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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Constitution Party Still Whining to Courts; Candidate Deleting Attacks

The South Dakota Constitution Party continues its futile search for an activist judge to give it preferential treatment under South Dakota election law. The Constitution Party is asking the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Roberto Lange's decision that the Constitution Party failed to follow the legal requirements to place candidates on South Dakota's statewide ballot.

The only point of this appeal is publicity. The law is solid, as is Judge Lange's ruling. Secretary of State Chris Nelson has already drawn the ballot order. The only Constitution Party candidate you'll see on the South Dakota this November is Lori Stacey, who will get 1% of the vote for Secretary of State.

Speaking of Lori, her lawyers must be too busy writing up the ballot appeal to bother with her faux-legal grumblings. Last week she posted a threat to sue "a particular blogger" for libel. I merely mentioned that threat here on the blog Saturday. (O.K., I mentioned it, then laughed at it.) I also left some blogging advice and recommended a lawyer in Stacey's comment section. By Monday morning, that threat had disappeared Stacey's Sioux Falls Conservative Examiner blog.

Interestingly, Stacey had replaced that post with a gripe about South Dakota Right to Life's choosing to endorse Republican Jason Gant for Secretary of State rather than herself. "SD Right To Life chooses partisan politics over principles," read the headline, dated August 29. This morning, that post is gone, too. Politifi scraped up the opening lines here, as did Worldnews.

Google result for Lori Stacey's now-deleted blog post on Jason Gant
and the hypocrisy of SD Right to Life, 2010.08.31, 09:37 CDT

I can't wait to hear Lori Stacey in the debates against Gant and Ben Nesselhuf, just to hear her start every rebuttal with, "No, wait, never mind what I said two minutes ago. I didn't really say that."

I would honestly enjoy the rise of a serious third party to challenge America's two-party system (or, arguably, in South Dakota's case, the one-party system). Alas, the Constitution Party demonstrates at every turn they don't have the chops to fill that serious role.

LAIC Industrial Park Violates Madison Mowing Ordinance

Nobody mows 'til Dwaine Chapel mows!

Last summer I had fun teasing the city for not following its own six-inch-grass rule. Now that the city has imposed a $200 fine for lazy lawnmowers, we can expect neat, well-trimmed grass everywhere to maintain our city's image, right?

Not in the industrial park owned by the Lake Area Improvement Corporation. An eager reader says he found excessively altitudinous verdure near the gateway to our fair city. The Madville Times mobile unit sprang into action to confirm this stunning news. Sure enough:
high grass along Madison bike trailI brought my Mayor Hexom ruler and found this grass in LAIC land south of the bike trail clearly violating the six-inch rule.

high weeds along bike trailLikewise these wild miscreant sunflowers, dwarfing my modest ruler near a bike trail intersection.
mowing along bike path, Madison, SDIf Mayor Hexom comes a-measuring your grass, try this: mow just a swath or two along each side of your sidewalk, and tell the mayor, "See? Good enough for the bike trail, good enough for my yard, right?"
high weeds in industrial park, Madison, SDBut hey, why should we complain about these tall weeds in the industrial park? The LAIC needs those sunflowers: they serve as natural, compostable bike racks for all the cyclists who come to survey the property for their economic development plans. Brilliant!

Now I didn't catch an exception in new mowing ordinance for commercial property. So let's see how long it takes for LAIC to call Madison Arborcare and chop those weeds... or for Chief Pulford to issue the LAIC a ticket.

Unitarian Sermon: "Why I Am an Atheist"

Gee, maybe I could get a Sunday gig after all....

A contemplative reader says he heard a good sermon at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Sioux Falls last Sunday. The headliner: Ronald Knapp, minister emeritus of First Unitarian Church of Omaha, who told the congregants why he is an atheist.

My correspondent forwards a 2007 PDF edition of Reverend (?) Knapp's sermon:

If we can - if the human race can - find a way to say “no, no, no" to the conventional faiths, and to the conventional gods, we can then say "yes, yes, yes," in reverence and awe, to a natural world as we now know it, a world where all human beings are members of one family, a world where all living things are interrelated, if we can - if the human race can - say “no, no, no" to the conventional faiths, and the conventional gods, we can say “yes, yes, yes" to an unfolding universe from which we have come and to which we shall return, a universe of oneness [Ronald Knapp, "Why I Am an Atheist," sermon, First Unitarian Church of Sioux City, 2007.09.16].

Curious: Does a pastor get to say things like that and still keep his ordained title?I would think if I regularly published articles about the Democratic Party's divisive and destructive effect on Western civilization, I'd have trouble keeping my post as Lake County Dems treasurer.

I do find the idea of a pastor delivering such a sermon an interesting exercise in intellectual openness and curiosity. I would think at the very least that conversation over coffee afterward was livelier than usual.

But church, as I understand it from my outsider's position, isn't about good conversation. You can certainly have good conversation at church, but church is about getting the Good News, and the Good News is the God News. You go to a church service to acknowledge and worship the Deity. A church can certainly host a speaker or a panel discussion on atheism or Judaism or Islam, but that's not a worship service. That's... something else.

Knapp describes himself as an "evangelical atheist." He separates "evangel" from sacred use and appropriates it for his own calling to spread the "glad tidings" of his naturalist, humanist message. Here Knapp chooses a different path from mine. I'm an atheist, but I don't evangelize. I resolved early on in my adult atheism not to invest much energy in encouraging people to abandon their faith and join me in a universe composed exclusively of atoms and natural forces. I decided I could make more productive use of my finite time and energy exhorting my neighbors to at least exercise their Christian principles consistently rather than trying to pry them away from those principles. (My call to Christian consistency is also much more fun.)

I say this not by way of criticism of the apostate Knapp. I welcome and admire fellow non-believers who are willing to present their non-belief openly and intelligently amidst the great Christian masses of the prairie. But Knapp raises an important question: Do we atheists really have an obligation to convert religionists to our non-faith?

Noem Campaign Losing the Driving Records War

Joel Rosenthal tells the fumbling Kristi Noem campaign to put on the big-girl pants and get back on message:

When the story broke and confronted by KELO, Kristi Noem did the right thing. She said she was not proud of her record, was working to improve, and wanted to talk about important issues other than her driving record.

The Noem campaign and Republicans now need to move on. Quit talking about driving records, theirs and others. Don’t make this a two day or two week story. Democrats will try to keep ginning this story but the candidate has answered and must resist all impulses to keep talking about it [Joel Rosenthal, "Kristi—Get on Message," South Dakota Straight Talk, 2010.08.30].

And what do we get from the Noem campaign? More driving records. They go after Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's dad for speeding tickets. They go after SHS's chief of staff for a Brookings DUI.

Now as Rosenthal calmly notes, opposition research is par for the course in serious campaigns. But let's make clear three points about the driving-record narrative and why it still tilts in Herseth Sandlin's favor:
  1. The "family values" Republicans appear to value their opponents' families as negative campaign targets. Noem attacks Herseth Sandlin's husband and now her dad, just as Thune's people gleefully attacked Daschle's wife in 2004.
  2. Noem's crimes aren't just the traffic violations themselves; they are six failures ot appear in court and two arrest warrants. Everybody cited in these burgeoning attacks has broken the law; Noem demonstrated even greater arrogance by skipping court, as if she was just too good to show up before the judge and take responsibility for her crime.
  3. KELO launched the driving record story... and they even opened with the gubernatorial candidates' tickets, which dings Dem Scott Heidepriem slightly worse than GOP Dennis Daugaard. The stories about Lars and chief of staff Gould are coming straight from the Noem machine. This part doesn't matter quite as much to me, since facts are facts regardless of the source. But I hear enough Noem apologists making the baseless claim that the Noem-warrants story came straight from the SHS camp that it's worth pointing out the lack of equivalence.
Back in June, I said it was a bad sign for the Noem campaign that they were hiring Josh Shields as their campaign manager. Josh Shields—you know, the guy who helped Blake Curd burn up more money than Noem and Chris Nelson combined to come in last.

And now Josh says "she was trying to make up time over flat country" Shields is doing everything he can to turn another rising star into a lump of coal. If she wants to regain her momentum, Noem had better send young Shields over to Rosenthal's house for some schooling, fast.

But in the end, why yes, we are left with a long list of lawbreakers. We're all in glass houses, and we're all throwing stones. If you've sent either Kristi or Stephanie money, or if you've so much as shaken their hands, you'll probably see your criminal record published in the newspaper by November 2, too.

So let's be consistent. Require Herseth Sandlin's chief of staff Tessa Gould to resign from the campaign over her infraction. Require Lars Herseth to resign from being Stephanie's dad. Require Kristi Noem to resign from her position as state legislator and from her campaign for the U.S. House.

And while we're at it, require Josh Shields to resign for driving Noem's campaign into the ditch.
Update 10:25 CDT: I never had Dr. Robert Burns for a prof at SDSU. I am nonetheless heartened to read in the Mitchell Daily Republic that my analysis of the Noem warrants debacle is closer to Dr. Burns's thinking than is Pat Powers's:

I think it’s very difficult to tell what the South Dakota voter makes out of it.... The troubling thing about it was there were warrants and nonappearance coupled with multiple offenses [Dr. Robert Burns, quoted by Tom Lawrence, "Noem's Driving Record Takes Wheel of Campaign," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2010.08.31].

Monday, August 30, 2010

How Many Norwegians Does It Take Screw in a Lightbulb?

...at least as many as it takes to fix a power outage at Dakota State University. ;-)

Power was out all over campus when I biked through 15 minutes ago. I'm betting too many kids brought fridges to the dorms.

But hey! You kids weren't going to study this fine summer afternoon, were you? Head for the beach, then enjoy a nice air-conditioned sandwich at Mochavino! I hear they have student specials on Monday....

Kristi Noem Wanted Poster Available, Courtesy SD Dems

That didn't take long:

Kristi Noem wanted poster, from SD DemsYou can view the full Wanted poster for speed demon Congressional candidate Kristi Noem on the South Dakota Democrats' newest website, Kristi Above the Law. The poster includes links to the oodles of bad press Noem has received for her six failures to appear in court and two arrest warrants, not to mention the $2100 in traffic fines she's paid. Print and share your copy today!

Yes, the South Dakota Dems paid for it... and why wouldn't they? When a candidate pitches Dems a softball like this with her irresponsible behavior, Dems would be foolish not to swing.

All joking aside, learn why Noem is empty boots compared to Herseth Sandlin
The GOP is striving mightily to turn the talk from Noem's habitual lawbreaking to accusations that the Dems are just being desperate and negative. Funny: the only desperation I see is the SDGOP's desperation to salvage a floundering candidacy... and Kristi Noem's desperation to get to Wal-mart five minutes quicker.
Final thought for now: If Noem won't show up to court to pay her own measly traffic fines, how can we trust her to put together a plan to pay off the national debt?

Lake County Adds 20 Jobs, 30 Job Seekers in July

Lake County just can't get a clean break on unemployment figures this summer. We managed to add 20 jobs in July. Alas, we saw 30 people enter the local labor force, meaning a net increase in unemployment of ten people. We now stand at 5.0%, up 0.1 percentage points from June.

July roughed up everyone in the neighborhood: every county adjoining Lake also saw an uptick in unemployment:
  • Brookings: 4.2% (+0.1 from June)
  • Kingsbury: 4.6% (+0.3)
  • Miner: 4.8% (+0.3)
  • McCook: 4.5% (+0.1)
  • Minnehaha: 4.4% (+0.1)
  • Moody: 8.1% (+0.6)
Looking for some half-full glasses, a year-over-year comparison finds Lake, Moody, Minnehaha, and Kingsbury counties enjoying slightly lower unemployment in July 2010 than in July 2009. Lake County's unemployment rate is a full percentage point lower than last year: we've lost 40 jobs since last July, but we've also seen 110 people leave our labor force. Miner, McCook, and Brookings counties have each seen small increases in unemployment since last July.

See all of the state's labor force data at the Department of Labor's website.

Local note: those 20 new jobs here in Lake County brings the LAIC's "Forward Madison" initiative within 905 jobs of its anemic goal of maintaining what in 2006 looked like status quo job growth. Just wondering: If the LAIC had not slurped up $2 million in loose change from local businesses, might those businesses have invested that $2 million directly in expansion and hiring and created more job growth on their own?

LAIC Slow on Accountability, Doesn't Deserve Public Handouts

On July 20, City Commissioner Nick Abraham asked the Lake Area Improvement Corporation to submit a detailed budget to support its request for continued taxpayer funding to the tune of $240,000. LAIC exec Dwaine Chapel, whose salary eats up $100,000, agreed to submit said budget. Six meetings later, the LAIC budget still hasn't popped up in the city commission agenda packet or minutes.

Funny: if I were trying to get $240,000 in taxpayer money, and the taxpayers asked me for a document, I'd have that document to them before first thing in the morning. In triplicate.

Lake County publishes its proposed budget for FY2011 in the paper. As discussed previously, the county commission doesn't think it can afford $1000 to support Prairie Village, but for the second year in a row, the commissioners do think they have $25,000 to throw at the LAIC, which is currently more than 900 jobs in the hole on its job creation goals.

Let me apply the thinking of county commissioners Verhey and Hagemann to the proposed handout to the LAIC:
  1. Gee, if the LAIC has over $100,000 to pay Dwaine Chapel to produce no results, they obviously don't need our financial support.
  2. Over the last few years, the LAIC's total assets have increased from a quarter million to nearly $4.7 million. Looks like they're doing just fine and don't need a public handout.
Any chance Commissioners Verhey and Hagemann will raise these issues when they sit down to approve the final budget?

Heidepriem Casino Position Draws Republican Support on Leadership

I'm still not jumping up and down to wage casino wars with Iowa. Yet I note with interest a letter from State Senator Gene Abdallah, Republican from District 10, essentially endorsing the position of Democratic gubernatorial candidate and fellow State Senator Scott Heidepriem that South Dakota needs to address the Larchwood casino issue.

Senator Abdallah's critique still relies too much on scarcity thinking, arguing that Iowa's gain is our loss. However, his letter also hints at a leadership issue that can offer voters a reason to replace the current regime with someone new. Abdallah mentions legislation he and Heidepriem co-sponsored that would have directed the governor to negotiate with Iowa and try to work out a casino arrangement more amenable to all parties.

Now I'm not sure what leverage South Dakota would have in asking Iowa to consider our concerns with their economic development projects. Iowa has done the same on the Hyperion refinery, which will dump all sorts of externalities on our neighbors across the river, and South Dakota's response has been, Buzz off!

Nonetheless, Senator Abdallah's letter highlights a problem a lot of Republicans see with the current administration: a lack of leadership, an inability to get out in front of issues and bang the drum for South Dakota's interests. And Abdallah is a pretty prominent Republican, giving a pretty pointed shout-out to the Democratic gubernatorial candidate just as the campaign season hits full throttle.

Watch out: the Heidepriem campaign may be able to deliver more Republican votes than you think.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moody County Sunset

Sunset burning through far clouds, windy August evening, where 230th turns to gravel north of Colman, South Dakota.

Open Valhalla as Public Landmark, Not Private Playground

The latest Madville Times poll finds a majority of you gentle readers agreeing with me on the use of Peter Norbeck's "Valhalla" cabin in the Black Hills. I asked you "Should Game Fish and Parks open the Peter Norbeck/"Valhalla" cabin for rental to the general public?" The results:
  • Yes: 88 (66%)
  • No: 46 (34%)
Norbeck's cabin is a remarkable public asset, built by a remarkable South Dakotan. Norbeck was our first Dakota-born governor. He won the federal funds—pork and stimulus!—that allowed Gutzon Borglum to carve four white guys on sacred Lakota ground and bring thousands of tourists to the Black Hills each year (pick your own value judgment; either way, Norbeck made history). Norbeck also pushed for the development of such South Dakota gems as the Needles Highway, Sylvan Lake, and the Custer, Badlands, and Wind Cave parks.

Much of Norbeck's life was dedicated to opening the Black Hills to more public use. That his cabin should become the private playground of "favored guests" of the ruling political regime flies in the face of Norbeck's values.

If we really want to get Norbeckian, we should be looking for ways to make as much money off the cabin as possible. Game Fish and Parks, which manages Valhalla, says the cabin generates maybe $4500 in revenue each year. Let's see... isolated cabin in the woods, six bedrooms, great hiking and biking and horseback riding, near several major attractions... would $100 a night be too low? At that rate, I think we could draw users for at least 180 days a year... $18,000 right there, quadruple the current revenue. And the sitting governor and his political friends could get in line to rent it right along with everyone else.

One of my good Democrat friends, Mr. Kurtz, says the governor needs a secure retreat, but I must differ. Every governor can use a vacation, sure, but can't he buy his own cabin at the lake like the rest of us? Let's not get too big for our britches: South Dakota's governor is not the President with the Secret Service and the nuclear football. Security is obviously not a concern in a state where the only things standing between citizens and the governor at work are a secretary and a wooden door. What's the point of a secure hidden location for the governor when he probably drives himself to Wal-Mart to pick up fishing tackle? The last thing we need to spend state money on is the crazy notion that our governor needs a secret compound to hide in.

The Peter Norbeck cabin in Custer State Park is a great public asset. We should make the most of it. Open it to the public. Rent it out to supplement the Sylvan Lake Lodge and other fancy lodging in our busiest state park.

Noem Court-Dodging Provokes Awkward Silence from "Values" Crowd

I think Pastor Boese is harder on the hypocrisy of Kristi Noem and her "values" supporters than I am:

If this were Rep. Herseth all the “Patriot-Ayatollah Pastor-Priests of the Civil Religion” would be heating the tar and plucking the chickens…preaching sermons about the slippery slope of running stop signs=a form of abortion. However the shoe is on the other foot: it is Noem is running those stop signs, skipping court, etc. Oh I am sure the Ayatollah-wanna-bes will say it was to go save a life of someone (or get to her hair appt on time). They are silent…This is WHY I AM AN ANABAPTIST! [Shel Boese, "Just Sayin' (Remember This Is Not Official Church Statement Source)," News, Thoughts, Theology, Teaching..., 2010.08.27]

I've heard a lot of "Oh, everyone speeds, it's no big deal" from Noem apologists. Funny: do Christians tell their pastors, "Everyone sins, even you, so quit preaching about it"?

I have yet to hear a good rationalization for Noem's skipping court and getting arrest warrants. The comment section is open....
Update 15:07 CDT: Pastor Shel catches heck... and sticks by his guns!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Constitution Party SOS Candidate Stacey Threatens to Sue "A Particular Blogger"

Hey, I'm the only blog in the state giving Lori Stacey headlines, and this is the thanks I get? Where's the love?

Here's a sure sign Lori Stacey's Constitution Party campaign for Secretary of State is going nowhere. When she could be campaigning hard, promoting sensible ideas for good government, and establishing her credibility so voters might actually consider entrusting her with managing our elections, Lori Stacey instead is whimpering about "a particular blogger" saying things that make her mad.

Now understand, Lori Stacey can't even blog effectively, let alone run a statewide election. She does not name the source of her frustration. She provides no hyperlinks to the text in question. She provides no information to help blog readers access the original evidence on which she bases her claims and make their own evaluations. Blogs are all about helping people find information and "see for themselves"; Stacey leaves her readers wallowing in her own pile of grimacing goo as she rages about hate crimes and exploring "possible legal action."

Why does the thought of "possible legal action" by Constitution Party lawyers inspire laughter rather than fear? Oh, I don't know... past performance?

In celebration of the blog ethos, I'll simply link Stacey's yowling and the blog post that appears to incur her wrath and let y'all waste your weekend making your own evaluation. But I will say this: Lori Stacey's reliance on cowardly revisionism and Merriam-Webster to build a legal case makes me laugh.

Candidate Stacey, if you really want to take to the hustings and decry the evil nameless blog impugning your political positions, then by all means, Lori, knock yourself out with that. Such brittle thin-skinnedness will only support what 99% of South Dakotans already know: the last thing we want is the Constitution Party running our state government.

Update 2010.08.30 11:28 CDT: Guess who backed down? Lori Stacey's post threatening libel action has disappeared. For the record, here's what Stacey wrote that inspired my above post... someone threw her text down the memory hole (thank you again, Google cache):

As a Constitutionalist, I have been a defender of Freedom of Speech and oppose most "Hate Crimes" legislation as it goes so far that it has become a danger to all of our rights to freedom of speech. However, there unfortunately comes a time that some writings can be so blatantly false, personally offending, defamatory and widely spread without any factual basis that it constitutes malicious, reckless intent and rises to the level of a crime called Libel.

As defined by online version of Merriam-Webster:

"Main Entry: 1li·bel
Pronunciation: \?l?-b?l\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, written declaration, from Anglo-French, from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book
Date: 14th century

1 a : a written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought b archaic : a handbill especially attacking or defaming someone
2 a : a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression b (1) : a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt (2) :(3) : the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4) : the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel"
defamation of a person by written or representational means

I do not push my deeply-held religious beliefs on anyone and respect an individual's right of free will to believe or not to believe for even God freely gives us this choice. Because I have increasingly become the victim of such patently false, libelous statements derived from such enormously illogical conclusions that no reasonable person could have possibly derived, I am now choosing to be silent no longer and will defend myself to set the record straight.

In a particular blogger's imagination, just because 1 of several sources that I sent him to present evidence of my point in a debate which actually had absolutely NOTHING to do with religion, there was a short YouTube clip in which the first few SECONDS showed a picture of Jesus and supposedly the FILM MAKER denies the existence of Christ. This blogger then went on to print, publish and republish outrageous lies that state that I supposedly believe Jesus is a hoax. This is outrageously false, baseless and libelous considering I have been a Christian my entire life.

1. FALSE: "She promotes an online film denying the existence of Christ"

TRUTH: I have never even seen but a couple short clips of this film and have never watched the entire movie myself. In fact, there are so many other sources of information, some of which I sent in this exchange. It was the only time that I can recall even using a clip from it. To publish that I PROMOTE it is an absolute lie. To conclude that someone agrees with a filmmaker's supposed personal views just because you have seen an 8-10 minute clip of one of their movies is a conclusion that defies all reasonable logic.

2. FALSE: "She believes Jesus Christ is a hoax".

TRUTH: I have been a Christian my entire life going as far back in my childhood as I can possibly recall. In my adult life, I have had at least 2 miraculous events that saved me from nearly losing my life which has strengthened my belief to the point that I can never deny.

3. FALSE: I supposedly refused to ever publish this person's first initial rude, mean-spirited comment.

TRUTH: This system that we had been using AUTOMATICALLY published comments that are made and I left this comment up for a minimum of 24 hrs. It was one of less than a handful that I have ever manually removed before it AUTOMATICALLY disappears from easily viewable sight after 7 days. Now, Examiner is launching an entirely new system in which comments and other sections will be handled differently and we do not know the full extent of all of these changes at this point.

With all that said, I am not holding my breath to see any retractions as these libelous statements have increasingly continued to be smeared throughout the internet over the past year. If sufficient corrections are not made promptly, possible legal action will be explored.

I have not been able to retrieve the two comments I left Ms. Stacey on this post. I can't help speculating she didn't like them very much.

TransCanada, Nebraska Law Hide Fair Market Value from Condemnation Proceedings

Here's one more small way in which the eminent domain with which TransCanada threatens landowners is wholly unfair. Mother Jones posts a redacted PDF version of a letter TransCanada sent to a Central City, Nebraska, landowner making the final dollar offer for easements for the Keystone XL pipeline. We don't get to see the dollar figure... and neither will the judge if TransCanada goes to court to seize the land. Writes TransCanada's senior land robber baron Tim M. Irons:

While we hope to acquire this property through negotiation, if we are unable to do so, we will be forced to invoke the power of eminent domain and will initiate condemnation proceedings against this property promptly after the expiration of this one month period. In the event that we are forced to invoke the power of eminent domain, this letter and its contents are subject to Nebraska Revised Statute § 27-408 and are not admissable to prove the existence or amount of liability [Tim M. Irons, TransCanada, letter to landowner, 2010.07.21].

Sure enough, Nebraska statute 27-408 says landowners condemned by this foreign company can't establish the market value of their property by showing the judge the fair market value the most interested buyer was willing to offer. Of course, one could argue that 27-408 applies to negotiations, and this letter doesn't sound like negotiation; it sounds like intimidation, take it or leave it.

The deadline was August 21. No word yet on whether TransCanada has pulled the legal trigger. But remember, TransCanada hasn't even received the necessary permits to build Keystone XL. As the Lincoln JournalStar points out, forcing landowners to incur the legal expenses of fighting eminent domain in court even before they know whether the legal fight is necessary is grossly unfair to landowners. If TransCanada truly respected American landowners, it wouldn't go near the courts until its pipeline received official approval, if at all.
Side note on language: notice the weaselly use of passive voice by Irons. Twice he says the company "will be forced" to use eminent domain. Forced? By whom? This is standard corporate-speak, using vague passive voice to divest the corporation and the people running it of responsibility for the bad things they do. You aren't being forced, TransCanada. You are choosing to use the American courts against American citizens to take American land for nothing more than your own profit. (Irons does slip in paragraph 2 of the letter, saying, "Keystone will use eminent domain...." Credit for at least once owning the action with active voice.)

Market at Work: Walgreens, Other Big Biz Shun Tar Sands Oil

With TransCanada piping Alberta tar sands oil across our fair prairie (and pushing to pump more), you might be inclined to take some economic action to help save Canada from its very dirty export. But the average citizen can't boycott TransCanada or Enbridge or any other shipper of tar sands oil. Our main point of contact with the oil industry is the gas station. TransCanada and Enbridge don't have gas stations (at least none I've seen). The One Stop here in Madison may get a truckload of gasoline refined from tar sands oil one week, from BP's recovered Gulf spillage the next, and some nice clean oil from Chavez or the Saudi sheiks the week after that. Boycott the local gas station to oppose duckocide in Alberta, and you're likely missing your target completely.

But if you're a company dealing directly with oil shippers, you've got some real leverage to use against the dirtiest oil in the world. Enviro-group ForestEthics gets this. They're urging corporations to boycott shippers who carry tar sands oil. And they're getting some takers. Walgreens, which burns a lot of gas hauling toothpaste and such to its 7500 stores, has signed on to this boycott. The Gap, Timberland, and Levi Strauss also are giving preference to non-tar-sands shippers. The City of Bellingham, Washington, has also joined the movement.

Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource. It will run out. The Keystone pipeline will go dry. Wouldn't it be great if we could hasten that dry-up with some good old-fashioned market forces?

Good call, Walgreens! Let's hope more American companies wise up and tell TransCanada we neither want nor need their tar sands oil.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Best Joke Yet on Kristi Noem's Lead Foot

Kristi Noem at Tea partySo Kristi Noem does 94 on the Interstate.

Well, at least we finally understand why her hair looks like that.

Kristi could become the new Ole and Lena. I'm feeling a whole humor sub-genre coming on.

(I will acknowledge, however, that there's a strong argument to be made that there's nothing funny about Noem's reckless, unapologetic endangerment of her fellow South Dakotans.)

All joking aside, learn why Noem is empty boots compared to Herseth Sandlin

Satirist Calls for Brake on Noem Bust Jokes

GOP House candidate Kristi Noem is living up to my expectation that she'd provide great blog fodder. Bill Fleming, one of the funnier members of the South Dakota blogosphere, sticks up for No-Limits Noem:

This feels too good to be schadenfreude. See more at Kristi Exposed on Facebook.

Bonus Snark: Boy, it's got to be tough to get good car insurance with a record like this. I hope Kristi knows a good insurance agent.

Conservative Blog Hypocrisy on Noem Arrest Warrants

Dakota War College thinks there's no story on GOP House candidate Kristi Noem's arrest warrants, failures to appear, stop sign violations, and speeding tickets. DWC wants you to believe the story is just the South Dakota liberal media (ha!) taking the bait from the Herseth Sandlin campaign.

But boy, when it's a Democrat committing a moving violation, Dakota War College goes into a regular blog-orgasm of coverage, with seven posts in one day on the topic. When State Senator Sandy Jerstad hit a car in a parking lot and left the scene, DWC went mewling throughout February 2009, posting every little detail he could find about this one incident. He called multiple times for the Senate to investigate Jerstad's conduct under the Code of Ethics.

So what does that Code of Ethics say that might relate to Noem's crime spree and its relevance to the citizens of South Dakota?

1B-1. Maintenance of ethical standards. The people of South Dakota require that their legislators maintain the highest of moral and ethical standards as such standards are essential to assure the trust, respect and confidence of our citizens. Legislators have a solemn responsibility to avoid improper behavior and refrain from conduct that is unbecoming to the Legislature or that is inconsistent with the Legislature’s ability to maintain the respect and trust of the people it serves. While it is not possible to write rules to cover every circumstance, each legislator must do everything in his or her power to deal honorably with the public and with his or her colleagues and must promote an atmosphere in which ethical behavior is readily recognized as a priority and is practiced continually, without fail.

Boy, at least Sandy Jerstad showed up for court when she was supposed to.

Shoe, meet other foot.

Noem Ditches Court Six Times, Earns Two Arrest Warrants

Yeah, now it's a story.

For the record, I have four fined vehicular infractions in my file:
  1. 1989: 94 on I-29 in Moody County. Went to court, paid $100.
  2. 1994: 70-some in Faulk County. $100.
  3. 1995: 74 on the Norwegian Boulevard in Lake County. $100.
  4. During this period, the Brookings P.D. also busted me for blowing the stop sign at 8th and Medary. On my bicycle. $20.
Kristi Noem, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and I are all about the same age. SHS has one speeding ticket here on home turf and none in Washington, D.C. (a relatively tricky and dangerous place to drive).

Noem is the biggest lawbreaker on the ballot:

Noem has the longest list of violations, including 20 speeding tickets, three stop sign violations, two seat belt violations, and no driver's license. Noem also has six court notices for failure to appear and two arrest warrants.

...Noem's most recent speeding ticket was earlier this year when she was pulled over for driving 94 miles per hour on the interstate [Don Jorgenson, "Noem Not Proud of Driving Record," KELOLand.com, 2010.08.26].

I did 94 on the Interstate when I was a hotheaded 18-year-old, driving with my girlfriend in a fancy black Dodge pickup for the first time. That's not an excuse; that's an explanation of why I got more tickets then than I do now, when I have a wife, a child, and bills to pay.

Noem committed the same irresponsible crime this year, at the mature age of 38. Same county. Same speed... and what the hell: 21 years later, she gets a lower fine than I did?! $76?!?! Boy, I guess good hair does make a difference. [Update: Rapid City Journal reports Noem paid $130 in fine and court costs on February 19. My grumbling is soothed.]

I know Noem wants to beat Herseth Sandlin, but in her flagrant disregard for public safety and the law, Noem is trying a little too hard to be like the last person to beat Herseth Sandlin in an election, leadfoot Governor and convicted man-slaughterer Bill Janklow.

Noem whines that she's "disheartened we're spending time talking about my poor driving record when we could be talking about the economy and jobs." As am I: I wish the GOP candidate weren't a threat to public safety so we could concentrate on solving the nation's problems. But when a itting legislator and political candidate breaks the law so frequently and flagrantly, well, golly, that's news.

Noem mutters that "I'll continue to make sure being diligent and recognizing the fact that this obviously isn't something I'm proud of, something I need to improve." Sure. It's something you need to improve. You do that by taking your damn foot off the gas. You do that by showing up for court when the law tells you. It's not that hard. And there's certainly no excuse.
Update 13:15 CDT: Bob Mercer, whom I think I can safely say is at least not a left-leaning journalist, says Noem is a "habitual lawbreaker" and says short of Noem renouncing her driving privileges for the rest of her political career, this race may have just tilted back to Herseth Sandlin, "perhaps deservedly so." Jordan Fabian at The Hill also says Noem's traffic violations could be a game-changer.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Report: Big Stone Coal Ash Polluting Water with Heavy Metals

A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project, in cooperation with Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, identifies the Big Stone power plant among 39 sites nationwide where coal ash is leaching arsenic and other heavy metals into drinking water and surface water. These 39 sites are in addition to 31 EIP identified in a February 2010 report and 67 identified by the EPA.

What does EIP's report say specifically about Otter Tail's Big Stone facility in northeast South Dakota?
  1. There is "Demonstrated damage to groundwater moving off-site (at northern and eastern property boundaries and south toward the Whetstone River)."
  2. "21 of 25 monitoring wells report exceedances of groundwater standards downgradient of CCW disposal units in two aquifers. Arsenic has been up to 13 times and lead up to 7 times the MCL, boron up to 34 times the Lifetime Health Advisory and sulfate up to 224 times the SMCL at 56,000 mg/L. Despite mounding of groundwater at the property lines, no monitoring of nearby ponds or private wells has occurred."
  3. There are 119 wells within 5 miles of the plant, as are the Whetstone River and Big Stone Lake. ["In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and Their Environment," Jeff Stant, project director & editor, Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, 2010.08.26]
South Dakota's Department of Environment and Natural Resources doesn't think the pollution comes from Big Stone's coal ash. According to EIP, DENR says the contamination comes from "water softener brine wastes." I wonder if that came up at all while the legislative interim committee took public comment Tuesday as part of its review of the DENR.

Now remember, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin says we don't need EPA regulations on coal ash, since that might hurt business.

Let's hope that, as the EPA beings public hearings on its proposed coal ash rules next week, it ignores the profit-├╝ber-alles propaganda of Herseth Sandlin (oh, and Heartland Consumer Power District) and pays attention to the real contamination produced by Big Stone and other coal-burning power plants around the country.

Herseth Sandlin v. Noem: Let's Debate What's Voted For, Not Who Else Voted for It

Joel Rosenthal got me thinking. In his most recent blog post, Rosenthal mentions the Kristi Noem strategy of pointing out how often Stephanie Herseth Sandlin votes with Nancy Pelosi. Rosenthal wonders how many of those votes are really significant votes and not just procedural votes that even John Boehner would be voting for.

The Stephanie=Nancy meme is oversimplification for the inattentive voter. Instead of taking time to explain how specific policies supported by our Congresswoman doom the Republic, the Noem machine personifies the issue: Pelosi's evil, Herseth Sandlin votes like Pelosi, so Herseth Sandlin's evil!

Right. Pelosi likes chocolate ice cream, too. But that doesn't mean chocolate ice cream is coming to take our guns.

I don't plan to do a full analysis of every vote Nancy Pelosi and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin have agreed on. You can peruse a list of such votes since 2007 yourself at OpenCongress.org. But to give you an idea of the silliness behind the Noem strategy, here's a sample of some actual votes and how SHS compares with Pelosi and Boehner:

Bill SHS
Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act
Honest Leadership and Open Government Act
no vote
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (2008 Wall Street Bailout)
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (Senate version)
CHIP Reauthorization, 2007
CHIP Reauthorization, 2009
Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery
Small Business Tax Relief Act, 2007
Protect America Act, 2007
Extend Protect America Act 21 days
2007 Appropriations for troop readiness, veterans care, etc.
Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act
Energy and Tax Extenders Act
FISA Amendments
Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act
Fair Minimum Wage Act
Part D Medicare Drugs price bill
Designating Taunton River in Mass. part of National Wild and Scenic Rivers system
College Student Relief Act
Jubilee Act, 2008
Renewable Energy & Energy Conservation Tax Act
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Ag Appropriations, 2008
AIDS/TB/Malaria assistance, 2008
Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network
Ensuring continued access to student loans
Kennedy Serve America Act
Pay-Go 2009
Defense Appropriations, 2010
Consolidated Land, Energy, Aquatic Resources Act
STEM Education Coordination
Offshore Oil & Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection
FHA Reform
Solar Technology Roadmap
Small Business Financing and Investment
Idaho Wilderness Water Facilities

Feel free to peruse that list and other votes. Identify exactly what about the legislation SHS voted for is so bad for South Dakota and the country. If you can do that, great. That's the kind of hard work a politician who wants to go to Washington needs to do: explain to the voters what's actually happening in Washington and how policies actually affect our lives. The personality politics of the Noem campaign are the lazy way out. They insult the intelligence of the voters and reflect poorly on the intelligence of the candidate.

New Poll: Should Governor Open Valhalla to Public Rental?

Democratic candidate for governor Scott Heidepriem has raised the issue of opening "Valhalla" to the public. No, we're not talking about lowering the number of Normans you have to axe to join your Viking brethren in paradise. We're talking about South Dakota Governor and Senator Peter Norbeck's Black Hills cabin, which the state Game Fish and Parks now tends within Custer State Park. (Learn more of the history in this excellent first-person essay by Kevin Woster.)

Valhalla, Custer State Park. CSP photo featured in Tom Domek, Custer State Park, Arcadia, 2005, p. 76. Click photo to enlarge
The Madville Times poll question: Should Game Fish and Parks open the Peter Norbeck "Valhalla" cabin for rental to the general public?

Heidepriem argues the Rounds Administration has turned Valhalla into a secret compound for the governor and his chosen friends. The citizens of South Dakota have paid for expensive upgrades to the cabin (over $225K in recent years), so citizens ought to be able to use the facility, says Heidepriem. The idea of a Black Hills summer retreat reserved for the governor's use is iconic, says Heidepriem, of the cronyism and secrecy that underlies many of the current administration's bad policies that Heidepriem wants to change. (Worth noting: Black Hills resident and erstwhile GOP almost-candidate for U.S. House Thad Wasson appears to agree!)

The Rapid City Journal has editorialized that the facility should be open to the public to honor Peter Norbeck. RCJ notes the cabin is on the National Register of Historic Places. The editors say Norbeck's historical significance as well as the unique architecture of the cabin justify sharing the site with all South Dakotans.

The state feels otherwise. Game Fish and Parks declines to provide a list of those permitted by Governor Rounds to use the cabin, saying state law exempts guest lists of GF&P facilities from open records laws. The cabin is gated, and a couple years ago GF&P removed road signage to better hide the location.

So what do you think? Should the Norbeck cabin serve more of a public function? Should GF&P rent the facility out to the public like any other camping cabin, open to anyone willing to pay, first come, first served? Or should the site remain restricted by the governor's discretion? Vote in the poll in the right-hand sidebar, then discuss the issue here in the comment section. Poll runs through Saturday breakfast time, so vote now!

Green Notes: Bikes, Solar, Good Sense Challenged

Buried in browser tabs! Time to clear the queue!

Colorado is seeing a weird outbreak of velophobia. Some folks have a Sibby-Ellis-tinged idea that promoting Denver as a bicycle city is part of the United Nations' sinister agenda to enslave us all. The tiny casino town of Black Hawk, Colorado has banned bicycles: a new Colorado law requires motorists to give bicycles at least three feet when passing, and Black Hawk reasons that complying with that law would be just too hard for the big tour buses bringing gamblers to town. Riding your bike through town now gets you a $68 fine (to make up for cyclists not spending as much on booze, I guess).

Green power is ugly. Or so goes the thinking, apparently, in Hanover Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Township supervisors there have imposed restrictions on solar panels: tucking panels away beside or behind the house is fine, but if you happen to have a south-facing abode and want to place your panel out front where it will do the most good, you need to get a conditional permit, which will take $800, two months, and all sorts of paperwork. Says a state township association official, "A lot of people have a problem with placing solar panels on the front of their homes for the simple reason...solar panels are distracting and take away from the value of [their] house.... Elected officials are hearing that and they're taking that into consideration." Once again, obsession with appearance trumps environmental sense and property rights.

Solar power is making progress in California. Regulators there have approved the first solar thermal plant in the U.S. in two decades. Ah, good old American innovation... maybe we'll catch up with Portugal after all.

But not if boneheads like Don Kopp stay in office. One of South Dakota's most embarassing legislators provides a teabaggers' splinter group in Rapid City with a slideshow assortment of decontextualized quotes—prooftexting at its finest (and a popular pastime among the non-thinkers in the Tea "Party"). The slides flog the U.N.-evil meme and insisting environmentalists are out to lynch America (yes, slide #10 includes a noose). I'm sure Kopp et al. consider this Kansas City artist's work on sustainable buildings an effort to destroy America, too.
But think positive: Lester R. Brown sees renewable energy booming worldwide and thinks we can "replace all coal- and oil-fired electricity generation with renewable sources." There is life after oil and coal, people. The sooner we get serious about making it happen, the easier it will be... unless of course you think living like Mad Max would be cool.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Good Sign in Madison: Gehl Wants You!

Gehl Job Fair Sep 1, 2010, 16:00-20:00 CDT

Bypass Dusty!

No, this isn't a PUC post. But now that I have your attention....

Mostly recovered from a mowing mishap Sunday, I hit the road with the Madville Times mobile unit this noon. Coming toward town, I saw what looked like a dust storm... which made no sense, since there's no wind to whip up the dust. What the...

cough cough cough!

Ah, of course. Two days before the Steam Threshing Jamboree brings thousands of Cockshutt aficionados to Prairie Village, someone decides it's a good idea to lay fresh gravel on the Highway 34 bypass all along the south edge of Madison. Makes perfect sense: you lay gravel when you're expecting more cars to drive through and help you grind the rock into the road, right?

Cars and trucks kick up dust on the Highway 34 bypass
on the southwest edge of Madison.
(Note Madville Times mobile unit parked by stop sign.)

Now folks coming to Prairie Village are used to a little dust. But nobody likes rock chips in the windshield. So if you're coming to Madison this weekend and you're not hauling a big camper or trailer load of tractors, you might want to bypass the bypass and stay on the main 34 route through town. Besides, that route's more fun—you can stop at Dairy Queen and get some ice cream!

Chicoine Cold-Shoulders AAUP on Cantangui

The American Association of University Professors remains unsatisfied with Monsanto executive board member and SDSU President David Chicoine's response to their concerns about the firing of entomologist Mike Catangui.

Actually, AAUP is saying, what response? In an August 24 letter to President Chicoine, the AAUP says they are still waiting for a response from Chicoine to their July 8 letter protesting the apparent lack of due process in Catangui's dismissal. They acknowledge that the university subsequently granted Catangui a closed-door August 9 hearing before a faculty committee. However, according to AAUP's letter, the Board of Regents officially terminated Catangui's employment August 14, well before the anticipated release of the faculty committee's report on August 30.

AAUP isn't fighting now for Catangui to remain at SDSU; they're simply saying that if you're going to fire a professor, you've still got to accord him due process. Their position: Catangui should remain on staff and receive salary at least until the formal hearing process has concluded and the faculty committee has issued its report.

Whether Chicoine deigns to offer AAUP the courtesy of a response remains to be seen.
Archive update 2010.09.01: see also coverage in the Brookings Register. Getting fired twice in one summer—that just stinks!

Charlotte Landon Shaw 2.0: Worst Campaign Video Yet

District 13 must be sparse country for Republicans. The GOP has two state house candidates in this south central Sioux Falls neighborhood: Brian C. Liss and Charlotte Landon Shaw. I've given Liss a hard time for misplaced cries of "Socialism!" But Landon Shaw takes the prize for thinnest gruel of a campaign video yet. It's so weak, so ill-prepared, so tellingly bad, I couldn't resist adding some YouTube graffiti:

Uff da. Even Sibby's video is bound to be better than that. He'll at least have a script from Joseph Farah to read.
For those of you who prefer text to video, here's a transcript of Landon Shaw's SDPB statement:

I am not a politician, and I don't want to be a politician when this is all over. I want to remain people, people like you who are afraid of what is going on with our economic situation, in our schools, all over the country but specifically here in South Dakota. I would like to be given the chance to take your voice, the voice of the majority, and the voice of the people, to Pierre, to tell the people in Pierre that we're not afraid of what's been going on any longer and we're not going to stand for it. I believe it's not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog, and I got a lot of fight in me and I'll take that for you to Pierre, and I will represent the thoughts and the desires you have, desires like better budgeting and [pause] better education for our chidren that comes from a new place, a fresh idea, a new opportunity out there for us.

As I've knocked door to door, I've had a lot of people contact me and tell me that they're afraid, that they're uncertain of what could happen and what's going to happen in the future. Well, I'm not afraid and I'm not hopeless. I know that with the people's voice being heard things will change and they'll all be better for the most, for the best of us. So send me to Pierre and let me have the opportunity to take your voice and fight for what's right for South Dakota. Thanks, I appreciate it.

—Charlotte Landon Shaw, "Meet the Candidates" video, SDPB, August 2010.
Update 2010.08.26 14:40 CDT: As of right now, Landon Shaw's original SDPB video has 61 views. My annotated version: 155.