Obligations to the Public," line 5, posted by the Office of Accreditation and Teacher Quality].

That language is curiously absent from the administrators' code of ethics.

But when the boss uses company time to encourage employees to... consider a certain political candidate... well, what do you think? Anyone see parallels to Wal-Mart sending its human resources managers out to stores to tell employees that voting for Obama would be bad for the company? How much on-the-job politicking do you find acceptable?

Dakotafest Debate News Features Interesting Klumb-p of Commenters

I noticed a familiar name popping up in more than one news report on Wednesday's Dakotafest political sideshows:

For some in attendance at the debate...Johnson’s absence became the headline.

Mark Klumb, Voter from Mitchell "Well I think it's disappointing. Like Joel said, you don't get both sides of the issue" [Stacy Steinhagen, "The Debate About the Debate," KDLT.com, 2008.08.20].

(Stacy fails to point out that Mark Klumb has served as treasurer of the Davison County GOP.)
Anessa Klumb of Mitchell said she's supporting Dykstra and believes the candidates should meet.

"I think it's rather sad," she said. "If he can't talk to us, he can't talk for us" [Carson Walker, "Dykstra Uses Dakotafest to Press Johnson to Debate," AP via Rocky Mountain News, 2008.08.20].

Walker must have thought Anessa Klumb was a great source, since he used her in his report on the Herseth-Lien debate as well.
My name is Joshua Klumb. I’m Joel’s driver and assistant when we’re traveling around South Dakota.

O.K., that last quote isn't from Dakotafest coverage; its from Joel Dykstra's campaign blog ["The Long Road Ahead," 2008.07.01].

Klumb, Klumb, Klumb... quite a coinky-dink, don't you think?

Oh, wait:

Mark and his wife Becky have six children: Joshua, Anessa, Mariah, Natasha, Micah, and Jeremiah, all of which were home schooled [bio of Mark Klumb, board member, South Dakota Corn Growers Association].

Well, it's nice to know the Dykstra campaign is a family affair.

Female Chauvinist Pig Applies Double Standard to Herseth Sandlin

Wednesday's Madison Daily Leader (print only) leads with Carson Walker's AP report on the DakotaFest debate between Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandling and GOP challenger Chris Lien. Buried at the bottom, this woman-in-the-street assessment:

Anessa Klumb [picture courtesy Mitchell Wesleyan Church] of Mitchell, who attended the debate, said she's supporting Lien.

"I think Stephanie needs to focus on her family first," she said of Herseth Sandlin, who is expecting her first child [Carson Walker, "House Candidates Meet in First Debate," AP via MDL, 20008.08.20, p. 1].

Gee, Anessa, Chris Lien has a wife and daughter. Shouldn't he focus on his family first? Your (ahem) logic suggests that any married parent should stay out of politics. That would leave widows, divorcés, and (thanks to the constitutional ban on gay marriage we passed in 2006) homosexuals to serve us in Congress. (Are you and your Wesleyan friends o.k. with that, Anessa?)

Lien has the gall to reprint this chauvinism on his campaign website, implicitly endorsing that double standard. (He and the Rapid City Journal also change the headline to give Lien top billing—dare I ask whatever happened to ladies first?) I'd like to think such sexism would automatically lose him 51% of the vote... but as Anessa shows, some women have bought into their own submission.

Update 21:37:
Look at that: the Lien campaign changed their web page. This morning, the Lien campaign website reprinted the Rapid City Journal story in full, including Anessa Klumb's very distressing comment. Now the same webpage simply summarizes the article, omits any mention of Anessa's sexist defense of Lien's candidacy, and offers a link to the original RCJ article. The last modification of the page (according to the page info) was this afternoon at 13:08:27. The cached Google version of the original Lien page has also disappeared, which as far as I know only happens if someone asks Google to make it happen.

I thought maybe the Lien folks were just worried about copyright, but no, they still have full versions of other RCJ articles, plus goodies from other papers. What's the matter, Lien campaign: your supporters making you a little queasy?

Joel (and Larry) Dykstra, Call Jon Hunter...

Just ten weeks from Election Day, the Joel Dykstra campaign is still fighting for name recognition... from the press. Two days in a row, the Madison Daily Leader refers to the GOP U.S. Senate candidate as Larry Dykstra. In Wednesday's print MDL, a line at the end of the Herseth Sandlin–Lien headline article refers readers to "a story on Tim Johnson and Larry Dykstra" on page 3. In Thursday's print edition, "Larry Dykstra" appears in a front-page headline (over an AP story that correcetly identifies the candidate as Joel).

Boy, if Jon Hunter's paper really is a "glory and praise pamphlet for Republican policy,"* you'd think it would also get the Republicans' names right. Or are we just harkening back to the golden days of Larry Pressler's gentle Senatorship?

*David Kranz, "S.D. Voters Lose When Pressler, Muenster Debate Campaign Purity," Argus Leader, 1990.04.18; cited in Jon Lauck, Daschle vs. Thune: Anatomy of a High-Plains Senate Race, University of Oklahoma: Norman, OK, 2007, p. 117.

Now That's Wireless!

Wireless Internet is great, but how many power cords do you have tangling your floor and your backpack?

Actually, Intel is working on that:

Intel on Thursday showed off a wireless electric power system that analysts say could revolutionize modern life by freeing devices from transformers and wall outlets.

I want this on my desk now!
[Photo: Mauricio Freitas, Geekzone]

Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner demonstrated a Wireless Energy Resonant Link as he spoke at the California firm's annual developers forum in San Francisco.

Electricity was sent wirelessly to a lamp on stage, lighting a 60 watt bulb that uses more power than a typical laptop computer.

Most importantly, the electricity was transmitted without zapping anything or anyone that got between the sending and receiving units ["Intel Cuts Electric Cords with Wireless Power System," AFP via Yahoo, 2008.08.22].

Totally cool! And totally not ready for commercial development: Intel's Rattner speaks of tech transformations happening by the year 2050... just in time to power the robot legs I'll need when I'm 80! Yahoo!

Read more on Intel's wireless power system:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Schools Can't Sue, Part 2...

I'm still thinking about Judge Wilbur's ruling that schools don't have legal standing to sue the state. Perusing state law, I find SDCL 13-15-1:

School district contracts with state agencies and subdivisions authorized. A school district is hereby authorized to enter into contracts and agreements with the state, its agencies and institutions and any political subdivisions for educational purposes and services.

So school districts are sufficiently distinct from the Legislature that they can enter into legal agreements with the state. Does Judge Wilbur's ruling mean that schools have no legal recourse if the state fails to carry out the obligations of those agreements?

If School Districts Can't Sue, Who Can?

Judge Lori Wilbur says school districts do not have legal standing to sue the state over insufficient funding. They can't be party to the funding lawsuit, can't contribute money to support it.

The judge accepts the argument that school districts are creatures of the legislature and thus would be suing themselves if allowed to continue as parties to the lawsuit.

I'm still scratching my head. School boards are elected separately from the Legislature, in non-partisan elections. They represent unique jurisdictions whose boundaries are distinct from legislative district boundaries. They are as external to the legislative budgeting process as you, me, and PP. Their operations are directly affected and limited by the Legislature's funding decisions.

If school districts don't have standing to sue the state over insufficient funding, who does? (And where do they sign up to join the lawsuit?)

Winfred Political Scientist Weighs in on Herseth-Lien Debate, Russia

PP points me toward my neighbor making the paper!

We're always excited when Lake County folks make the papers: Winfred's top political scientist Neal McIntyre attended yesterday's DakotaFest debate between Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and GOP challenger Chris Lien and weighed in with this assessment:

The hour-long debate found the candidates alternating between subtle agreements to sharp divisions on topics ranging from energy prices to overseas conflict, leaving one audience member unable to determine a winner.

“They approached it somewhat differently and said somewhat the same things,” said Neal McIntyre of Winfred. “I guess I would call it a draw.” [Austin Kaus, "Energy Problems Among Items of Contention in Debate," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2008.08.21].

McIntyre's "draw" call has already swelled the hearts (with Lien's campaign coffers sure to follow) of PP and his conservative commenters:

If Lien debated Herseth to a standstill the first time, imagine how he'll be after he has 3 elections under his belt? [Pat Powers, "Mitchell Daily Republic: Congressional Debate..... a Draw," SD War College, 2008.08.21]

I have to admit, hearing my Democratic Congresswoman take the same positions as the Republican challenger on Hyperion (she says the refinery is a good idea) and nationalized health care (she's against it—Steph! Go talk to Dennis!) doesn't do much for my bleeding liberal heart.

Readers, feel free to debate the impact of debates (and draws) on the campaign. I want to take a moment to note that Neal McIntyre is no random man in the street. Perhaps the smartest man in Winfred, Neal is a well-read observer of politics and history. As the South Ossetia conflict broke out, he and I had an interesting conversation on foreign policy. Neal held that the United States needed to send military forces to Georgia to draw a line in the sand (or in this case, mountains) against resurgent Russian expansionism.

"Yeah, us and what army?" I asked, pointing to our troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Neal didn't sound worried, saying that a stand against the Russians required divisions different from the infantry we're using elsewhere. (I was keeping one eye on Madville Times, Jr., during this conversation, so Neal, feel free to straighten me out here!) Neal also said we couldn't afford not to stand against the Russians. It's the Great Game of the 1800's all over again, he said. In this century, though, the players will be the U.S., Japan, and India against Russia, China, and the Arab countries.

Uff da! Count on those Winfred folks to ask the hard geopolitical questions!