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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Teaching in South Dakota: Financial Suicide for Young Grads

I happened upon this job placement data from Dakota State University's Career Services office—you know, the folks who help make sure we don't just sit around and think big thoughts after we get our degrees. Among the numbers of note for the 2008 grads DSU was able to track down:
  • We kept 80% of them in South Dakota, at least for the first year. Not a bad return on investment.
  • Average entry salary for all 2008 grads: $33,189. Not bad: by my calculations from state wage data, that puts these fresh faces just above the 25th percentile for South Dakota wages, not to mention making a bigger first-year paycheck than I've ever received from a single South Dakota job. (50th percentile is $38,406—keep working up the ladder, kids!)
  • The 125 four-year degree holders who chose not to become teachers averaged $35,205 for their first annual salary.
  • The 40 noble souls who did become teachers averaged $31,642. Three-quarters stayed in state (thank you!) and averaged $24,874. One quarter jumped the border and averaged $31,642.
  • The 37 who took the associates degree route (respiratory care, health IT, network admin programs) all stayed in state (thank you!) and averaged $30,532.
Consider: a student who chooses a DSU associates program can make almost $6000 more in year one of work than a student who decides to teach in South Dakota will earn in year one.

Or look at it this way: suppose you and a friend just started at DSU this year. You both are taking student loans of $4000 a year. You take the associates route, finish in 2011 with $8000 in student debt, go straight to work. Your friend takes the bachelor of education route, finishes in 2013 with $16,000 in student debt, goes straight to work. Ignore possible raises, inflation, side jobs, layoffs, etc. All things being equal, by summer 2014, you will have earned $91,596. Your teacher friend will have earned $24,874. Subtract your student debts, and you are $83,596 to the good. Your friend is $8,874 to the good. Assume a really frugal $10,000 a year in living expenses: you're ready to walk into the bank and drop a 20% down payment on a nice house. Your friend has bupkis.

But don't worry, aspiring educators: you can still marry rich.

Math Update 17:40 CDT: If you tinker the state's wage figures, you may come up with different averages and percentile breaks for the statewide workforce. I took straight averages of the given percentile figures; I did not weight my averages based on the number of workers in each occupation. Thus, my percentile figures are skewed high by the handfuls of really high-paying jobs, like doctors, psychiatrists, and advertising managers. Feel free to recalculate your own numbers (spreadsheets are such fun!)

Pass ACESA III: A Skeptic's Question -- Market Solving Already?

[Part 3 of a series based on my conversation with the gents from Repower South Dakota and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.]

Don't think I had nothing but softballs for Matt McGovern and his Repower SD crew. It occurred to me that we're already seeing movement toward one of the major goals of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the scaling-back of heavy-carbon coal power. The Big Stone II project is dead, Warren Buffet is getting out of coal, industry leaders like Otter Tail are recognizing that they can build wind more quickly for less cost ($2.3 million per megawatt of installed wind power versus the projected $2.8 million per megawatt projected for Big Stone II).

So my question: are we already seeing enough movement toward clean energy? Do we need ACESA or any other federal mandates to make a low-carbon future happen?

Now let me note, the folks backing ACESA, Matt McGovern included, are fans of the market, just like most of us. ACESA is a market-based solution. Its cap-and-trade components ask companies to pay a fair price, determined on the open market, for the carbon they emit. The incentives create opportunities for lots of entrepreneurs to invent, innnovate, and make a profit. The alternative to market-based ACESA is top-down regulation. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA can consider regulating carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. The EPA could lay down hard CO2 rules tomorrow and start levying fines. But the EPA has chosen thus far to defer to Congress (what ever happened to all that Obama-power-grab malarkey, anyway?).

Markets are great, but they aren't perfect. Markets can produce some rotten results, like strip mining, SUVs, and Lady Gaga. We've heard good arguments for getting off foreign oil since the 1960s, but market forces—e.g., usually cheap oil—have kept us from investing in energy independence. Sometimes we need to intervene with the right incentives to steer the market toward more sustainable goals, like energy sources that won't heat up the planet and run out a century from now.

Just as we shouldn't take this cool summer as a refutation of global warming, we shouldn't take the current economic downturn as refutation of the need for serious action on carbon emissions. Sure, energy use is down and utilities are scaling back their plans to expand their coal-power capacity. But long-term, energy demand will almost surely rise, as it has historically, almost without exception. We thus need to get more momentum behind clean energy sources now, while we have some wiggle room.

McGovern also argues that ACESA is a good response to the current high unemployment. Remember, even that optimist Ben Bernanke says recovery of jobs will lag behind recovery of the economy "for some time." People need work, and ACESA can help.

Now wait a minute, say my astute readers, even if passed, ACESA doesn't kick in until 2012. We've got to wait three years for those green jobs?

Ah, but consider: if we pass ACESA now, the utilities will know it's coming. Any coal plant like Big Stone II started now wouldn't be operational until after 2012, so the utilities would already be building in compliant technology. Utilities would start hiring now to build the technology they need to comply in 2012. Inventors and investors would see 2012 coming and start looking for ways to invest their brain power and capital to take advantage of the new energy market. Even enacted in 2012, ACESA can serve as a jobs booster and overall economic stimulus right now, right when we need it. And dollar-for-dollar, investment in clean energy will produce lots more jobs—like two to three times more jobs—than investment in fossil fuels.

And as Matt McGovern emphasizes every chance he gets, ACESA would create 5000 clean-energy jobs in South Dakota alone, jobs that would be darned hard to outsource (try hauling wind turbines across the ocean). 5000 new jobs: according to current South Dakota Department of Labor stats, that would put to work every unemployed person in 48 of South Dakota's 66 counties. Given that we've nearly drained our state unemployment fund, I don't think we'd mind a speedier solution than just sitting back and waiting for the market to work.

This economic lull is the perfect time to pass ACESA. We can lock in some alternative energy gains before the economy recovers and we slide into our lazy cheap-fossil-fuel habits again. We can get Americans back to work in good jobs that will last. We won't see those benefits if we wait for the market to solve on its own.

Domestic Abuse and Health Insurance: Almost a Retraction

Three weeks ago, I reported a story making the rounds that South Dakota is one of nine states that allows health insurance companies to reject applications from victims of domestic abuse. "South Dakota women," I warned, "if your husband beats you, he may render you uninsurable."

Pat Powers, a former Pierre functionary in the state Division of Insurance, took expection to this contention, saying that even if there is no statute explicitly forbidding insurance companies from making such a heinous exclusion, he had never seen a single instance of an insurance company being that big of a jerk in South Dakota.

ThePostSD.com's Any Dunkle gets the same encouraging story from Division of Insurance assistant director Randy Moses:

True, Moses said, there is no law in South Dakota that expressly prohibits a company from denying coverage to abused women in the individual market. (State and federal government do not allow such a policy in the group coverage market.)

However, the reality is, any insurance company doing business in South Dakota must first gain state approval for any policy, including the actual language in its policies.

“No insurance company is going to ask (to make abuse a pre-existing condition), nor have I ever seen one that asks about it,” said Moses. “And, South Dakota is not going to approve such a policy exclusion” [Amy Dunkle, "The Huffington Post Misinterprets SD Insurance Regulations," ThePostSD.com, 2009.09.29]

Thank goodness such evil is not being done in our name. However, I'm not quite ready to say the original story was wrong. Pandagon and the SEIU are technically correct in their interpretation of existing South Dakota policy: there is none prohibiting an insurance company from seeking to exclude women who are victims of domestic abuse. Such women are protected by the good intentions of the good people we have working in Pierre, but not by a specific law.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Census Counting Guns? No.

"Bob" from Aberdeen, SD, just called in to NPR's Talk of the Nation to contribute to a conversation about suspicion and animosity toward the U.S. Census. Bob complains that the 2000 Census form asked him how many guns he owns and what rooms he keeps them in. Bob says he's no gun nut, but he feels such questions are inappropriate.

Such questions on the Census form are also imaginary. The program guest says he can't recall seeing any such question on the Census long form. Check for yourself: I search the 2000 long form and find neither gun, weapon, nor firearm. Ditto the individual Census report. Ditto the 1990 form. And ditto the 2010 form.

I may have missed something, and I'm open to verifiable information to the contrary.

And don't forget: there is not one documented instance of anyone being fined for declining to respond to the Census... and declining to respond will do you and your community more harm than good.

More Pork for Madison: Rail Depot Gets Stimulus Money

Hooray for the stimulus! That's the cheer we should hear from all the Republicans who work at Madison's old railroad depot. The City of Madison has received a $158,700 handout from the federal stimulus program, via the South Dakota Department of Transportation, to fix up the 104-year-old building on South Egan Avenue.

Lake County Republican Party chair Julie Gross will surely have good things to say about all this federal money coming to refurbish her Chamber of Commerce office. Expect similar positive words from LAIC director Dwaine Chapel, who will surely tell his Republican friend Russell Olson that the federal stimulus program is much more blessing than curse: after all, just look at those nice new planters Uncle Sam is buying us!

Side note: the money is coming from the Department of Transportation. yet the depot serves no transportation function. How's that work?

Update 14:55 CDT: Ah, the depot is also a transportation museum. Of course. (But what happened to the Coburn Amendment that Senator Thune voted for?)

If you're interested, here's how we plan to spend Uncle Sam's largesse (from last night's city agenda packet—click image to enlarge):
The $5,000 the city is kicking in of its own money evidently will go to pay for another pretty sign.

Pass ACESA II: The New China Syndrome

[Part 2 of a series based on my conversation with the gents from Repower South Dakota and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.]

In previous conversations about the American Clean Energy and Security Act, I've heard some people suggest that we'd be silly to hamstring our economy with more environmental regulations while China and our other global competitors chug along with their old polluting energy sources. There's debate about whether ACESA would hamstring our economy (Paul Krugman doesn't think so), but I posed the global question to my friends at RSD and ELPC: Can we afford to impose regulations like ACESA on ourselves in a global market where China, India, and other countries can keep pumping out CO2?

The simple answer: we can't afford not to.

ACESA creates incentives, through carbon cap-and-trade and other policies, to spur invention and innovation in energy creation and energy conservation.

China may wait for the U.S. and other developed countries to act on carbon emissions, but it won't wait to make a buck and take the lead in high-tech clean energy manufacturing. China is investing in solar and building it cheaper than the U.S.; China already makes six times more solar cells than we do. China is becoming a leader on clean-coal technology. The Chinese don't need climate-change arguments to convince them to push for alternative energy. The Chinese see alternative energy technology as a solution to the problems of a bigger population, much worse pollution (including 750,000 preventable deaths each year due to air pollution alone), and fewer natural resources than the U.S. They also see dollar signs:

Moreover, Beijing – just like US President Barack Obama – sees renewable energy as an economic boon. Building out a new global energy industry over the next half century will generate more business than any other sector, Chinese officials predict, and they want a hefty chunk of that business. “This gives us an opportunity to develop a new area for a new industry” says Professor Li [Junfeng, deputy head of energy research at China’s top planning agency]. “It’s good for our long-term development.”

...“China sees [green technology] as an enormous market that is not claimed or controlled by any one nation, and there is an opportunity for them to do it,” says [China Greentech Initiative's Ellen] Carberry. “The combination of urgency; the enormous needs; a focused, systematic planned government; an army of engineers; and access to capital may define China as the platform for the green- technology industry globally” [Peter Ford, "China's Green Leap Forward," Christian Science Monitor, 2009.08.10].

New energy technology is where we will find the jobs and economic growth of the 21st century. The country that takes the lead in producing and using energy more cleanly and efficiently will be the next generation superpower. We do not want to let a tech gap develop between us and China. Remember the S in ACESA: Security. We don't have energy security now with 30% of our crude oil coming from OPEC. We won't have energy security if our solar panels and other low-carbon energy tech are stamped "Made in China."

Remember also that, in a broader analysis, America's reliance on imports is part of why the economy went to heck in a handbag last year. For several years America has made less and imported more; countries like China and Germany consumed less and exported more. China, Germany, et al. thus had growing pots of money saved up in the bank. Those savings became relatively cheap sources of investment capital for riskier and riskier Wall Street games... and those of you with stock portfolios and IRAs know how that turned out. At their meeting in Pittsburgh last week, the G20 leaders talked about exactly that problem and agreed the U.S. needs to consume less and produce more to lower its trade deficit, while other countries need to rely less on exports and buy more stuff.

If we sit back and let China take the lead in building solar panels and other new energy tech, we're asking for more of the same problem that put us in our economic hole. As Constant Conservative's Andrew Tople might say, if you're in a hole, step 1 is to stop digging... and pass ACESA!

China is perfectly relevant to a discussion of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. But far from a reason to oppose ACESA, China is exactly why we should pass ACESA. If you like being #2, go ahead, block ACESA. Let China take the lead. Leave America prone to further economic meltdowns. But if you prefer the top of the heap (and I certainly do), then keep America strong by supporting ACESA.

August Unemployment: Lake County Nearly Double Brookings

Elisa beat me to the local unemployment numbers on Friday. According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, Lake County's jobless rate crept back up a couple ticks from 6.1% in Jult to 6.3% in August. The change came not from loss of jobs—there were 6,365 folks at work both months. The slippage came with a whole ten more people joining our workforce. (Hang in there, you ten: something will come up!)

Meanwhile, up the road, Brookings County continues to look like Shangri-La. In August, 150 people joined the Brookings workforce, and Brookings managed to create 160 jobs, thus shaving one more tick off their enviable unemplyment rate, to 3.5% in August.

Now don't get too big a head, my Brookings friends: there are a whole 14 counties who kept their unemployment below 3% in August (the champs: Stanley County at 2.1%). And fellow Madisonites, don't despair: there are still eleven counties with worse unemployment rates than ours (Dewey, Buffalo, Shannon, Todd, and Ziebach are all in double digits... and I'm thinking the state is underestimating the figures for the reservations).

But I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what Brookings is doing that Lake can't.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dusty Johnson, the Public Interest... and a Bigger PUC?

By the way, Public Utilities Commission Dusty Johnson is holding a remarkable public conversation right here in the Madville Times comments section. He and Kelly Fuller from Plains Justice* are having a civil and intelligent discussion about differences between our PUC and similar bodies in other states. The discussion touches on administrative law judges, consensus decision-making, and even the proper size of the PUC—Fuller contends with so many telecom projects and ever bigger energy projects on the way, we may need to expand the commission.

If you'd like to join in, further comments are welcome on that post.

*Update: Kelly Fuller offers a useful note below. She happens to work for Plains Justice, just as I happen to work for Dakota State University (and by extension, for you, the good people of South Dakota!). But those professional associations do not mean that our personal views are the views of the folks we work for... just in case anyone was unclear on that.

Julie & Julia: Manhood, Blogging, and the Modern Psyche

Some grandparental babysitting allowed us a date night last night. We saw Julie & Julia, which has been lingering unloved at Madison's movie house for a week and a half. This is not because it is an unlovable movie. But a conversation with cinema management noted that in general, the local movie audience is the junior high kids. Nearly every other demographic in Madison chooses the bar as its primary out-of-the-house entertainment. And we know how that turns out. Sigh.

No 3300-word review this time (the film is good, but it's not Star Trek ;-) ). But I do want to join Dr. Blanchard and Mr. Rosenthal in praising Julie & Julia. Per the title, it is really two films: one great movie (Julia) with a whole 'nother passable movie (Julie) woven into it.

The great movie is the story of Julia Child and her husband Paul. It is blissful filmmaking, with as much joie de vivre as joie de cuisine. We see two rich characters, Julia and Paul, utterly self-assured and utterly in love. Their setbacks and disappointments never become fodder for emotional crises or meltdowns or marital spats... yet we feel their struggles and occasional sadness all the more poignantly in the shared resolve and unflagging commitment to each other with which Julia and Paul face them.

Much has been and should be said about Meryl Streep's incarnation of Julia Child. As much can be said about Stanley Tucci's great performance as Paul Child. Tucci takes a role that could so easily be phoned in—"Meryl's got the big role; no one's paying attention to anything else on screen"—and inhabits the man and the moment as studiously and confidently as his co-star. Paul Child served his country in the OSS in China during World War II, only to face McCarthyite questioning of his patriotism (and his sexuality) and the concomitant decline of his career. In the midst of such setbacks, Tucci shows a man who maintains his sense of self-worth and his unwavering and very open devotion to a wife whose ambitions and expansive character might have overwhelmed a lesser man. In his portrayal of Paul Child, Tucci offers a primer in manhood, not to mention fine acting.

I vote Oscar for Streep... but only on the condition of an Oscar for Tucci.

The passable movie was the story of Julie, the modern girl who finds meaning and her fifteen minutes of fame by cooking and blogging her way through Julia Child's recipes. I found this strand of the film tolerable, even better than some of the reviews I'd read suggested, until director Nora Ephron gave us the little marital spat where Julie's hubby got sick of Julie's self-absorption (not to mention having to wait so long to eat dinner) and went and slept in his office for a whole night. At that moment, their story seemed so... small.

The Julie strand can't help but pale next to the Julia strand. Julia and Paul, after successful and adventurous careers in espionage, face down sexism and McCarthyism. Julie's public service job is portrayed as an exercise in powerlessness from which she craves escape. Julia bangs out great bulky book drafts with typewriter and carbon paper and struggles with a lazy co-author, skeptical publishers, and the sheer bulk of recipes she wants to share for eight years before her book hits the public eye. Julia taps out daily thoughts, following the template of a book already written, and hits "Publish" to reach the masses effortlessly. Julia and Paul make Julie and her husband (name already forgotten), Julie's blogging (a "gimmick," says NYT's A.O. Scott), and her emotional journey seem trivial.

(Blogging as trivial exercise in narcissism—should I be nervous? ;-) )

Some reviewers have faulted Ephron for trying to shoehorn these two uneven stories into one film... but maybe that was Ephron's intention. Perhaps she wanted that glaring imbalance to shine through. Perhaps we can read Julie & Julia from a "Greatest Generation" perspective. Maybe our grandparents lived bigger lives. They could be sexy without stripping off their shirts (compare the scene where Paul sweeps Julia away for a postprandial coupling with Julie and hubby trundling through the apartment for sex: no skin in the former, but Julie is obligatorily stripped to impractically skimpy bra and panties for public viewing). We complicate our modern lives with unnecessary internal conflict and whining (Paul never whines) when we could be living and loving on a grander scale.

I could quibble with the title—why on earth does the lesser character get top billing?—but even there, I can see intention by the director to highlight and critique our modern generation's egocentrism.

Julie & Julia is a good, conversation-worthy film, deftly capturing and contrasting two generations of Americans. Don't let the unbalanced strands fool you: paralleling the lives of Julia and Paul Child with the lives of two modern somewhat-counterparts does not degrade the greater story. Consider the Julie story a soft undertone, a counterpoint to the overarching symphony that is Julia's life.

Tangential Addendum 23:02 CDT: At age 85, Judith Jones, the editor at Knopf who gave Julia Child's book its big break and its title, is still editing. Three years ago, she also got into the cattle business. She now raises a herd of 20 cattle near her summer home in Vermont. Her beef is all grass-fed, which has a flavor, she says, she hadn't experienced since her 20s, in Paris. Her stepdaughter and partner in small-scale ranching, Bronwyn Dunne, sees the importance of growing food locally:

“Supporting a local economy is beneficial to everybody,” she said. It also resonates beyond the quaint trendiness of the farmers’ market: “It may be the future of food security in the world” [Christine Muhlke, "Raising Steaks," New York Times, 2009.09.24].

Tea Party Mindset: Paranoia, Apocalypse, and Complete Lack of Evidentiary Skills

I hate to even link to this post, since the writer is coming unhinged, but when a comment leads to an e-mail exchange like this, it's worth the press.

Lori Stacey of Sioux Falls is an exemplar of the McCarthyite Tea Party movement. Conspiracy theories, inability to use evidence, apocalyptic/messianic delusions—everything you need to guarantee no effective political action. But she at least recognizes, as I do, that supporting George W. Bush in 2000 was a bad idea.

Stacey wrote a post for the faux-local Examiner.com about the "real" numbers at the Glenn Beck party in Washington, DC, on September 12. She claims that numerous photos and sources prove that the gathering was "the largest protest in US history."

I couldn't resist commenting. I said that a profound claim like "largest protest in US history" required some affirmative proof. I noted that her post lacked any links or reliable sources. The only specific source Stacey named was Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, who as a speaker at the rally probably isn't the first person we should turn to for an objective crowd estimate. (Blackburn has also shown slick hypocrisy and a weak grasp of facts previously.) I also noted that the photo her commenter "woot" cited appeared to be the one Bob Schwartz and others showed early on was a ruse, a photo lifted from a much earlier and larger Washington protest.

She hasn't published my comment (Stacey appears to follow a "supporters only" comment policy—living in an echo chamber is another common chracteristic of the Tea Party paranoiacs). She did, however, grace me with an e-mail reply:


There are 100's of photos online that show parts of the crowd but the best picture is from a vantage point of the balcony of the Capitol Building and is under exclusive rights by photographer Michael A. Beck and FreedomWorks.org which was the main sponsor of the event which would be the best vantage point for what you are looking for.

I can't just publish any photo I want to without permission. The Examiner is rightly very strict on this point. Here is a link to a blogger that claims to have gotten permission to publish this particular photo. You can click on the image and enlarge it. Since the image is now being used in a copyrighted poster sold by Freedom Works there is no way I am publishing it on my webpage. http://iowntheworld.com/blog/?p=6500

I referenced Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn being told that it was estimated to be 1.5 million. If you are really after the proof, then I would suggest contacting her office and finding out her source. There are many other sources that have likewise estimated between 1.5 and 2 million so provide me with proof that there wasn't.

MLK's speech was less than a million by reported estimates. Too bad there are not more people like him today. I stand by my story.

Lori Stacey
Sioux Falls Conservative Examiner [e-mail, 2009.09.27]

My reply:

Dear Lori,

Thank you for taking time to reply to my comment. Alas, I find your answers evasive and unsatisfactory. The claim of copyright fear is specious. You could easily provide links in your blog post to the sources that own the original photos. The site you provide in the e-mail claims association with an anonymous congressperson? It just gets more suspicious. The photo provides no quantification, no context. The iowntheworld blog appears no more credible or unbiased than you or I.

Congresswoman Blackburn is far from an independent source. I would not take a crowd count from either a Republican or a Democratic Congressperson as gospel. Rep. Blackburn "mentioned in her speech" the million-plus figure... hmm... not exactly a head count.

Now on burden of proof, you are the one making the affirmative claim ("largest protest in America ever!"). You have the burden to prove such an audacious claim. It is not the duty of others to provide negative proof that any given words coming from your mouth are false.

However, I enjoy going above and beyond the call of duty. Let's turn to Politifact.com, which cites four sources, including Fox News, that put 9/12 attendance in the tens of thousands, maybe 60K-75K. The Hill reports "tens of thousands" as well, with 30,000 marchers registered online. That's no small potatoes, plenty to brag about... but still well shy of the claim "largest protest in America ever."



I love citizen journalism. I hope you'll keep writing. But when you make remarkable claims about historic protest numbers, I hope you'll ever more solid evidence than the wishful thinking and cheerleading of protest leaders.

You and I have the same goal, to save America one good argument at a time. I have plenty of my own biases, but if we are to do any good, we citizen media need to do what we can to back our views with facts. Keep at it!

Cory Allen Heidelberger -- Madville Times [e-mail, 2009.09.27]

And then the wheels come off.


Even in your own links, the article sites many different sources ranging up to 2 million. So you only chose to mention the lower figures in your reply and a very different photo. I knew about the organizing of the event before FreedomWorks, before Glenn Beck. It was originally a completely grassroots effort by other organizations and was supposed to be for the entire weekend and had 900,000 confirmed to attend months ago. That is the back story that I knew about personally along with many that actually attended and know how far the crowd stretched and how many buses that were chartered from many states by private citizens in grassroots efforts. A picture does not always serve as the only evidence or testimony. Sometimes pictures don't do a story the accurate justice.

I usually write about WAY MORE controversial information like the truth about what is REALLY happening to our country and the world BEHIND THE SCENES. Instead of this debating, the people should be uniting because we are ALL in big trouble. It does not matter one bit if it was Obama or McCain, the one's that pull the strings are behind both major parties and We The People in this world are all in for a very rough ride.

1. The dollar will be replaced by an IMF World Currency.
2. Bush signed documents in March of 2005 to merge the US with Canada and Mexico BY 2010, they will pretend that is an all of a sudden solution when our economy crashes very soon.
3. 9/11 was a complete fraud and vehicle to terrorize our own citizens into giving up our freedoms in the name of security.
4. FEMA is not your friend!
5. As one human being to another, DON'T TAKE ANY VACCINE.

I am no dummy, I have done exhaustive research for years. Unfortunately, if we all don't come together, we will all lose our country and our freedoms. A revolution, a civil war or a one world government for which China is the model. Those will be our choices if more Americans don't get off their couches and start doing some real research and open their eyes.

I spend most of my time writing in other forums and just started with the Examiner. I used to do my own internet tv shows talking about all of the controversial subjects with all the proof in the world to back it up. Some people sadly just don't know the truth. Others, you can show them all the proof and they choose to keep their head in the sand. And lastly some have had their entire lives and views changed by finally seeing the truth. The last group will end up hopefully saving our country!

Time will tell, the truth will come about for all to see. I warn people that are open to listen and don't waste precious time on one's that won't anymore.

Good day,

Lori [e-mail, 2009.09.27]

Funny that after years of exhaustive research, she's decided to simply ignore opposition rather than provide some evidence. Oh well, as she said, it's exhaustive research. She's tired.

But never give up, never surrender:

Dear Lori,

Unfortunately, you still have failed to offer any justification for the higher crowd estimates. The sources claiming million-plus crowds are all promoters of the demonstration. The sources claiming thousands (again, thousands, a remarkable number, requiring no exaggeration) are all outside observers with little to no stake in inflating the estimate.

You can choose to live in your own fantasy world (America and merging with Canada and Mexico? again, where's the proof?) and ignore those who not only listen but dispute your baseless claims, or you can choose to live in reality. You will be much more effective as a voice for change when you choose reality.

(By the way, I see you haven't published my comment. Could you send me a copy of the text I wrote? Thank you.)


Cory Allen Heidelberger -- Madville Times [e-mail, 2009.09.28]

Oh well. Another fruitless conversation before breakfast. But on we go! Be sure to get your flu shots!

Update 16:15 CDT: This is why I don't do conspiracy theories. They just let to endless silliness. Ms. Stacey responds:


Your comment WAS published and was not deleted until very late last night. It was RUDE and I did not have to keep it published all day or respond to it.

Many State Legislatures have passed bills to try to STOP the North American Union. It is a fantasy??? Ever wonder why the Federal Government won't build a border fence even after appropriating funds to build it?

This is all old news. Wake Up America!!!


I have years of proof but no time for someone that chooses to remain in their own world.

Good luck to you and God Bless,

Lori [e-mail, 2009.09.28]

Vexed, I dash off a quick note before class:

Dear Lori,

"I have years of proof but no time..."

Ah, the last refuge of those who have no proof. You sound just like Senator McCarthy. Such disregard for truth poses a much greater threat to America than any of the fantasies you have concocted.


Cory Allen Heidelberger [e-mail 2009.09.28]

Incensed, Ms. Stacey answers:

You obviously did not even LOOK at the video that I sent. You won't look at any proof as I suspected!!! So there is no reason to refer you to hundreds of my links, documents, videos, etc.

End of discussion.

Lori [e-mail, 2009.09.28]


Dear Lori,

Actually, I have taken the time to watch it. I could put together a similar video... but would you believe it? Who's the source?

Ah. Peter Joseph. Zeitgeist. Roundly discredited:

[Jane Chapman, Issues in Contemporary Documentary, in Google Books]

By the way, Tim Callahan writes that Joseph opens the film you cite with a denial of the existence of Jesus. If you plan to make Joseph a central part of your arguments, you might want to prepare a response on how you aren't also advocating atheism or nature worship. Folks around here tend to respond negatively to associations with such concepts.

Dr. Jane Chapman, who knows more about film-making than either of us, calls Zeitgeist a "typical conspiracy movie" that makes "unethical use of content and of records."

In short, the video you sent me is both unethical and incorrect.

There are plenty of real problems in the world to solve: silly lockdown policies at Tea High School, South Dakota's looming budget shortfall, corporate farming, pollution, etc. Feel free to join me in speaking out about such problems, problems that matter to a majority of our fellow South Dakotans. Your passion directed toward real, practical problems would be welcome. It might even make a difference... unlike adherence to unprovable, imaginary conspiracies.

Cory Allen Heidelberger [e-mail, 2009.09.28]

And so on, ad nauseum....

Update 2009.09.29:
More silliness ensues:


You are obviously the problem. Lou Dobbs is not credible? Security and Prosperity Partnership (spp.gov) was not real? The Conservative Caucus is not credible? Many states' legislatures voted to block something that doesn't exist??? The documents on the Council on Foreign Relations where most is plotted for everyone to see, is not real? My entire political party, the Constitution Party is not credible? Congressman Tom Tancredo, Marcy Kaptur, Virgil Goode, Ron Paul have all been fighting something that does not exist for years? Not to mention Barry Goldwater, the John Birch Society and many other people and organizations with all the proof in the world for over 50 years?

A library of info from yet another source.

I gave you a chance but you are beyond hope and are just an attack dog. Those are the tactics of people that don't want to ever wake up and smell the coffee. You will be no hope in saving our nation until the reality hits you right in the face. Until then, you are part of the problem. This is my last reply.

Lori [Stacey, e-mail, 2009.09.28]

Anyone want to lay odds on that last sentence?

Dear Lori,

"Attack dog"? If that is the label you use for everyone who has the gall to refute your arguments, couldn't I apply the same label to you?

"Many states' legislatures voted to block something that doesn't exist??? The documents on the Council on Foreign Relations where most is plotted for everyone to see, is not real? My entire political party, the Constitution Party is not credible? Congressman Tom Tancredo, Marcy Kaptur, Virgil Goode, Ron Paul have all been fighting something that does not exist for years?"

Do you realize how illogical those statements are? The existence of people who believe X does not prove the existence of X. The existence of the Council on Foreign Relations does not prove the existence of the conspiracies you ascribe to X and more than the existence of the Catholic Church proves the existence of the DaVinci Code.

Woof woof.

CAH [e-mail, 2009.09.29]

So remember, everyone, I'm just a problematic attack dog. Conspiracy theorists like Lori Stacey believe 9/11 and Jesus are hoaxes. Choose your partners, do-see-do!

Pass ACESA I: Cap and Trade Works

[On Thursday, September 24, I had an enjoyable conversation with Matthew McGovern and Rick Hauffe from Repower South Dakota and Matt McLarty from the Environmental Law & Policy Center. This post is Part 1 of a series based on that interview.]

Regular readers know that, after some doubts, I've come down in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454—ACESA). The bill is frequently referred to, usually by opponents, as the "cap-and-trade" bill. ACESA covers much more than that single issue, such as energy efficiency, alternative energy, and smart grid technology.

But cap and trade is a big part of the bill, and it's worth looking at.

Cap and trade is the creation of a market mechanism to limit carbon emissions and impose a cost to capture the externalities those emissions create. Right now, I can fire up a coal plant and emit all the carbon I want, without paying for the harms that carbon causes (like fewer Pacific island tourist destinations, dead people, and sickly squid and other marine life, not to mention "storms, drought, mass migration, and pandemics" that might trigger terrorism and armed conflict.). Cap and trade creates a system where I either pay for the damage my carbon emissions are doing or invest in better technology that reduces my emissions and maybe even makes me money on the side as I sell my unused quota of carbon allowances to other companies that can't make reductions as easily as I can.

(Nobel laureate Paul Krugman gives an Econ 101 explanation of how cap-and-trade works and how Glenn Beck gets it wrong.)

Cap and trade may sound familiar: as noted here previously, the United States has done it before. Cap and trade is the policy we used to successfully eliminate acid rain. The Clean Air Act of 1990 created a cap and trade system for sulfur dioxide emissions, one of the main causes of acid rain. The program achieved 100% compliance at 20–30% of the projected cost in the 1990s.

The 1990s—you remember that decade, right? Low unemployment, economic boom, a federal budget surplus. What happened to the million of jobs the National Association of Manufacturers said sulfur dioxide cap and trade would kill? The job losses never happened. Industry always cries wolf over enviromental regulations, and time and time again, those self-interested predictions of economic ruin never come true.

As policy gravy, according to Matt McGovern of Repower South Dakota, the EPA calculates that the 1990 Clean Air Act was also a cost-effective public health measure: for every dollar spent, the United States has enjoyed $40 of public health benefits in the form of lower health care costs and fewer missed workdays. I'll leave it to more actuarial heads to calculate the cost-benefit ratio of not having to move a quarter of the world's population to higher ground—think Hurricane Katrina times a thousand.

The United States has used cap and trade before to reduce acid rain and improve public health. We can use it again to reduce carbon emissions and promote innovation in clean energy technology.

[Stay tuned for more on ACESA this week on the Madville Times!]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

From the Comments: Dusty Johnson Lets Me (and Bloggers) Have It

South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson wins promotion from the comments section with this stern chastisement of my political hyperbole. In my Thursday commentary on the PUC's decision to compel TransCanada to give Dakota Rural Action more information on its Keystone XL pipeline plans, I made the following offhanded comment:

Dang—either Dusty Johnson is running for higher office next year, or the PUC is realizing we South Dakotans really do need to make stronger demands of TransCanada to protect our natural resources from the short-term thinking of Big Oil.

Commissioner Johnson checks in to register his displeasure, not so much at the fact that I give him heck even when the PUC does something I like (and he would be entitled to that complaint as well), but that I would accuse him of putting political games above the law:


I'm more than a little disappointed you insinuate my votes on legal matters are based on political calculation, rather than on what the law says.

I haven't given you an reason to think so little of me, you know. We've had an open and honest exchange of ideas when we've spoken. I know it's fun to play politics, but I expected more of you.

The truth is that the PUC has never (when I've been around) ruled that information on decommissioning was inadmissable or wasn't subject to discovery. We've taken that view with Keystone, with windfarms, with natural gas power plants, and with everything else. Additionally, whether or not information is subject to discovery is a technical legal issue. I know it's more fun for bloggers and political operatives to presume that politics is the big engine that powers all decisions made by anyone, anywhere, but that isn't the case.

When the law is on DRA's side (and it was most of the time on Tuesday), they'll win. When it isn't, they'll lose. Pretty simple, actually.

- Dusty Johnson [2009.09.26]

Commissioner Johnson makes a perfectly sensible complaint. He says the same thing that I've said, essentially, about my positions and proposals on the Lake Herman Sanitary District board: that my decisions are strictly in accord with the law and good public policy. I get owly when folks (including my fellow board member Larry Dirks) have imputed selfish motives to my public policy-making actions; Commissioner Johnson's owliness is justified (and he doesn't make a ruckus in the library to do it).

This scolding reminds me of things I've said about Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. I've not been kind to her this summer. I've criticized her for votes that look like they are more in the interest of campaign donors than the general public. She has elsewhere called such accusations "ridiculous."

Are we bloggers too cynical? Are we too quick to ascribe the worst intentions to our elected officials? Are we just playing word games, taking digs to stir controversy where good public servants are just doing their jobs? I welcome further discussion....

By the way, you can get the straight poop on South Dakota energy policy from Commissioner Johnson Tuesday in Mount Blogmore's first ever live chat.

False Alarm in Tea; Hysteria Threatens Gun Rights

...at least that's the headline I was expecting.

Some guy in Tea exercises his Second Amendment right to stroll down the street with his shootin' iron. The tip line goes crazy, the school district goes into lockdown, the police "sweep through all three schools... and look for anything suspicious" before someone figures out the guy (the suspect, the threat, the potential terrorist?) was just one of thousands of God-fearing, camo-and-ammo-wearing South Dakotans getting ready for hunting season.

And not one news outlet mentions the phrase "false alarm." KELO celebrates this exercise in warrantless searches as "Practice in Lockdown Policy." Superintendent Jerry Schutz says the unnecessary disruption and panic for parents made him feel even more comfortable about Tea's wonderful security policies. Declaring mini-martial law when not a single law has been broken is apparently so fun, the school continued to limit access to the building even after the lockdown.

I am able to find one commentator, USD student Chris May, who sees something other than a fruitful exercise in school safety here. He's troubled by the media and the culture of fear:

What I find troubling is that is that a man was seen with a gun and instantly everyone is scared. What has the media done to us? Seriously!? I remember stories from my dad about how they could keep guns locked in their vehicles. Has the biased, reactive, media made society think this negatively about a man simply carying a gun near his house? Moreover, to think so negatively about it that not only was the closest school put on lock down but also the remaining schools in town? Did the events of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and other school shootings and the lack of recognition of all of the days without school shootings make our reaction this severe?...

As a society we are accustomed to reacting to, mainly, the bad events without giving much notice to the good events. When we mold into this reactionary behavior we begin to impose more rules and proceedures for the sake of an "unreasonable sense of insecurity." I hope when I have kids and send them off to school that a whole city doesn't get shut down because I happen to have my garage door open and a gun visisble [Chris May, "The Power of Media," IdEA 310 Chris May's Class Blog, 2009.09.25].

Indeed, when I went to class at DSU Wednesday, I parked behind a truck with two guns in the rack. No campus lockdown that day.

If I put on my wingnut shoes (I do keep a pair around), I could see in Tea's "security measures" fascism unbridled—children locked in, parents locked out, police on full alert conducting warrantless searches, and everyone smiling and saying, "Great work, team!" when it turns out there was no reason to conduct those actions in the first place. I would think such actions would constitute a greater, more concrete threat to liberty than anything passed in Washington during the last eight months.

The conservatives around Sioux Falls (including some legislators?! I so want names) will line up to tremble before Orly Taitz's delusions of a fake birth certificate. But they ignore a police lockdown triggered by one man's lawful behavior.

What am I missing here?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marching in Madison: South Dakota Bands at DSU Homecoming Parade

It's a busy band day in South Dakota! Area bands, led by the mighty Spirit of Madison Marching Band, kicked off a big day of music by marching up Madison's Main Street in the Dakota State University Trojan Days homecoming parade.

Madison Bulldogs

Chester Flyers

Arlington Cardinals

Flandreau Public Fliers (thanks, Matt!)

Deuel Cardinals

Madison Middle School

Director Luke Sursely has these kids whipped into shape!

Montrose Irish

Director Justin Whitcomb is a Madison band alumnus. Looking sharp!

Dell Rapids St. Mary Cardinals

The Dell Rapids corps was marching right behind the Dennis Daugaard for Governor campaign vehicle, the only political entrant in today's parade. The Munsterman campaign must have been too busy making up better ad hominem attacks. Isn't there some old campaign saw about catching more votes throwing candy than throwing mud?

Oldham-Ramona-Rutland Raiders

We've been waiting for some cowbell! (Sorry about the battery, kids!)

Howard Tigers

There's Carts, and Then There's Carts: Librarians and Shriners in Trojan Days Parade

Dakota State University held its Trojan Days homecoming parade today. Amidst the spectacle: carts...

Madison librarians and friends bust some precision moves with their book carts

...and more carts!

El Riad Shrine Sprint Car Unit from Sioux Falls
burns some Trojan Days rubber. Typical driving for Madison, actually.

Of course, Madison put the carts before the horses...

...but shouldn't they have had the skid steers bringing up the rear to clean up?

Rural America: More Bars, More Suicides

Here's your uplifting community note of the day: a new study finds a correlation between higher rates of attempted and completed suicides and high bar density. In other words, if there are lots of bars of town, you can expect to find more people killing themselves.

And what kind of towns have more bars?

The results showed that completed suicides were more common in less populous zip-code areas, such as rural communities, and in zip-code areas with larger proportions of older, lower-income whites, but less common in zip code areas with larger proportions of blacks and Hispanics. Suicide attempts were also more common in rural zip codes, but those who attempted suicide were younger, and included blacks and Hispanics as well as whites.

...These results could be due to some contextual effect that affects both drinkers and non-drinkers, commented Dennis M. Gorman, interim director of the Health Science Center at Texas A&M University.

"For example, rural places with lots of bars might be depressing places to live in due to isolation, lack of social ties, etc.," said Gorman. "This 'depressing' context would affect all who live there, both drinkers and non-drinkers...."

[Study co-author Fred W.] Johnson agreed. "Other factors include population loss as youth desert rural towns to find jobs and opportunity in urban areas," he said. "The average age of farmers is now rising toward 60, an age when suicide rates increase as medical problems multiply and social isolation increases. Some small towns cannot attract industry and jobs with tax and other incentives, meanwhile property values plummet. More frequent possession of firearms in rural areas is a major factor in rural suicides, with 75 percent of rural completed suicides nationally and 57 percent of rural completed suicides in California involving firearms."

..."One might also advise against moving into areas that have a high density of bars and off-premise alcohol outlets," said Gorman. "There are a number of social problems that seem to cluster in places with high alcohol-outlet density, excluding restaurants, whether this is as a result of alcohol consumption or a result of problem-prone individuals being attracted into such areas" ["Too Many Bars in Rural America Linked to High Suicide Rates Instead of Idyllic Life," Physorg.com, 2009.09.18].

Oh my. I find one blogger who does some number-crunching to identify the cities with the highest bars-per-person ratio. Swampette's winner: Williston, North Dakota, with one bar for every 941 residents.

How does Madison stack up to that number? Let's see: population 6482, 10 bars in city limits... 1 bar for every 648 of us.

Expand that to Lake County: population 11,693, 18 bars... darn near same ratio, 1 bar for very 650 residents.

Anyone care to dig up the local suicide rate?

Advocates of Later School Start Face Uphill Battle (Charge!)

I note with pessimism the movement by some Sioux Falls moms to push the first day of school back toward September. Rhonda Lockwood, Paige Honner, and other moms hope to gather over 3000 letters of support to present to the Sioux Falls school board by October. If that doesn't get them satisfaction, they say they'll petition for a public vote.

Note I didn't say disapproval: I'm all about starting school after Labor Day, as they do in Minnesota (where kids get higher ACT and SAT scores than South Dakota... not that standardized tests mean anything). I voted for Initiated Measure 3 in 2006, which would have mandated all South Dakota public schools start no earlier than August 31.

My pessimism comes from the reminder that Minnehaha County voters overwhelmingly rejected IM3, with 27659 ayes outweighed by 38235 nays (that's 58% saying no, more than the statewide nay rate of 57%).

Maybe the Sioux Falls moms can surprise me and rally a voting majority to their cause. But out of that same voter pool, they'll need to find 5288 voters—just about 1 in 7—who want a later school start date but voted against IM3 purely on ideological grounds of rejecting state control.

Again, don't read my pessimism as disapproval. In the face of an uphill battle, the proper response is, "Charge!!!"

Update 2009.09.28: Those Sioux Falls moms will even have to fight the President, who wants longer school days and longer school years. Sorry, Mr. President, even I can't ride with you on that one. Note (same article) that the wunderkinder in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong all spend fewer hours in the classroom each year than our kids.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lake Herman Loop -- Proposal for Bicycle Bliss

Much to my pleasure, the City of Madison is charging forward with plans to expand its recreational trail into a full blown network of pedaling and strolling adventure. Wednesday's MDL tells us that Double H Paving of Tea will lay down the Highway 19 southerly extension of the existing trail next summer (please tell me you guys are running this out to the new public access area at the county poor farm!). Even before that project starts, the rec trail committee is planning the next big route: a trail west along Silver Creek (beautiful! curves!) to the city limits, then south and west along the oil roads to Lake Herman State Park.

The rec trail committee is holding an open house on Tuesday, October 20 (6 p.m., Madison fire station). I'll go to urge them to build the trail without cutting down too many trees along the creek or on the hill on 234th Street.

I'll also go to offer this map and a proposal for the next big project: The Lake Herman Loop.

Lake Herman Loop: Proposed Biking/Hiking Trail
(click image to enlarge)

Imagine if we could offer cyclists the chance to circumnavigate Lake Herman, almost entirely off county roads, as close to the shore as possible. Here's one possible route:
  1. From the Lake Herman State Park entrance, ride the big arc through the park's open eastern grassland. Then enter the trees of the old upper campground and ride in shade all the way to the southern boundary of the park. (Feel free to toodle around on the state park roads for a while first and rejoin the trail at Philosophizing Peak.)
  2. Drop down to the shore through Dirks Resort. Get a quick workout on the hill coming out of the resort.
  3. Turn west through the trees and ride the Southern Grassway, across the new Doblar Bridge for pedestrians over the southern tributary, all the way to Camp Lakodia.
  4. Ride on past Reynolds' and Langes' through Cottonwood Cove Pass to the boat ramp.
  5. Weave through the trees and over the hills on West State Park Trail and through the open pasture at the St. Thomas Recreation Center.
  6. Follow West Lake Road to the north bay and Stoneback Bridge, another new pedestrian bridge over the golf course creek.
  7. Ride 233rd Street and Territorial Road back to the state park entrance. Optionally, you can return to town along the Prairie Village–Creek Spur.
Total distance for the Lake Herman Loop: about 7.5 miles. About five miles of new pavement. We took a family ride last night along Territorial and thought about adding trail alongside that road as well, but Territorial is already the prettiest road in the county, traffic is light and slow, and there's not a lot of extra right of way to add a separate trail without cutting deeply into some folks' yards. We figure we can focus whatever money comes available on adding the new path elsewhere around the lake.

Advantages of this plan:
  1. Cyclists love loops. Riding out to Johnson's Point on the existing Highway 34–Lake Madison trail is fun, and the Madison–Lake Herman trail will provide a nice loopy destination. But it's even more fun not to have to retrace one's route.
  2. 7.5 miles of new Herman trail would nearly double the network that will already be in place. That kind of distance approaches the bicycle tourism destination level (i.e., people will drive here just to ride).
  3. Beautiful views of the lake. We showcase for tourists our county's best selling point: a gorgeous lake with lots of open, undeveloped, public green space.
  4. Eco-variety: this route includes everything! Shoreline, open prairie, and the closest thing to forest we get in this county.
  5. Eco-sense: by purchasing rights of way along the southeast and northwest shores, the city can establish a trail and plant the adjoining acres to native grasses to serve as buffers for the lake right next to major tributaries. Those grassy buffers will improve water quality at the head of the Lake County watershed and provide benefits for everyone all the way from my house to Brant Lake.
  6. Oh yeah, my house! My little girl can set up her lemonade stand right at Cottonwood Cove Pass and refresh weary travelers at the far western edge of their journey. I can also set up my bike repair stand and offer tune-ups and my best Chamber of Commerce welcome speech!
A Lake Herman Loop is probably several years off. But if the idea catches on with others, the City and County can start saving up now, lining up grants, and working with landowners to prepare what a bike path that could rival the Sioux Falls city path for fun, beauty, and tourist appeal. Think ahead, and think big!

Update 2009.09.29: We've got some bike trail competition... in Yankton! Bernie Hunhoff at South Dakota Magazine reports that the Yankton City Commission voted last night to take possession of the old Meridian Bridge. Expect the bridge to become a vital link in a glorious network of bike trails around the Mother City of the Dakotas. We'd better hop to it on the Herman Trail!

Clean Energy Creates 2-3 Times as Many Jobs as Fossil Fuels

Want jobs? Pass H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. If you have a million dollars and want to create jobs with it, investing it in energy efficiency and clean energy will give you the best return. Way best:

Job Creation Potential of $1-Million Investment in Energy Projects
(click image to enlarge)

(Source: Robert Pollin, James Heintz, and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), June 2009, p. 29)

Sink a million dollars into an oil refinery, you get 5.2 jobs. Sink that cash into a coal plant, you get 6.9 jobs. Sink it into smart grid tech or wind turbines, you more than double the jobs.

Otter Tail and other investors are already figuring out that wind and other energy alternatives are the economically sensible thing to do. So should the rest of us. Dump coal, build wind!

This job-creation point is just one of the many interesting things I learned in my sit-down with the sharp fellas at Repower South Dakota. Stay tuned for a big feature series on why ACESA is key to our green future!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Favre + Wind: Vikes Invest in Green Power

If hiring Favre didn't turn diehard fans away, this green move surely will: the Minnesota Vikings plan to buy wind power from Xcel Energy to power the Metrodome. Alas, there are no plans for windmills atop the dome (though wouldn't that be a great way to help motorists find the Dome?). The Vikings will join 200 other businesses and over 21,000 residential customers in Xcel's Windsource program, in which participants pay a monthly premium to support Xcel's development of wind power, like the muni-juice they'll start buying from Winona County next year.

What's next—Gardenburgers and salad at the concession stands? Oh, wait... already there.

Alas, you Vikings fans who find environmentalism unmanly will have to turn in your horns and purple jerseys. Maybe you can find a team more representative of your support for unsustainable extractive industries... but dang! The Oilers aren't around any more. Maybe the 49ers?

Yankton Super: SD "Pokey" on Wind Power

The Yankton School District just announced it will erect a 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine to provide a little green juice to its new bus barn and admin building. It's not much, but every little bit helps. The wind turbine will also help teach kids about wind power, as do the turbines at Sanborn Central and a handful of other forward-thinking South Dakota schools.

The quote of the day comes from Yankton Superintendent Dr. Joe Gertsema:

South Dakota's been a little bit pokey about... getting to the wind energy.... There are a couple schools in Iowa -- I know there's one for sure -- where they literally have put up these towers to generate energy to run their school. [Dr. Joe Gertsema, interview, WNAX Radio, 2009.09.23]

Hit the books, kids! Dr. G. says we've got some catching up to do!

What Happens to TransCanada Pipeline After Oil? DRA and PUC Take Long View

Oil won't last forever, not even the goop in the Alberta tar sands. So that big Keystone pipeline tearing up eastern South Dakota and its bigger sister Keystone XL planning to do the same to West River won't always have oil coursing through them. Someday the oil and the operating revenue will dry up, and TransCanada will flip the switch and walk away.

Dakota Rural Action offers a summary of the problems that can arise when pipelines are abandoned:

Once pipelines are no longer in use, the electrical systems that are meant to keep the pipes from corroding are turned off, and pipelines rust more quickly, with the result that large pipelines may weaken and collapse under the weight of vehicles. They may also develop holes that allow soil to fall inside the pipe, forming sinkholes in the soil over the pipeline. Buried pipelines may emerge from the soil creating an obstacle and eyesore. Abandoned pipelines may also need to be removed before construction of buildings, and they can interfere with other development of property. In addition, they may contain crude oil residues that would need to be cleaned up [Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2009.09.22].

So how much will it cost to remove or stabilize Keystone XL when TransCanada abandons it? Would you believe TransCanada has thus far declined to say? DRA asked TransCanada for pipeline abandonment information last month, but, says DRA, "TransCanada did not voluntarily provide this information."

DRA says that Canada is starting to require pipeline companies to set aside money to cover the cost of dealing with abandoned pipelines. The United States, however, has not yet imposed any such requirements. Conceivably, TransCanada could lay its pipe, pump its oil, and then just walk away, leaving us landowners and taxpayers to remove contaminated soil and fill sinkholes. Nice.

Dakota Rural Action members (myself included) find this lack of planning for the future unacceptable. Tuesday's DRA press release includes these comments from South Dakota stewards of the land who can take the long view:

“My great grandfather settled here in 1910. He had a plan and vision to protect and nurture this land so it would be productive for generations to come. That plan has been carried out by my family for nearly 100 years,” said Roger Gunderson, a Dakota Rural Action member who ranches in Harding County. “I find it hard to believe that a company like TransCanada does not have a responsible business plan that it can share with us as to what they intend to do with the pipeline when it is no longer in use."

...“We’re the third generation on our land and we’re about to bring the fourth generation in to join us. As a family who’s ranched on this land for 75 years and taken good care of it, we want to know what would happen once TransCanada stopped using the pipeline. Would they treat the land right? Would we get stuck having to clean up after TransCanada?” asked Sandy and Jacki Limpert, Dakota Rural Action members from Harding County.

DRA asked the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to take the long view and require TransCanada to do the same. In response, the PUC has indeed voted to compel TransCanada to give more information on its pipeline abandonment plans, as well as "monitoring, maintenance, crude oil composition, and the possible volume of a worst-case scenario oil spill" [DRA press release, 2009.09.23].

Dang—either Dusty Johnson is running for higher office next year, or the PUC is realizing we South Dakotans really do need to make stronger demands of TransCanada to protect our natural resources from the short-term thinking of Big Oil.

Read more on the legal complications of reclaiming abandoned pipeline and rights-of-way: David Howell, "Who Owns Abandoned Pipelines?" Pipeline & Gas Journal, August 2009.


p.s.: For those of your conservatives who think President Obama and his eco-Marxofascists are determined to destroy America's economy and petro-security, note that the Obama Administration's State Department approved the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline to Wisconsin last month:

While U.S. environmental lobbies such as the Sierra Club were protesting against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's mission to Washington last week – accusing him of “dirty-oil salesmanship” – the U.S. President's new special envoy on energy, David Goldwyn, was in Ottawa telling officials that Canada is a “pillar of U.S. energy security.”

“Part of my message here is that we recognize and value the centrality of Canada's contribution to U.S. energy security,” Mr. Goldwyn, the U.S. State Department's newly appointed co-ordinator for international energy affairs, said after the meetings.

It will be up to Canada, he said, to figure out how it can expand the high-emissions oil sands without exceeding targets in greenhouse-gas reductions, either by reducing emissions in other sectors or developing new technology [Campbell Clark, "Alberta's 'Dirty Oil' Suits U.S. Security," The Globe and Mail, 2009.09.24].

Looks like I've got some convincing to do even in my own party.

McGovern and Abourezk for Heidepriem: More Reaction

Here's some more reaction from around the blogosphere on the campaigning of former Senators George McGovern and Jim Abourezk on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scott Heidepriem:
  • Kevin Woster at Mount Blogmore sees bringing in the big names as good headline strategy. He thinks GOP slime-meister Lucas Lentsch "overstates" the "Look at those liberals!" attack line ("as is his job," Woster notes). Woster wonders, though, if the liberal associations might turn off some voters come general election time (keep trying, Pat!).
  • Doug Wiken notes in comments to Woster that even if you're an animal of completely different (orthogonal?) political stripes, you shouldn't pass up the chance to have a conversation with two remarkable and intelligent politicians like Abourezk and McGovern.
  • Bob Mercer is "stumped" by the conservative noise over a gubernatorial candidate enjoying the campaign assistance of two well-known South Dakota statesmen. The only downside Mercer sees is that Abourezk and McGovern may be too far removed from the memory of the younger half of the electorate to rouse much excitement. I suggest to Bob that one can find an appreciation of history among our younger voters.
  • Travis Dahle at the real Badlands Blue notes that association with a war hero and a civil rights leader might benefit a candidate more than hiring a strident conservative blogger who focuses on ad hominem attacks.