Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Baseball's Opening Day Edition

A Jacques Barzun classic:
Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game - and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams. The big league games are too fast for the beginner and the newspapers don't help. To read them with profit you have to know a language that comes easy only after philosophy has taught you to judge practice. Here is scholarship that takes effort on the part of the outsider, but it is so bred into the native that it never becomes a dreary round of technicalities. The wonderful purging of the passions that we all experienced in the fall of 51, the despair groaned out over the fate of the Dodgers, from whom the league pennant was snatched at the last minute, give us some idea of what Greek tragedy was like. Baseball is Greek in being national, heroic, and broken up in the rivalries of city-states. How sad that Europe knows nothing like it! Its Olympics generate anger, not unity, and its interstate politics follow no rules that a people can grasp. At least Americans understand baseball, the true realm of clear ideas.[emphasis mine]
I'm not sure Americans understand baseball or clear ideas any longer. I think they still understand fresh starts and baseball's opening day provides those just like New Year's day and the first day a school. (Yes, even Twins fans get a fresh start.)

A Minor Musing: Some Easter Cynicism

I'm sure AT&T is only trying to get subscribers and not make social commentary with this ad. The little girl, however, sums up America's basic philosophic sentiment: "We want more." Perhaps it was written by some young hipster whose has irony as his or her primary language.


If so, it's not the first time our desire for stuff has been mocked.


Americans may have laughed with Carlin, but we haven't seemed to change our views.  Last weekend, Lifehacker urged readers to embrace minimalism. The post got 96,000 hits over the course of the past week. Friday's post about the psychology of clothing already has 104,000 hits.

That's why this exchange between Cardinal Dolan and George Stephanopoulos seems to indicate an epidemic of cognitive dissonance.
CARDINAL DOLAN:Easter is always a time for renewed hope, a sense of promise and – and – confidence. But this year's special because this – of Pope Francis. As we watch him – and it's clear to me that the world is watching – you got it, he brings us back to the simplicity, the sincerity, just the raw basic goodness of the Gospel.
Look what he did on Thursday, you know. He washed the feet of – of, who, 12 inmates, 12 young juvenile delinquents, imitating Jesus at the Last Supper and washing the feet of his disciples. And he's constantly reminding us that religion is not only about faith, what we believe – you bet it is – but it's also about how we live, especially in service to the ones Jesus called –
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So this symbolism, this – not – not wearing the fur-lined cape, not wearing the gold cross, living in the – the more simple apartments, you believe that really matters.
CARDINAL DOLAN: I do. And from what I'm hearin', I – that's not part of the substance of the papacy, we know that. But it does – you know, these signs, these symbols have meaning. They wouldn't matter much to me, but from what I hear folks sayin', they matter a lot to people.
And they're sayin', "Wow, we have a pope who – who seems to d – craves simplicity and bein' with people, and the poorer the better." And as one person said to me, "He reminds us a lot of Jesus." And I said, "Well, I hope so, 'cause that's his job description." So, apparently, those things mean a lot to people.
I'm a Protestant farm boy, so I don't always understand the symbolism of the papacy. Maybe Pope Francis will succeed where humor and lifehacking have failed. Something in my cynical soul, however, tells me that raising someone from the dead was an easier task than getting Americans to follow Christ's injunction to “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt." [Luke 9:3].

Scripture And Songs Of The Week: Easter Edition

Matthew 28
KJV
  In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.




Saturday, March 30, 2013

Quotation Of The Day II: Alleged Education Reformer Michelle Rhee Is A Hypocrite Edition

From Diane Ravitch:
In Tennessee, [Rhee] told the Nashville reporters that she is “a public school parent.”
For some reason, she prefers not to admit that one of her daughters attends an elite private school in Nashville that has small classes, lovely facilities, a rich curriculum, and experienced teachers; better yet, the students do not take standardized tests. (Rhee herself graduated from an elite private school in Toledo, Ohio, with similar policies and practices.) [Emphasis mine because Rhee is a testing for testing sake advocate.]
Why should she hide that fact?
Is it because she advocates that Other People’s children should have large classes, inexperienced teachers, merit pay, evaluations based on test scores, and nonstop testing?

Defining Freedom Down

Earlier today, I mentioned this Bob Mercer post that points out that groups that grade government transparency aren't necessarily transparent. It turns out that groups that grade freedom have skewed version of freedom.

Constant Conservative points to the Mercatus Center study that finds that the Dakotas are the freest states in the United States and rejoices:
So, congratulations fellow citizens (and the government which you all helped to elect). We may not be doing everything right, but we are doing better than many
As with the transparency study, things are not what they seem. Mercatus sees economic freedom, especially a low tax burden, as the most important freedom. The ability to avail one's self of a prostitute while high and shoot a gun to celebrate seem to be the most important personal freedoms:
Fiscal Policy (35.3%)
The fiscal policy dimension consists of the following categories: Tax Burden (28.6%), Government Employment (2.8%), Government Spending (1.9%), Government Debt (1.2%), and Fiscal Decentralization (0.9%).
Regulatory Policy (32.0%)
The regulatory policy dimension consists of the following categories: Freedom from Tort Abuse (11.5%), Property Right Protection (7.6%), Health Insurance Freedom (5.4%), Labor Market Freedom (3.8%), Occupational Licensing Freedom (1.7%), Miscellaneous Regulatory Freedom (1.3%), and Cable and Telecom Freedom (0.8%).
Personal Freedom (32.7%)
Personal freedom dimension consists of the following categories: Victimless Crime Freedom (9.8%), Gun Control Freedom (6.6%), Tobacco Freedom (4.1%), Alcohol Freedom (2.8%), Marriage Freedom (2.1%), Marijuana and Salvia Freedom (2.1%), Gambling Freedom (2.0%), Education Policy (1.9%), Civil Liberties (0.6%), Travel Freedom (0.5%), Asset Forfeiture Freedom (0.1%), and Campaign Finance Freedom (0.02%).
The economic freedoms certainly dominate the results. Paul Waldman writes that "the factors that matter are things like low taxes, lack of gun control, and "freedom from tort abuse," i.e. laws that make it hard to sue when your surgeon cuts off the wrong leg."

As for civil liberties, Timothy Lee points out they aren't really considered:
The right to own a gun is given five times as much weight as the “civil liberties” category, described as a “grab bag of mostly unrelated policies, including raw milk laws, fireworks laws, prostitution laws, physician-assisted suicide laws, religious freedom restoration acts, rules on taking DNA samples from criminal suspects, trans-fat bans, and laws that can be used to prosecute people who audiorecord public officials in the performance of their duties.”
Alex Pareene adds:
“Economic freedom” is of course their most important freedom, and so it is weighted the heaviest, with fiscal and regulatory matters making up a bit more than two-thirds of each state’s score. Which is how their No. 1 freest state is ranked 39th on the “Civil Liberties” list. Though that list is fairly useless, as their definition of “civil liberties” is “unrelated policies, such as fireworks laws, prostitution laws, and trans-fat bans.” On the list taking into account “incarceration rates, non-drug crime arrests, and drug enforcement,” Freest State North Dakota is at 24. (Second-freest state South Dakota is 48.) And Arizona has climbed to No. 11 on the overall list, because at no point are the rights of immigrants or people whom the police may suspect are immigrants taken into account
Pareene concludes, "Almost any Liberty issue that wouldn’t concern a straight, white, male capitalist is wholly ignored."

Lee, Waldman, and Pareene all exhibit a bit of urban arrogance toward the rural lifestyle and they show little appreciation for winter. That being said, short lines at a Hy-Vee checkout along with relief from heat and humidity does not necessarily make one free. Neither does emphasizing wealth  over civil liberties. In fact the latter situation makes Janis Joplin's lyrics more relevant. (I know it's a trite thing to do, but hearing Janis on a Saturday afternoon makes me feel good.)


This Just In: The Klan Still Hates People

Kathleen Geier calls this profile a "puff piece," an "April Fool’s prank," or evidence "everyone at the Scripps Howard News Service[has] been hit with the stupid stick — hard." Geier has a point; the first paragraphs indicate a certain sympathy:
There is a lot to be angry about if you're in the Ku Klux Klan.
As local leader of the Loyal White Knights, Edward the Exalted Cyclops organized a barbecue last month to make plans for Saturday's demonstration to show that white people still have rights.
The wording can be read to indicate that the Klan's anger is justified. Later, the article seem to take assertions that the Klan is moderating its racial hatred seriously:
While Edward and Barker don't dispute the Klan's racist history, they deny they're interested in harassing black people.
"The black race has been here (in America) just about as long as we have," Barker said. "They deserve to be here, too."
If one reads a little deeper in the article, one can still find hate. There's a whole list of people the Klan still scorns:
To Barker and Edward, the Klan's agenda is pretty simple: Send the immigrants back where they came from, silence the homosexuals and the communists (known as liberals today), promote sobriety and abstinence, end abortion, and discourage the mingling of races in a way "God never intended."
(I pretty sure I have heard paraphrases of every one of those "policies" expressed locally, but that's a post for another day.)

The Klansmen, however, can't go too long without saying the word hate.
Edward's adult stepdaughter isn't in the KKK, but she and her 2-year-old son have tagged along for the barbecue.
Eventually the talk turns to homosexuality, and Edward's sister qualifies one of her statements by saying that they don't necessarily hate gay people, just homosexuality. Edward rebukes her. Of course we hate 'em, he says.
Maybe the article just buries the lede.

A Minor Musing On Politician's Transparency

I am not unsympathetic to Bob Mercer's assertion that groups that grade states on transparency are often insufficiently transparent.

That being said, far too many South Dakota leaders who run for both statewide and local office seem to want to avoid being open about their views. For example, Governor Daugaard refused to answer Project Vote Smart  issue based questions when .he ran in 2010. He apparently last answered questions in 2000. Kristi Noem refused to respond to Project Vote Smart in 2012.  John Thune got a pass on the questionnaire.

Locally, Bernie Hunhoff, Jean Hunhoff, and Mike Stevens all refused to answer the 2012 questionnaire. Both Bernie Hunhoff and Jean Hunoff responded in 2010. Project Vote Smart is guilty of some hyperbole when then allege that state legislative candidates received "repeated requests from Vote Smart, national media, and prominent political leaders." I doubt any national media contacted these politicians.

In an example of the trickle down effect, local candidates have traditionally answered a Yankton Press & Dakotan questionnaire. a local school board candidate also refused to record his stand for voters. Butch Becker's positions can be found here. Sarah Carda's stands can be found here. Jim Fitzgerald's views can be found here. The P&D reports that a fourth candidate would not respond:
Yankton school board candidate Wayne Wurth did not repond to our request to participate in our profile series on the four candidates running for the board in the April 9 election.
South Dakota state government may or may not be becoming more transparent, but many candidates at all levels certainly could do more to let voters know where they stand.

Quotation Of The Day: Is Sibby Moving To Atlanta? Edition

Agenda 21 seems have been defeated there. From this Ed Kilgore post:
Blogging from a car creeping between two outposts of Atlanta exurbia where clearly the U.N. Agenda 21 conspiracy for “planning” has never taken hold.
Perhaps some Republican Women got their ideas for conference topics there as well.

Friday, March 29, 2013

How Does One Fence 21 Tons Of Cheese?

From the Daily Beast Cheat Sheet:
The nickname “Big Cheese” has never been so well-deserved. An Illinois man named Veniamin Konstantinovich Balika has been charged for stealing 21 tons of Muenster from a Wisconsin cheese company and attempting to sell all 42,000 pounds of it at a New Jersey turnpike rest stop. The 34-year-old dairy thief fooled the company’s owner, presenting him with the proper paperwork to pick up a shipment, but was busted on the side of the highway with his stinky haul, valued at a whopping $200,000. But there could be a silver lining to all this cheesiness. If the Muenster passes NJ health inspections, it could be donated to charity.

The Hill: Kirby Considering Senate Run

According to The Hill, former South Dakota Lt. Governor Steve Kirby is considering a run for the open U.S. Senate seat:
Former South Dakota Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby (R) said on Thursday he isn't ruling out a bid for retiring Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-S.D.) seat, but doesn't have a timeline for his decision.

"I have been contacted by a number of people and organizations around the country asking me to consider it," he said when asked whether he is keeping the door open to a run.

But he added that he isn't yet reaching out to people to ask for their support, and said he'd like to wait to see who jumps into the race before he decides.

"I'm not going to make the mistake of making any decisions before I know who the players are," he said.

HT: This David Montgomery Tweet

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Christians Were Always Wrong To Stand With Rand

Let me clarify. They were wrong to ever stand with those who advocate the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Standing with Rand Paul on drones likely indicates a working conscience.

Let's review: Mike Huckabee claims that conservative Christians will leave the Republican party if the party changes its stance on same-sex marriage.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee — and ordained Southern Baptist minister — was asked if he sees the GOP ever pivoting and backing gay marriage.
“They might. And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk,” he responds.
In this instance, Huckabee sounds very much like South Dakota's own Gordon Howie:
The last straw would be the GOP supporting “gay marriage” (note: it’s NOT marriage). Christians would simple [sic] abandon the party and the GOP, which has seen decline in recent years would be destroyed.
Christians have been the first to “stay home” when the GOP ignores them on social issues. While there has been a small percentage who have been activists in the party for social issues, most Christians are inclined to “recline”… that is to say, stay home on the sofa. The party can’t afford to lose Christians. It’s why they have already lost the last two Presidential elections.
I'm politically displaced and an introvert.  I'm not sure I want a whole bunch of new folks walking the political desert with me, but I am no position to cast the first stone when it comes to walking away from political parties. I walked away from both of them years ago.

There is, however, a larger question to ask. What the heck were Christians, politically conservative, liberal, or moderate, doing with the GOP in the first place?

Remember the Idaho Republican legislator who wanted every student in Idaho to read Atlas Shrugged because the book turned his son in to a Republican. I suspect that the situation is not unusual.

Yesterday, Matthew Schmitz at First Things pointed out that Ayn Rand really, really hated C.S. Lewis, one of the great Christian apologists of the 20th Century:
Ayn Rand was no fan of C.S. Lewis. She called the famous apologist an “abysmal bastard,” a “monstrosity,” a “cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-meta­physical mediocrity,” a “pickpocket of concepts,” and a “God-damn, beaten mystic.” (I suspect Lewis would have particularly relished the last of these.)
These insults and more can be found in her marginal notes on a copy of Lewis’ Abolition of Man, as printed in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia: Her critical comments on the writings of over 20 authors, edited by Robert Mayhew.
Schmitz's post reproduces many of Lewis's original notes with Rand's marginalia.

Ed Kilgore points out that Ayn Rand would have disliked contemporary Christian conservatives just as she hated Lewis:
As I argued a while back in a long piece in Democracy on Rand and her contemporary influence, her boundless capacity for hatred was as often directed at religious conservatives as at “socialists.” And more than anything else, she most hated syncretism, the casual adoption by “second-handers” of bits and pieces of incompatible philosophical stances, particularly if it involved her own highly systematic thought
The question Huckabee and Howie now need to answer is why did politically conservative Christians ever side with the political party animated in large part by the philosopher who believes them to be mediocre abysmal bastards?

People No Longer Find Nihilism Frightening?

Writing in Commentary, John Podhoretz asserts that Republicans have not been taking the right tack when they attack President Obama as an extremist:
The notion that Obama is a dangerous extremist helps him, because it makes him seem reasonable and his critics foolish. It also helps those who peddle it, because it makes them notorious and helps them sell their wares. But it has done perhaps irreparable harm to the central conservative cause of the present moment—making the case that Obama’s social-democratic statism is setting the United States on a course for disaster and that his anti-exceptionalist foreign policy is setting the world on a course for nihilistic chaos. Those are serious arguments, befitting a serious antagonist. They may not sell gold coins as quickly and as well as excessive alarmism, but they have the inestimable advantage of being true. [emphasis mine]
Podhoretz is a big name writer and, therefore, must have knowledge that someone pounding away at a keyboard in South Dakota doesn't have. Still, I have to wonder WTF and ask a few questions.

First, why won't accusing Obama of creating a world that will soon be filled with nihilistic chaos sell more gold coins? Is he saying that people who read him make that charge will being spending those gold coins to buy guns and MREs for their bunkers?

For a South Dakota connection, was Podhoretz channeling Sibby's Agenda 21 paranoia as he typed "nihilistic chaos"?

Does Podhoretz think his readers are too stupid to know what nihilism is? If that's the case, he and all Commentary readers must be unfamiliar with The Big Lebowski. Perhaps, Podhoretz was watching the film last evening and fell asleep. When he awoke he heard the following dialogue:
Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?

Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of.
While napping he may have missed this scene.



Those nihilists look anything but harmless to me. In fact, their chaos looks pretty frightening.

HT: Daniel Larison



Forget The Drama; Show Me The Money

There's really only so much Brendan and Stephanie drama one can read before it sounds like high school cafeteria gossip. I suspect the rumor mill will soon gin up some Mike and Kristi drama. If lunch duty has taught me anything, these popular kids will all find prom dates eventually.

I do, however, find the money story that may be developing interesting. The Senate Conservatives Fund (SFC), a Jim DeMint sponsored astroturf group,  is seeking an alternative to presumptive candidate Mike Rounds. The group has deemed Rounds too "moderate."

The Republican Liberty Caucus of South Dakota has taken to Twitter to support the SCF. (I'm guessing that this group is not affiliated with the national Republican Liberty Caucus that currently lists Russel Means as a chapter contact person.)

This attack continues the one Gordan Howie began last month. Howie has paraphrased Bill Napoli, Howie's preferred candidate, and claimed Rounds is "a mud puddle… two feet wide and two inches deep." More recently, Howie has claimed that Karl Rove represents the "left-wing of the Republican party." This charge presumably begins the effort to denounce the outside money Rove's Conservative Victory Project might bring to a South Dakota Republican primary to head off a candidate like Napoli.

The Republican establishment has not been silent. First, it reminded Napoli that that the Interwebs preserve everything:
The only problem is, as nice a guy Bill is, he’s got some baggage. Don’t get me wrong. I personally like Bill. He’s funny, and a genuine, self-made man. He’s completely original and authentic. You can’t help but like him.
But. And I would counsel him, that’s a big but. Bill’s got some words that will follow him into any race for higher office. Especially in one of the top US Senate Races in the country.
It has also decried outside money. The outside money they disparage, however, may come from the SCF.
. . . it’s all well and good for them to say that they’ve got a million dollars for you. But the problem is that it’s likely to be one million dollars spent from a PAC they control, and will be spent in a manner that they dictate, such as attack ads. While the candidate struggles to raise enough money to keep the phones and lights on, the other group is going to be spending that million blasting Mike Rounds.  Which doesn’t do the poor soul they got to run a damn bit of good, especially if he or she can’t get on the air with their own ads.
I hope the race doesn't reprise the "follow the money" line. I'd prefer to contribute to the candidate that did the best cover of  "It's All About The Benjamins":
Now, what y'all want to do

Want to be ballers, shot callers, [political] brawler. . .

Plains Pops: Pop Culture And Spelling Edition

Marvel Comics is going on tour in what appears to be a rock concert combined with an updated Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show:
Wednesday, Marvel Entertainment announced a partnership with live-show producer Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Disney on Ice) to produce a live arena show with all your favorite characters from the Marvel universe.
The program will launch in July 2014 with an 85-city North American tour and promises "character-based stories" and "state of the art special effects, pyrotechnics, aerial displays, and martial arts."
One word: Snollygoster.

Two young'uns from North and South Dakota have a chance to be on ESPN in May for their athletic spelling. Snollygoster is not on the approved list.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where The Politician Hits The Astroturf?

It may not make the same sound as rubber hitting the road, but shoe leather on astroturf is not necessarily silent. Earlier tonight, Representative Stace Nelson (R-19) re-tweeted the following:


The link takes readers to the Senate Conservative Fund, the group with no love for former Governor Mike Rounds. The SCF site contends:
Republicans in South Dakota have a right to know that Mike Rounds:
  • Expanded state bureaucracy by 1,500 employees
  • Supported higher cigarette, alcohol, and telephone taxes
  • Supported higher Internet taxes
  • Supported Medicare Part D prescription drug entitlement
  • Supported the TARP bailout program for Wall Street banks
  • Supported Obama's "stimulus" spending
  • Supported the fiscal cliff deal, raising taxes on 80% of Americans
  • Refuses to rule out raising federal taxes in the future
Were one given to rank speculation, one might begin to believe that Rep. Nelson is getting ready to challenge Rounds for the Republican nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat.

What Would Bloggers Talk About If They Met Face To Face? [Updated]

As I have freqeuntly said, I don't get out much. To the best of my knowledge, Cory Heidelberger is the only South Dakota blogger that I have met. We coached against each other while he served as a debate coach in Madison and Montrose.

I had to use a few blog posts and my imagination. I chose a cartoon format because we bloggers probably should avoid taking ourselves too seriously.



Update: The video worked in preview but did not work when I checked the site later. I have re-embeded it and it seems to work fine now.

The Young'uns Is A Frustrating Bunch Of Folk And I Think It's Our Fault

I had a student come up to me yesterday with one of those dangerous questions: "Hey, you wanna see somthin'cool.?" I gave my standard response: "Will it get me fired?"

Yesterday, I was lucky. It was a young'un with a 1929 twenty-dollar bill. The bill was a national currency note issued by a bank not a federal reserve note. I know little about the value of old currency. I do know that one should not fold it. The young'un did not. It's tough to explain that a single fold mark means that the bill is now worth less than half of the value he could possible have gotten for it.

After school, I was talking with a few young'uns about the national debt and North Korea as they researched to prepare speeches for upcoming student congress competitions.

Last night, I judged a talent contest of sorts. About thirty young'uns sang  for a crowd of about five hundred people. Some of them had an amazing amount of talent and passion. All of them showed courage; few things for a high school students are tougher than performing in front of one's peers.

After I got home, the college girl wanted some help with a philosophy and media class. There was a little Mill, a little Kant, and a little Virtue Ethics. The latter subject makes me glad that I venture over to Dr. Blanchard's new blog.)

Somewhere in all that mess, it hit me that we--teachers, school administrators, parents, business people, politicians, everyone in society writ large--have failed the young'uns. We tell them to search for happiness without telling them that it's not just a giggly feeling but the ultimate end and that one has work to develop character to appreciate it. We preach the greatest good for the greatest number, but we seldom tell them to examine whether the harms caused by getting that good are worth the gain. We've spent a lot of time telling them that money can't buy happiness but then bombard them with messages that stuff will satisfy.

If I may be permitted a cliche, they know the price of everything but the value of nothing. There's little virtue in that result; it's not a maxim that we would want to be universal, nor is it going to provide happiness for most. In fact it's going to produce a society that continues the politicized trends Conor Friedersdorf describes:
In my experience, politicized people on the right and left don't behave in precisely equivalent ways. On the right, they're more often like Andrew Breitbart: His professional identity was as politicized as imaginable, he had no problem when innocents were hurt as collateral damage in his ideological crusading, yet he was unfailingly kind in his personal life to his many liberal friends. Whereas on the left, Olbermann types are comparatively rare, but it's more common for individuals to behave as if the political is personal. Did you know April is Don't Have Sex With Republicans Month? Or take this post, in which a writer abandons a childhood hero upon discovering that, in addition to being a renowned neurosurgeon, he is an outspoken conservative.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

South Dakota Gets A New Koch Shipment

David Montgomery reports that a conservative PAC has deemed Mike Rounds too liberal. Pat Powers gives his take here.

The PAC, Senate Conservatives Fund uses the usual boilerplate:
SCF is a grassroots organization dedicated to electing strong conservative leaders to the United States Senate. We do not support liberal Republicans and we're not affiliated with the Republican Party or any of its campaign committees.
SCF seeks to bring bold conservative leadership to Washington by supporting candidates who have the courage to fight for the timeless conservative principles of limited government, strong national defense, and traditional family values
The organization claims that it "helps candidates by raising support from thousands of freedom-loving Americans across the country, and by running hard-hitting radio and television ads in key battleground states."

According to OpenSecrets.org, Senate Conservatives Fund is affiliated with former Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

In 2012, the PAC's largest contributors include Koch Industries, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Microsoft, and Comcast.

As a football fan, I prefer natural grass to Astro Turf; I feel the same way about politics. Whether I vote for Rounds, some other Republican, or the Democratic nominee in a general election , I'd prefer that South Dakota's parties, not some astroturf group, select their nominees.


Tim Johnson's Retirement: Numbers, Trends, And History

Tim Johnson will announce his retirement this afternoon. Speculation, informed and otherwise, indicates that either his son U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson or former Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will seek the Democratic nomination to replace him. Former Governor Mike Rounds has announced his candidacy for the Senate; Representative Kristi Noem has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.

I'm not Nate Silver or Nate Cohn, two number crunchers who correctly forecast the 2012 Presidential election while Fox News was getting it all wrong. That being said, the numbers look bad for whomever the Democrats nominate.

In late February, Bob Mercer reported that voter registration numbers show Republicans have nearly a 55,000 voter advantage. There are over 96,000 independents, but it's a safe bet that a sizable plurality if a not a majority of those voters are conservatives who lean Republican.

Further, this Andrew Kohut Washington Post analysis points out:
Americans’ values and beliefs are more divided along partisan lines than at any time in the past 25 years. The values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than the one between men and women, young and old, or any racial or class divides.
Kohut goes on to examine the Republican base:
The party’s base is increasingly dominated by a highly energized bloc of voters with extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns. They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

These staunch conservatives, who emerged with great force in the Obama era, represent 45 percent of the Republican base. According to our 2011 survey, they are demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old. 
According to Kohut, this base has "protected Republican lawmakers from the broader voter backlash that is so apparent in opinion polls" even though the Republican party is at the same place nationally that the Democrats were in in 1973.

In short, South Dakota has more Republicans than Democrats, and Republicans tend to have a  more energetic base than Democrats. This base will give South Dakota Republicans a nearly insurmountable advantage in statewide races in 2014.

Kohut concludes with a brief history lesson:
Of course, the Democrats of the 1970s were able to overcome their obstacles. All it took was Watergate, an oil embargo and a presidential pardon of Nixon for Jimmy Carter to secure a thin victory in 1976.
South Dakota Democrats in 2013 may not be as lucky.

Monday, March 25, 2013

As A Mythology Teacher, I Am Very Afraid

From IO9.com
. . . Brett Ratner, director of X-Men: The Last Stand, is doing a sword-and-sandal movie about Hercules, which is slated for release on July 25, 2014. The film begins shooting any day now, with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson playing Herc. Be very, very afraid.
Actually, the Hercules film, based on a graphic novel called Hercules: The Thracian Wars, sounds like an awesome bit of cheese, and possibly the perfect outlet for Ratner's talents. It's a "dark" version of Herc, in which he's completed his twelve labors and now he's turned his back on the Gods. He's working as a mercenary, alongside six other hard-bitten Greek dudes, and they go around fighting for money in various wars. Until they realize how far they've fallen, and they get a chance for redemption.
Everything about "The Rock" shows the subtly necessary to portray the need for redemption and the joy of salvation

Quotation Of The Day: Political Versus Politicized Edition

From this Sunny Bunch piece:
There’s nothing wrong with living a political life. That is, a life in which politics is one of your interests or your job, something you follow and keep track of and educate yourself on and argue about. The arena of politics is important; political decisions have consequences; and passionately arguing for your preferred political outcomes is nothing to be ashamed of.
politicized life is a different beast, however. It treats politics as a zero sum game or a form of total warfare in which the other side must be obliterated. It alters every aspect of your being: where you shop; what you watch on TV; what sort of music you listen to; who you associate with. If you’re not with the politicized being, you’re against him—and if you’re against him, he is well within his rights to ruin you personally and economically. You, the political other, are a leper to be shunned, lest your thoughtcrimes infect the rest of society.
HT: Rod Dreher

A Few Musings About Jim Bolin's Candidacy For School A Public Lands

Via Pat Powers, I see that Jim Bolin has announced his candidacy for Commissioner of School and Public Lands.

I had the privilege of teaching in the classroom next to Jim's for a few years. He gave great lectures and made the young'uns think. I learned a few tricks of the trade by watching and listening to him practice his craft. The teaching experience was more years ago than either of us may want to admit. Over the years, we've kept in touch sporadically. We still can't call each other by our first names. a habit we formed when we taught together. I last spoke with him in early December, and I joked about his running for higher office.

I was one of several who helped him start his South Dakota political career by attending a Republican county meeting and casting a vote for him to be delegate to the state Republican convention.  We've moved in different directions politically, but we both agree that South Dakota schools, in the main, do a good job. He cast a courageous vote against HB 1234.  Although I'm not sure I understand the source of some of his objections to Common Core, we both agree that the Common Core will do little to improve students' achievement.

Because he is willing to listen to both sides, Bolin will be an excellent candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Of course the fact that people like me are willing to say good things about him may cause him some problems. Less than thirty minutes after Powers posted his announcement one commenter posted:
Jim’s alright, but just alright. He’s spends as much time pandering to liberals as he does conservatives.
I never thought listening to people with opposing views counted as pandering or made one a doubtful candidate.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: When Fox News Loses Reagan, Do They Also Lose The Nation?

From Michael Reagan:
Talk radio and Fox are getting so boring, so predictable, so shrill, I can barely tune in anymore. . . .

For good and bad, talk radio and Fox have become the national voices of conservatism, the places where conservative ideas and arguments can be publicized and debated.

The Republican Party has made the mistake of allowing Fox and talk radio to become its spokesman, in large part because it has no national spokesman of its own. But Fox and talk radio are letting the GOP and the rest of the country down.

People outside the Beltway are desperate for solutions to our economic and social problems, but Fox and talk radio seem more interested in giving them arguments — tired arguments.

A Minor Musing: NCAA Brackets, Horoscopes, And The Classroom

John Spencer teaches "a sixth-grade ELL teacher in an urban, Title One School" in Arizona school. In a recent post he discusses the small victories of teaching. One stuck out:
Two students talk to me before school, asking about the NCAA Tournament brackets. It wouldn't seem like a big deal, except for the fact that they spoke no English at the beginning of the year. Both students worked far harder as students than I worked as a teacher.
Everyone who walks into my classroom speaks English. And yet, I have students ask me to help "put things in regular English." This past Friday, during study hall (yes, we still have study hall, but that's a post for a different day), a student brought up the local paper and asked me to help with the following passage:
Recognize the importance of indulging a loved one. Your positive attitude, coupled with the fact that it is Friday, helps you create the optimism and cheerful attitude you like to exude and also receive. Choose the right invitation for you. Tonight: In the whirlwind of life.
Even horoscopes can be a difficult read for some students. It wasn't "regular English."

I suppose some will suggest that I should have made sure that the student had all his homework done before giving him the "privilege" of reading the newspaper. At least one South Dakota blogger will accuse me of promoting some sort of UNESCO plot to take over schools because I helped a high school student learn what "indulge," "optimism," and "exude" mean when used in context. I'm sure some teachers will point out that  I didn't take full advantage of the teachable moment by having him sit down and and write an essay explaining if learning to use vocabulary a little better made him "exude optimism."

That being said a student came to a teacher to learn something; it doesn't matter if it's NCAA brackets or a horoscope. Spencer concludes his post:
So, when someone asks me about our achievement levels, I'm not going to spout off a bunch of test scores. I'm going to talk about achievement. Real achievement. The kind that lasts beyond the sixth grade. And I'm going to recognize that even if I was a part of the process, my students worked incredibly hard to pull it off.
He gets it right. The real achievement is the work students do to learn.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Hosea Edition

Hosea 8
KJV

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Using NCAA Tournament To Guess About Politicians' Motives Isn't Limited To South Dakota

Pat Powers posts a NCAA bracket story about Kristi Noem's possible decision to challenge Mike Rounds for the South Dakota Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Another race that has garnered national attention is the Kentucky Senate contest over the seat held by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. His potential challenger is actress Ashley Judd. Judd a fixture in the Kentucky Wildcats cheering section sent a tweet offering support for the Louisville Cardinals, the Wildcats in-state rivals. Politics ensued.


Is It Just Me Or Does The International Audience Get Better Star Trek Trailers?

A domestic trailer:



An international trailer:



Cast your vote in the comments.

Keystone Passage Veto Proof; Supports Want To Limit Judicial Review

From Politico:
The Senate issued a symbolic, filibuster-proof endorsement of the Keystone XL pipeline Friday evening, further increasing the pressure on President Barack Obama to green-light the project despite massive resistance from his environmental base.
Seventeen Democrats joined all of the Senate’s Republicans in a 62-37 vote for Sen. John Hoeven’s [R-ND] budget amendment urging approval of TransCanada’s oil pipeline.
Politico also reports that Tim Johnson (D-SD) joined supporters.

The pipeline  is going to carry tar sands oil that is more corrosive than normal crude, so leaks and ruptures are going to be a bigger problem than they are with previous pipelines. Like all pipeline projects, this one will trample landowners' rights. Most of the oil will benefit nations like China. The actual number of jobs the project will produce will be a fraction of the number of jobs supporters promise.

That being said, I haven't been able to get that worked up over the issue. I'm getting older and being angry tires me out more than it used to. The increasing destruction to civil liberties caused by the security state worry me. The fact that few others seem to care frightens and angers me. In South Dakota, idiocy like the school pistolier law hits closer to home. I don't have much anger left for Keystone.

Politico, however, points to one part of the Keystone effort that does anger me:
Hoeven is separately offering a bipartisan bill that would have Congress approve the pipeline and take the issue out of Obama’s hands. House Republicans are also expected to move legislation from Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), with a sprinkling of Democratic co-sponsors, that would not just bypass Obama but limit judicial review of the project.[Emphasis mine.]
The idea that this pipeline is more important than checks and balances is absurd. If anything, Keystone is a project that deserves to be examined by all three branches.

Perhaps representatives and senators are frustrated.  Both the current and previous administrations have made end runs around the legislative and judicial branches. The legislative branch, however, has been complicit in allowing their power to be diminished. They seem to have ceded all military policy, including the decisions about going to war, to the executive branch. The remedy, however, is not to attempt to limit the power of the judicial branch.

The pipeline supporters seem to have done their job politically. They have won and seem able to override a veto. Attempting to circumvent the system of checks and balances over a pipeline seems to indicate an arrogance or a fear of the American constitutional system that ill-serves the Americans who elected them.

A Minor Musing On Moral Failings

Over at Madville, Cory points to a letter to the editor from Representative Don Kopp of Rapid City. The local paper has not printed Kopp's missive, so I was unaware of it until I saw Cory's post. Kopp decries America's moral failings and quotes several of America's founders and General Omar Bradley.

Cory and several of his commentators castigate Kopp, but perhaps they misread Rep. Kopp.

I'm guessing Kopp like millions of others was reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion and the on-going war that was started in part for WMDs that didn't exist and resulted in the incalculable loss of life. If one wants to look at the war's effect on the debt that will be passed on to future generations, at least $1 trillion of the debt comes from that war.

Perhaps, Kopp who I am sure is a good Christian man, is bemoaning the fact that his fellow Christians in Iraq are much worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein.

On the home front, the bankers who tanked the economy still have not been punished nor does it seem any will face legal sanction. The purchasing power of the wages of the average American has been shrinking for over 30 years. Some have suggested that those who are unemployed or underemployed should consider their involuntary "leisure time" a benefit and condemn those unable to get work for not utilizing such time effectively. Such a callous attitude seems indicate moral failing.

A well-connected elite in Nineveh would have the same sort of advantages in the economic realm that today's bankers and investors have. Cory's post pointed to Nineveh’s foreign policy arrogance. Surely, a well-read man like Kopp who is able to knowingly quote august Americans, is referring to injustices and moral failings such as these.

[Update and Correction]: This post originally identified Kopp as Koop. I blame dust on the bifocals.

Tweet Of The Day: Where Education Needs To Reform Edition

Neither Common Core nor corporate directed reform will solve the problem.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Bill O'Reilly Supports Paganism Edition

From Bill O'Reilly:
Secular progressives are running wild with President Obama in the White House. They feel unchained, liberated, and they’re trying to diminish any form of religion. The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs. For example, in Canada and China a woman can have an abortion for any reason at any time. Secular progressives want that here. But traditional forces in America are in opposition. Therefore in this country, you can’t terminate a baby about to be born without a damn good reason. And if you do abort a late term baby, you could be charged with murder. SPs hate that. In Scandanavia, there are laws that say you cannot criticize minorities and if you do, you could be arrested. Secular progressives want laws like that here. Also the legalization of drugs, well under way in many places, and that is a secular cause. So, if the far left can marginalize Santa and the Easter bunny, of they can tell the children those symbols are obsolete and unnecessary, they then set the stage for a totally secular society in the future.[Emphasis in original]
I'm certain there's no reference to either Santa or the Easter bunny in the Bible. Both have some roots in pagan myth. I had no idea that O'Reilly was open minded enough to endorse paganism over secularism; that's an impressive display of courage for a Fox News celebrity. (Snark intended)

HT: This Think Progress Post

A Minor Musing Offering Advice To Republicans

Republicans recently announced a plan to rebrand, rebuild, and refocus.

They didn't talk with me, and they may not want my vote or my advice. I did, however, offer some unsolicited advice to South Dakota Democrats, so it seems fair that I do the same for Republicans. I believe this post will be much briefer than the missive to Democrats. This post will  hopefully be more pithy, parallel and alliterative.

First, instead of trying to guarantee a gun for every hand, the GOP should promulgate policies that will help working class Americans regain their ability to put a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.

Second, instead of protecting those who benefited from it, work to undo the damage caused by what Adam Posen describes as "a corrupt capture of a big chunk of our political and economic system where a lot of legislation, regulation, and corporate decisions were directed to maximizing the benefits for the few people in charge of financial firms."

I suspect that this advice applies to Democrats as well. They, however, do not seem nearly as beholden to the NRA nor did they run a candidate for President who was going to build a garage with an elevator.

How Much Does Google Hate The Argus Leader?

I don't know why, but I find this non-event hilarious.

This morning I was doing a little research to compose a post about adding partisan members to the South Dakota Legislative Research Council. I went to Google, typed in "Russ Olson LRC," limited the search to the past week, and got the following results:


The Madville Times has the first three results. Then there's David Montgomery's blog. I can understand those beating yesterday's Argus story. The Argus hosts Montgomery's blog, so I suppose that could count as result that points to the Argus.

That being said Lori's Reading Corner comes in ahead of yesterday's Argus article in the Google results. I can understand Google giving Lori's Reading Corner preference over this blog, but South Dakota's largest newspaper loses to Lori's Reading Corner on a search for a  political story? There has to be an unreported struggle between Google and Gannet for use of the letter G.

Gordon Howie Promotes Consequence Free Philosophy

HUGE DISCLAIMER: I never want to discuss abortion on this blog. Nothing in this post should be construed in any way to be taken to indicate suppor of or opposition to either a pro-life or pro-choice position.

Gordon Howie headlines his latest post "Student Barred From Sports For Supporting Unborn." Howie links to a Columbia NewsTribune article with the following lede:
A Helias Catholic High School freshman was ruled ineligible from participating in high school sports for up to a year because he ran in what the Missouri High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) considers a “non-school competition.”
Fifteen-year-old James Vignola ran nearly seven miles near Boonville in the LIFE Runners A-Cross the Country Pro-Life Relay. He knew going into the run that it would affect his cross country and track careers at Helias
.“I thought it was the right thing to do, and my conscience was telling me to do it,” he said.
MSHSAA eligibility standards state, “You may not practice for, or participate with, a non-school team or in any organized non-school athletic competition and for your school team in the same sport during the school sport season.”
The student is being declared ineligible because he competed in a "non-school competition" during the school season. The South Dakota High School Activities Association has similar rules. I'm sure every state does. In fact, I'm fairly certain the student would have faced sanction for competing in a "I Love Kitties Relay" or a "Jihadists Are People Too Relay" or "I Hate Everyone And Am Running To Raise Money To Go To College To Study Philosophy To Become A Professional Nihilist Relay." I'm betting that Howie would not be upset if the student were barred from competing because he competed in one of those events.

One can argue that the event constitutes neither "practice" nor "competition." In that case, the headline should read "Officious Bureaucrats Bar Student From Competing Even Though He Broke No Rules." That headline, of course, doesn't work because Howie is in the business of creating martyrs. It would fall under the "dog bites man" storyline.

Finally, the tenor of this post indicates that Howie seems to believe that acts of conscience should be consequence free. The whole idea behind civil disobedience is that one accept the consequence of the act to show the injustice of the situation. (This act would arguably fall under civil disobedience if one considers the MHSAA a governing body.)

Actions have consequences. The student seems willing to accept them. There's an appeals process. That last thing this situation needs is Howie's hype machine.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Please, Please, Please Let This Become An Educational Trend

Writing at College Guide, Keith Humphreys points to a college text book innovation.

Everyone who has spent time on campus has had to buy a "Big Book of Everything [that] is incredibly handy both for established experts and students"  because . . . they’ve got everything in them . . . ." Of course everyone who has had to carry one of the books across campus can attest that the BBoEs "are as portable as anvils and they cost a mint.":

Humphreys reports that at least one publisher is willing to change that:
Enter an innovation of which I just learned after agreeing to write a chapter in a forthcoming Big Book of Everything: The publisher is going to let each buyer order the subset of chapters he or she wants rather than hawking the work as an all-or-nothing venture.
The high school BBoEs aren't quite as big nor quite as expensive, but the difference is not that great. Besides, high school freshmen and sophomores are much smaller than college students. I haven't done a scientific study, but I'd be willing to bet that most high school students are carrying more pounds of books per pound of body weight than most college students carry.

As an English teacher, I would love being able to buy only the short stories and poems I knew I was going to teach. Now a lot of students are carrying around a huge book that I can't possibly get through in a semester. Given shrinking budgets, this innovation would be a Godsend. Further, Kindles, Nooks, and tablets of all sorts are becoming ubiquitous. Being able to purchase electronic licenses for the book chapters or stories one needs to teach and loading them on these devices seems to be rare act of common sense.

If this idea catches on at the college level, it should eventually trickle down to the high school level. I may be able to customize at least one textbook before I retire.

Quotation Of The Day: Thanksgiving Dinner Is Going To Get Really Weird Edition

Just in time for some lunch conversation--From Time:
The Turducken — a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey — is a mythical culinary beast and the dream entree of Thanksgiving obsessives everywhere. And now, science is on its way towards making the Turducken a reality — sort of: a duck has successfully fathered a chicken at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai.
Researchers injected a duck’s germ cells — carrying DNA to produce eggs and sperm — into the reproductive organs of a chicken embryo; once the chicken matured, it began to produce the duck’s sperm. Initially looking to genetically modify chicken to produce more fertile hens (the global poultry industry currently maintains some 50 billion chickens), these scientists are now planning to use this technique to allow hens to lay eggs of other birds, including ducks, songbirds, hawks or eagles.
Somehow, this science seems to fall under the "I know we can do it, but just because we can doesn't mean we should" category. I'll leave it to scientists to prove me wrong.

Five Quick But Interesting Reads Around South Dakota Blogosphere: March 21st Edition

David Montgomery posts some South Dakota politicians March Madness brackets. I really don't care which teams the politicians or South Dakota's first lady picked. I find it interesting, however, that Ben Nesslehuf and Jason Frerichs, who are both under 40, filled out their brackets digitally whereas the older politicians still pulled out a pen or pencil. There seems to be a digital generation gap.

Ken Santema has two good posts about the dangers of CISPA

This P&R Miscellany post points to troublesome efforts to limit speech is provocative.

Finally, I have to admit that I'm ashamed of myself that I missed this one until yesterday, but Cory's report on the South Dakota High School Activities Association State Debate Tournament makes me feel good about coaching debate.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Religious Atheism Edition

From this New York Review of Books excerpt of a book by the late Ronald Dworkin
So the phrase “religious atheism,” however surprising, is not an oxymoron; religion is not restricted to theism just as a matter of what words mean. But the phrase might still be thought confusing. Would it not be better, for the sake of clarity, to reserve “religion” for theism and then to say that Einstein, Shelley, and the others are “sensitive” or “spiritual” atheists? But on a second look, expanding the territory of religion improves clarity by making plain the importance of what is shared across that territory. Richard Dawkins says that Einstein’s language is “destructively misleading” because clarity demands a sharp distinction between a belief that the universe is governed by fundamental physical laws, which Dawkins thought Einstein meant, and a belief that it is governed by something “supernatural,” which Dawkins thinks the word “religion” suggests.
But Einstein meant much more than that the universe is organized around fundamental physical laws; indeed his view I quoted is, in one important sense, an endorsement of the supernatural. The beauty and sublimity he said we could reach only as a feeble reflection are not part of nature; they are something beyond nature that cannot be grasped even by finally understanding the most fundamental of physical laws. It was Einstein’s faith that some transcendental and objective value permeates the universe, value that is neither a natural phenomenon nor a subjective reaction to natural phenomena. That is what led him to insist on his own religiosity. No other description, he thought, could better capture the character of his faith.


Because Stace Nelson Told Me To

In a comment at the Madville Times, Nelson (R-19) writes:
The hypocrisy of a legislative closed caucus, by the party that has open government as a major party platform plank 5.13 http://southdakotagop.com/about-the-party/our-platform/ , should be assaulted by every media outlet in SD. Until that happens, and changes are made, I am stuck with it.
I blog; I doubt I qualify as a media outlet. I will, nevertheless, trumpet Representative Nelson's complaint.

Because South Dakota's Republicans have a 53-17 advantage over Democrats in the South Dakota House of Representatives and a 28-7 advantage in the South Dakota Senate, the Republican caucuses function as the de facto legislature. The legislature's business should be done in public.

I am open to the claims that the parties need a place to discuss strategy if the minority party has a realistic chance to stop the majority. That's not the case in South Dakota. Until Democrats have a realistic chance to affect the outcome of a legislative vote, both parties should have open caucuses.

A Question About The State Sanction Of Marriage

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be construed to indicate support of or opposition to marriage between a man and a woman, marriage between and man and another man, marriage between a man and a transgendered individual, a woman and another woman, a woman and a transgendered individual, or two transgendered individuals. IT'S MERELY A QUESTION I SERIOUSLY WANT ANSWERED.

I know I'm not the first to think of this question, but I've never seen an answer. I hope that someone provides one in the comments.

Some Christian denominations consider marriage a sacrament; others consider only baptism and communion sacraments. I have idea how the various strains of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam consider marriage. I don't know if thoses faiths have anything that they or others would consider sacraments.

I have no doubt that the state has a vested interest in protecting family units. I do wonder, however, if codifying the term "marriage" doesn't in some tangential way constitute the establishment of religion by codifying something that some consider a sacrament while others do not consider that same act sacramental. Shouldn't the state rename all of its "marriage" laws "civil union" laws?

HT: I've considered this question several times while traveling the grand prairie north and west of Pierre on trips to visit my mother, but the following PNR sentence in this post caused me to ask it on the blog.
Other sexual arrangements may be permitted in law - multiple partners, homosexual partners, even cross-species partners.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Kind Of Conservative Supports Agenda 21?

Earlier today, I posted that conservatives seem to be splitting into a bunch of small factions. Here's a concrete example.

Today, Pat Powers points to a Mike Vericho effort to put the force of law behind South Dakota's efforts to prevent the implementation Agenda 21, a non-binding U.N. agreement signed by George H. W. Bush.

According to the Custer County Chronicle, Vericho believes that Agenda 21 threatens the very fabric of the Republic:
“In my opinion, Agenda 21 is the exact opposite of what the United States was built upon,” he said. “It is an attempt to repudiate the principles of our republic, our system of laws and courts and the dream that all can succeed if they put in the effort and the respect for individualism and being responsible. Agenda 21 is not in the best interests of the people of the United States.”
On the other hand, there's ConservAmerica. ConservAmerica seems to be a real conservative organization. Rachel Maddow says bad things about them. Their president, Rob Sisson, seems to have covered every conservative base when he served as mayor:
I am a real conservative. I championed privatization of our ambulance service and our hospital, and lowered our city millage to the lowest level in fifty years. I was the first mayor in the city’s history to exercise the right to legally carry a concealed weapon (but let’s not open that can of worms right now).
Pro-gun: check
Eliminate waste: check
Privatize everything: check
Yep, he seems like a true conservative.

Sissen, however, seems complicit in the "attempt to repudiate the principles of our republic." As mayor, he admits that he followed parts of Agenda 21:
During my tenure as mayor of Sturgis (MI), a city of about 12,000 people, we implemented several sustainable practices that resulted in substantial savings to taxpayers. A green roof on a new public works building minimized heating and cooling costs in the building, reduced storm water runoff, and lowered long term maintenance expenses. When a neighborhood was annexed, we utilized rain gardens in lieu of costly curb and gutter to manage storm water, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He even publicly admits that the UN can support good ideas:
Lowering costs and conserving resources is always a good idea - even if the UN agrees.
I've always thought of myself as politically displaced. Sissens, a pro-gun, privatizer who supports the UN, seems to be more displaced than I am. If he ever wants to do a guest post . . .

Quotation Of The Day: Talking About Religion And Politics Edition

From this Tablet post:
There’s a more honest way to talk about religion’s role in our politics. It starts with being consistent and exorcising this selective specter of theocracy. Those who are uncomfortable with religion in the public square should cry foul at any cleric’s attempt to use faith to influence the political debate, whether in a liberal or conservative direction. Those who, like President Obama and Rep. Ryan, believe religion has always been an essential part of our national conversation, should permit faith leaders of all political persuasions to say their piece. These sentiments should by no means be exempt from criticism—but one should critique the content of the view, not delegitimize its source. Either of these positions is intellectually honest and defensible. Picking and choosing which faith leaders are theocrats based on how much they affirm one’s partisan politics is not.

A Minor Musing About Parent/Teachers' Conferences

I had 21 parents visit me last night. Their students had a combined GPA of 3.4 in my classes. Four of the students earned Cs; five earned Bs; twelve earned As. I have concerns about two who I believe were were not working to the best of their ability.

I expect another 20 or 30 parents to visit me during another round of conferences later this week. The GPA of their students will be similar to the GPA of the students whose parents visited me last night. I will see the parents of 2 or 3 more underperforming students

I know correlation doesn't equal causation, but those numbers have held true for the past 15 years. I'm not going to argue that schools do not have to improve. I'm going to point out that most successful students have help at home that many struggling students don't have. I'm also going to contend Common Core or whatever the reform de jour will be next year is not going to help struggling students who don't have parental support catch up with successful students who do.

Baptists, Conservatives, Shrimp & Coffee With A Twist Of Lemon

When I was a young'un sitting in Baptist Sunday School, I learned that not all Baptists were the same. There were North American Baptists, American Baptists, Southern Baptists, General Conference Baptists, and Seventh Day Baptists. We even heard horrifying stories about groups of Baptists that did not frown on dancing.

Bubba from Forrest Gump listed all the ways one can cook shrimp; Wikipedia lists all of the Baptists. The numbers are, in fact, comparable.
Conservatives seem to be branching out in the same way as the Baptists have. There are neocons, paleocons, crunchy cons, social conservatives, and business roundtable conservatives. There may be a slight difference between conservatives and Baptists, however. The Baptists of my youth claimed to be Southern Baptist or North American Baptist. There were part of a list just like like the of shrimp dishes Bubba listed. Conservatives, however, will probably define themselves in the same way that Steve Martin orders coffee in this clip.
The Baptists seemed to agree only on the fact that one must be fully immersed to be baptized. I wonder if conservatives will all be able to agree on the policy detail that constitutes the twist of lemon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Minor Musing About Precognition And SB 235

I haven't posted much about SB 235 for a simple reason: I view my relationship with every business in the same way I view my relationship with a casino--they're the house and they're going to win in the end.

I also know businesses provide jobs and people need jobs to acquire the necessities of life, so South Dakota communities need to attract and keep businesses.

Bob Mercer provides glowing review of SB 235. He praises the legislation for its transparency and the fact that it gives elected officials oversight:
It’s also doubtful that many people know the state Senate will now hold confirmation power over the 13 voting members that the governor appoints to the state board.

And it’s likewise doubtful that many people know about the giant and positive change in government transparency contained in the legislation regarding these reinvestment payments.

As recently as the winter of 2008-09, the Rounds administration resisted revealing the names of the business projects that received permits under South Dakota’s construction-tax refund system.
Perhaps it's my natural cynicism, but one part of the plan still seems counter-intuitive. Mercer writes:
A key provision is that the board must determine whether the business wouldn’t have located in South Dakota without a package of local and state incentives.
My first reaction to that criterion is snarky: When did Miss Cleo come out of retirement and move to South Dakota?

On a more serious note, won't any business with  a semi-competent CEO be able to point to competing offers in other states and threaten to take the business there if South Dakota doesn't pony up the cash? How hard is it to manufacture competition from Itstoodamnhot, Mississippi?  Exactly how is the state going to be able to prove that the business would not have located here without the incentives?

Quotation Of The Day: Why The Middle Class Is Totally Screwed Edition

From this Robert W. Patterson piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
President Obama talks a good game, but remains too preoccupied with rolling out his legacy to ride to the rescue. Indeed, his Affordable Care Act is a bureaucratic nightmare that fails to implement a utility-style regulation of routine health-care pricing. And when not obsessing over elite causes that eclipse middle-class norms, he's fast-tracking welfare expenditures that facilitate downward mobility.
Last week, the Republicans and their economic standard-bearer, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, had a chance to offer a plan to save the middle class. Unfortunately, the House Budget Committee chairman's updated "Path to Prosperity" reprises the same old song - straight from the hymnal of conservative think tanks - that the voters tuned out in 2012.
The dreary dirge maintains that balanced budgets in distant out-years are key to restoring the American dream today, along with regulatory relief and a tax code that favors investors over wage earners. Even while devoting a chorus to domestic oil and gas production, Ryan continues to worship at the altar of a prevailing GOP myth: that freeing up "small businesses" to hire and expand will reap an economic windfall.
I'm not sure Patterson has any solutions, but he seems to have analyzed the problems fairly well.