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Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Landowners Organize to Stop TransCanada, Eminent Domain, and Tar Sands

Our friends at Plains Justice put up some useful information on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline:
  1. First, Plains Justice lists the chemical cocktail TransCanada wants to run under our farmland and across our aquifers. And TransCanada has the gall to say the risk is theirs, not the landowners'.
  2. Plains Justice also links to a new online documentary from the Center for Energy Matters. The video shows Oklahomans and Texans who are disgusted by tar sands, eminent domain, shady business, and TransCanada's threat to clean water.
  3. If you're on the Keystone XL route and TransCanada's land agents are trying to push you around, Plains Justice points to a website that may help. TransCanadaAbuse.com has set up a hotline to take reports on TransCanada's heavy-handed land-grab tactics and other abuses of landowner rights. Don't let TransCanada give you the shaft: call TransCanadaAbuse.com at 1-866-363-4648 and stand up to foreign oil!
Here's the Clean Energy Matters video:

Noem Cancels KOTA Debate.

The spies on Dakota War College are sure quiet about this story: three sources (yes, plural) are telling me that that Kristi Noem is bailing out of her scheduled debate with Stephanie Herseth Sandlin on KOTA television. I've send a message to KOTA seeking confirmation of whether there's a Congressional candidates' debate on their calendar.

Now why, oh why would a candidate who has criticized he opponent for not making herself available to the public often enough turn around and cancel an opportunity to speak directly to the voters and answer tough questions? Has campaign mismanager Josh Shields decided that live debates just don't highlight Noem's best features? Or is Noem just allergic to all those big cats in the Black Hills?

If Now that Noem has canceled, let's hope she at least has the courtesy to inform her opponent's camp before the debate starts, unlike a certain other Republican on the November ballot.
Update 12:55 CDT: Here's the straight poop from KOTA:
  • July 1: KOTA invites U.S. House candidates to debate late August or early September.
  • July 21: SHS campaign says no availability before the end of the House session; i.e., not 'til October.
  • July 26: KOTA invites U.S. House candidates to debate week of October 11.
  • July 27: SHS campaign agrees to October debate.
  • September 21: Noem campaign declines October debate.
For the first time since 1968, KOTA will not have the chance to host a Congressional debate.

Scotland to Achieve 100% Homegrown Green Power by 2025

The City of Colton now has three municipal buildings running mostly on solar and wind power. That's no small achievement.

But here's something to really put the wind under your kilt: Scotland plans to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. All of it:

"Scotland has unrivalled green energy resources and our new national target to generate 80 percent of electricity needs from renewables by 2020 will be exceeded by delivering current plans for wind, wave and tidal generation," [First Minister Alex] Salmond said.

"I'm confident that by 2025 we will produce at least 100 percent of our electricity needs from renewables alone, and together with other sources it will enable us to become a net exporter of clean, green energy," he said a statement ahead of a renewable energy investment conference.

Last week, Scotland raised its 2020 renewable electricity target from 50 to 80 percent of total demand, much of which is expected to be met by offshore wind despite costs soaring over the last few years [Daniel Fineren, "Scotland to get 100 pct green energy by 2025," Reuters, 2010.09.29].

Perspective on American wimipiness on renewable energy:
  • South Dakota's renewable energy "standard" is a fluffball paperwork charade that gently asks South Dakota's utilities to get 10% of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2015 or to write a letter saying they won't.
  • Our national lawmakers think it's a big deal to work for passage of a 15% renewable energy standard by 2021.
Bonus Green Power Note: Wind and other renewable energy projects are great, but switching to electric cars would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil even more. So let's do both! Get Tesla to set up a factory just outside of Colton, and juice it with wind power from Iberdrola's proposed Minnehaha West Wind Project!

Vote Now: Who's Your Man for PUC, Dusty or Doyle?

Would you work hard to get the job of Public Utilities Commissioner? Fortunately for South Dakota, we have two guys for whom the answer is "Heck yeah!" Republican incumbent Dusty Johnson and Democratic challenger Doyle Karpen are both working hard for the chance to spend six years working on pipelines and power rates.

The Public Utilities commission does regulates your utilities, keeps telemarketers from bugging you, and advocates for good energy and telecommunications policy? Given the increasing centrality of energy and telecommunications to the economic health of our state, the job of Public Utilities Commissioner isn't just some boring down-ticket coin-flip race. Picking the right guy for this job matters.

So who's your choice: Dusty or Doyle? Vote now in the latest Madville Times poll, here in the right sidebar. The poll is open through breakfast Sunday, so tell your friends, and click your pick!

SHS, Dems Support Health Benefits for 9/11 First Responders

O.K., fellow Dems, time to close the enthusiasm gap. Yesterday our Democratic Congresswoman, Stepahnie Herseth Sandlin, cast another vote alongside Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The bill: H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. What does the Zadroga Act do? Same thing James Zadroga did: tries to save lives and clean up the destruction wrought by the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center.

The bill is named for James Zadroga, a New York City police detective who worked several weeks at Ground Zero, and is the first 9/11 responder to have his death in 2006 attributed to illness contracted at the site.

The bill would establish an $7 billion fund over 10 years, with roughly a third of that going to cover the healthcare costs of the victims, and the other two-thirds to compensate them for their losses. Over 20,000 people, according to government figures, have suffered since the event, either from exposure to the toxic dust of pulverized buildings and combusted chemicals, or injuries, or post-traumatic stress, or two or all three [Joseph Picard, "House Passes Ground Zero Healthcare Bill," International Business Times, 2010.09.29].

All but four House Democrats voted for this bill. 88% of House Republicans voted against it. Republicans Kristi Noem likes—the man she won't admit she'll pick for speaker, John Boehner; the woman she imitates, Michele Bachmann; the man whose plan to privatize Social Security and Medicare she supports, Paul Ryan—voted against providing health care to the first heroes of the current War on Terrorism. Why? Because Republicans think paying medical bills for firefighters is "to put on the backs of the American taxpayer a new, $7 billion entitlement program."

Entitlement program? As Rep. Anthony Weiner says, if anyone is entitled to health benefits, it's the people who ran toward the smoke and flames and toxic dust on September 11, 2001.

The vote on the Zadroga Bill shows the gutless, heartless, hypocritical politics you'll get if you vote for Kristi Noem, or if you sit back and let her win by withholding your vote from Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Republicans will cloak themselves in the patriotism and heroism of 9/11, but they won't put their money where their mouths are. Democrats are willing to pay what we owe to our fellow Americans.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

America Feeds the World: Thank Immigrant Labor!

Troy Hadrick cites this AP article finding Americans won't take low-wage farm jobs and offers this sanctimonious conclusion:

Regardless of your position on immigration, the bigger story here is that many people don’t want to work even when jobs are available. Unfortunately, many people don’t develop a work ethic and would rather rely on the government for an unemployment check. It’s a rather sad commentary on our society [Troy Hadrick, "Americans Don't Want Farm Jobs," Advocates for Agriculture, 2010.09.29].

Leave it to a professional propagandist for the ag industry to offer pompous distractions from practical policy issues. Hadrick pops off with arrogant, manly-man horsepuckey about how the rest of society obviously isn't as industrious or independent as he is. He deliberately spins away from the bigger story, which is that your cheap groceries come thanks immigrant labor, much of it driven here by our own predatory trade practices, and the immorally low wages the ag-industrialists pay their workers.

Hadrick's agriculture industry likes to repeat the mantra Tell Your Story. The immigrant workers who ensure our food supply would like to have time to tell their story, too, but they're too busy doing our work and feeding America.

So the next time the ag-industrial complex tells you to Thank a Farmer®, maybe you should walk over to the Mexican part of town and say gracias to an immigrant.

Lurz and Wyatt Tie in Lake Co. Sheriff's Poll

I sometimes worry that local Madison news and polls won't draw much attention compared to our big statewide political races. The latest Madville Times poll shows that's not true! I asked you, eager readers, "Who is the best candidate for Lake County Sheriff?" That question drew one of the biggest responses yet to a poll here: 265 votes! That's a whole heap more than the Lake County Commission poll I ran just a couple weeks ago, which drew a mere 73 votes. The sheriff poll turned out about a third of the votes that the Madville Times U.S. House and S.D. Governor polls generated back in June. Given that Lake County has less than 2% of the total registered voters in South Dakota, that turnout for a local online poll suggests a lot of interest in this particular race.

Enough ado: let's look at the numbers!

Jason R. Lurz
113 (43%)
Dan Wyatt
113 (43%)
Roger C. Hartman
39 (14%)
Votes: 265

A tie between the challengers! I thought that Madison City Patrolmen Lurz and Wyatt might split the anti-incumbent sentiment and leave incumbent Sheriff Hartman room to squeak by with a slim plurality of folks satisfied with the status quo. Not so in this poll: both challengers appear to have strong voter bases.

But get out your grains of salt. This online poll indicates first and foremost that supporters of Lurz and Wyatt are paying attention to the Web. Sheriff Hartman represents the older generation: he has no campaign website, and his base probably doesn't fuss with the Internet much, either. Hartman has voters; they just aren't reading the Madville Times (but they should be!).

Still, Lake County's Internet users are not some fringe minority (well, I am, but not all of you are!). The strong showing for Lurz and Wyatt indicate a large number of voters who want a new man at the helm of county law enforcement. Hartman has been sheriff for twelve years. He told voters in 2006 that this would be his last term; the Madison Daily Leader called it his final term when he won the 2006 Republican primary against Wyatt. The above poll suggests that a lot of voters are ready to hold Sheriff Hartman to his word.

I haven't heard much in terms of actual policy that explains why folks might want a change. I don't have many reasons in that direction: the Lake County Sheriff's Department has responded with due alacrity when I've called for help. But the current sheriff did indicate previously that he didn't want the job beyond 2010. Officers Wyatt and Lurz have also been dutiful and conscientious law enforcement officers for the City of Madison. I have confidence that either challenger could effectively and fairly protect and serve the people of Lake County.

I look forward to further public comment from the candidates and their supporters on the future direction of law enforcement in our county. Voters, feel free to hit the comment section with your observations on who's the best man for Lake County Sheriff.

National Rifle Association Endorses Herseth Sandlin; Noem Nets Nut Nod

Here's the endorsement the Noem campaign desperately tried to to distract you from yesterday: the National Rifle Association has endorsed Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in South Dakota's U.S. House race.

"The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund supports Stephanie Herseth Sandlin because she has defended the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen in South Dakota and across America," said NRA-PVF Chairman Chris W. Cox. "On November 2, I urge all South Dakota NRA Members and gun owners to vote Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for Congress" [Michael O'Brien, "Key House Dem Snags NRA's Backing in Reelection Effort," TheHill.com, 2010.09.28].

In a September 23 letter, the NRA's Political Victory Fund informed Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin that the NRA was endorsing her and maintaining her "A" rating.
NRA-PVF endorses Herseth SandlinNRA endorsement of Herseth Sandlin, 2010.09.23. [click to enlarge]

The Noem camp responded by touting an endorsement from a gaggle of South Dakota gun owners for whom even the NRA isn't nutty enough about guns. Her gun-owning endorsers include the likes of Second Amendment Sister Nancy First, who thinks we should let everyone carry guns in kindergartens, courthouses, and bars.

The Noem peanut gallery is desperately trying to spin the NRA's endorsement of Herseth Sandlin as insignificant. Some commenters are crying that the NRA is required by its by-laws to endorse incumbents. Not true. While the NRA-PVF's endorsement policy is "incumbent-friendly" (a logical position for an organization interested in maximizing leverage via seniority in Congress), the NRA is still free to withhold endorsements from incumbents it feels aren't doing its bidding. For example, the NRA is not endorsing incumbent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. If the NRA thought Herseth Sandlin was bad for its interests, the NRA could easily send that message.

Now I don't consider an NRA endorsement cause for celebration. Just a few weeks ago, I gave some poor telemarketer an earful for reading Wayne LaPierre's scripted lies to me over the phone in a push poll (don't these people keep track of past calls?). The NRA's gun-worship distracts us from solving real problems. I look forward to the day when someone who gets an F from the NRA can win an election in South Dakota.

But I can also acknowledge the political climate for what it is and revel in watching conservatives now blaspheme their usual electoral God. Gun advocates, you may think Kristi Noem is your little Annie Oakley, but the great and powerful National Rifle Association recognizes that Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is the right choice for making sure no one comes to pry your guns out of your hands.

Extremist views, ill-considered publicity stunts, sinking poll numbers, failure to grasp practical policy... Kristi Noem is turning out to be nothing more than Bruce Whalen in cowgirl boots.

Colton Uses Stimulus to Build Energy Independence

Colton East Shop Wind TubrineVisitors survey the renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades to the Colton City East Shop.
It's the patriotic thing to do!

Twelve solar panels. Two wind turbines. It's not Sarnia or Buffalo Ridge. But those twelve panels and two turbines are enough to make Colton, South Dakota, the first energy-independent municipality in our fair state.

Mayor Erik Miller and Colton city staff hosted a ribbon-cutting yesterday afternoon to officially kick off their Energy Independent Community Initiative. Mayor Miller explained to a packed meeting room in the Taopi Hall that Colton has used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars (you know, that nasty, useless stimulus money) to install enough solar and wind power production capacity to run city hall and the east and west city shops without grid power. Colton also used the money to weatherize the buildings, with new doors, windows, and insulation. Mayor Miller says their EIC Initiative has allowed the city to double its working shop space with no increase—and possibly a decrease—in energy cost.

Ken Hitzeman cuts EIC ribbonKen Hitzeman cuts the ceremonial ribbon for Colton's Energy-Independent Community Initiative.
Mayor Miller did not take credit for this forward-looking energy project. The "spark" behind the whole project is local resident Ken Hitzeman. The mayor said Hitzeman, a local renewable energy expert, brought up the idea of putting Colton on the map with wind turbines—"whirlybirds"—and other energy-producing and energy-saving projects. Hitzeman's passion for the project, said Miller, came from a simple commitment to the idea of energy self-sufficiency. Hitzeman is driven by the dread of seeing American energy dollars go overseas and buy even one bullet that might kill one American soldier. For his patriotic commitment to making energy here in small-town South Dakota, Mayor Miller made Hitzeman blush, just a little, by declaring yesterday "Ken Hitzeman Day" in Colton.

electrical work in East Shop, Colton, SDEletrical equipment turning wind and solar power into usable juice in the Colton City East Shop:
  1. wind-solar hybrid converter
  2. excess power sink
  3. inverter
  4. smart meter
  5. battery pack
City officials took time to show us the nuts and bolts at the "East Shop" next to the Taopi Hall. The small wind turbine sits atop an old windmill tower which used to support a town emergency. How's that for recycling? (A city employee also mentioned his dad once towed that tower, upright, a couple blocks across town to its current location.) Three solar panels lie on the south side of the roof. Inside, a converter combines the wind and solar power for use. Excess power is stored in four batteries. The battery pack in the East Shop can hold two hours of power. They should last fifteen years, with a replacement cost of about $2000.

To extend the life of the batteries, a controller shuts off the wind turbine when the batteries are fully charged and doesn't switch it back on unless the batteries have been drained to 50%. The controller also shuts off the turbine if the wind exceeds 65 miles per hour. When the batteries run out, power switches automatically to the grid with just the barest flicker of the lights.
East Shop smart meterEast Shop smart meter shows zero power input from the grid. That's a zero we like!
A smart meter shows exactly how much power the system is producing and how much additional power the system is drawing from Sioux Valley Electric. Yesterday's grid power intake reading, with the wind turbine quiet and only the three solar panels juicing the shop: 0.0 kW. Ah, self-reliance....

Colton's EIC Initiative is bigger than just energy self-sufficiency for three city buildings. Ken Hitzeman is helping organize a community task force to promote conservation and recycling in Colton. That citizen group will also look for ways to promote energy self-sufficiency for Colton businesses and residents. The EIC Task Force will storm up some ideas at its first organizational meeting on October 19 (7 p.m., Daybreak Express in Colton). They will also start a dialogue about local energy independence on a new Facebook page, which they plan to launch in the coming weeks.

Mayor Miller may be new to Facebook—he said he just learned it for this project, and there were plenty of chuckles from city employees when the mayor asked at the press conference if the shop staff had all updated their Facebook status. But he already gets that the Web and blogs can support real conversation and exchange of ideas both within a community and with communities around the state.

Heidepriem at Colton EIC ribbon-cuttingState Senator Scott Heidepriem congratualtes Colton on its pioneering energy-independence initiative
And Colton's EIC Initiative will generate lots of conversation. Gubernatorial candidate and fellow Minnehaha County resident Scott Heidepriem was among the dignitaries who stopped by to congratulate Colton on the EIC Initiative. He noted that Colton will now face the challenge of being a pioneer in energy independence. Pioneers charge forward and solve problems, and then, said Heidepriem, they have to field all the calls and questions from other communities who will want to follow their lead.

Colton's EIC Initiative is a truly visionary, groundbreaking project. Colton's green innovation isn't just about saving the planet (though they're helping!). Colton is showing communities much bigger than itself that we can build the infrastructure now to produce our own power and build energy security at home.

West Shop solar panels and wind turbine

City Hall solar panels

East Shop solar panels and wind turbine

Update 10:40 CDT: See more coverage of Colton's push for energy independence on KDLT.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Noem Lobbyist Smokescreen Clouds Own Positions

GOP candidate for South Dakota's lone U.S. House seat Kristi Noem lobs another publicity stunt. Talking process and personalities instead of practical problem-solving (as usual), Noem trumpets her opposition to spouses of representatives lobbying in Congress.

This stunt is funny on various levels:
  1. The glossy three-fold flyer Noem sent me says she believes "the best government is the government that governs least." (Leave it to Kristi to give Thoreau such an unartful, clunky paraphrasing.) But this new noisy campaign "issue" is a call for more government and more restriction of First Amendment rights. On the profound policy issues of the day, Noem apparently doesn't want government to assume any obligation, either because she believes in Hoover-style Social Darwinism or because she simply can't wrap her brain around such hard problems. But on process non-issues that make easy-to-remember sound bites, Noem is all for more rules and regulations.
  2. As I review PP's mail box, I don't see any explanation from Noem as to whether she will apply this rule to herself and forbid her husband and partner in Noem Insurance DBA from lobbying her on any legislation concerning insurance regulation. Would Noem extend this rule to forbid her restaurateur mother from lobbying her on food safety regulations?
  3. Also missing from Noem's call to arms: a ban on lobbyists themselves becoming members of Congress. (Cue wise guy in back of room to sneeze Aaah-Thune!)
Really, Ms. Noem. You need to stop make Democratic blogging so easy. More importantly, you need to offer some specific solutions for the real problems facing South Dakota. If you think sending Max Sandlin to the quiet corner will put more South Dakotans to work, pave any roads, or expand access to health care, you are sorely mistaken.
Coming up next: Noem's big NRA fail!

Thune Message: Put Down Tea, Rally 'Round Me?

SDSU philosophy alumna and DC-NGO mover and shaker Anne Junod takes a whack at reading between John Thune's lines in his much ballyhooed Weekly Standard story:

...[G]iven the bevy of other names being tossed around as potential Republican presidential candidates in 2012, one must ask the questions: Who was this article really written to, why was it written at this time and what objective was it written to accomplish?

To answer these questions, one must read between the lines. In doing so, we discover that “Dakota Dreaming” functions as an appeal to deep-pocketed Bush Cheney funders of the conservative establishment who are irked by the loutish Tea Party in an effort to get them on board the Thune train [Anne Junod, "Between the Lines: Understanding the Subtext of Thune's Presidential Bid," The Independent Local, 2010.09].

Junod also discusses the meaning behind comparisons to former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen and current Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Not discussed: whether Thune's appeal to the grown-ups in the Republican Party will also captivate those noisy kids throwing the tea parties... or whether those kids even be a factor in 2012.

Bankruptcy Trustee Moves for Veblen West Dairy Auction

The other shoe drops in the Veblen manure pile: bankruptcy trustee Forrest C. Allred filed a motion for sale of the bankrupt Veblen West Dairy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday. Judge Charles L. Nail granted the motion to set the auction date for October 8. That's next Friday. Any objections must be filed by next week Thursday and will be heard by Judge Nail the same day right before the proposed auction.

Bankruptcy receiver AgStar and Madville Times readers knew this was coming. So do Veblen East bankruptcy-sale purchasers Vista Family Dairies: that new corporation, formed this month by partners of former Veblen East and West owner Richard Millner, is included in the parties served notice of the motion for sale.

Buyers beware: if you place the winning bid for this 137-acre, three-site mega-dairy, you will assume full responsibility for fulfilling the obligations set forth in an order from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources requiring the reduction of manure levels in the dairy lagoons to legal levels. Here's how Trustee Allred's motion explains the situation:

Debtor is subject to an administrative order requiring it to have 270 days of capacity in its lagoons by October 15. Debtor has been pumping manure in accordance with its normal practice. While Debtor expects to comply with the administrative order, the Trustee cannot and does not guarantee Debtor will achieve compliance, and there is risk of non-compliance. Failure of Debtor to meet this deadline could result in significant curtailment, or even cessation, of Debtor’s normal operating activities. The successful bidder shall be fully responsible and liable for all work, equipment, costs and expenses, including manure removal, required to fully comply with the Compliance Agreement captioned “In re the Matter of Veblen West Dairy, LLP Violating Their General Water Pollution Control Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” dated April 1, 2010, as well as any and all other regulatory compliance matters. Prospective buyers may obtain a copy of the Compliance Agreement upon request from the Trustee. The successful bidder assumes, at closing, all responsibility and will be liable for all environmental issues related to the dairy [emphasis mine; Forrest C. Allred, Motion to Sell Free and Clear of Liens by In-Court Auction, In Re: Veblen West Dairy LLP, United States Bankruptcy Court, District of South Dakota, Case 10-10071, Document 392, 2010.09.27].

In other words, if you buy Veblen West on October 8, you have seven days to measure just how much crap Rick Millner has saddled you with and get rid of it, on your dime, over and above the price you pay (minimum bid: $8.7 million) to acquire this operation.

To double your exciting market uncertainty, you also don't find out how many cows you're buying until after the auction. The motion says the Debtor owns 3700 head of cattle, but they constantly move from dairy to dairy, and there's no way to set a firm number before the auction. (Sounds like a convenient way to hide assets from bankruptcy court, don't you think?) You at least get to bid per head (minimum opener: $800), but you don't get a complete inventory until after the sale. You also get to pay for any disease testing on the cattle you buy.

To review: put up $8.7 million, plus $800 per head, and you can take possession of Veblen West Dairy, which may or may not be in compliance with environmental rules, may or may not have a feasible number of cattle in its inventory, and may or may not have sick cattle, none of which you'll be able to find out until you assume liability for the operation.

My dairy experience is limited to milk on my Toasty-O's, but am I wrong in concluding that Veblen West sounds like a really, really bad investment?

If you are considering bidding for the Veblen West Dairy, read the DENR order. Read the history of this environmental and financial mess. Then think long and hard about whether you want to put any money into this financially and morally bankrupt operation.
Update 2010.09.30: The impending Veblen West Dairy auction gets a little press from North Dakota television. South Dakota press still AWOL....

Scott/Steve, Don't Hype the Ad: Hype Frankenfeld and Janklow for Heidepriem!

Democratic candidate for South Dakota governor Scott Heidepriem has a new TV ad up. My one problem with this ad: it spends too much time pitching the next big ad, Heidepriem's half-hour program coming up next week, and not enough time pitching the candidate. I've noticed that problem in a number of the communications from Team Heidepriem: they tell me their ads are historic and unprecedented and are getting great reviews. I really couldn't give less of a hoot how good the ads are: we're trying to win an election, not a Pollie. Heidepriem's marketers seem to have overread or misread Marshall McLuhan and think that the man is the message is the medium.

Either that, or they're just full of themselves.

That said, the new ad has the elements of an even better, truly rock'em-sock'em ad: apparent endorsements from former Republican legislator Don Frankenfeld and Republican attorney Russ Janklow:

Holy cow! Getting Frankenfeld and Janklow fils to endorse the Democratic candidate for governor is pretty strong cheese. Or at least I think they're endorsing Heidepriem. They're in the ad—they must like him... right?

This ad shows us Frankenfeld and Janklow telling us South Dakota has a huge fiscal problem. But only former Democratic Governor Harvey Wollman makes the sale, saying we need to "put in a new team." But none of those guys says the magic word: Heidepriem, Heidepriem, Heidepriem.

If I had money for 30 seconds of TV time, and I had video of Don Frankenfeld and Russ Janklow saying good things about me, I'd fill that thirty seconds with every word I could from those big name endorsers. And I'd leave no doubt as to whom those guys were voting for. I'd make darn sure I included the tape of each of those heavy hitters saying my name and saying they're voting for me.

I hope that's what we'll hear in next week's half-hour extravanganza. Direct endorsements from such prominent Republicans really would be newsworthy.
p.s.: Take this blog post and even the headline as textual metaphor for the marketing argument. Imagine how much better (for Team Heidepriem) this post would be if it started off with the real news—Frankenfeld and Janklow Endorse Heidepriem! Instead, in an ad-centered world, the marketing analysis gets the lead, and the juicy stuff gets second billing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dem Poll: Herseth Sandlin 51%, Noem 39%

The news keeps getting worse—well, just a little—for Kristi Noem. While the GOP candidate floats another desperate publicity-stunt demand from the Thune playbook (add that to the faux blog, emphasizing her high school basketball career in the glossy flyer she sent me... what Thune plays isn't Kristi running?), a new poll shows Herseth Sandlin leading Noem 51% to 39%. Undecided leads B. Thomas Marking 10% to 1%.

Yeah, yeah, the pollsters are Dems. But hey, why pass up a chance to recycle a headline: How's that trend working for you now, Kristi?

Bennett Petts & Normington conducted this poll last week, September 22–23. They contacted 400 likely South Dakota voters. Margin of error is ±4.9%. Even on this sample, the lead exceeds the margin of error.

If you give these numbers any credence, you might wonder why SHS and Noem are trading places in the driver's seat. Three hypotheses open to testing, in descending order of likelihood:
  1. South Dakota voters want more than a pretty face and recycled talking points.
  2. Herseth Sandlin's Blue Dog triangulation is working (dang it, dang it, dang it to heck!).
  3. Skipping court and getting 20 speeding tickets (and a generic out-of-state ad that reinforces racing highway imagery) don't impress South Dakota voters.
  4. A little good coverage on the Madville Times goes a long way. ;-)

Giago: Herseth Sandlin Clear Choice for Indian Country

Hat tip to Mr. Woodring!

Tim Giago stands Kristi Noem's arrogant lawbreaking and her desperate attack ads with Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's record of accomplishment and says for his Indian brothers and sisters, the choice for Congress is clear:

Herseth Sandlin is a Representative who has taken the time to learn about the Indian Nations in her state. She and current South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) are probably the two most knowledgeable members of Congress when it comes to Native American concerns and issues.

I have sat in and listened as both of these members of Congress answered questions, some quite hostile, about Indian issues, and they not only answered the questions, but turned the questions into a time to educate the questioner [Tim Giago/Nanwica Kciji, "The Choice Between Sandlin and Noem Is Clear," Race-Talk.org, 2010.09.27].

Giago is right: Herseth Sandlin's experience in Congress has given her a much better understanding of Native issues than Noem has. Check the websites: Noem gives the standard GOP platitudes that mask her usual paucity of specific, practical policies. Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin's website lists a number of specific policies she's supported, like the Tribal law and Order Act she got passed this summer.

Given Dan Richardt's prediction of a squeaker of a House race, Lakota voters and all SHS supporters would do well to heed this get-out-and-vote warning from Giago:

For Native Americans to lose Herseth Sandlin would be a disaster of epic proportions. It would be comparable to the loss they suffered when Senator Tom Daschle lost to John Thune, a Republican. And Native Americans could have saved the seat of Daschle if they had turned out in proportionate numbers. Daschle lost by less than 5,000 votes and the Indian vote never developed. In fact, although high in comparison to the rest of South Dakota’s precincts (Pine Ridge had a 50 percent turnout), an increase to 75 percent and a similar turnout on the other eight reservations, would have saved Daschle’s senate seat.

That was a disastrous lesson in history that the Natives of this state dare not repeat [Giago, 2010.09.27].

Dems of all colors, now is not the time to sit on your hands. Circle Election Day, November 2, on your calendar, and plan your trip to the polls. If you're busy that day, you have five weeks to arrange a quick trip to the courthouse to mark your ballot for the only candidate with a proven record of delivering good legislation for Indian Country. Grab a friend and go vote!

Tax Booze, Save Lives

I've reported previously that a a simple penny-per-ounce hooch tax could raise $29 million per year to help ease South Dakota's budget woes. A new metastudy from University of Florida epidemiologist Alexander Wagenaar finds that simply increasing the tax on alcohol to keep up with inflation could save thousands of lives and save millions in health care costs:

Wagenaar and his colleagues identified 50 papers published over the last 40 years that looked at how changes in alcohol prices affect health outcomes. These studies were mainly conducted in the United States, Canada and Scandinavia.

Their analysis showed that, on average, a doubling of the alcohol tax was associated with a 35 percent decrease in alcohol-related mortality (such as death from liver disease), an 11 percent decrease in deaths from traffic accidents, a 6 percent decrease in sexually transmitted diseases, a 2 percent decrease in violence and a 1.4 percent reduction in crime [Rachel Rettner, "A Hike in the Price of Booze Could Make Us All Healthier," LiveScience.com, 2010.09.24].

Wagenaar says, "The strength of these findings suggests that tax increases may be the most effective way we have to prevent excessive drinking—and also have drinkers pay more of their fair share for the damages caused and costs incurred."

Plug the South Dakota budget hole; make South Dakota's drinkers pay a fairer share of the cost of their irresponsibility; reduce death, disease, and destruction—sounds like a good plan from every direction.
Update 2010.09.28: Then again, my teetoalling may be shortening my life expectancy. Cheers!

Proper Role of Government: Protecting Life and Liberty

Ned Hodgman understands that we form governments to provide some basic protections that we can't provide individually and that allow us to enjoy life and liberty and pursue happiness. Hodgman says that when government doesn't do its job, people can die. He points to some vivid recent examples:
  1. The Army Corps of Engineers doesn't maintain the levees in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina hits. People die.
  2. The Mineral Management Service doesn't enforce its rules on offshore oil platforms. The Deepwater Horizon rig explodes. Workers die.
  3. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration drops the ball on enforcement of pipeline safety rules. The U.S. sees hundreds of pipeline accidents over the last five years, including this month's San Bruno explosion. People die.
(Don't forget: the PHMSA is run by a former oil company lawyer, Cynthia Quarterman. Perhaps to Quarterman's credit, while the PHMSA has issued 16 special permits since January 2009, only one such permit has been issued since Quarterman, an Obama appointee, took charge in November 2009.)

Hodgman offers a somewhat more reasoned response to government shortcomings than you'll hear from the teabaggers:

At the heart of Americans’ dissatisfaction with Democrats, Republicans, and politicians in general is not the legislative process or politicians’ foibles, as irritating as those things can be day in, day out. At the heart of people’s anger is real concern and fear about their safety and the safety of people they care about. In the richest country in the world, life remains unpredictable in large part because of government agencies that don’t push harder to inspect, monitor, and get in the face of life’s daily problems. Pushing them harder to do their jobs is our job [Ned Hodgman, "The Problem with Politics Is Toothless Government," Understanding Government, 2010.09.25].

Now don't anyone go quoting Ben Franklin on security and liberty here. We're not talking about giving up civil liberties to catch terrorists. We're talking about enforcing rules to make sure public works, oil rigs, and pipelines are built correctly so they don't collapse or explode. That's why we pay taxes: to create a government with the resources and the teeth necessary to ensure security and liberty.

TransCanada Brings Economic Benefits...

...for Consultants Who Say TransCanada Brings Economic Benefits

Yesterday I offered some counterpoint to the pro-pipeline corpspeak parroted by HeartlandCPD GM Mike McDowell. Mr. McDowell does offer a bagful of impressive numbers, including $470 million dollars in business activity and $685.6 million in property tax, all from the Keystone XL pipeline. McDowell says these figures (at least the former; I'm assuming the latter) come from an "independent study."

Hmm... I go looking around for $685.6 million... there it is! The figures cited appear to originate from this June 2010 economic impact analysis by the Perryman Group of Waco, Texas... an analysis paid for by TransCanada.

Now Mr. Perryman's math may still be correct, regardless of who paid him to do that math. But consider: Scott Heidepriem hires Steve Jarding for political consulting and analysis. Steve Jarding is smart, but if I wrote a blog post on Heidepriem and cited Jarding as an independent analyst, I'd be laughed off the porch.

By the way, Perryman's figures on business activity, tax revenues, and other goodies to come from Keystone XL are calculated over the lifetime of the pipeline, which is about 100 years. Citing the entire lifetime dollar figure makes the argument sound better—sort of the flip-side of how opponents of the new health care reform law like to shout about the trillion-dollar price tag, although that's over ten years, meaning we will spend much less to implement that law each year than we do to kill people and break things with our military budget. So to keep the direct, indirect, and dreamingly tangential economic impact of Keystone XL in a practical, annual perspective, be sure to divide TransCanada's rosy numbers by 100.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

District 8 Heats Up: Stricherz Scolds Bjorklund

The District 8 House race is heating up. All four candidates have signs up, including Gerry Lange's recycled, hand-painted plywood.

And now Republican candidate Patricia Stricherz is asking some hard questions about—surprise!—Independent/9-12 candidate Jason Bjorklund. I reprint the following from candidate Stricherz mostly verbatim, with minor edits and added hyperlinkage:

It has come to my attention that my opponent Mr. Bjorklund leans towards libertarian beliefs. Actually, the longer I get to know him the more it is clear he doesn't really know what political party he stands with. During conversations I've had with him he stated that he thought he was a registered Republican but when he went to vote found he was actually a Democrat (his words not mine). Now he is running on the Independent ticket but associates himself with the Republicans, attending the Lincoln Day Dinners, setting up signs alongside Republican candidate, etc. But Ballotpedia has him listed as Libertarian.

The one thing I have learned that is accurate is that he is a grand manipulator. He's good with words, but his actions are a little shady. We do not need a person such as this to represent us in District 8!

Another thing he has personally said to me is that he wasn't interested in running for office but his little group convinced him to. He also wasn't interested in heading up the 9-12 group, but again was talked into it. If it is that easy to talk him into things what will he be talked into if elected?

Until these past couple of weeks Jason was calling me regularly to ask campaign questions, how do you do this or that, etc. Now he won't even look at me when I see him. Why? Because he feels so guilty for the trash talk he has been doing about me, telling voters I am progressive or liberal, etc. So this is a perfect example as to how he uses people to gain what he needs to get ahead. We do not need people users to represent us!

It was my understanding that it is this very type of behavior from political leaders is what the 9-12 project fights against? How can you fight against something and yet display the same behavior? Does he actually live by the 12 values of the 9-12 project, or this just a facade as well?
  1. honesty
  2. reverence
  3. hope
  4. thrift
  5. humility
  6. charity
  7. sincerity
  8. moderation
  9. hard work
  10. courage
  11. personal responsibility
  12. gratitude
How about the 9 principles?
  1. America is good.
  2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my life.
  3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
  4. The family is scared. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
  5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
  6. I have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  7. I work hard for what I have and will share it with who I want to. Government can not force me to be charitable.
  8. It is not un-American to disagree with authority or to share mt personal opinion.
  9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Get to know your candidates! what they say to the voters is one thing, what goes on behind the scenes is complelty different. Know their character, visit their personal facebook pages, look at their pictures, this clearly defines their mindset [Patricia Stricherz, e-mail to Madville Times, 2010.09.26].

I had expected both the Republican and Independent in the race to concentrate their fire on the two Democratic incumbents. Perhaps Stricherz, who in the only polling conducted on this race so far is running fourth, is working her way up the ladder, tackling third-place Bjorklund for his Glenn-Beck base first before taking on Fargen and Lange.

I was going to suggest we might see here a manifestation of the Republican establishment rejecting a Tea Party upstart, à la wicca-bunker and science-denier O'Donnell vs. Castle in Delaware. But the local GOP establishment doesn't have anyone in the District 8 House race. Stricherz is on their ticket again, but they certainly didn't rush to fund her last time around, and I don't see signs of that changing this year.

Perhaps the situation is just the opposite: Stricherz is suggesting that Bjorklund is trying to win the favor of local Republicans, while Stricherz remains the more independent, anti-establishment voice. Perhaps by November, we'll see Bjorklund is the Republican favorite, while Stricherz is the outside Tea-flavored insurgent.

Or maybe the local and state GOP will simply say, "It's District 8 House: who gives a rip? We can handle Mitch and Gerry."

Eager readers, you don't get better opportunities for juicy local punditry. What do you think is going on in the District 8 House race? Fire away!
p.s.: Patricia, being called a progressive or liberal isn't trash talk, Patricia—it's a compliment! :-) I do understand where you're coming from... but I keep wondering if you might feel more at home with us Democrats....
Update 2010.09.27 05:52 CDT: Candidate Bjorklund rousts me out of bed with a phone call to ask that I remove candidate Stricherz's above comments from public view.

Big Spenders: Herseth Sandlin 71% in SD, Noem 55% in Texas

Where candidates get their money is important. But this morning, let's look at where candidates spend their money.

Hit the Federal Election Commission website, and you can download loads of info on our Congressional candidates' campaign finances. Right now the data is current through Quarter 2 of this year. Let's compare where South Dakota's main Congressional candidates, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Republican challenger State Representative Kristi Noem, have spent their campaign cash:

Herseth Sandlin
AZ$376 0.1%
CO$5,000 1.8%
CA$2,400 0.4%
DC$700 0.3%
DC$114,167 20.5%
IA$2,305 0.8%
GA$2,329 0.4%
IN$1,000 0.4%
IL$19,199 3.4%
MN$17,383 6.3%
MD$5,176 0.9%
SD$91,142 32.9%
MN$6,708 1.2%
TX$152,300 55.0%
NV$1,342 0.2%
VA$6,994 2.5%
NY$1,746 0.3%
Grand Total$276,824
OH$254 0.0%

SD$395,921 70.9%

TX$4,755 0.9%

VA$3,724 0.7%

Grand Total$558,097

Funny: Noem's supporters like spinning the lie that Herseth Sandlin actually lives in her husband's home state of Texas, yet Noem is the one spending a majority of her money on Texas ad-makers (and getting lackluster ads from folks who I hear have trouble with deadlines). Meanwhile, Herseth Sandlin has spent almost 71% of her campaign dollars right here where she lives, in South Dakota.

Now Noem does get a larger proportion of her individual contributions from in-state than does Herseth Sandlin (86% versus 64%... and that doesn't include all the political committee contributions, where the bulk of Herseth Sandlin's money comes from, and which spigot Noem only just opened post-primary). But from a pure economic development perspective, Noem is exporting our cash, while Herseth Sandlin is bringing cash into South Dakota's economy. Way to go, Steph!

Stay tuned for the Q3 reports.

TransCanada Pipeline a Big Bad Deal for South Dakota

...and for America, Canada, Ducks, First Nations....

Mike McDowell, general manager of Heartland Consumer Power District and my state senator's boss, parrots the corporate line that the TransCanada Keystone pipelines are "good for South Dakota and good for America." McDowell waves dollars and the Hugo Chavez boogeyman in our faces while failing to acknowledge that...
  1. South Dakotans don't get many jobs from TransCanada;
  2. Any jobs we get will be offset by jobs Canadians lose: refining jobs move south of the border, and the Canadian oil boom inflates the loonie, hurts Canadian exports, and kills Canadian manufacturing jobs (400,000 lost over the last decade);
  3. China is buying most of TransCanada's tar sands oil;
  4. TransCanada acts just as dictatorially and socialistically as Chavez in running roughshod over American landowners with eminent domain;
  5. Decent American businesses like Walgreens are boycotting the tar sands oil TransCanada wants to sell us;
  6. TransCanada still wants to build Keystone XL with thinner pipe with steel from Welspun, a company that supplied lots of defective steel to other pipelines;
  7. Refiners say the tar sands pipeline system is unnecessary;
  8. We could fully replace the capacity of both Keystone pipelines by fully recycling our motor oil (something I learned from McDowell himself);
  9. Tar sands oil production and transportation threatens our prairie aquifers through industrial consumption and pollution (see also the Enbridge spill in Michigan);
  10. Tar sands oil kills ducks (many more than industry data suggest).. and maybe First Nations people.
Ah, yes, our First Nations neighbors, the nice people who have to live with and get cancer from the immediate effects of tar sands oil production. I reported last April that TransCanada is party to genocide against some native peoples in Canada. Last week, some representatives of Canada's and America's First Nations traveled to Washington to press the case that the Keystone XL pipeline will only do more damage to the tribes' way of of life. They complained that while the Alberta government wines and dines American senators who live nowhere near the pipeline routes, First Nations concerns are ignored.

As McDowell says, the TransCanada pipeline is a big deal... a big bad deal for South Dakotans, for Americans, for Canadians, and for the First Nations people who have to live with the environmental destruction wrought by the tar sands oil a few corporate mouthpieces pretend is so wonderful.
Bonus economic query: McDowell contends that the electricity demands of the Keystone pipelines and pumping stations will strengthen our rural electric cooperatives. But co-ops have to build more infrastructure and generation capacity to handle TransCanada's power demands. Ratepayers and taxpayers are subsidizing some of that construction. Once all that new capacity is installed, TransCanada's electric bills should pay back the investment but if the volatile oil market dips, local ratepayers may end up paying for it. And if TransCanada uses all that power, doesn't that mean the rural electric co-ops will be pushed to peak demand more often, have to use more expensive peak generation, and thus send us all higher electric bills?
But don't worry. As Great Plains Tar Sands Pipelines notes, TransCanada will respond quickly to any spill... if it's not stormy out. And we have keen government oversight from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration... which is run by a former oil company lawyer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vote Now in Lake County Sheriff Poll!

My readers have been itching for a poll on the Lake County Sheriff's race. I'm happy to oblige. Vote here in the right sidebar for the man you think would best serve the people of Lake County as chief law enforcement officer:
  • Madison city patrolman Jason R. Lurz
  • Madison city patrolman Dan Wyatt
  • Incumbent two-term sheriff Roger C. Hartman.
This race could be more heated than one might expect from a local sheriff's race. Patrolman Wyatt has already demonstrated his willingness to criticize the incumbent sheriff in pretty direct terms. Patrolman Lurz is less direct, but his clear expectations of the sheriff's office suggest he sees something lacking in the current regime. And a potential race-shaker: the rift exposed between the police and fire departments by the DUI arrest of on-duty fireman Scott Johnson. If there is a candidate's forum for the sheriff's race, expect awkward but necessary question #1 to be, "Suppose you see a local volunteer fireman drinking to excess. At what point do you intervene?" (Candidates, feel free to respond now!)

The sheriff's poll will stay open until Tuesday, September 28, at 11:59 p.m. So tell your friends, and vote now!

Katus for Treasurer: Keep State Money Local!

Tom Katus just gave me a reason to vote for him for state treasurer. The Democratic candidate says he wants to put more of the state's money in local banks and credit unions. Instead of propping up Wells Fargo and other national players with our taxpayer dollars, Katus wants to let local lenders like the Miner County Bank and East River Fderal Credit Union mind a bigger share of our money.

Wow! Katus must be on the same wavelength as Ariana Huffington and I about community banks. I just read about Katus's "bank local!" position in last night's MDL, but Katus has been offering this idea since early in his campaign (shows how much attention we pay to the treasurer's race). It makes sense. Just as we'd expect state government to hire South Dakota contractors whenever feasible to maximize the circulation of dollars in the local economy, we should expect the state to use its savings (assuming it has savings, when there's a huge deficit to plug and no federal stimulus coming to protect the Legislature from hard decisions next time around... but that's another issue) to support lending and investment in as many of our communities as possible.

Getting folks' attention when you're running for any statewide office below governor can be hard. Tom Katus's desire to shift more of the state treasury from Wall Street to Main Street deserves our attention.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Grassland Wilderness Bill Would Prevent Problems Seen in Black Hills

South Dakota's Republican candidate for U.S. House Kristi Noem says she opposes the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act because the federal government has mismanaged its forest land in the Black Hills. At least that's one of the lines her handlers fed her about the six-page bill she couldn't be bothered to read herself.

Larry Kurtz offers some useful points that illustrate why Noem's opposition to the grassland wilderness around the Badlands is really just uninformed teabaggery. On Interested Party, Kurtz notes that "The Forest Service manages about 1.25 million acres in the Hills, most of the other 5.5 million acres of the Black Hills hydrologic region are privately held lands whose owners largely blame forest failures on Federal or State mismanagement."

The majority of hydrologic region is privately held, but Noem and other Grover Norquist apers blame the government for... well, something. The private sector is sacred, so we must blame something else, right?

Mr. Kurtz then cites this passage from a Rapid City Journal commentary from 2002:

From a socio-economic perspective, the existence of so much private land has caused forest managers to fear fire, prompting even greater fire suppression and more commercial logging and thinning for fuels reduction and breaks. While this may make landowners feel more secure, these activities have not and will not maintain the natural processes that regulate the health and the vitality of this ponderosa pine forest. Unquestionably, private development has also contributed to the cultural loss and impoverishment of the Lakota Nation who claim the Black Hills under treaties broken by the U.S. Government [Jake Kreilick, "On the Verge of Ecological Collapse," Rapid City Journal, 2002.02.14].

So if the federal government is having trouble properly managing the Black Hills National Forest, it's because free-market fundamentalists like Noem have pushed roads and private development into all but two percent of the forest. All that expensive private property stands in the way of the good fire the Hills could use to restore the natural ecosystem. Keeping that development in check in places would have helped the federal government manage the land.

And keeping development in check is exactly what Senator Tim Johnson's S. 3310 would do: maintain the status quo, protect current grazing rights, but prevent further privatization and development from breaking up a national treasure, a unique grasslands wilderness.

Do you get that now, Kristi? (And have you gotten it yet, Stephanie? Time to get off the fence and endorse Tim's bill!)

Heidepriem Buys Half-Hour Blocks for TV Documentary

Democratic candidate for South Dakota governor Scott Heidepriem is going big on TV time. On Thursday, October 7, is buying 30 minutes on Sioux Falls television stations KELO, KSFY, and KDLT and Rapid City stations KOTA, KNBN, and KEVN to tell South Dakotans why Heidepriem should be governor. The show will run at 6:30 p.m. Central on the Sioux Falls stations, then 6:00 p.m. Mountain on the Rapid City channels.

Now when I first heard about the broadcast, I thought maybe we were in for a good old-fashioned Ross Perot-style presentation, 30 minutes of the candidate talking directly to us and flipcharting his way through what's wrong with the status quo and how he'll fix it.

We might get a little of that, but it sounds like we're in for more of an exercise in creative marketing. Here's the campaign's description:

On October 7, 2010, our Campaign will make modern South Dakota campaign history when we air a powerful half-hour documentary on Scott Heidepriem and this fall's crucial South Dakota gubernatorial campaign. The documentary will air statewide on local networks -- KELO (KDLO and KPLO), KSFY and KDLT television in Eastern South Dakota and KOTA, KNBN and KEVN television in Western South Dakota.

The documentary centers on a very personal conversation Scott Heidepriem had last March with a small group of friends and family in his living room. In this wonderfully candid, funny and sometimes painful stroll documenting his life, Scott introduces himself to this small group of friends like he has never done before. He discusses his South Dakota roots and values, his father's war experiences in World War II, his life growing up in small town South Dakota, his experiences writing his book, on the history of Hand County, his family and the painful death of his brother, and finally, he talks about why he feels so strongly about the need to change the direction of politics and policy in South Dakota.

The group filmed the conversation not knowing at the time exactly what, if anything, would ever become of it. When the video surfaced several months later and they saw what they had, they wanted to share it with all of South Dakota. So do we.

The rhetorical/artistic concept sounds like good storytelling. I like the literary feel of working from one conversation and tying together the strands of a lifetime that lead a man to where he is. Given GOP opponent Dennis Daugaard's heavy reliance on his nice-guy hard-scrabble-farm story, Heidepriem is certainly entitled to weave personal narrative into his campaign effort. And while I prefer the policy debates, the reality of campaigning requires reaching a lot of people with the warm fuzzies.

Alas, unless the leaves fall and let the digital signal through the shelterbelt to my house, I probably won't get to watch. Will anyone else? If you do, let me know if Heidepriem breaks out at least one flipchart.

Veblen Dairy's Korean Investors Keep Green Cards...

...but probably lose green.

I noted that those attending the bankruptcy auction of the Veblen East Dairy last week included Terry N. Prendergast, representing the Hanul Professional Law Corporation. Hanul is the Korean law outfit that handles EB-5 visa applications for foreign investors participating in South Dakota Regional Center programs. That's the program through which rich foreigners can buy their green cards simply by dumping a half-million dollars or more into American job creation projects. Veblen East Dairy is one of several projects in South Dakota that has benefited from this investment program.

So I got to wondering: could any of those Korean investors be losing their green cards due to the failure of Richard Millner's Veblen operation?

I contacted Joop Bollen, president of the SDRC, to find out what's up with our Korean investors. Mr. Bollen says the Korean may have a fight on their hands to recoup their investment, but their green cards are safe.

All that matters to the EB-5 program is that the investors' money creates jobs within the first two years. Each investor's money needs to generate 10 jobs, direct or indirect. The EB-5 program calculates that one job on a dairy operation translates into 2.66 jobs in the local economy (hire one guy to shovel poop, and he goes to town to buy more beer and lumber, which generates enough economic activity for the bar and the lumberyard to hire 1.66 new people). Thus, if one Korean's $500,000 can be shown to create four actual dairy jobs, the EB-5 number crunchers apply that multiplier, declare 10.64 jobs created, and Uncle Sam erases the word "conditional" from the Korean's green card. Welcome to America!

The Veblen East Dairy satisfied the job creation criterion for all of its Korean investors before it declared bankruptcy. Most of the Korean investors have already received their permanent status. A few investors have applied for but not yet received approval of permanent status from the feds, but the bankruptcy proceedings and change of ownership have no impact on those remaining applications. It doesn't matter who owns the operation, as long as the jobs have been created. And as I understand Mr. Bollen's explanation, it wouldn't even matter if the new owners couldn't keep the dairy going and the whole operation collapsed. Once the EB-5 investors' money creates the necessary jobs (real and statistically assumed), their green cards are secure.

Not so secure are their greenbacks, which are what Mr. Prendergast was in the neighborhood last week to check on. Mr. Bollen's office isn't involved at all with the bankruptcy proceedings, but he says Hanul and the Korean investors are discussing how they might recoup their investment with the new owners' group organized by Richard Millner (that's Vista "Family" Dairies). The investors might well "have to take a haircut," says Bollen. I am encouraged, at least, to see that the Korean investors are still paying attention and trying to hold Millner and partners accountable for their cash.
Bonus Business: Vista "Family" Dairies has 30 days to get together the $23.1 million it bid for Veblen East. If Millner's minions can't convince their remaining friends to chip in for this latest Millner shell game, VFD loses the bid, and backup bidder Whetstone Valley Dairy gets Veblen East. According to the articles of organization filed last week with the Secretary of State, Whetstone Valley Dairy, LLC, is managed by Steve Myers and Michael Crinion of Brookings.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

GOP Costs South Dakota 5000-10,000 Clean Energy Jobs

The stimulus package is creating jobs, even against fundamental shifts in the nature of our economy. To tackle those fundamental shifts, we need to revamp our economy. That revamping includes revolutionizing the energy economy. Commiting America to a policy of clean, renewable energy would create loads of jobs, including 5000 to 10,000 right here in South Dakota.

But the oil industry's best friend, the Republican Party, has kicked, screamed, and mythologized to keep us from passing any sensible energy legislation this year. Thanks to Republican obstructionism (not to mention some Blue Dog collaboration), America is giving up 1.9 million new-energy jobs to foreign companies. Plus, the defenders of the energy status quo are also keeping an extra $208 million a day from being invested in the U.S. economy, as folks who want to build new-energy businesses say, "Heck, the U.S. won't get serious, but China and Europe will. Let's invest elsewhere!"

In kitchen-table terms, the denialism of Republicans like Senator John Thune and Congress-wannabe Kristi Noem means your household will miss out on as much as $1175 a year in income.

You can read the full report from the nice folks at the Small Business Majority, Main Street Alliance, American Businesses for Clean Energy, and We Can Lead. These are all business groups—business groups—telling the Republicans to get with the program on energy security.

Faint glimmer of hope: Senator Al Franken and some other good liberal Senators are signing on to a bipartisan bill from Senators Bingaman and Brownback to establish a national 15% Renewable Energy Standard. That proposal by itself wouldn't bring all of the above jobs and income back to South Dakota and the rest of the country, but it's an important step in the direction of the energy future that our competitors in the world economy are already embracing.

The Republicans seem determined to apply their "Invisible Hand" wishful thinking to everything. Don't just do something; stand there! The economy will sort itself out. Oil will magically bubble from new holes in the ground. We can keep doing things the way we always have, because we're Americans, and Americans are always right.

Look around, America. The world is changing. The economy is changing. We must change with it... and that means changing our energy policy. Listen to Senator Franken, and fix it now!
Update 17:22 CDT: Of course, 15% RES is small potatoes for real forward thinkers. California is working on requiring investor-owned utilities to go 33% renewable.