Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Minor Musing: Skrulls And South Dakota Legislative Resolutions

Skrulls! That's right. Skrulls have apparently replaced many practical, no nonsense South Dakota legislators: good solid folk who believe that hard work is its own reward. How else does one explain the desire to hand out stickers and pass "give everyone a trophy for participating" resolutions? Shapeshifting Skrulls have taken on the form of South Dakota legislators and replaced the good folk South Dakotans elected.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 (SCR 5) provides the most obvious proof that something is amiss. SCR 5 commends Senators Thune and Rounds for supporting Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.

Let's review: a Republican state legislature commends the states's Republican federal senators for supporting someone nominated by a Republican president. Thune's and Rounds's votes were hardly profiles in courage. No South Dakota Democrat is going to win campaigning against the Kavanaugh vote. In fact, voting against Kavanaugh would have increased the chance of a Republican primary challenger. There's no need to commend someone for making a politically expedient vote. Republicans would know that. Skrulls probably would not.

More importantly, the resolution commends Thune and Rounds for supporting Trump, an act they perform with extreme regularity. Thune votes with Trump 95% of the time. Rounds is in line with Trump's positions on nearly 92% of his votes. The odds of the two men voting against Trump's nominee is only slightly higher than the odds of fictional Skrulls taking over the state legislature. (The odds of Trump's positions aligning with South Dakotans" best interests 90% of the time is likely lower.)

Republicans used to be republican. At the state level, they worried about the state first. Is it too much to hope that some work will get done about roads or nursing homes that are disappearing before the legislature devotes time to handing out participation trophies to politicians for taking politically expedient votes?

Monday, January 14, 2019

I Am Pleasantly Surprised ....

Even if the statement is late, Senator Rounds has demonstrated the ability to point out one of Trump's racist comments when Trump takes aim at something South Dakota specific.
Senator Thune and Representative Johnson have apparently given their social media team the night off.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Modest Proposal To Amend HB 1041

Last year, I wrote a post about my Republicanism. Since then, I have read a good number of conservative authors at places like The National Review and The American Conservative. These articles repeatedly pointed out that conservatives and Republicans believe in freedom and responsibility, Further, Republicans and conservatives understand, in ways that other mammals cannot, that the world is filled with bad actors.

HB 1041 is a bill to "provide for the carrying of a concealed pistol without a permit." The legislation's sponsors certainly will contend that they proposed the legislation because they realize that freedom to carry pistols without a permit is the only available method to stop unabated wickedness wherever a good conservative or Republican  may find it.

According to the Argus Leader,
Republican Rep. Drew Dennert is sponsoring a constitutional carry bill in the House. He says backers have the promise of the governor and support from the public and both legislative chambers.
Given that Governor Noem seems supportive, one hates to temper the enthusiasm of "constitutional carry" advocates. Obviously every Republican or conservative who carries a pistol under HB 1041 will train weekly to become as proficient with a pistol as Wild Bill Hickok, Such people will, of course, never crack under pressure nor will they ever miss their intended target.

That said, South Dakota still retains a few Democrats. Some have even been elected to the legislature. The state also has a university system, and these educational institutions are known to be the last bastions of socialists and other nefarious scoundrels. It is, therefore, not beyond the realm of possibility that an irresponsible person might take unfair advantage of the "constitutional carry" freedom provision and carry a concealed pistol or several concealed pistols. Because South Dakota is home to 800,000 resident, it is not unlikely that several thousand feckless folk may abuse the the "constitutional carry" freedom. These capricious citizens may accidentally wound themselves or others.

It, therefore, becomes one's duty to offer a modest proposal, with all due apologies to Jonathan Swift, in the form of an amendment to rectify the situation.

The amendment would require every person carrying a concealed pistol also carry a trauma kit. The kit would contain gauze with a clotting agent, a chest seal, a trauma bandage, medical tape, a tourniquet, and heavy duty medical gloves. It would also require that the person carrying the concealed pistol and trauma kit should be able to show proof of competency with the medical items being carried. This proof could be demonstrated either by certificate of training or a field test consisting of properly applying the tourniquet and other items in the kit.

Some conservatives or Republicans may contend that this proposal springs from some hidden liberal bias. In an effort to allay such fears, prudence moves me to point out that a Blue Force Gear Micro Trauma Kit NOW won the 2018 NRA Golden Bullseye Award for "Accessory of The Year." If it as an approved NRA accessory, surely conservatives and Republicans cannot object to making it part of a "constitutional carry" law. (Neither the NRA nor Blue Force Gear sponsor this blog.)

I cannot conceive of a Republican or conservative legislature not wanting to ensure that freedom is accompanied with responsibility, so I eagerly anticipate sponsorship, debate, and passage of the amendments proposed above.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

South Dakota Senate Acts Like An Abuse Victim

Per Axios, six of the ten states hardest hit by the shutdown voted for Trump. South Dakota is one of those states. Axios points out that "[o]ffices of the USDA's Farm Service Agency, which help farmers affected by China's soybean tariffs, are closed due to the shutdown. Further, agencies including the Indian Health Service and Small Business Administration are shuttered.

Meanwhile, the South Dakota Senate passed a resolution supporting Trump's monument to his own narcissism. Although Senator Stace Nelson's hyperbolic "black wind of death to race across this nation from coast to coast" will likely garner the most attention, it's Senator Lance Russell's plaintive desire to protect Trump from those with "nefarious motives" that indicates the need for an intervention.

After the original resolution was amended to reflect the historically accurate fact that nearly all walls including the Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, and the Berlin Wall fail, Senator Lance Russel worried about Trump's feelings:

Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, saw the amended version as a watered down version of the original resolution. He said that amending the resolution is on par with "the games that get played in Washington." He said he hopes the amended version doesn't send a message that South Dakota doesn't support Trump. 

The Senate needs to support Trump in constructing a wall across the entire southern U.S. border because the problems Trump is describing aren't "a manufactured crisis," Russell said. Trump is "trying to elevate all of us" by taking on the border issues, he said, adding that the South Dakota Senate needs to support Trump and the amended version of the resolution doesn't do that.

"It is a crisis, and Trump didn't manufacture it," Russell said. "It's been around for a while. ... When we are watering down what we're doing here, I understand the politics of the situation, but this gives people with nefarious motives to question what the president is doing and what he was elected to do."

Let's be clear. If the wall were that important, Trump had a Republican House and Senate for two years. They could have passed the funding, gone to reconciliation to avoid the filibuster, and started construction. Instead, South Dakotans are being hurt and the legislature is looking to protect the person responsible for causing the pain.

According to Russell, South Dakotans need to support Trump even when he creates policies such as tariffs and shutdowns that adversely affect South Dakotans. It doesn't take any reading between the lines to get to abuse victim phrasing: "Trumpie just wants what's best for me; my Trumpie doesn't want to hurt me; he just gets angry sometimes. It's my fault really."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Minor Musing About Tests, Citizenship And Otherwise

Let's begin with a point of agreement. It appears both Governor Noem and I want young'uns to be good citizens. Some of the best debaters I coached served as legislative pages.  Lincoln-Douglas debaters spent hours researching the nature of good and bad governments. Policy debaters, their desire to have every discussion reach a terminal impact notwithstanding, debated what the U.S government should and should not do. Public forum debaters argued about a little bit of everything relating to important political events. In one way or another, each of them dealt with what it means to be a good citizen.

Governor Noem doesn't want students to debate about the nature of good government or what constitutes a good government policy. Instead, she wants students to pass a citizenship test in order to earn a high school diploma. This is a bad idea.

First, I cannot count the number of times I have supervised a study hall and heard a freshman say, "When am I ever gonna use this?" when doing an Algebra I, physical science, or world history assignment. Every grammar class that I taught had a student who said, "I don't need grammar; I talk good." The reaction to the citizenship requirement will be the same if not worse. "I don't need to think about citizenship; I vote gooder than you" is not a habit or a syntax that South Dakotans should encourage.

Second, if the testing that has come with No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and any other education policy conceived in the 21st Century has shown anything, it's that the mandated measurement ceases to be a measurement: it becomes the goal. In other words, the test will soon become more important than good citizenship. I may be in a minority, but rational, curious, and independent voters should be the goal. If this policy is enacted, the goal will become good test takers.

Third, the citizenship test may require students to know that Hamilton, Madison, and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers, but does it require them to explain why "Federalist 10" or "Federalist 51" matters in 2019? The test may require students to know that the first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights, but will they be able to discuss why the absolute phrase "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" has caused so much controversy over the past few decades? If the test requires students know the term "checks and balances," will it also include examples of when checks and balances have been successful or failed? In short, it's doubtful students be able to explain how the United States government works; they will just identify a few concepts.

Finally, my cynical nature causes me to suspect that this proposal is a throwaway line designed to further the impression that Republicans are the sole possessors of virtue, rectitude, and patriotism whereas non-Republicans hate the every decent part of western civilization writ large. Creating good citizens is an important goal, especially for a credal nation such as the United States. It's certainly a far too important goal to become a political talking point.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

An Open Letter To South Dakota's 2019 Legislators

Dear Legislators,

We live in an angry era. In my memory, citizens have not been this divided since the Vietnam War/Watergate era. We also live  in an era in which many believe that people are entitled to select their facts as well as their opinions. You have chosen to serve in interesting times.

Given the divisiveness and anger rampant in political discourse nationally and online, I have three small requests that I believe are achievable and may even be bipartisan.

First, I don't expect you to agree on everything. In fact, the two of you whom I know personally may vote against each other 75% of the time. I would ask, however, that you remember the words of a former state legislator from Illinois who urged that people act "with malice toward none [and] with charity toward all." If South Dakotans are indeed the friendly, neighborly folks we claim to be, this request should not be that difficult to fulfill.

Second, put South Dakota first and the national debate second. Although many politicians seem fixated on a large construction project far south of us, many South Dakota communities struggle to maintain their infrastructure. In addition to physical roads and bridges, work to bridge the divide that separates South Dakota's Native American community from the rest of the state's citizens. Further, don't leave education for the last moments of the session. South Dakota's students at all levels deserve better.

Finally, accept that change is a constant. In 1999 many were worried about a Y2K computer glitch creating economic ruin if not societal collapse. Google was not commonly used as a verb; Facebook did not exist, and birds were the only species associated with tweeting. In short, remember that many current controversies will not matter 20 years from now Seek the counsel of clear headed people who look to the future to guide your deliberations and decisions.

As is often the case, Shakespeare offers the best closing: as you serve during 2019, "God's benison go with you and with those who make good of bad and friends of foes." (Macbeth Act II, Scene 4)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Musing About State Senator Stace Nelson's Wall Resolution, Facts, Lies, Truth, And Politics

I thought of Moynihan this morning when I read this Stace Nelson's comment on Dakota Free Press.
35+ posts of personal attacks and absolute rubbish with not one intelligent comment about the actual bill. Who does that? The Trump Derangement Syndrome is alive and well. Ranting and raving and not one of you have read the actual bill.. If you can’t debate the issues? Make things up and lie, lie, lie.
Nelson's outburst was in response to comments about his proposed resolution supporting Trump's border wall. His comment also contains a draft of his own resolution. My comment which contained a link to a Washington Post article and used numbers that come from various media sources was apparently one of those pieces of "rubbish."

Perhaps I am being nostalgic and naive, but the Moynihan assertion was made a time when people agreed what the facts were and political arguments were about the implications of those facts. Granted, I can't remember a time in my life when someone didn't mutter something about lies, damned lies and statistics or utter the phrase "figures don't lie, but liars sure do figure." Even with those caveats, it seems that people used to agreed about what the facts were. The political arguments were about the best way to deal with those facts.

In 2019 no one seems willing to agree what the facts are. I believe that Trump has said 3924 false things as president as of this writing. Based on his comment cited above, Nelson may accuse me of having Trump Derangement Syndrome. Nelson's proposed resolution contains a copious amount of numbers, many of which Nelson claims he found in congressional records. I recognize some of them as numbers originating from sources that I believe to be biased. As I did at Dakota Free Press, I will point out that Trump seems to have made up the number about the cost of illegal immigration. Many supporters of the wall will claim the article is an example of mainstream media bias.

A few years back, Chris Mooney wrote an article "The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science." These conclusions seem relevant to the point at hand.

In other words, people rejected the validity of a scientific source because its conclusion contradicted their deeply held views. . . . The study subjects weren’t “anti-science”—not in their own minds, anyway. It’s just that “science” was whatever they wanted it to be. “We’ve come to a misadventure, a bad situation where diverse citizens, who rely on diverse systems of cultural certification, are in conflict,” says Kahan. 

And that undercuts the standard notion that the way to persuade people is via evidence and argument. In fact, head-on attempts to persuade can sometimes trigger a backfire effect, where people not only fail to change their minds when confronted with the facts—they may hold their wrong views more tenaciously than ever.

Were this post a high schooler's original oratory, I would expect a solution at this point in the composition. I don't have one. I'm going to try to approach issues like I approached judging a debate round and look for the best evidence and the best arguments. Nelson and other supporters of Trump's wall will likely claim they're doing the same thing.

If we can't agree about facts and Mooney is correct that evidence and argument only cause people to hold their views more firmly, the political climate will get more charged and angry. To apply an overused Thomas Hobbes statement, it will be nasty and brutish, a war of everyone against everyone. Welcome to post-truth America.