Northern Valley Beacon

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Sunday, August 28, 2005


Ellsworth down, Homestake to go

Anyone who has been involved in efforts to bring new enterprises to South Dakota gets disheartened. People who are approached about coming to South Dakota snicker a lot. When South Dakota got the idea to get in the running as the site of the SuperConducter SuperCollider, which never did get built, the snickering was humiliating. The selection committee made comments about the families of scientists and technicians needing something to do and first-rate educational facilities to attend and that there should be a labor pool qualified to work in small particle physics. Some guy from Brookings turned their snickering into an ear-shattering guffaw when he said that our technical schools could train physicists to work on the collider.

One of the successful things about getting Ellsworth off the closure list for a time was the fact that very few truly stupid comments got into the record. Ellsworth had been built into a facility that carries out its mission with great efficiency and a sense of purpose. The people involved in making presentations before the BRAC Commission had years of solid work to support their arguments. Contrived and silly arguments, which are generally fatal, were not made.

But one of the big factors in the saving of Ellsworth is that people trained in high technology will not be leaving the state anytime soon. Keeping people who know and and can work with complicated technology is a key to an economy that keeps pace with global developments.

South Dakota has another opportunity to build on technology in West River. The Homestake Goldmine is one of the two finalists as the site for a National Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. It got a suprising reprieve to compete for that lab.

When a national underground lab was first proposed, Homestake, at which some independent experiments had already been done, was a natural choice. The nation's most prominent physicists quickly put their names on a list in support of Homestake. The features that they needed for their science were already built into the mine.

But then entered the mine owner, Barrick Gold. The gold company wanted to be exempt from potential environmental liabilities if it gave the mine over to government agencies for scientific purposes. It blackmailed the government groups by threatening to turn off the pumps that keep the mine from filling with water if its demands were not met. It did just that, and nearly all the scientists who had supported the Homestake proposal backed away and turned their efforts to other locations for an underground laboratory.

Nothing ruins good science as much as the involvement of a corporate bureaucracy. Academic bureaucracies are bad enough as personalities vie with each other, often, instead of advancing science. But in corporate bureaucracies, the bottom line and personal status are the sole objectives. Good science is scarcely a possibility. And so, the scientists defected.

But the inherent features of Homestake kept it in the running as the site of the NUSEL. Even while filling up with water, its potential won out over many other possible sites throughout the nation. Now it is down to Homestake and the Henderson Mine in Colorado. The National Science Foundation has given each place a half million dollars to come up with final proposals.

If Homestake is chosen, the Black Hills and South Dakota could be on track for finding a place in the post-industrial global economy. The Ellsworth experience could be a pattern for the Homestake proposal. An earnest, credible, and reliable presentation of the facts and potential could make Homestake, which already has an edge, the home of the National Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory.

David, in a earlier post, you alluded to the fact that South Dakota has been referred to as the "Usuary Capital of the World".
Commonly held perceptions that are associated with pervasive usuary are low level or poor quality of education, lack of culture or cultural opportunities, and communities governed by and for the interests of the corporate bureaucracies.
Welcome to the state of South Dakota, where Consumer Protection has been outlawed and Corporate Fraud is legal. Webster's Dictionary might want to rethink it's definition of bank robbery, or at least include Metabank as an example.
I'd like to tie Senator Thune into this as well, since the Ellsworth decision has elevated his position politically somewhat, and his future political aspirations have been given a fair amount of air time in the last few days.
I don't want anyone to forget that John Thune was appointed to the Board of Directors of Metabank(First Midwest Savings at the time) in January 2003. Financial records indicate serious financial trouble for Dan Nelson Auto Group in 2003. The documents show that even prior to that, the business was in trouble. It remains unclear, at least so far, who had more to gain or who needed who with this board appointment. Don't forget that Metabank's agreement/partnership with Dan Nelson and the potential intervention by regulators at some point, could be influenced by the presence of a well connected board member. Then there is Dan's presumption that Metabank could cut him off at any time, so what to do, but move heaven and earth, and a few million dollars in cars to help John Thune get elected. This would serve his interests as well as Metabanks with the regulators. Metabank knew there would be tremendous losses to the bank, even in 2003. John Thune's interests were served by the financial suppport of the bank board and officers, as well as the employees of DNA, family members of bank board members and DNA staff.
On that subject, it seems Senator Thune has forgotten about the support he received from former DNA personnel during his campaign. At the recent Empire State Fair in Sioux Falls, some former employees whose lives have been shattered by the failure of the business and lost wages, approached Senator Thune at the South Dakota Republicans Booth. One of the individual employees, who lost his job and earned wages, wanted to talk with Senator Thune about the situation. Senator Thune, not only didn't acknowledge the former employee, in fact he literally ran away. His behavior is indicative of some level of guilt or responsibility in the matter. How else do you explain his actions that resembled a cockroach's when you turn on the lights?
Jon Walker's biographical perspective on Dan Nelson published in the Argus Leader last month alludes to the fact that Dan's strength was his ability to bring individuals with polar opposite philosophies to the table. To give an example, some former corporate level management personnel at DNA have given accounts of Bill Janklow(long time Tom Daschle supporter)spending considerable time at John Thune's campaign headquarters in Sioux Falls. Bill Janklow's political connections are legendary in South Dakota. I had heard accounts of Bill Janklow not being particularly fond of John Thune. However, Dan Nelson brought them together, since Bill's influence could provide another stepping stone to John Thune's eventual win. Bill Jankow was playing his cards too. Maybe he could forsee the sitting United States Senator weighing in on his future plans to practice law again.
Senator Thune's campaign headquarters was situated directly behind the DNA Corporate Offices, and in fact, Dan Nelson's office was located in the same building that was being leased to John Thune. When I say leased, you have to understand the context of that. Dan had sold some of the buildings he owned, and was leasing them back. How could he lease the building to John Thune that he didn't own? Dan had also sold his equipment and furniture to Jon Orton, who owns a Sioux Falls leasing company. Ironically, Jon Orton at one time, did the loan approvals for DNA, before becoming employed by Household Finance, another finance company that funded cars for DNA. Jon Orton arranged for First Savings Bank in Sioux Falls to finance the lease of the equipment of the furniture and equipment to DNA for close to $300,000.00. Dan Nelson and Chris Tapken were both sued this week related to their personal guarantees for the payment of the leases. A former employee of DNA actually told the attorney representing First Savings Bank about the Jon Orton connection to Dan Nelson Auto Group, since Mr. Orton had neglected to tell him.
Some of the former employees have filed claims in small claims court this week in an attempt to recover almost 4 weeks of lost wages. The time these employees worked and weren't paid, benefitted Metabank and improved the worth of the DNA assets that Metabank seized.
Since Metabank's partnership with DNA allowed the business to continue deteoriating, as opposed to cutting them off, Metabank has some potential liability for the losses of the former employees.
Metabank petitioned the small claims court to move the case from small claims to circuit court. This was granted and there was a pre-trial hearing on Fridy.
Isn't it obvious why Metabank wanted the case moved to circuit court? There wouldn't be an immediate judgement in circuit court, and the case can be continued ad nauseum effectively putting the former employees out of the picture, due to exhorbitant attorney bills to collect what is rightfully theirs. Another hideous example of Metabank's paid liars(their attorneys)working hard to uphold the laws that protect their self serving interests and rape consumers all at the same time.
Rampant usuary may be present in South Dakota, but the influence of highly educated, progressive thinking, consumers, legislators on both sides of the aisle, and business owners that I have been privileged to work with is starting to be felt. South Dakotans are definitely not uneducated or culturally deficient. On the contary. The reality is that they have been strong armed by legislation and government entities that are either bought and paid for, or don't have the moral fortitude that is necessay to stand up for what is right.
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