Northern Valley Beacon

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


South Dakota ranks number one in truthiness

Todd Epp ran a headline on his blog South Dakota Watch asking if South Dakotans REALLY want open government. He was kind enough to reference our post below on the newest revelations that people in South Dakota government are closing off even more information and records that the public has a right to have and should have if they are to be participants in our alleged state democracy.

The fact is that few people in South Dakota seem to care if their government operates in secret. Most people do not seem to care what the government is doing with their tax money, whether it is honest and above board, whether it is administering law in such a way as to provide equal justice for all, whether special privileges are being given to special interests, or whether their civil rights are being compromised.

South Dakota, as we have reported many times, ranks absolutely last among the 50 states for open government. THAT MEANS THAT IT DOES THINGS THAT THE PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT AND IT RESISTS ANY ATTEMPTS FOR THEM TO FIND OUT.

The report is published by the Better Government Association and was compiled with the support of the Ford Foundation. [Click Integrity Index.]

A few days ago, when the matter of government secrecy came up on another blog, I posted a comment noting that our state government operates like many Third World governments do. I got the typical South Dakota responses back. One seemed indignant that I would compare South Dakota to the Third World. My comparison was not made as hyperbole or exaggeration. When it comes to government that operates in secret and shuts the citizens out of knowledge or participation in its operations and decisions, South Dakota is right up there with the most devious and secretive regimes. In fact, it criminalizes attempts to inform the public about government activities that are done in the name of the people. It has a gag law that can result in a jail sentence for any government official who tells the public that a corporation is under investigation. The state engages in negotiations with Burlington Northern Sante Fe and, because the railroad does not want the public to know what kind of transaction is being proposed, the state officials conduct what is public business in secret. Two regents get an idea for a new university campus in Sioux Falls and make the plans and arrangements in secrecy, then spring them on their fellow regents and the legislature, as if they are monarchs informing their court of their designs.

And now a group of legislators has a bill on the floor to prevent the public release of lists of people in the state who have concealed weapons permits. The reason for such a list to be secret is incomprehensible, except for the fact that some people in South Dakota REALLY DO NOT want open government.

In the matter of open government, South Dakota compares with Third World oligarchy. When you add in factors like the poverty rate and the pay, treatment, and rights of working people, the comparison becomes more apt.

Todd Epp and Sheldon Osborne have started an organization with a web page to monitor and work for open government in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties. The problems with secret and devious government in South Dakota is by no means limited to the state level. Still, few people seem to understand or care that open government by the people is a failure in South Dakota in many places and in many instances.

We also received the favorite South Dakota response when we made our critical comment about the failure of open government. It was the usual, if you don't like South Dakota, why don't you leave? That is part of the problem. People who do care about open, honest government, in fact, get out. In the past year, a number of families I know I have left. Others are in the process of leaving. And I also know of some enterprises that have left and others that have investigated South Dakota and have chosen to go elsewhere because of the climate of repressive secrecy and rule by oligarchy. People who truly believe that repressive, devious, and below-board governments are detrimental to families and enterprises choose to live their lives elsewhere. Whatever attributes South Dakota has, the regressive and insidious aspects of its governance are not democratic and do not provide the freedoms and opportunities that democratic government creates.

In political discussion, we often hear people talk about the truth. It reminds us of Jack Nicholson in the film "A Few Good Men." On the witness stand at a court martial, the character played by Nicholson is told by a lawyer, "I want the truth." Nicholson replies, "You can't handle the truth."

And that is what happens in South Dakota when you bring up the fact that it ranks absolutely the lowest in the nation in open government. Too many people can't handle the truth. It endangers their self-image.

What they indulge themselves in is truthiness, the word coined by political satirist Stephen Colbert. Truthiness is defined as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true."

In South Dakota, if you want to deal in facts known to be true, you will be invited to leave the state.

Problems cannot be solved until they are acknowledged and defined. In South Dakota, many people prefer to ignore the facts and go about their lives condemning people who find troubling facts. That is the circumstance that allows clandestine, devious, and deceptive government to operate in South Dakota.

When it comes to open and honest government, South Dakota ranks first in truthiness.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Hamas, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Bush, and Thune

I am a Cold Warrior. At the time I served, there was not much hot combat taking place, except within some U.S. military installations. At that time, some hard-line segregationists were still in great discomfort about the desegregation of the U.S. military. They often got violent. I was a guided missile crewman in Germany.

The most dangerous thing we confronted directly was a second lieutenant who came strutting into the launching area, swagger stick tucked under his arm, puffing a cigar while he purported to be inspecting the area. The missile boosters were fueled by solidified nitro-glycerin. Master Sergeant Jack Bradley spotted the lieutenant and shouted, "Someone get that mother-f***cking idiot away from here. " A private ran up to the 2nd Lt., snatched away his cigar, and ran off to deposit it in a sand-filled butt can in the only area where smoking was permitted. It took a few days for the lieutenant to realize that Sgt. Bradley's words were directed at him, but by the time he went to the battery commander about a court martial for insubordination and disrespect to a superior officer, the missile crewmen had filed a "hazardous incident" report which made liberal mention of the lieutenant's pompous foolery. He was soon transferred.

The jobs of Cold Warriors, most of whom, like me, were draftees, were assembling missiles with their guidance units and warheads and keeping them operational. The surveillance of potential targets was constant. Every four days, unless there was a heightened state of alert, each battery was on 5-minute alert, which meant everyone was on the equipment and it was ready to fire so that the warhead would reach its target in five minutes from the initial alert. This alert status lasted 24 hours. Subsequent 24-hour periods involved us in 15-minute alerts, and 1-hour alerts, and then a fourth period when the battery shut down and did the maintenance and fine-tuning of the system. We spent a lot of time looking at lights and meters and scopes on consoles and talking over headsets.

That was our primary job. But the Cold War was fought on another front. I often comment that what really brought the Iron Curtain down was Levi jeans, jazz, rock and roll, and the fact that America existed. By the time I was in Germany, the occupation was over and our troops were part of NATO forces. However, it was made very clear to us that we were under scrutiny by all of Europe and every thing we did made a difference in the Cold War. Most of the men in the missile batteries had been to college. Most of our parents were lucky to have graduated from the eighth grade. Europeans, who still lived in rigid class systems, were envious of the levels of freedoms and opportunities open to us.

When on pass in the villages and towns, the people made attempts to befriend us. Many of these people were just German citizens getting reconciled to Americans, but many were foreign agents from countries both hostile and friendly. About half of the men from the missile outfit could speak German passably. We were not required to do so, but we were constantly harrangued about maintaining a friendly and circumspect presence. We were escorts for German students who wanted to come on post and see American movies in an old barracks that some of us reclaimed for the purpose. During holidays, we visited orphanages to bring toys and play with children who had GIs for fathers and mothers too disgraced to keep the children.

Perhaps, the most menacing thing we encountered during our times on pass were the representatives of a growing Marxist group around Karlsruhe. When they weren't trying to question us about missiles and such, they were engaging in hostile actions, like running over the feet of a GI with a motorcylce when he was about to cross a street. But for the most part, the GIs were on their best behavior and showed the people an aspect of America that grew into a tremendous dissatisfaction with Communism and any form of dictatorship.

There is currently a resurgence in socialism and Communism, and very noticeably in our hemisphere. Venezuela and Bolivia have elected Marxist presidents. Other countries, such as Chile, are swinging far to the left. But what is most troubling is that what drives these movements and unites them is anti-Americanism. To them, America represents big corporations who exist only to exploit their countries and their poor, it represents a super power that wages war on false pretexts and snubs their regimes. Mexico may well fall into the anti-American category in its next election if Vincente Fox's likely opponent wins. He is running on an anti-American platform.

When people vote, they sometimes do not vote for what seems like the obvious democratic choice to us. Palestine swept Hamas into power with a landslide. Some of the more cerebral blogs are suggesting that this signals the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons within the next decade.

Americans voted for George Bush. The anti-Americanism has increased greatly during his presidency because he presents us as a threat and an enemy to other people in the world. In South Dakota, John Thune won an election with one of most dishonest and malicious campaigns in contemporary American history. That campaign brands him as someone of the low moral and intellectual character that disables him from representing many of us. But the people voted for him.

The way we vote sends a signal to the rest of the world. We have signaled that we are the major threat to many parts of the world. We wonder how many voters understand that.

It may not make much difference. The war we are in is expanding and it is not a cold war. We do not have one major enemy concentrated behind an Iron Curtain. We have a renewal of the Crusades against us and we are the infidels who must be exterminated. But we also have former friends and neighbors who see us as betrayers and are turning back to communism and socialism to protect them from has happened in America.

And the Homeland Security Dept. is ordering only 100,000 doses of medication to treat nuclear illness. This is what we voted for.


USDSU will offer degree in dumb, er ah, intellectual diversity

HB 1122 under consideration in the South Dakota Legislature would require that universities file an annual report with the legislature on their efforts to insure intellectual diversity on their campuses. South Dakota public universities have been under the control of politicians for some time, and this bill would provide further pretext for pre-empting academic leadership and putting political agendas in its place.

Obviously, the authors of this bill do not have any experience with education, higher or otherwise, at least in working on the delivery of it. Most professors let their political and philosophical orientations be known. They consider it important to show students that they have intellectual stances but also to demonstrate that those stances do not intrude upon their scholarship, their teaching, and their evaluation of student work. Some professors prefer to avoid any possible accusation of ideological bias by refusing to reveal or talk about their political and philosophical preferences. On occasion, people who hold professorial positions do let their politics, their religious affiliation or lack of it, or other beliefs intrude into their work. However, there are disciplinary procedures for dealing with work that is biased and unfair.

Students, for example, have grievance procedures if they think their work is unfairly evaluated or if they think they have been downgraded for holding political views in opposition to their professors'. Such grievances can lead to having the student work reviewed by an outside panel of professors and students, usually from institutions other than the one where the dispute arose. I have sat on a number of those panels. On most of them, we upheld the professors' judgments.

In a few cases, the panel ruled in favor of the students. But in those cases, the problems with the professors were evident to everyone in contact with them. In a word, they were incompetent. They were professors who had already been informed that their contracts would not be renewed because of gross negligence, gross incompetence, or failure to perform assigned duties. In one case, the professor turned every class into a harangue for a particular cause. Students complained, but the administration had already taken measures to dismiss the professor. The problem was that they gave the professor the opportunity to finish the term. That was a mistake.

In another case that comes to mind, the professor was not reading most of the tests and essays submitted to him. Those that he did read often showed that he did not accurately understand what was in them. When the panel looked at student work, the professor had already been suspended, and the panel was actually called in to support his firing. We did.

In the cases where professors were at fault, there was evidence that they should not have been hired in the first place or that their performances as professors were being ignored. In one case, the problem involved a senior professor who was seriously ill.

However, in most cases the professors were not found to be at fault. The professors demonstrated that the evaluations of students that were challenged were based upon work and the grades assigned to the students were consistent with the grade patterns for their classes. The students tended to be competitive, and they thought their work was better than it actually was. In those cases, the professors had done their testing and evaluations diligently and could produce strong, objective evidence to support their evaluations. Student egos, not professors' biases, were the issues in those cases.

When the primary sponsor of HB 1122 was interviewed by the Rapid City Journal, she said that a concern was speakers on campuses being shouted down and prevented from delivering their speeches. This is not a matter of intellectual diversity. It is a matter of manners. Incidents where this has happened take place in extra-curricular venues that have little to do with university policy and administration. They have to do with students going wild. In a blog commentary, someone cited occasions where Gen. William Westmoreland was shouted done, as if this is something that campus liberals do to conservatives. We also recall an incident in which Secretary of State Madeline Albright was prevented from speaking in Ohio. In fact, we recall a whole bunch of incidents in the 1960s and 1970s, some of which involved students shouting down their university presidents.

HB 1122 and insuring intellectual diversity has no bearing whatever on misbehaving students. They have vandalizing riots, such as have occurred at Madison, Wis., and East Lansing, Mich., in recent years. They go to the Carribean on spring breaks and get on television by getting bombed and flashing honkers. They shout down speakers sometimes because they'd prefer listening to heavy metal rock, or something. It has nothing to do with intellectual diversity and establishing hiring practices to give certain political stances louder voices in campus affairs.

Politics can and should be discussed in the academic setting. The controlling criteria is professors competent in their disciplines and doing a fair job of presenting the issues by including all relevant points of view.

A bill to require intellectual diversity sets the stage for the requirement to teach things such as creationism in advanced biology courses. The bill would introduce political agendas as a consideration in course syllabi. Its purpose is to gain political control over curriculum, course content, and extra-curricular programs.

If passed, the bill would provide a prime reason for talented and serious students to go to college at private schools or out-0f-state.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


The work to close South Dakota government from public knowledge intensifies

In the ranking of state governments by the Better Government Association according to their openness and accountability to the public, South Dakota comes in dead last. Recent developments in state government indicate that state officials are working to get even a more solid lock on that distinction.

Statehouse correspondent Bob Mercer, who has worked for the Aberdeen American News, the Rapid City Journal, and was Bill Janklow's press secretary, reveals more events today through which the state is shutting the people out of any knowledge of what is being done with their tax money, their property, and their lives.

The first item involves the governor's new mansion. It was built with private donations in what Mercer describes as a "plan to go around the Legislature." A selling point for that plan was that the mansion would have one side which is a private residence for the governor and the other side, complete with kitchen, would be for public use for meetings and dinners.

Mercer reports that the governor has taken direct control of the public side. "Members of his senior staff have repeatedly refused to provide information about who has been using it and for what purposes," Mercer writes. They are now insisting that the entire mansion is the governor's residence. Mercer points out that the governor's staff has repeatedly referred to the mansion as having a private and public side.

Mercer also brings up the lawsuit filed by the Argus Leader to obtain the names of people who attended the governor's annual pheasant hunt. Mercer writes, "It is an official state event put together by the state Department of Tourism and State Development." He reports that this year only team captains were given the names of participants and were instructed not to reveal the names.

The governor and Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth are working to further limit access to public records on deaths, births, marriages, and divorces. Mercer says that if you have noticed that such records are not appearing in your newspaper of late, this closing off of access is the reason.

Mercer says that the state tried to close access to the records last year by claiming that other states had done so for homeland security. Reporters and lobbyists showed legislators that this claim was not correct and the legislators decided not to close the records.

"Rather than uphold the spirit of the Legislature's decision last year, they have directed county officials to limit access." To see such records you have to show a photo ID, pay $10, but also know the name of the person listed on the record you want to see.

Mercer said that in a meeting with news editors and publishers, the governor and Secretary of Health held their position. Mercer says that news media may have to go to the courts to get the issue settled. This might require a lawsuit in each county.

We say it is time that state government be brought into court on its violations of open government. We will contribute to and raise funds to get it done.

When Gov. Rounds was in the Legislature, he carried the water in getting the gag law passed. That law provides a prison sentence for any official who reveals that the government is investigating any business suspected of fraud or other crimes against the people. Rounds has a record of keeping the public from knowing what is going on in state government.

The trend is to shut the public out of any information about what their government is doing and how it is performing, while at the same time it is gathering information about individuals and allowing corporations to use and sell that information.

One of the latest incidents of insider, secret government, also reported on by Bob Mercer, was plans made by regents Harvey Jewett and Terry Baloun about a new higher education campus in Sioux Falls. They did not inform their fellow regents or consult with the legislature. After they had done all the planning and organizing work in private, they suddenly sprung it on the public.

And when it comes to state government, we have to severely criticize the Democrats. Even if they don't have the votes to pass measures to restore openness and integrity to state government, they can tell their constituents and other people in the state that officials are suppressing information and taking away their right to know.

For starters, here are some of the statutes regarding open records:

1-27-1. Records open to inspection--Sale of lists. If the keeping of a record, or the preservation of a document or other instrument is required of an officer or public servant under any statute of this state, the officer or public servant shall keep the record, document, or other instrument available and open to inspection by any person during normal business hours. Any employment examination or performance appraisal record maintained by the Bureau of Personnel is excluded from this requirement.

1-26-2. Agency materials available for public inspection--Derogatory materials. Each agency shall make available for public inspection all rules, final orders, decisions, opinions, intra-agency memoranda, together with all other materials, written statements of policy or interpretations formulated, adopted, or used by the agency in the discharge of its functions. An agency shall hold confidential materials derogatory to a person but such information shall be made available to the person to whom it relates.
Source: SDC 1939, § 55.1203; SL 1966, ch 159, § 2; SL 1972, ch 8, § 4.

Friday, January 27, 2006


No web logging today. The carp are running.

We are in conference with people who know things and actually do things. They think web logs are the products of the intellectual alimentary canal. Suck on that one a while, mama. While we are pondering whether cyber space stable hands have much point in this universe, our postings will be sporadic, among other things.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Raising minimum wage will hurt small businesses

So said the headline in the world's most prescient newspaper today.

We can't help wondering if we will ever see a headline reporting what the minimum wage does for the people who earn it .

And some folks wonder, even after the failure of communism in the old Soviet Union, why communism is gaining a new foothold in the western hemisphere.

Here we go again.


Limbaugh, Schultz out; local programming in

Rush Limbaugh, the voice of the regressives, and Ed Schultz, the progressive from Fargo, will not be heard on local stations in Aberdeen after next week. KGIM, which carries both of their talk shows, is converting over to ESPN radio 24 hours a day.

KSDN-AM will feature locally produced programming from 6 a.m. to midnight. KSDN-FM will also feature locally originated programming.

The dropping of the political talk shows is a matter of revenues. While the spokesmen for the station management are reticent about the reasons, politically oriented broadcast shows are not good venues for advertisers. Poltical talk shows have a group of loyal listeners, but it is difficult to sell local advertising for the shows. Advertisers have found that the people who listen to the partisan talk shows are not in the demographic segment that spends much money. And they have found that some people boycott their places of business when they advertise on a political show that offends those people. A survey taken in conjunction with the Press Project study of communications during and after the political campaign of 2004 indicated that many advertisers found strong reactions to their businesses when they advertised on partisan shows.

During the mid-1990s, the face of radio changed drastically in Aberdeen. KKAA, now devoted to religious programming, KSDN, and KGIM all had news departments that covered local government and events. With the sales of KKAA in the 1980s, the news staff was reduced to a one-person operation. KGIM never had more than one person. KSDN had a two-person news staff with the station manager, Aberdeen's current mayor, doing a morning call-in show on local issues and doing sports broadcasting. KSDN covered local government as thoroughly as the local newspaper. By the late 1990s, with a number of sales of the stations and consolidations, the news staffs for radio had disappeared. Most of the programming on the stations has been by satellite.

KABY-TV dropped its locally-produced news show in the early 1980s. Its parent station, KSFY, maintained a news staff in Aberdeen, but its coverage became limited to crime and fatal accident stories and occasional features.

The announcements about the changes in programming for the radio stations do not indicate any plans to cover local news to break the monopoly by the local newspaper. However, the trend back to local programming fits a national trend. Talk radio, newspaper discussion forums, and partisan shows have become financial liabilities. People listen and talk, but they don't buy.

As one media consultant commented, the return to local programming may or may not be a solution to declining advertising revenues. With satellite programming, people stopped listening to local radio for local news and information. It left an audience of people who sit at home with little else to do but listen to radio or watch television. The active people listen to their Walkmans and Ipods--without interruption by advertising. Many people get their news from their computer homepages. If radio stations are to claim a share of the market again, they will have to give people a reason to tune them in and they will have to make local programming relevant to their lifestyles.

With subscriber satellite radio coming on the scene, the local stations have a huge task just to survive. Consultants point out that local radio stations in most market areas lost their audiences when they turned to satellite programming. They set the market up for XM and Sirius satellite radio which permits listeners to do the programming of what they want to hear.

The market for locally produced radio is a greatly reduced one from what it was a decade ago. The changes in programming are part of the struggle to survive.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Say goodbye to U.S. auto industry

With General Motors flirting with bankruptcy, Ford announcing the closure of plants and the firing of workers, Daimler Chrysler has announced that it will be laying off 4,000 white collar workers in coming months. The industry as a whole is firing tens of thousands of union workers and a very significant number of executives, engineers, and other white collar workers. A full explanation is in The Washington Post.


Big Brother goes ape

The portrait of the Bush administration that appears on the front page of The New York Times today makes George Orwell's Big Brother look downright wimpy.

One story deals with the revelations that the White House had received warnings about how severely Katrina would hit New Orleans and that area of the Gulf Coast days before the hurricane struck land. The White House is refusing to give up papers to a Congressional investigating committee that detail the time-line and nature of the warnings.

Another story deals with the government attempts to require Google to give up its records so that officials can see who is searching for what kind of sites on the Internet. Anyone curious about matters going on in the world might show up as a potential participant in nefarious and depraved activities.

And then the continuing story is spread throughout the news about the Bush's contention that he has the authority to eavesdrop on Americans without getting approval from a special court. The current story is that only telephone calls and e-mails between Americans and people with suspicious indentities would be monitored, but the administration dismisses the Constitutional standard being violated in such actions. Furthermore, records show that the leads produced by the totalitarian wire-tapping proved to be useless for the most part. The administration is trying to make the case that its intentions are focused only outside possible terrorists at the same time it is trying to get records about what kind of web sites American citizens are surfing.

Oh, Big Brother, what a big and long nose you have.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Hispanics object to Alito

Several news reports have cited objections of Hispanic leaders to the Samuel Alito. Here is one of them:

Several leaders of Hispanic organizations expressed opposition Thursday to the likely Senate confirmation of Samuel Alito as a Supreme Court justice, predicting his accession to the bench would erode civil rights and advances made by Hispanics in the United States.

During a press conference, the leaders said their opposition to Alito was due to analysis of his 15-year record as a federal judge, and to the fact that, in their opinion, he has been hostile to the interests of minorities.Alito "is not the best person" for the Hispanic community and his judicial record shows that, said Gabriela Lemus, director of policy and legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


When standing downwind, wind power is not all fresh air

We have an interest in wind power because we are on the board of directors of a corporation that owns land in one of the nation's prime wind sites. Our posts about wind power and the forces struggling to get control of it have produced an abudance of e-mail and responses.

At this time, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will be examining a proposal for stimulating wind power projects in South Dakota. A plaint in regard to wind power development is that there are not adequate transmission lines to get the power from where it is produced to where it is used. Electric producers claim that the cost of constructing such lines is $1 million a mile. The proposal coming before the PUC is to tack the cost of building the lines onto the consumers' power bills.

Another group of wind power advocates is promoting the idea of creating a hydrogen fuel economy. They point out that wind powered generators, water powered generators, and photo cells could be used to generate electricity but also to run electrolysis machines that convert water into hydrogen. In rural areas, the hydrogen would be used to power farm equipement. Our automobiles and trucks would be powered hydrogen. The energy is abundant, renewable, and virtually pollution free.

However, there are some groups that have taken a strong stance against wind power. One such group has a web site at

From an article circulated by its members, here are some of the points they make about wind power.

1. Tax avoidance, not environmental and energy benefits, has become the primary motivation for building “wind farms.” Currently, two-thirds of the economic value of wind projects comes from federal tax benefits.

2. Huge windmills – some 35 stories tall -- produce very little electricity. All the 12,000+ windmills now scattered across thousands of acres in 30 states in the US may be able to produce about 15,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. That may sound like a lot of electricity, but it’s equal to ¾ of 1% of the electricity produced in the US in 2003 and much less than the 20,000,000,000 kWh produced by Exelon’s Braidenwood generating station during 2004.

3. Electricity from wind turbines has less real value than electricity from reliable generating units. Wind turbines produce electricity only when the wind is blowing in the right speed range. Their output is intermittent, highly volatile and largely unpredictable and can’t be counted on when electricity demand is highest; e.g., during hot summer afternoons.

4. The true cost of electricity from wind energy is much higher than wind advocates admit. Advocates ignore the huge costs of subsidies and fail to acknowledge that reliable generating units must be kept available and running to balance and “back up” the intermittent, volatile output from wind turbines so that electricity always will be available when required by electric customers. Windmills use transmission capacity inefficiently, adding to costs.

5. Claims of environmental benefits of wind energy are exaggerated. For example, advocates generally ignore the fact that backup generating units must be immediately available and running at less than their peak efficiency or in spinning reserve mode, and that backup units continue to emit while in these modes. Also, under “cap and trade” rules, credits for sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides emissions that may be displaced by wind could be sold to other emitters, with NO reduction in those emissions.

6. “Wind farms” have significant adverse environmental, scenic and property value impacts that wind advocates like to ignore. People living in areas where “wind farms” have been constructed have become painfully aware that – in addition to the high cost of the electricity – “wind farms” impair environmental, ecological, scenic and property values. Adverse impacts include noise, bird kills, interference with bird migration and animal habitat, destruction of scenic vistas and ecological rarities, distracting blade “flicker” and aircraft warning lights, and lower value of properties near the huge structures.

7. “Wind farms” produce few local economic benefits, which are overwhelmed by the higher costs imposed on electric customers through their monthly bills. A few landowners may get additional income but the added cost of electricity to electric customers will overwhelm the total of these payments.

8. Wind energy has NOT been a great success in other countries. Denmark and Germany have residential electricity prices that are among the highest in the world and are experiencing many problems due to their use of wind energy. Opposition to wind turbines is also growing in other countries. Expectations that wind energy will make significant contributions toward meeting European Kyoto goals have been discredited.

9. Renewable Portfolio Standards are an insidious device. They result in enriching a few “renewable energy” producers at the expense of many ordinary electric customers.

Challenging incorrect “popular wisdom” is difficult but, in this case, well worth the effort!


Blue states secede from the U.S. government on energy policy

The divide between Republicans and Democrats has entered a new phase. Blue states, disatisfied with Bush and Repubublican energy policies, have started taking policy action on their own. Here is an account from the Washington Post:
Seven states that voted Democratic in 2004's presidential election have signed on to a regional plan to restrict power plant emissions. Eleven states that went Democratic have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, automobile tailpipe emissions requirements, which face a court challenge before they can be implemented.

Nine of the 10 states that have adopted appliance efficiency regulations also voted Democratic.

Requirements that a portion of electricity come from renewable sources have caught on beyond the Democratic-leaning states. Seven states that went Republican in 2004 have joined 13 Democratic-leaning states and the District of Columbia in setting those rules.

Though the new regulations are not necessarily partisan, the activists behind them say their adoption requires lawmakers and constituents who are concerned about global warming and energy-conservation -- issues that Democrats often emphasize.

The Bush administration welcomes state efforts "as long as they do not put Americans out of jobs or move emissions from one state to another or one country to another," said Michele St. Martin, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

State officials say their constituents are demanding new limits on pollution and energy consumption. "What is frustrating is that these things aren't being done on a national basis," said Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci (D).

In some cases, states complain that the federal government has failed to take steps required by law.

The Energy Department has not decided if it should implement some new rules for appliance energy efficiency or update some old ones, for example, even though legal deadlines have passed for numerous appliances, such as home furnaces and boilers. The department says it is working on improving its performance.


The Kremlin speaks through Aberdeen American Pravda

Except for a token effort at balance today with a piece on controlling meth by Sen. Tim Johnson, the opinion-editorial page of the Aberdeen American News is a flowering of the party-line. So is some of its news coverage.

In an editorial unusual for its lack of supporting facts or its analysis of discernable circumstances even for the Aberdeen American News, the newspaper trumpets forth that South Dakota needs to take off on the energy of winds. It does acknowledge that a shortage of power transmission lines, which can cost $1 million a mile, has held back development of wind energy. It even sounds a bit tentative about energy producers putting the cost of those transmission lines on our utility bills. But then, the AAN says, "Aw, go ahead."

What the American News does not do is mention the mounting criticisms of wind energy. And as the editors of this web log are deep in a possible wind energy project, we know that the last thing corporations and their government cronies want is for wind to be developed so that individual producers may participate in its production and have some energy independence and cost benefits. [We have received a number of communications on wind energy, and will be posting the information later.] The American News, despite some serious questions, just ends up endorsing plans that put it to the consumers big time. After all, it says, they are the ones who use the energy.

A columnist sounds like a whole pack of coyotes while howling and, yes, whining about the angry divisiveness between political parties. And, oh yes, there is a recitation of the Bushene Creed that Lord George beat his chest after 9/11 and led us out of the valley of terrorism. There is no mention, and apparent understanding, of valid reasons for the anger. There is no mention of the pogrom of defamation exercised by the neo-regressives or the false information that Bush Kremlin constantly tries to cram down the throats of Americans. There is no mention of the accusations of treason and giving comfort to the enemy and the hating of America directed toward anyone who questions or resists the cramming. At least, the columnist seemed to be saying that she did not know what contributes to what is growing into a very serious political divide. There is some hope when people profess ignorance. It is better that professing certainties based on misinformation coming from Kremlin, D.C.

Probably the most egregious thing on the op-ed page is a reproduction of a letter from Regents President Harvey Jewett on a Board of Regents letterhead. The purpose of the letter is to quell any concerns that people in the region have that the proposed Sioux Falls campus for the S.D. higher education system will have a negative effect on NSU. There is nothing in the letter that deals with the real issues of why people are suspicious of the plan. In covering the story, the American News makes no mention of the fact that the plan was devised in secret by Regents Harvey Jewett and Terry Baloun, and that in itself raises questions about the idea. Some legislators who were quoted in a news story do allude to the circumstances of the plan, but there is no mention of the fact that the usual democratic processes for initiating, developing, and implementing such a plan are lacking.

A disturbing part of the coverage is that Republican legislators say they were initially put off by the plan but that their concerns were satisfied during a private meeting with Harvey Jewett. No mention is made of what was said to allay those concerns. It is the old game of telling the people, "We are your leaders. You have to trust us."

The Jewett letter is also full of assurances with no specifics of how the new campus would be run. It says that the credit hours at the new campus cost about $40 a credit hour more than on regular campuses and that tuition will sustain the operation. It also says that the campus will not serve primarily traditional college students. But anyone who has been around higher education knows that tuition has never been sufficient to run a higher education facility and that non-traditional students, those over the age of 22, have made up a significant portion of the students for decades.

One point that Jewett tries to make is that the new campus will not affect NSU because the university currently has only five students from the Sioux Falls area as it is. The statement suggests that NSU is not and never has been a target school for students from the southeast corner of the state. We do not have figures in front of us, but we recall as many as five Sioux Falls area students being in one of our classes in the past. The letter does not address the fact that NSU has had program and staff cuts and is having difficulty getting some programs accredited. Enrollment at NSU has been declining for some years. The declining population of college-age students is a factor. But so are academic programs and the reputation NSU has built.

There are problems with wind energy, political issues, and education that beset the region. You'd never know it from the reporting or opinion pages in the Aberdeen American News. It simply repeats what it has been told and would like to believe. And have us believe.

You can't believe anything coming of the Little Kremlin in Pierre, Kremlin, D.C., or the party rulers, as told by the Aberdeen Neo-Regressive News. Consequently, you have no idea what the real issues are. And so goes democracy on the northern plains.

Friday, January 20, 2006


The beast slouching toward Bethlehem detours through Minnesota

The Twin Cities metropolitan area has experienced a number of murders of parents by their children recently. However, two stand out for the premeditation and assistance by friends.

In early October in Hastings, Minnesota, 17-year-old Matthew Niedre was charged with gunning down his parents in their business. He had enlisted the help of friends by offering the $15,000 in money he assumed would come to them. Matthew attended a parochial school. News accounts say he had argued with his parents about missing church services, flirting with younger girls at church, and wanting to attend a different church.

Last week, 20-year-old Grant Everson was accused of killing his mother in her Chaska home. A friend, after asking Mrs. Everson whether she wanted to be shot in the chest or the head, shot her in the head. Mr. Everson, who heard the shot and believed the young men would come gunning for him, escaped to a neighbor's home by going out a closet window. The young men wanted to take the insurance from the deaths and open a coffee shop in Amsterdam where they could sell marijuana.

Social scientists say these incidents are anecdotal and should not be seen as a trend. They say that only about 1 to 2 percent of the murders in the U.S. are parricide, the killing of parents. But as our professor in a philosophy of science class said, scientific conclusions are drawn from bunches of anecdotes. And even if the killings of parents are unusual, they still merit probing into what frame of mind and what influences motivate children from apparently functional homes to kill their parents for money.

We do not know what manner of beast is slouching toward Bethlehem, but we have some creatures we can examine to find out.

Our reference is William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming:"

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?


Who wants to veto Alito?

According to today's Washington Post, Democrats who have announced that they will vote against Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court are:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.);

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking
Democrat on the Judiciary Committee;

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the Democratic whip;

Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.).

Leahy and Salazar had voted in favor of Roberts.

On Wednesday, Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), another Roberts backer, said he will oppose Alito.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Colin Powell's former chief of staff excoriates Bush administration

The Washington Post carries a story today on the severe criticism of the Bush administration from Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, who has lost the friendship of Powell for his outspokenness.

"My wife would probably shoot me if I headed to the ballot box with a Republican vote again," he says. "This is not a Republican administration, not in my view. This is a radical administration."

Wilkerson calls Bush an unsophisticated leader who has been easily swayed by "messianic" neoconservatives and power-hungry, secretive schemers in the administration. In a landmark speech in October, Wilkerson said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

He is particularly appalled by U.S. treatment of enemy detainees, counting at least 100 deaths in custody during the course of the war on terrorism -- 27 of them ruled homicides. "Murder is torture," he says. "It's not torture lite."

As for the invasion of Iraq? A blunder of historic proportions, he believes."This is really a very inept administration," says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation's war colleges.

"As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years. You've got to go back and think about that. That includes
the Bay of Pigs, that includes -- oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate."

Such a critique, coming from a man who was long thought to speak for Powell, is seismic in Washington power circles. Some observers used to regard Powell and Wilkerson as so close that they enjoyed a "mind meld," but now Powell distances himself from the pronouncements of his former aide.


I thought there was a First Amendment around here someplace

We understand why school officials have problems with gang colors and symbols, but we don't understand how a drawing in its own right can constitute a violation and what sort of due process involved the young man in this story from the Chicago Tribune. Could this be just more of Bush era surveillance and repression?

Drawing gets freshman expelledSchool says sketch was a gang symbol
By Tim Kane
Special to the Tribune
Published January 19, 2006

A 16-year-old high school student in [Chicago] northwest suburban McHenry has been expelled for drawing what school officials said was a gang symbol in his notebook.

The McHenry Community High School District 156 school board emerged from a closed-door session Tuesday night and voted unanimously to expel Derek Kelly from McHenry High School East Campus for the rest of the school year.

The youth would be allowed to re-enroll in the district in the fall but is not allowed to attend any state public school for the rest of the school year, Principal David Moyer said Wednesday."We would treat him like we would any student," if he returned, Moyer said. "He would have to do what is expected of him just like anybody else."

Kelly's mother said her son would take correspondence courses to continue his education at home."He is not going back to the school district next year. I'm not sure we'll even be here," said Kathy Kelly, who has three other children, ages 18, 9 and 2. "I'm not going to pay taxes to the district."

A school official saw the drawing Jan. 3 in Kelly's planner while Kelly was serving an in-school suspension for leaving class to use the restroom without permission, his mother said. The drawing is of a cross, with a spider web on one side and a crown at the top. In the middle of the cross are the initials "D.L.K." The teen, whose full name is Derek Leon Kelly, said the initials are his. School officials have alleged that they could stand for "Disciples Latin King," his mother said. The Latin Kings and Latin Disciples are rival gangs.

Kelly had been warned twice before by school officials not to doodle crowns because of the Latin Kings symbolism, his mother said. Crowns are a Latin Kings symbol, according to law-enforcement Web sites.

Kelly attended the board meeting with his mother and stepfather, Jose Mercado. He wore baggy-style jeans with a crown embossed on a pant leg. His mother said those jeans came that way off a store rack. His mother said the clothing is a style worn by teenagers. She called the drawing in her son's notebook a doodle.

The parents insisted that their son was not a gang member and that they had moved from another suburb to make sure he did not get involved in gangs."He needs to be in school," Mercado said. "He's only 16. He didn't draw the picture on a wall. It was in his notebook."Kelly has attended the school for three years but is still a freshman. Noting that her son has been written up 54 times for disturbing or cutting classes, his mother said, "Obviously, he is a disciplinary problem."

"They were just looking for something to get him on," she said Wednesday.Kelly's older brother, Justin, left the high school in October but is enrolled in the district's alternative program, in which he takes classes by computer. His mother said school officials asked him to leave the high school.Officials would not comment on the case, but said he has not been expelled and is still a district student.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


A state park named after a pussy

Custer, left, and his troops at the massacre at Washita, right.

Some folks in South Dakota are getting a bit exercised because some Native Americans think the name of Custer State Park should be changed to Crazy Horse State Park.

From the Native American standpoint, their irritation is understandable. Custer led the incursions into the Black Hills and helped to break the treaties that the U.S. Army was supposed to uphold. He also commanded assaults against women and children in Native American villages. To the Indians, the portrayal of Custer as the big, heroic Indian fighter is an insult to the people. A stupid insult, but an insult nevertheless.

Custer is celebrated and revered by re-enactment groups who see him as a military hero. However, the military does not see him that way. When his career and battle tactics are reviewed by military scholars, he comes off as a vainglorious fool. In military parlance, the term "Custer" is a pejorative. His ego and his incompetence are what got him and his troops killed at the Little Big Horn.

An example of that is in the film "We Were Soldiers," starring Mel Gibson. First of all, many people who saw the film did not grasp the point. The film deals with one of the first major battles against the North Vietnamese in mid-November 1965. Lt. Col. Hal Moore leads the First Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer's unit, into an assault. About 450 men led by Moore soon realize they are surrounded by about 4,000 well-emplaced and well-trained Peoples Army of Viet Nam troops.

The point of the film is how bravely the Americans fought and how they looked out for each other, despite the fact that they were sent into a battle that had little justification. In the 234 Americans were killed and 242 were wounded. The casualties for the PAVN were 1,037 dead and an estimated 1,365 wounded.

Fully aware that he is in the same unit that Custer commanded, Lt.Col. Moore turns to Sergeant Major Basil Plumley and says, "I wonder what was going through Custer's mind when he realized that he'd led his men into a slaughter."

Sgt. Maj. Plumley replies: "Sir, Custer was a pussy. You ain't."

This is how the military sees Custer. He disobeyed orders. He ignored the information from his scouts. He served his ego, not his men or his mission. And at the Little Big Horn, he violated every principle of military tactic.

Custer is, in fact, held up as precisely what a good commander should not be.

While some folks object to Custer's name on a town or a state park, others see it as a reminder of the foolery and incompetence that has shaped our Indian policy and our history. We can enjoy the beautiful southern Black Hills and snicker a lot at recalling one of the biggest fools in American military history and hope that a fiasco like the Little Big Horn will never happen again. And then, we can marvel that another vainglorious fool led more than 2,200 of our soldiers to their slaughter in Iraq. Custer's foolery accounts for only 200. We don't learn much over the years. We have a state park to remind us.

A soldier from the Seventh Cavalry at the Valley of Death, Ia Drang Valley, in Viet Nam in 1965. He and 233 comrades were killed. Custer led 200 to their deaths at the Little Big Horn.


DUH: Spy-taps are not only illegal, they're useless

The New York Times reported today on hundreds of pieces of intelligence sent from the NSA to the FBI:

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

Click headline above for the whole story.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Let bondage ring throughout the land

Strange day.

To prove their essential decency and love of freedom and equality, a number of South Dakota bloggers are quoting Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech," as if they are the first to have discovered it or understood. In their self-absorption, they cannot conceive that there are people who marched with the Rev. King, who did the fighting and the work that carried out the vision he projected.

In South Dakota, it is ironic. The irony is revealed in a newspaper article datelined Memphis by Bob Mercer. Mercer recounts how South Dakota resisted Martin Luther King day, as well as Native American Day, but how they became established not out of moral conviction that they memorialized important advances in our civilization and democracy, but out of political rivalry and one-ups-manship.

The words of Martin Luther King on blogs devoted to defamations and verbal persecution of people who think and believe and live differently from their authors are the ultimate in perversion.

On this day, we can ponder how far this country has come in surmounting racism and vicious social injustice. But we can look at blogs and ponder more how much work there is left to do. And we can think of the diminishments of human worth and the betrayals of human trust perpetrated by the current regime in power and those who support it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


How Pine Ridge became the cultural capital of the world

A photo from Pine Ridge on Marty Stuart's concept album Badlands.

We avoid posting matters about art and the higher aspirations of humankind on this web log. Blogs have become the medium of choice for the venting of scurrility and malice, and we think that the better matters of human endeavor, even though meriting some criticism, need to be protected and preserved from opinions that are uninformed and ill-intentioned. However, important things are happening on and around Pine Ridge that have deep and hopeful political implications. Art has better prospects for Pine Ridge than does anything political.

Six years ago, we presented an essay before an academic group titled "When will Pine Ridge Become the Literary Capitol of America?" The title was framed in ironic exaggeration. The essay traced how Pine Ridge had become a very important place in American letters. Six years ago New Yorker writer Ian Frazier's book On the Rez, which is about Pine Ridge, was on the best-seller list.

Walt Whitman alludes to Pine Ridge in his mentions of the Dakota Territory, but a number of native American authors either worked there or incorporate the land into their work: Charles Eastman, Nicholas Black Elk, Luther Standing Bear (born on Rosebud but residing at Pine Ridge during his last years of work), to name the most prominent authors. Stephen Vincent Benet established Pine Ridge as a literary setting and reference point with the poetic line "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee." Peter Matthiessen explored the legacy of Pine Ridge in the American Indian movement of the 1970s with In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Many books and works were inspired by Wounded Knee II, and many authors have contributed literary perspectives to the place.

Adrian Louis has set works such as Skins and Wild Indians and Other Creatures on Pine Ridge. The paperback version of Dan O'Brien's novel The Indian Agent came out this month. It is a novelistic exploration of the relationship between Red Cloud and Valentine McGillycuddy, an early Pine Ridge agent and the first president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The story of Pine Ridge is essentially the story of the United States, and it is told and retold in American letters. Treaty violations by white America have never been resolved and are still on the table and before the councils.

Pine Ridge has registered on another artistic level in a CD album by Marty Stuart titled Badlands. Marty was interviewed last night and selections were played on the Steve [King] and Johnnie [Putnam] Show on WGN Radio in Chicago. Steve and Johnnie have had an all-night show in Chicago for many years that has kept alive a tradition of informative, entertaining, and civilized kind of of talk radio. All the songs on Badlands are written by Marty Stuart and are about Pine Ridge--a place introduced to Stuart by the late Johnny Cash.

Those readers who know I am not particularly enamored of country music and know that I found Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to be musical deities may wonder about my promotion of Marty Stuart. Well, first of all, he is a musician who, as Steve King put it, is not confined by any musical boundaries. If musicians are good enough, it doesn't matter what style they play; the music lifts the heart and soul. Marty is that kind of musician.

He will be featured on the Don Imus show (MSNBC from 6 to 8 a.m. CST) later this month.

He adds another important dimension to Pine Ridge and the story of the Lakota people.

Take note. Pine Ridge is a cultural center and continues to grow as a signal place on the American cultural landscape.

Wouldn't it be great if the Brown County Fair, one of the most successful venues for music in South Dakota, booked Marty Stuart?


Moving on: an American tradition

The best background for understanding American literature and its most persistent and consistent themes is provided by Swedes. The film "The Emigrants," which was based upon novels by Wilhelm Moberg, captures and portrays the motives, aspirations, and vision of the people who came to America looking for higher estates in life than any offered in their home countries. We used to use this as an introduction to the themes of American literature in the survey courses .

Leaving one's homeland and family is not an easy or casual experience. The search for freedom, equality, and opportunity, however, is more powerful than the cultural and family loyalties that often offer only those lives of "quiet desperation," as Thoreau put it. America has meant breaking the bonds of tradition and braving a new world. While America has had its class and racial struggles, its movement has been relentlessly liberal. By "liberal," I mean the dictionary defintion: not limited to traditional ideas and dogma, but favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others, broad minded. This is the opposite of how the term is used by Limbaugh and his minions of mindless parrots.

Another work of literature that captures the essence of America is James Fenimore Cooper's The Prairie. This novel is constructed around the motives of various groups of people as they are arrayed in American history. There are friendly Indians and hostile Indians. There are people who blend native American and European culture. But a prominent group is those fringe people who move constantly westward as America becomes settled. They do not like the confinement and the restrictions of village or city life. They often are outlaws, but they are the people who keep pushing the frontier westward as they search for lives unhindered and unfettered by other people. Actually, most of the people in Cooper's social schematic equate freedom with the absence of social conventions and restraints and the need to live under the dictates and scrutiny of others.

Perhaps the definitive work on America as an agrarian democracy is Willa Cather's long short story "Neighbor Rosicky." A Hungarian tailor by trade, Rosicky emigrates to New York City, but soon finds the anger and meanness of the urban streets intolerable, so he homesteads in Nebraska. He finds a full life for himself, but is saddened to see his sons and daughters having to face the diminishments of human society that he managed to transcend. Cather sees the closing of the American frontier as an end to the liberalism that she celebrates as the source of creativity and opportunity in all her writing.

Cather and Cooper fit into the huge sweep of American works that comprise what some scholars call the Revolt from the Village. All American classic works are about people who search and often find accommodations of their talents and personalities by moving on. This is not only a literary notion. Anyone living in the Dakotas and upper plains knows well the tradition of "moving on" to liberal climates as the shaping force of their regions. Politicians call it the "brain drain" and the "flight of the young," as if it is some new social phenomenon, but it is, in fact, the tradition that built America and developed its frontiers.

When the social restrictions, the political attitudes, and the opportunities for personal realization become too oppressive and too sparse, people move on. However, nothing sets up howls of angry vituperation like the criticism of the atmosphere in places like Aberdeen and the rest of South Dakota. The first reaction of the locals is for them to say, if you don't like it here, leave. Of course, that is exactly what people, particularly the young, do.

And when one says that one would leave rather than live under the conditions that the conservative residents design for one, one is accused of moral and political treason or of intolerance. But leaving places that one finds oppressive is the American tradition. Americans know implicitly that nothing is accomplished by staying where one is to fight for rights and status. That is why the civil rights movement for African-Americans was actually carried out in the urban streets of Harlem, Chicago, and Detroit where people found and were able to enlarge the freedoms and opportunities that simply did not exist in the South. Those freedoms and concepts came to the South from the people who developed them in the North. And that pattern still operates.

Today's New York Times has a front page story about how glum Democrats are at George Bush's reshaping of the Supreme Court with Sam Alito's imminent approval. To liberals the reshaping of the court so that the repressions and denials of status and freedoms that make up the conservative agenda are depressing. Regressing to social and economic privileges of a corporate aristocracy that longs for a system of feudal-type fealties seems like the end of America as we have come to think of it.

Last week when George Bush gave a speech right out of George Orwell's portrayals of totalitarian states which castigated critics of the war on Iraq as traitors--giving comfort to the enemy-- many Americans realized that the America of George Bush and his supporters is not the America that is reflected in its literature, its heritage, and its art. It is an America where the poor are dismissed as unAmerican and where incompetence and venality can rule without restraint.

When John Thune was elected to the Senate, we talked of following our children and leaving South Dakota for more liberal climes. The people of South Dakota endorsed values and practices that we find destructive and repugnant. We do not endorse anything that John Thune stands for. We do not wish to spend our lives with people who do. Just as the emigrants moved from the Old World, and young people have left their small-minded villages constantly for 150 years and more, our last best hope may be in joining that throng. And so it goes with the agenda of George W. Bush. We may have to brave new worlds to keep the liberal idea working.

This can mean moving to enclaves of liberal thought and moral values within the U.S., or it can mean moving to Canada or other places that still value freedom from repression and social and economic totalitarianism. In new appointments to the Supreme Court, a very slim majority of the people may realize their preferences. Others who see the end of American freedoms and opportunties may prefer not to participate in America's wars, its denials of the poor and dispossessed, its submission to corporate autocracy, and its repressions of personality.

The liberal idea of America will not die with the Supreme Court. America may die has we prefer to know it. But then it is time to move on in the American tradition. The America we served is not the America of corporate venality, obscene war, casually sacrificed lives, and privileged incompetence. We can reinvent and serve a real America, even if it means severing close ties with the land and the people.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


For an account of one of the most incredibly STUPID episodes in American history, click this headline.

Pakistanis Condemn U.S. Attack on Zawahiri .


Free porn. Cameltoes. Ejaculating females. Humongous honkers and dingy-twitters.

Got a a nasty e-mail about the number of hits on this blog. The headline is an adjustment measure containing all the right terms to get lots of hits. It summarizes all the offers to get more hits.

God bless. America the Beautiful. Fuck Murtha. And all that, too.


It just keeps getting dumber and dumber

The news today is of the continued incompetence and deadly bumbling by the U.S. on both the domestic and foreign fronts.

On the domestic front, states are having to reach deep into their coffers to help the elderly who are trapped in the new Medicare prescription drug plan. The lead story in the Washington Post carries the details.

Last night CNN carried news complete with expert palaver that the second-in-command of Al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahri, was targeted in a house in Pakistan and taken out by an air strike. Today, Pakistan officials are reporting that 18 people, including women and children, were killed and that AlZawahri was no where in the vicinity. Last night's CNN coverage was replete with claims of precise intelligence on the part of CIA and the U.S. ability to make "surgical" strikes.

Each day, the U.S. is shoved deeper into the decadent mire of the stupid and the power hungry. The big question is more and more whether we can change the country or must we leave it?

Friday, January 13, 2006


White House bamboozle on deficits is a routine

The Columbia Journalism Review Daily lauds Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman for being alert to the tactics of the White House in dealing with deficit numbers.

The White House summons reporters in early when it is ready to give out its economic figures, Weisman notes. This year among the rosy economic figures, it predicted a record deficit of $400 billion.

Weisman noted that the White House makes a practice of inflating its deficit prediction. When the actual figures come in a bit lower, the White House takes credit for managing the economy well, even though the actual figures may be in the record category.

It's all part of the new Orwellian rag.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Mesaba may cut fleet in half

Members of the Aberdeen Airport Board have been trying to get jet service to Aberdeen for some time. When Republic Airlines was the carrier serving the town, a late-night jet DC-9 came in late at night and then left early in the morning.

When Mesaba, the Northwest feeder line took over, the airport was served by very small turbo-props. They were so small that they could not hold all the luggage of passengers. Luggage was often shipped on later flights. The service has been upgraded, but with the bankruptcy of Northwest, Mesaba soon followed and is in bankruptcy protection. The outlook for any service is dubious, let alone any upgrade. The feeder line may cut its fleet serving the region in half. Here is part of the story by the AP which ran today in the Pioneer Press:

Regional feeder Mesaba also is in Chapter 11, having filed just one month after Northwest, which provides all of Mesaba's planes, revenue, and passengers.

Earlier this year Mesaba operated a fleet of 100 planes for Northwest, including 35 Avro regional jets that seat 69 passengers. But on Wednesday, parent MAIR Holdings Inc. said Northwest told Mesaba that all of Mesaba's Avro jets will be removed by December 2006. Mesaba also said Northwest is removing three of its Saab turboprops, leaving it to build its bankruptcy plan on a fleet of 49 Saabs.

"The four-engine Avros are very expensive to operate, especially in the current high fuel-cost environment," Northwest said in a recent employee newsletter.

Northwest has asked regional carriers including Mesaba to bid on flying 76-seat jets, such as Mesaba's handful of Canadair Regional Jets. The MAIR statement said Northwest will remove those jets, too, if Mesaba doesn't win that bid. Mesaba spokeswoman Elizabeth Costello said was being submitted this week.


Wal-Mart executive uses company reputation to hide his theft

When Wal-Mart's second-in-command executive was asked to account for a half-million dollars, he said he had used it for a secret project to bust unions and prevent them from organizing Wal-Mart employees. An investigation, reported by The New York Times, found that this story was false. Thomas M. Coughlin used the money for hunting gear and beer.

The Columbia Journalism Review Daily carries an analysis of how the reputation of Wal-Mart as a cheap and conniving employer was used by Coughlin to hide the fact that he was, in fact, merely stealing from the company.

In an age when the mass media is used effectively for mind control of the people, particularly by political factions that rely upon closed government and deceptions, this analysis is useful to understand. Our beliefs and prejudices can be used against us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Fetuses take a setback

Associated Press

PHOENIX - Fetuses do not count as passengers when it comes to determining who may drive in the carpool lane, a judge ruled.

Candace Dickinson was fined $367 for improper use of a carpool lane, but contended the fetus inside her womb allowed her to use the lane. Motorists who use the lanes normally must carry at least one passenger during weekday rush hours.

Municipal Judge Dennis Freeman rejected Dickinson's argument Tuesday, applying a "common sense" definition in which an individual is someone who occupies a "separate and distinct" space in a vehicle.

"The law is meant to fill empty space in a vehicle," the judge said. Sgt. Dave Norton stopped Dickinson's car Nov. 8. When asked how many people were in the car, Dickinson said two, pointing to "her obvious pregnancy," the officer said.

Norton said Dickinson's theory "would require officers to carry guns, radios and pregnancy testers, and I don't think we want to go there."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Time to rise up against Big Brother Bush

Many 0f our blogging colleagues noted today that George W. Bush went from stupid to lunacy in a speech in which he assailed Democrats who have noted the false pretenses, the totalitarian suspension of civil rights, and the betrayal of public trust involved in his war on Iraq. The person who clung to false information, deceived Congress and the public, and suspended civil rights through illegal executive orders descends to such a position of dishonesty and malice as to accuse critics of his bumbling and dishonesty of giving comfort to the enemy.

The New York Times, that bastion of progressive propaganda, reported a speech he gave to the VFW today in these terms:

President Bush issued an unusually stark warning to Democrats today about how to conduct the debate on Iraq as midterm elections approach, declaring that Americans know the difference "between honest critics" and those "who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people."


In some of his most combative language yet directed as his critics, Mr. Bush said Americans should insist on a debate "that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries."

When Bush, who has done more than any president in history to discredit our democracy, descends to the most base Orwellian tactics of suggesting that the people who really mourn for our dead and wounded are discrediting our democracy, it is time to take action for competent and honest leadership.

Click onto this link and sign a petition to invesigate the intregrity of this administration in getting us into and keeping us in a war that kills our young soldiers and our future as a beacon of decency and democracy.


This is how the pissing is done

Dickey County, North Dakota, is the next county north of Brown County, South Dakota. It was slated for the construction of a large wind farm. Things went well until last summer when some township commissioners in Dickey County saw some possible conflicts in the construction of wind turbines.

The commissioners saw that the huge, looming wind turbines, that feature wind blades that span 160 feet, could intrude on the land of neighboring farmers in many ways. So they came up with a zoning code that required a setback from neighboring property. This code was adopted so that individual farmers could lease land or construct wind turbines as individuals without intruding upon neighboring land.

However, their code interfered with the plans of FPL Energy, a Florida corporation, who was constructing the wind farm. When FPL leased land from individual farmers, it assumed it could place the turbines whereever it pleased. The required setbacks may have needed the grading of some access roads for maintenance and some additional cable for power transmission. FPL indicated that it might not continue with the project if it had to abide by the new zoning rules.

The project was cancelled altogether at year's end. Otter Tail Power, a generating cooperative, FPL Energy, and a potential user of that energy, Enbridge Inc., and the Minnesota Public Utilities all have individual reasons as to why the project was cancelled. It is all one, big pissing contest.

Here is the AP story which has the details:

Otter Tail Power, pipeline firm nix wind farm plans
Tuesday, January 3, 2006

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Two utilities and a pipeline company have dropped plans to build a wind farm in southeastern North Dakota, in part because of rising wind turbine prices, officials said.

Tony Clark, president of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, said some blame for the setback should be borne by Minnesota regulators, who he said were slow in reviewing the proposal.

"Minnesota is a very regulatory-minded state when it comes to mandating a lot of things," Clark said Friday. "And so, it causes companies, I think, unfortunately sometimes, to have to jump through hoops that they wouldn't otherwise jump through."

Spokesmen for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission said the project's structure was complicated and required scrutiny to ensure ratepayers were protected.

"The commission had some questions that it felt needed to be answered, and it just takes time to develop responses to them," said Burl Haar, the PUC's executive secretary.

Cris Kling, a spokeswoman for Otter Tail Power Co., said a sharp increase in wind turbine prices in recent months was a key reason the project was dropped. The wind farm development could be revived later, but likely not before 2007, Kling said.

"It's a very complex transaction and that's probably the main reason it got bogged down," she said. "We'll probably take another run at it, but that will take some time."

Otter Tail, of Fergus Falls, Minn., FPL Energy, of Juno Beach, Fla., and Enbridge Inc., a pipeline and energy distribution company based in Calgary, Alberta, have been exploring construction of a 70.5-megawatt wind farm in western Dickey County, on the South Dakota border.

As planned, the project required 47 wind turbines. It generated some public attention last summer, when the county's Spring Valley township adopted zoning rules for wind towers. Spring Valley became the first North Dakota township to have zoning regulations for wind projects.

FPL Energy intended to build the wind farm, to be owned by subsidiaries of the three companies, Minnesota PUC filings say. Otter Tail planned to buy the wind turbines' power and sell it to Enbridge, an Otter Tail customer that accounts for 9 percent of the utilities total power sales.

The Dickey County project was to be Enbridge's first U.S. venture into wind energy. Company spokesmen did not respond Friday to telephone messages left for comment.

The companies sought regulatory reviews of the project in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, in part because Otter Tail needed approval of changes to a monthly adjustment on customers' electric bills that account for fluctuations in fuel costs.

Earlier this month, an Otter Tail attorney sent letters to utility regulators in the three states, asking to withdraw the requests. North Dakota's Public Service Commission voted to grant the withdrawal on Friday. Minnesota regulators wanted to ensure the project would not affect other Otter Tail electric ratepayers, and that it complied with Minnesota laws that regulate dealings among company affiliates, agency filings say.

Louis Sickmann, a Public Utilities Commission financial analyst, said the project's business structure was "incredibly complex, and these are details that are important for the customers that we're charged to protect."

"On the surface, there was a certain level of excitement -- 'Wow, that's a lot of wind,"' Sickmann said. "We're not necessarily opposed to wind. This is good. But as it got into the details, it got more difficult."


Pissing away the wind

The people of South Dakota, particularly farmers, will not realize any advantages from wind energy, even though the state is one of the best for strong, reliable winds. The reason is that corporations, seeing, wind as a significant part of the energy picture, have managed to bind up the development of wind energy so that they will control wind energy like they now control the production of oil and gas.

The guiding principle in the development of wind energy is not how quickly and efficiently it can be developed to free us from dependence on foreign energy. It is how can wind power be established so that consumers can be exploited in the same way they are exploited in their use of oil and gas. State regulators and corporations have worked together to insure that energy distribution from wind sources will be controlled by corporations.

Since July, we have been intensely involved in investigating a possible windfarm in Brown County. As an officer for a small corporation that owns land that cannot be cultivated and is in a belt where wind is strong and constant, I have been involved in assessing the land for wind turbines. It is not likely that Brown County will ever see wind turbines because the powers-that-be--meaning corporations of various stripes--have worked to insure it cannot happen.

A big question with windpower is the matter of storing and transmitting the energy. The way this question is answered by corporations and state regulators portends that private producers and consumers will never see any benefit from wind energy.

Last July, Deere & Co., the producer of John Deere agricultural and industrial equipment, announced that it was embarking on a program to provide financing for individual farmers to participate in the production of wind energy. Its credit division is prepared to help individual farmers put up a wind tower or two on their land. However, to make up a windfarm that meets commercial standards, the farmer would have to:
  1. Be ready to invest in towers that can accommodate 80-foot blades at about $1 million a unit. Deere would help set up the financing.
  2. Be part of a network that would comprise a wind farm of 20 to 30 units.
  3. Have a power distributor, an electric generating plant, willing to buy the power.
  4. Have access to a cable system that can transmit the power to the distributor.

What this would mean for our Brown County location is that we would have to find 20 to 30 farmers in the area to form a production cooperative. Then we would have to find a generating plant that would buy the power. Then we would have to get access to transmission lines to get the power to the generating station, and this is a big obstacle because energy authorities say that such an infrastructure has still to be built.

A further complication is the wind turbines themselves. The U.S. has only one manufacturer of these big wind turbines: GE. And GE's production schedule is locked up for seven years. The other manufacturers are foreign with Denmark and India being leading producers. We were referred to the company in India and found that we would have to have all the provisions for transmission and sales of energy in place before they would schedule production of wind turbines. This is reasonable from their point-of-view, but it makes the development of a wind farm as a cooperative venture a near-impossibility.

That is the reason that wind farms are corporate controlled ventures in the U.S. Corporations can forge agreements with each other while blocking smaller companies or cooperatives from the infrastructure.

Deere & Co. said that its financial backing of wind turbines was based upon the idea of having individual producers farm wind just like they farm crops and livestock, so that they could have a part in producing the energy used in their farming operations. However, their plans are obviously geared toward very large producers who can take on millions of dollars of debt. As we investigated wind power, we found that there are alternatives to the huge windfarms.

Smaller units are available that supply power to individual farmsteads through a number of arrangments. One arrangement involves an intertie system with existing electrical sources. Surplus energy produced is sold to the power source and then redeemed when power is needed.

However, one of the systems is more elaborate and more comprehensive. In this system, the wind turbine supplies some direct electricity to the farmstead, but it also runs an electrolysis machine that divides water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is pumped into storage tanks. During low-wind periods, the hydrogen runs a fuel-cell operated generator. The hydrogen is also used to drive fuel-cell powered farm implements.

While this latter plan is one that scientists and engineers and agricultural economists think offers the most potential for clean, reliable, and abundant energy, it is the one that corporations are most anxious to stop. It would make farmers and other users of energy independent and self-reliant. It would change the entire energy industry and it would require massive changes in the automotive and power equipment industries.

The storage and handling of hydrogen needs some technological development to make it safe, but engineers told us that prototype systems are already in operation.

The developers and advocates of smaller units (an energy system that could supply a farmstead or rural neighborhood runs in the $100,000 to $200,000 range) have said that the huge energy corporations are mounting an all-out effort to prevent the development of independent energy production. Consequently, cheap, efficient, and clean energy is not something we will have in the near future.

[We will be posting related stories on what is happening to wind power development in our area.]

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Where will Laptop University be built?

The idea for a higher education facility in Sioux Falls which offers classes from all the state universities is not new. Faculty members were asked to form a study group many years ago and issue a report on plans that could provide a higher education center for Sioux Falls. Such a proposal was submitted. However, it was dismissed and ignored because it came from people who do the actual educating.

The study by faculty was so long ago that I do not know the precise time. I think it was in the late 1980s. It was not a flashy proposal. It was just a workmanlike job of making a careful estimate of the need for such a facility and the examination of a number of examples of such facilities that were cooperative educational ventures among many institutions. There was no question that some kind of provision was needed to increase the availability of higher education, including graduate programs, in Sioux Falls. Some of the possible models that were listed were:

Drake University; Illinois State University; Iowa State University; Northern Illinois University; Saint Xavier University; St. Ambrose University; University of Illinois (Chicago); University of Illinois (Quad Cities Regional Nursing Program); University of Illinois (Springfield); University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign); University of Iowa; University of Northern Iowa; Western Illinois University.

These cooperative facilities, and others mentioned in the report, are distinguished from the proposed Sioux Falls campus because they were planned and designed by full-fledged educators. The Sioux Falls campus was totally the dreamwork of regents Harvey Jewett and Terry Baloun. They came up with this plan and did not even tell their fellow regents, let alone involve any people in higher education. Both men have accrued credentials that make them uniquely unqualified for the job. They are not merely promoting a facility; they are designing it. And it has all the academic features of a fast-food takeout service.

Jewett was the principle author of a study of mass testing of the state's students a few years back. It was one of the most dreadful reports ever issued in the name of education. It contained every educational cliche and platitudinous idea that had been utttered in the last half century. It contained nothing based upon sound scholarship and research and knowledge. We are in possession of a business letter from Baloun that we have used as an example of the kind of document that should never be written.

We suppose the regents should be applauded because they finally got embarrassed that South Dakota ranks absolutely last in resources provided for research in higher education. The proposed campus seems to be part of those plans. The proposal, however, is significant more for its presumption, ignorance, and disregard for the people of South Dakota. Universities cannot be built as monuments to those who regard themselves in terms of feudal aristocracies.

A number of commentators have pointed out that other places in South Dakota need the benefit of higher education opportunities. Distance education with television and computers does not substitute for programs run by competent staffs in key locations. After cutting programs in the name of consolidation to save money, many students in South Dakota institutions find they cannot get the courses to finish their degrees in a timely manner. On the other hand, some of our largest universities have classses of hundreds of students. South Dakota has been involved in cost-accounting in higher education more than it has education.

South Dakota can use cooperative facility in Sioux Falls, but it has much to fear because of the people who are behind the idea and the way it has been handled. As now conceived, the plan would be an educational liability for the state--something it can ill afford at this time in its history.


Laptop dancing in the classroom

People of a conservative bent love to say you can't fix the problems in education by throwing money at them. So, Gov. Rounds has this bright idea that giving every school child in South Dakota a laptop computer will send them zooming up to the educational level required by the age of global technology. This is really "throwing money" at something. I know of no people in education at any level, except some administrators and teachers union officials (who think groveling before the governor is the way to obtain equities for education), who think this plan has any relevance whatever to the issues confronting educators as they are revealed by their own experience and by the mass testing fad that holds public education in its thrall.

No one is a bigger advocate of the use of computers in the classroom than I am. If anyone cares, they can check out the record. I found that computer networks were invaluable in teaching literature because they made it possible for every student, not just a few who volunteered or were called upon, to contribute to discussions. Computers provided a way of discerning the salient comments from the banal.

Most importantly, computers and word processing were the most significant development in writing since the lead pencil. They made it possible for writers to concentrate on writing, not the mechanical, clerical process of transcribing that writing into manuscripts for the ultimate, formal reading. In the process of honing writing skills, computers created more work and demanded more attention from students and teachers, but they enabled teachers to provide guidance and informed responses to students at the time they are most effective. And computers certainly reduced the drudgery involved in research so that students could focus on materials and manage content to their best advantage.

The problem with computer laboratories and computer-supported curricula is that many people think of computers as a replacement for teachers. To them, computerization of education is like the robotic automation of manufacturing. The computer-driven machines do all the work. You won't need teachers, just technologists to keep the computer systems running. Anyone who has spent even a casual hour or two in a classroom or has read a chapter or two in a book on how the education of children really works knows that this is nonsense. When children are learning, their minds need engagement by people competent in the subject area and in coaching the development of those minds. Computers can enhance and intensify that engagement. They are not a substitute for it.

Since the end of World War II, electronic media have changed the culture. No one wrote more incisively about the effect of electronic media on society, politics, and culture than George Orwell. Again, most people read him, if they actually read him at all, in terms of how the electronic media contribute to the surveillance and control of people by totalitarian regimes. They miss how Orwell included the domination of the media by corporate interests for their purposes and the totalitarian aspect they impose on the world as one of the dangers. Many writers and thinkers and researchers have contributed to this discussion during the last half century, but their work seldom gets attention.

Our children are besieged by influences that intervene between them and their parents. And which intervene between them and their teachers. Electronic means of communications are the main instruments that cut away at the cultural and moral connections parents try to maintain with their children. Electronic gadgets are merely the instruments used by those driven by greed and the need for power to impose their designs upon the world. The underlying cause of social disintegration is the philosophies and ideologies that those gadgets serve. Our children are not the products of their homes, but the products of operant conditioning that works on their capacities for pleasure, excitability, and distraction.

The adult world is engaged in blame-placing for the social attitudes and phenomena of our time. I read a blog today that strongly suggests that it is the Democrats' penchant for the licentious that is the root cause of the social milieu that affects our children.

Of course, the logical progression from that conclusion is that the world would be a much more moral and constructive place if it could be rid of Democrats or their penchant for moral profligacy could be replaced by conservative measures. One may conjecture whether that portends stocks, whippings, concentration camps, or death chambers, but when a group of people are designated as the source of contamination, you can be assured that some form of environmental cleanup is being considered.

A legislator told me yesterday of how he attended a meeting of a legislative committee and the members were e-mailing each other on their laptops during the meeting and posting jokes and the like. The laptops are supplied by the state. He conjectured about what a bunch of high school kids would be using their laptops for inside of and outside of class. As he put it, the meeting was a farce and a sham, although it ostensibly met the requirements of legislative rules, even if its members were not paying attention to the business at hand.

The problems in education will not be solved by computers or money thrown at any other scheme that strikes the political fancy. They might be solved for some by cleansing society of Democrats, but in the meantime we might listen to educators who actually work in classrooms as to how to meet the objectives of our educational enterprise and how technology can actually support the reaching of those objectives.

There is a force behind the use of our technology that is subverting our democracy, and I don't think, as yet, that it is Democrats.


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