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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blog Potpourri: Fine Turns of Phrase

We find all sorts of verbal artistry on display in the South Dakota blogosphere this week.

Exhibit #1: Doug Wiken discusses Senator Tim Johnson's capacity for playing the grown-up in the room on earmarks. Senator Johnson notes that the federal government now lists every earmark online. Our Senior Senator says declaring a moratorium on the current earmark process will take spending decisions out of the hands of elected members of Congress and put it in the hands of an unaccountable Washington bureaucrat. Senator Johnson says earmarks done right fill vital needs in rural South Dakota. Wiken says "those enamored with the boilerplate mythology of Thune and Noem" should pay attention to Johnson's much more practical assessment.

Exhibit #2: David Newquist launches another hefty assessment of the disadvantages South Democrats face and the action the party should take to effect change. He addresses the South Dakota inferiority complex, saying young Democrats with talent recognize that this state doesn't appreciate talent and that they can find other states that will give them better political and employment opportunities. But Newquist still sees hope for young, ambitious Dems like Ben Nesselhuf and Mitch Fargen to stay and make a difference... and it's not through electoral politics that force us to pretend we are Republicans:

Elections produce nothing but rancor and lead to nothing but oppressive gridlock through the power game playing. A reformed political party must understand that to contribute to beneficial change, it will have to work around the state government, not through it. The old Non-Partisan League, which formed in the Dakotas early in their statehood, has some lessons for our current time.

Just as the Non-Partisan League built its influence through addressing the actual concerns of farmers who realized that the railroads and grain companies were impediments to their lives, the Democratic Party must acknowledge the forces that keep so much of South Dakota in a state of thralldom. The Non-Partisan League challenged the stifling oppression by the business community through state-owned banks, grain elevators, mills, and banned corporate farming. Many people objected to the socialist aspects, but state government in South Dakota is dominated by the credit bank interests, so there is really no difference between the rule of state government and the rule by banks. The Party needs to strengthen and revitalize its presence in those enclaves in the state where it has its support, and it must work at the local level to build functioning relationships with the segments within and outside the state that make the creation of viable communities its priority. The election of sacrificial goats and/or scape goats to the state legislature is more of a distraction than a reasonable focus of political activity [David Newquist, "Flogging dead horses, inflating degenerate balloons, or what?" Northern Valley Beacon, 2010.11.17].

Newquist clearly disagrees with my contention that we Dems should focus on fielding enough candidates for a primary in every race. But his suggestion is to focus on direct political action to benefit our communities. I (and the rest of us Dems) clearly have some thinking to do.

Exhibit #3: Bob Mercer discusses "The Soviet Takeover of Dakota War College." On reading the headline, I thought Mercer was referring to the turn of the blog from mostly rugged individual authorship to the new writers' collective (which, alas, includes some anonymous writers who need to cowboy up and put their names to their words). But Mercer's concerns about the Sovietization of the blog are less about creeping collectivism and more about the Soviet-style deletion of history and documents. Journalist Mercer appears to share concerns expressed elsewhere in the blogosphere that this self-censorship signals that, at best, six years of blogging was just a rough draft, now subject to revisionary pressure to suit ideological or commercial demands.


  1. I read this paper once about how South Dakota is second to North Dakota in exportation of Congressional members. That is, members who were born in the state who moved away, ran for office, and won. It seems like we punish the educated in this state and vote against our self interests. My prediction for 2012 is that we will still have the healthcare bill, still be in debt, and Kristi Noem will be voted out of office.

  2. Interesting, Beck! Do you have that paper handy? I'd love to look through those numbers myself.

  3. Ironic that Bob Mercer complains about the Sovietization of the DakotaWarCollege and deletion of history - on the very same day that he deleted HIS OWN POST ON HIS OWN BLOG about the legislature cutting travel spending.

    On 11/16 he wrote a post crediting Rep. Shantel Krebs for initiating the effort to cut legislative travel in 2010. I commented and pointed out that I actually began this push in 2008 on the E-Board, and I was also the House prime sponsor in 2009 of SB 142 to cut travel (Sen. Ahlers D-Dell Rapids), and SB 124 to hold members accountable for skipping meetings (Sen. Maggie Gillespie D-Hudson).

    I further pointed out that both of these bills were killed in committee on party-line votes with all Republicans voting to kill them and all Demcorats voting to keep them moving forward. I further commented that ironically, Rep. Krebs's 2010 bill, HB 1199 was also killed on a party line vote in the same fashion, and that Kristi Noem voted to kill the bill to restrict legislative travel.

    The now "Sovietized" War College put linked to Bob Mercer's blog post - including my comment - which apparently rubbed somebody the wrong way. Bob Mercer then "Sovietized" his own blog and erased this post - and my comment - from history. Oh, the irony!

    Rep. Rich Engels (D-Hartford)

  4. Rep. Engels, I remember that post! The post appears to have become a news story on the Pierre Capital Journal. Perhaps Mercer had to take it off the blog to protect newspaper copyright? He is still giving credit to Krebs.

  5. Just for giggles, Cory, in your spare time, check out the bills I cited on the legislative website, www.legis.state.sd.us

    Also, check out the E-Board minutes for August 18, 2008 and November 17, 2008. In addition to Republicans refusing to rein in legislative travel you will also find Rep. Kristi Noem trying to increase legislative expense reimbursement. Which party claims to be fiscally conservative?

    Rep. Rich Engels


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