Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Post-Truth America: A Minor Musing

Today's Argus Leader reports that several Sioux Falls residents have found plastic bags containing candy and a Klu Klux Klan recruitment flier. This tactic seems similar to one the Klan is apparently using in upstate New York. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists only one Klan group in South Dakota, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan which is headquartered in Custer.

There was a time when I thought the best way to deal with groups like the Klan was to treat them like this tuba player treated some neo Nazis a few years back. Since then however, a man fired a gun inside a pizza restaurant because he was investigating whether the pizzeria was "the home of a Satanic child sex abuse ring involving top Democrats such as Hillary Clinton." Earlier this summer a man blocked  traffic on Hoover Dam demanding the release of a report that had already been released. His focus seems to have been Hillary Clinton's email server.

Meanwhile, the Holy fire  burning in California was allegedly set by Forrest Clark, Clark seems to share multiple versions of the truth that diverge from reality. This JJ MacNab tweetstorm gives the particulars, but the short version should suffice:
Based on his social media pages, Clark is a sovereign citizen who believes in just about every kooky conspiracy out there, including QAnon, Pizzagate, Jade Helm 15, flat earth theories, NESARA, Jesuit conservancies, shape-shifting lizard overlords. You name it, he believes it
It may be a long jump from candy on the end of the driveway to arson'', but the Klan denies the truth that all are created equal. If one denies what is essentially the nation's core creed because of some allegedly hidden, arcane knowledge it becomes easy to believe a high level official calling himself Q is using 4chan to send messages about an impending political storm that will destroy the "deep state," that the nation's elites use a public pizza parlor to perform Satanic rituals and abuse children, or that the American Republic ended in the 1870s.

The term post-truth seems frequently applied to Donald Trump who has as of this writing said 2291 false things as President. Philosopher Simon Blackburn contends that the phrase post-truth may be problematic because no one doubts that bus in bearing down him or her. Blackburn does, however, admit a danger in the political and realm:


It’s a bit like conspiracy theorists, who actually thrive on the fact that all the evidence points against their theory, because that just shows that the establishment is clever enough to conceal what’s really going on. People get attached to certain ideas and nothing will shake them. And when convictions start to live in opposition to reason or truth, that’s a very dangerous thing.


He offers a solution that may work at an individual level:

. . . I’m very cautious in matters of truth. If there is no evidence for a belief and lots of evidence against it, it should not matter what you would like to be true or hope or wish to be true. Follow the probabilities and put up with the inconvenience.

That’s an academic or a scholar speaking, but it has always been the only hope for human progress.

But Blackburn also tempers that optimism:

Of course, people are good at shirking the facts and threatening and bullying anyone who challenges them; this has always been the case. But I believe that all decent people eventually reject this kind of behavior, and want to see liars held responsible for their lies. 

I can’t say whether or not this will happen ... but I sure hope it does.

I too hope will happen, but I have more dread than hope. Too many are claiming a special truth that only they or their confederates can share, and too many are unwilling to look at the evidence that conflicts with their worldview. I hope we won't see more candy mixed with Klan fliers but I fear we're just seeing constitutes the beginning a long battle with dangerous lies.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Plains Pops: Potpourri Edition #101*

The following are brief points that don't seem to deserve a full post, but the subject seems worthy of mention.

The Constitution Party of South Dakota: They're doing nearly everything wrong. It's not just the dueling factions that can't seem to decide who's in charge or who should run a state convention. The idea that people who have lost statewide elections or legislative races can somehow come together to challenge the Republican monopoly from the right is ludicrous.

I know some CPSD members, if not all, are Bible believing folks but none look like the Old Testament's Gideon. He routed a few thousand with 300; no one is going to rout 200,000 Republicans with 500, no matter how hard one blows on the party favors or how many flashlights with a strobe function one has. Put some folks on county commissions. Win some legislative races. Pass a popular bill or two. Voters will choose the devil they know over the lesser imps and demons they don't.

Finally, history is replete with colorful politicians; the Longs in Louisiana and Wild Bill Langer of North Dakota spring immediately to mind, but most people find conspiracy theorists something less than colorful.

The New Coke new Lance Russell legislative candidacy:  For those using their summer wisely and waiting until after Labor Day to start thinking about politics, Lance Russell won a legislative primary, and resigned his candidacy to run for attorney general at the Republican Convention. He was then  renominated by the District 30 Republicans even though state law makes the second nomination more than a little questionable.

The Democrats need to get a precedent established. They may well face an identical situation in the near future, and the mere fact that Russell was on the ballot, then off the ballot, and then on the ballot would not have established that precedent.  No matter what happens in this situation, precedent is established unless the courts rule that Heather Boche, the voter bringing the suit, lacks standing. Were one a complete cynic who believes that South Dakota's Republican appointed judiciary is less than impartial on political matters, that might be the outcome one would expect.

The spy who loved someone in South Dakota or who worked hard for her money: South Dakota novelists who specialize in the mystery and political thriller genres are probably still recovering from the bacchanalia they organized after the story broke. While the South Dakota literary world has a whole new direction, the South Dakota political world will remain unchanged.

*I really don't know what number it is but if Marvel and DC comics can renumber issues at will, then I can number blog posts however I desire.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Funny, Kristi Noem Doesn't Look Anything Like Heimdall

For those unfamiliar with Norse mythology, Heimdall is the Norse god who stands at the edge of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that stretches between Earth and Asgard, the gods' home. His chief task is to sound the alarm when the frost giants begin their assault on Asgard, an attack that will lead to Ragnarok, the twilight or death of the gods.

Yesterday, Kristi Noem's campaign claimed a scheduling conflict prevented her from debating education issues at an event to be hosted by  the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, the School Administrators of South Dakota and South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

According to the Rapid City Journal


[Campaign manager Justin Brasell] did not divulge the scheduling conflict, and did not immediately return later messages from the Rapid City Journal asking what Noem planned to be doing today that precluded her from accepting the debate invitation.  
Noem made public appearances in Madison and Sioux Falls on Wednesday, and she was scheduled to attend a fundraiser for her campaign Thursday night in Sioux Falls. As of Thursday afternoon, Noem’s campaign Facebook page showed one future event: a Saturday morning parade in her hometown of Castlewood.
I admit I'm speculating as to Noem's undisclosed location, but Bifrost seems a logical conclusion because later in the day, Noem's campaign warned of a threat Republicans fear almost as much as the Asgardians fear frost giants: organized labor.


'. . . unions are undertaking a massive nationwide effort to overturn right-to-work laws, which protect workers from being forced to join labor unions. Earlier this week, unions were successful in overturning Missouri’s right-to-work law, which Billie Sutton’s Democratic Party touted as a “huge win” before calling on South Dakota to “follow Missouri’s lead.”


Just like Fenrir, the wolf that will swallow Odin whole, organized labor will, according to Noem, eliminate all worker freedom in South Dakota.


“South Dakota has been a right-to-work state for more than 50 years, and Kristi Noem will keep it that way,” said Justin Brasell, Kristi for Governor Campaign Manager. “That’s why we’re seeing out-of-state union heads investing thousands into Billie Sutton’s campaign. He’s their best bet to repeal the state’s decades old right-to-work laws and force South Dakotans into labor unions they don’t want to be a part of.” 
South Dakota is one of the nation’s earliest adopters of right to work protections, passing legislation in 1946 to protect people from being denied employment “on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union.”
Soon, Noem, from her perch atop Bifrost, will warn that Medicaid expansion will destroy South Dakota's economy just like the Midgard Serpent drenched Thor in its venom and killed him. If her campaign is in real danger, Noem will probably conjure visions of giants riding on Naglfar, the ship of death, and resort to telling voters about threats posed by illegal immigrants, ISIS, and MS-13. God forbid, South Dakotans may even be threatened by National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem.

It's going to be a long campaign season if Noem stays on Bifrost and warns of series of impending Ragnaroks.Voters need to know candidates' policies on education and other important issues. They don't need politicians to create contemporary apocalyptic tales warning of events that will never happen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

With Friends Like These...: A Musing About Dollar General Expanding In South Dakota

My grocery shopping options consist of three soulless corporations: HyVee, Walmart, and Amazon. The former offers both a "helpful smile in every aisle" and home delivery. The latter delivers to my door products not available locally, and Walmart lets me buy both the rice cooker and the rice in one trip.

There is one other option, Dollar Tree. It's never been clear if their cheap offerings offer the value that they appear to. This article about the Dollar General chain expanding in South Dakota, therefore, creates both curiosity and ambivalence. On the one hand, the stores, which sell "affordable" products, may offer shopping opportunities to communities without a grocery or clothing stores. On the other hand,

Once Dollar General picks a town for its next location, local business owners and city officials can do little to stop the chain from becoming a neighbor. 
If Dollar General can't find a spot in city limits, Colby picks a location nearby on county land. 
A store still opens, except it doesn't contribute any sales tax back to the community it serves until the land is annexed.
Forcing someone to be a neighbor doesn't square with the behavior Mr. Rogers taught especially when "smaller retailers who compete with Dollar General [lose] business because of an inability to compete with the national chain's prices."

Dollar General 's "aggressive growth plan" in South Dakota creates another concern because one of the chain's target customer base is "[p]eople who live closer to the poverty line and [shop] at Dollar General stores out of necessity. " These company calls these customers who live paycheck-to-paycheck and [rely] on government assistance their "best friends forever"

Dollar General's efforts have two likely outcomes. First, the corporation has done its homework and its new South Dakota stores will be successful. Given the chain's marketing strategy, South Dakota will, therefore, see an increase of people living at or near the poverty line, and Dollar General will have a host of new BFFs.

The second possibility is that many of the stores will fail. While that eventuality may mean that fewer South Dakotans are living in dire straits, it may also portend a larger number of towns without local grocery or clothing store because Dollar General forced local owners out of business.

Neither result bodes well for South Dakota's smaller communities.



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Post Wherein I Reveal My Inner Cassandra

For those unfamiliar with mythology, Cassandra was a princess of Troy with the gift of accurate prophecy. She was cursed, however, so no one would believe her prophecies. The current definition of cassandra is "one who predicts misfortune or disaster."

In light of the contemporary definition, I hope the Democrats who will be reconvening at the end of the week  for what they call "a small procedural step in the process of certifying our Constitutional candidates" follow both party bylaws and state law fully.

It beggars belief that Republicans would force Democrats to reconvene merely for a public relations win in July and August. The undecided or unaffiliated voters that the Democrats need in order win a statewide race will have forgotten about the incident by late October or early November when they decide whom to support Although the unforced error that necessitated reconvening is nothing like the Constitution Party's dramedy, Republican Party Chairperson Dan Lederman claims he "reviewed their bylaws" as part of the Republicans' challenge to the Secretary of State's decision about that party's dueling slate of party officers and competing conventions. If Republicans are making the extra effort to review bylaws to keep a party with fewer than 500 registered voters off the ballot, they will certainly look for another mistake from the Democratic Party.

Despite my complaints about Democrats' failure to develop legislative candidates, it's obvious that they face an uphill battle against Republicans in South Dakota. The urban-rural divide continues to become more pronounced. South Dakota is a rural state, and Republicans dominate in rural areas. South Dakota's Democrats should take care to avoid another unforced error that increases the advantages that South Dakota's Republicans enjoy.

Monday, August 6, 2018

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

I am so old I can remember that people of the generation of the men pictured here vilified young folk for wearing Che Guevara T shirts, wouldn't support anyone who was "soft on Russia," and loved freedom fighters who fought murderous dictators.

I'm also old enough to remember when folks like these gentlemen would scream "America, love it or leave it!" at anyone who wore a t-shirt like those worn in the picture. In 2018, however, these gentlemen seem to believe that "owning the libs"  means that people old enough to know better indicate that they prefer a corrupt dictator propped up by corrupt oligarchs over an American political party.

I can even remember when age connoted a bit of wisdom. That's no longer the case either. We were promised a republic if we could keep. With reasoning skills like this, we may not keep it much longer.

People who are stupid an proud of it are a chief reason we can't have nice things.
Photo from here.