Monday, September 30, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: The Political Circus May Well Get Weirder Edition

From Reihan Salam writing at that noted left-wing journal (sarcasm alert) National Review Online:
My sense is that the disarray and dysfunction currently on display in Congress flows from campaign finance regulations that have weakened broad-based, national political parties while strengthening solo political entrepreneurs. Many of us hope that some future Republican presidential nominee will be able to impose order on the GOP’s congressional wing. But it is just as easy for me to imagine a popular Republican president facing ferocious attacks from a minority of opportunistic legislators aided by allied independent expenditure groups. [Emphasis Mine}

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What's Conservative About Shutting Down The Government Or Defaulting To Repeal Obamacare?

Conservatives claim they respect the Constitution as framed by America's founders. Further, I can remember former President George W. Bush repeating "I trust the American people" as if the sentence were an incantation against all evil.

On ABC's This Week Matt Dowd, former George W. Bush political strategist, points out that contemporary politicians seem to have trust issues:
Well first I want to say after watching your interview with the Foreign Minister of Iran. It's somewhat amazing and ironic that more reasonable and enlightenment is coming out of the Middle East than is coming out of Washington D.C. these days. With everything that's happened with Syria and the chemical weapons and all that, it's like we're now in a situation where we have to look at ourselves and say, why isn't our own act in order?
One of the biggest problems that's going on I think in this country today, this government shutdown, which everybody knows is a bad idea and ultimately will be bad for the Republicans and they only hope it's only temporarily bad.
That is that way is, there's a large part of both parties that refuses to accept what actually is going on. So they don't, if they don't like the result of an election, they contest the election. If they don't like the result of a legislative something passing the Senate, passing the House, signed by the president, which is the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, we actually have a situation, we should accept it.
I have some disagreements with it. I think there's great parts of it. I think there's great parts of it. I think there's some parts of it that could be problematic. But it is the law and we should accept it. But part of the problem is in our politics today is that we refuse to accept our institutions, our legislation and our elections
If Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, a law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court,  there's a simple constitutional way to do it. Win the White House in 2016.

Republicans have gerrymandered themselves a House Majority until 2022. Even if Democrats retain a Senate majority in 2016, that number will not be filibuster proof. With a Republican in the White House, any tea party Republican competent enough to get elected to either the U.S. House or Senate will be able chip away at Obamacare until it's gone.

Until then, the tea party House members need to remember that in 2012 the American people elected Barack Obama, returned the Democrats to a majority in the Senate, and gave more votes to House Democrats than House Republicans.

Of course, it's possible that all of the talk about trusting the American people and respecting original intent is just talk.

Real Christian Persecution

Colbert King has a great editorial in the Washington Post about Christians in Africa and the Middle East being murdered because of their faith. The key quotation epitomizes snark well done:
But why should we know much about the killing of Christians when news of Washington’s political food fights, the looming federal shutdown and the National Zoo’s new panda cub keep getting in the way?
Some on the political right contend that there's a war on Christians in the United States. King's editorial reminds all what a real war on Christians would look like. The piece also illustrates hat those who chose to use that metaphor are cheapening the martyrdom of real victims in a real war.

Read the whole thing.

Scripture And Song For The Week: Isaiah 1 Edition

KJV
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quotation Of Day: Who Controls The Web Browser Controls The Country Edition

I seriously may have trouble sleeping after reading this David Frum post:
. . . something like half the country continues to use some version of Internet Explorer. Many of these people open up to whatever Microsoft has set for them as their home page, and they gather their news from whatever happens to show up there. They're probably swing voters too.
The most important question in American politics in the next month will be: who gets the blame for a government shut down - or, even more terrifying, an outright default. That question will likely be settled by people who do not know how to change the default settings on an Internet browser.

If The South Dakota Republican U.S. Senate Candidates Were Superheroes. . .

The old joke about U. S. senators is that they all believe they are one election away from being the most powerful human on the planet. If that's the case, candidates must have secret dreams about being superheroes. Here, in no particular order, are the South Dakota Republican candidates as their true superhero selves.

Mike Rounds is Elongated Man. He's really elastic and tough to pin down. He smiles a lot and is a poor man's Mitt Romney.

Elongated Man
Image from DC Wikia
Stace Nelson is an extremely large former U.S. Marine who often shoots first and asks questiosn later.(Metaporically speaking) 'Nuff Said.

Sgt. Slaughter, the G.I. Joe Edition
Image from Wikipedia

Larry Rhoden is West River Rancher striving to adapt to new political realities. The Two-Gun Kid came from 1880s Wild West and adapted to the current time quite handily..

Two-Gun Kid
Image from Wikipedia

Finally, I'm not sure Annette Bosworth is a real candidate at this point. She frequently seems invisible. Space Ghost's sidekick Jan never became a fully realized character. She could become invisible.

Jan is the character in the middle.
Image from YouTube
I'll update the page to add Venner should he choose to enter the race. If Democrats challenge Rick Weiland, I'll work up a similar post.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Lightsaber Tech May Be Possible

MIT professors give geeks a chance to rejoice:
A Boston television station reports that researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have “discovered a new kind of matter” that would prevent traditional laser beams from passing through each other. The matter, called “photonic molecules,” solidifies laser beams in ways reminiscent of the famous science-fiction weapons imagined by George Lucas.

Parsing The LRC Shake Up

I'm a bit surprised these Bob Mercer paragraphs didn't generate larger responses:
Jim Fry said his job stopped being fun three years ago. That was an interesting time for the Legislature. The Senate saw the departures of veterans such as Republican leaders Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls and Bob Gray of Pierre, and newly-elected Gov. Dennis Daugaard called — alone, at first — for 10 percent cuts throughout much of state government, twice as deep as outgoing Gov. Mike Rounds had proposed. The 2010 election also marked the arrival of Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, who brought a different style to the House and in 2012 accused House Republican leaders of conspiring against members. A resolution that contained the word astrological somehow slipped through. Eventually a special investigation was called, run by then-Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, and over some long hours a lot of laundry was put on the political clothes-line in public testimony.
What’s happened in the past three years is a trend toward more and more secrecy among Republican legislators especially in the House and Senate leadership. One of the complaints against the LRC in the current review was the refusal to send LRC analysts to deliver briefings and answer questions in closed Republican caucuses.  The best example of the secrecy in terms of legislation was the bill creating the South Dakota Jobs programs during the 2013 session. That legislation reached far and ultimately might be very good for South Dakota, but it was formed almost entirely in secret and in some ways over the objections of the Daugaard administration. The latest example of how the secrecy works was the LRC review process that spun to its conclusion Wednesday. There is a public report, but it wasn’t distributed to most Executive Board members until the morning of the meeting and wasn’t shared beforehand to the rank and file of representatives and senators. Less than half of the 105 legislators completed the survey tool used by the National Conference of State Legislatures reviewers. The majority of time spent by Executive Board members on the staffing matters happened in executive session. One of the recommendations from NCSL is to change state law to specifically say a two-thirds majority of the board or majorities in each of the House and Senate can vote to remove the LRC director. That clearly puts the director under the control of the Legislature’s majority party. There is more than one avenue to a more-partisan LRC staff.
The full report indicates that the LRC has shortcomings and is understaffed. However, if I am parsing Mercer's enviably terse prose correctly, this issue is about South Dakota's Republican Legislators desire to maintain a closed caucus and create a partisan LRC.

There's no evidence that South Dakota Democrats will mount a successful threat the Republican continued dominance; therefore, Republicans will have to police themselves. When South Dakota Republicans pushed Jason Gant to the sidelines, they seemingly illustrated that they possess principles other than retaining power. Creating a partisan LRC in order to keep caucusing in secret illustrates acting on those principles may be an anomaly.

Plains Pops: Weird Stats Edition

*Some weird comparisons provide perspective. This one may not really do that. According to Google, South Dakota's 2012 population was 833,354. The 10 biggest football stadiums in the US seat 901,573. That means every man woman and child in South Dakota couldn't fill up these college stadiums'

*Speaking of Google, the search engine celebrated its 15th birthday today. The alleged Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. It will be interesting and likely depressing to see what children who have lived their entire lives having their privacy violated will be like as 40 year old adults. Docility and the sharing of too much information will probably be epidemic diseases rather than minor annoyances.

*Unfortunately, the odds that Ron Gardenhire will get his 1,000th win as a Twins manager are smaller than the odds that he will not return as manager next season.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Pray Like Frank Sinatra

I've been a fan of the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter  and its Keirsey  adaptations for a long time. For those familiar with the these temperament sorters, I fall on the NT spectrum; most tests show me to be an INTP.

A couple of days ago, Rod Dreher published a list of humorous one sentence prayers that illustrate how each type prays. The NTs pray the following prayers.
INTJ: Lord keep me open to others’ ideas, WRONG though they may be.
INTP: Lord help me be less independent, but let me do it my way.
ENTP: Lord help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I’ll settle for a few minutes.
ENTJ: Lord, help me slow downandnotrushthroughwatIdo
The humor, of course, stems from the fact that my wife hears me  pray versions of these  prayers daily, often with a bit of profanity thrown in. Next time I'm tempted to swear, I'll just play a little Sinatra



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Minor Musing About Blog Tackiness

Bloggers make mistakes. We forget to run spell check. We cut and paste text and leave out important words when we paste. Sometimes we mess up fonts. Our design skills may be lacking. Most South Dakota bloggers have a day job, so one can be charitable.

Some readers are annoyed by ads. Certainly, ads and tip jars are frequently poorly designed. Still, if bloggers can earn a shekel or two for their efforts, I'm not going to judge. One can ignore the sidebar.

However, Gordon Howie, as is his wont, takes blog ads to a new low by mixing used car ads with a post's text. This practice is nothing but tacky and speaks to a certain level of desperation

Howie's Used Car Ads and Blog Text
No word about whether cars have flood damage

I feel a little better now. I'll go back to making my usual errors. I apologize for for any grammarians offended by my beginning a sentence with the word "however."

Republicans Seem To Have Forgotten Congress Is Not Parliment

Steve Benen provides the following chart about the budget and debt ceiling negotiations.


I'll leave it to partisans on both sides to determine the table's accuracy.

This chart, however, does point to another problem: the Republican effort to treat Congress as if it were a parliament. A couple of weeks ago, Representative Justin Amash (R-M) gave voice to the attitude:
“You have to start with a Republican proposal. We have a Republican majority [in the House] that was elected by Republicans. Let’s start with a Republican proposal.
If the United States were a parliamentary system with a largely ceremonial upper house, John Boehner would be the chief executive. The Republicans would pass their proposals under the Hastert Rule, and no one should complain. However, even my young policy debaters run enough Federalism DAs to know that congresspersons and senators are elected to represent districts and states not political parties. They also know that the Senate is not ceremonial.

The chart indicates a Republican wish list, but, to trot out a tried but true cliche, elections have consequences. Obama defeated Romney quite handily. Democrats control the United States Senate. Republicans may control the United States House of Representatives, but Democrats got more total votes than Republicans did in House races. If Republicans want to pass these proposals, they need to win the White House in 2016 or the Senate in 2014.

When one uses institutions for purposes other than which they were created, the institutions often crumble and lose credibility. Using the House of Representatives as a House of Commons is a huge crack in federalist system established by the Constitution.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Paranoid Style In South Dakota Politics: Kristi Noem Edition

In 1964, Richard Hofstader wrote a classic essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."
Hofstader pointed out that the classic paranoid politician sees the world in black and white terms:
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. 
Today, Pat Powers printed Kristi Noem's conspiracy theory fund raising email:
While President Obama and his allies in Congress point fingers and place blame, we’re focused on getting results.  Their response? They are almost singularly focused on unseating conservatives like me so they will have an easier path to passing their big-spending agenda in Congress come 2014.
Do you know what the typical campaign playbook is for the Obama campaign machine when they target a conservative like me for defeat?
First, they will recruit a so-called “moderate” to run against me . . . someone with no record in public office who will hide the fact that he or she will fall in line with the Obama-Pelosi agenda in Washington.
Second, they will be on the air early and often with TV ads, attacking me, misleading voters about my record in Congress, and dragging down my approval ratings.
Finally, in races they are really targeting with everything they’ve got, the National Democrat Party will coordinate with left-wing activist groups and union bosses to bring hundreds of “volunteers” into South Dakota, so they can knock on doors, operate phone banks, and mobilize a high Democrat voter turnout.
In short the malevolent superman Obama will mobilize minions to prevent Kristi Noem from being elected, an outcome that, of course, reflects the normal course of history. Further, Obama and Pelosi are luxury loving big spenders who will profit from defeating Noem. One would think that after 70 years, conservatives would have a new playbook.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Minor Musing About Clothes And The Man

Joel Rosenthal created a bit of wind that blew around some dried cow chips when he misheard and then misquoted Stace Nelson. Roesenthal also caused no small amount of consternation when he opined that Nelson was not dressed properly for the event. Pat Powers also weighed in on the latter point today, making points similar to those I made when Nelson announced his candidacy.

I'll add a couple things to my previous post.

Folks who know me will call me hypocritical. I like wearing jeans and chambray work shirts. I resemble an aging hippie or a convict who escaped before orange jumpsuits became the standard. I'm also not running for the United States Senate. I understand voters allegedly want a candidate to whom they can relate; therefore, the "common person" approach is certainly in vogue.  I'm not a huge fan of relatability. I need to know the person South Dakota elects can command the respect of the 99 other senators or 434 other representatives. In that world, formal style is as important as substance.

Further,I know from personal experience that the problem with being big and ugly is that there's so much more ugly to go around. Nelson has the better of me as he is merely a big man. That caveat noted, Nelson should realize that most folks believe inexpensive big and tall clothes look cheap not thrifty.

I said earlier, I'm not a fain of relatability. Wisdom and discernment are more important values. In the case at hand, Nelson was apparently at a Western themed event. A little discernment would have shown there's nothing wrong with breaking out the bolo tie with an agate or turquoise stone decorating the slide.

I want to vote for someone against Rounds, but that person needs to show wisdom, discernment, and the ability to represent South Dakota's interests against folks who value the slick and superficial over the substantive. In short, Nelson needs to show he can beat the best of the East Coast establishment at their own game.

Quotation Of The Day: The South Dakota Republican Divide Illustrated Perfectly (Update)

David Montgomery reports that Joel Rosenthal may have misquoted Stace Nelson. I will stand by my post's title: Rosenthal and Nelson do illustrate the South Dakota Republican Party divide between the status quo and vociferous insurgency.

To What End?

That's my question for most Republicans lately.

Shantel Krebs wants to help Republicans win every South Dakota election. Would South Dakota's government really do things differently with a Democrat on the PUC or serving as the state auditor? Would a Democrat in the secretary of state's office expose deep, secret corruption? Gant seems far too incompetent to be efficiently corrupt. What do voters gain with Republicans in every state office?

On a national level, Republicans are promising to defund Obamacare. Will defunding do anything to stop implementation? Will it stop the IRS from producing a new tax form that requires citizens to self-report whether they have insurance just like they self-report their income? It's unlikely that defunding will remove the individual mandate that roused the tea party ire. Once Obamacare is defunded or repealed, is there any plan proposed to replace the program?

We always hear that elected politicians are public servants. That appellation holds only if they seek to serve the common good not merely destroy their political rivals. Since Republican candicates at the state and national level seem more interested in the latter, I'll have to keep asking the same question: "to what end?"

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: The South Dakota Republican Divide Illustrated Perfectly

From this Joel Rosenthal post about the Lincoln County Lincoln Day Dinner:
Stace Nelson whom I have never met and only know through his reputation at the highlight of his speech unequivocally said,
“ I am a Christian, Conservative, and a Republican. You can’t be the third unless you are the first two.” 
Such xenophobic logic has no place in our political debate. Taken on its face, since Christ was a Jew, would he not meet the Nelson Republican Litmus Test? – And be denied to be a Republican?
Further I do believe there are elements of Judeo Christian thought that are shared by Republican philosophy. I.e., the Republican Party was founded in part on wanting to eliminate Slavery. Clearly the GOP and true Christians share values. Christians (if I understand correctly) like Jews believe in clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted. Many Democrats share these values as well. The difference lie between the parties and yes factions within our political parties as to whether churches, charities, or the government should be responsible.

Scripture And Song For The Week: Ecclesiastes 5 Edition

NIV
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:

     wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
     so that when they have children
     there is nothing left for them to inherit.
15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
     and as everyone comes, so they depart.
     They take nothing from their toil that
     they can carry in their hands.
16 This too is a grievous evil:
     As everyone comes, so they depart,
     and what do they gain,
     since they toil for the wind?
17 All their days they eat in darkness,
     with great frustration, affliction and anger.
18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.
19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Twitterverse View Of The 2014 South Dakota Senate Race

What Hath Congress Wrought?

To date, the 113th Congress has passed and the President has signed 31 pieces of legislation. Two involved Hurrican Sandy relief and one raised the debt limit. Congress also passed an appropriations bill and the Violence Against Women Act. I suppose those pieces of legislation took time to craft and have the CBO score.

Nine new laws, however, are completeley ceremonial and probably could have been completed in about 15 minutes:
H.R. 1071 Amends the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act to modify the requirements for the production of gold and silver coins commemorating the National Baseball Hall of Fame to require such coins to be struck on planchets of specified diameters.
H.R. 360 Directs the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to arrange for the presentation of a congressional gold medal to commemorate the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley (children who lost their lives in the September 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, an incident recognized as a catalyst for the civil rights movement).
H.R. 324 Requires the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to make appropriate arrangements for the award, on behalf of Congress, of a single gold medal to the First Special Service Force (a joint American-Canadian volunteer unit), collectively, in recognition of their World War II service.
H.R. 1151 Directs the Secretary of State to: (1) develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the next triennial International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly to be held in September 2013 in Montreal, Canada; and (2) instruct the U.S. Mission to the ICAO to officially request observer status for Taiwan at the Assembly and other related meetings, activities, and mechanisms, and urge ICAO member states to support Taiwan observer status and participation in the ICAO.  
H.R. 2383 Designates the new Interstate Route 70 bridge over the Mississippi River that connects St. Louis, Missouri, to southwestern Illinois as the "Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge."
H.R. 588 Extends, to November 17, 2018, the legislative authority of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (Fund) to establish a Vietnam Veterans Memorial visitors center. Directs the Secretary of the Interior to allow the Fund to acknowledge donor contributions to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center by displaying, inside the Center, an appropriate statement or credit.  
H.R. 2289 Amends the Internal Revenue Code to rename the section heading of Internal Revenue Code provisions relating to the individual retirement accounts (IRAs) of married individuals as the Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA.
H.R. 1092 Designates the air route traffic control center located in Nashua, New Hampshire, as the "Patricia Clark Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center."
H.R. 2611 To designate the headquarters building of the Coast Guard on the campus located at 2701 Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue Southeast in the District of Columbia as the "Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building", and for other purposes.
I know congresspeople are stuck "earning" a mere $170,000+ a year. If one adds in the extra that Speaker of the House and the Senate Leaders earn, that comes to about $9.4 million per year just for the Congress folks. That doesn't count their staffs and whatever other perks they enjoy. At that rate, shouldn't American taxpayer expect more results for nearly nine months of work?

I Give Away My Strategy For High School Policy Debate During The 2013-2014 Debate Season.

High School students who compete in policy debate will be debating the following resolution from now until the final round of the National Forensics League National Tournament in June 2014:
Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic engagement toward Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela.
I can't speak for the rest of South Dakota's debate coaches, but my young'uns have had few problems finding affirmative and negative evidence about Cuba and Mexico. Venezuela has been a tougher nut to crack. Yesterday, I discovered my negative strategy for any case about Venezuela. My young'uns are going to run the Spider-Man Violence Kritik.

The Link (in policy debate, one must capitalize every element of the argument) will be plan increases economic engagement toward Venzuela. The Internal Links will be economic engagement will require advertising; advertising relies of pop culture; superheroes are hot pop culture properties; Spider-Man is one of the hottest superhero icons. The Impact comes from the following card: (For those uninitiated in high school policy debate, the bolded and underlined portions of the card constitute the evidence the students will actually read.)
Tag: Spider-Man causes violence in Venezuela.
Citation: Melrose, Kevin. "Venezuelan president blames Spider-Man for nation’s violence." Robot 6. Comic Book Resources, 20 09 2013. Web. 21 Sep. 2013. .
OK, so it’s primarily Spider-Man causing the problems. But can we blame the wall-crawler for the horrible violence plaguing an entire country? Let’s ask Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose nation saw 16,000 murders in 2012, and another 3,400 in the first quarter of this year.
In a new interview with the Bolivian newspaper La Opinión, Maduro said there’s a correlation between youth violence and the idolization of superheroes — it contributes to a “factory of anti-values,” apparently — a connection he made while he and his wife were watching Spider-Man 3.
This kid, at 14 years old, carries a 9mm with a mind filled by thousands of hours of shows where people are killed,” he said. “I start to think how many thousands of hours of violence that kid will have consumed, in the end, stimulated by consumerism and violence when he grabs a 9 mm and goes to kill. [...] That’s the trouble, from the beginning until the end there are more and more dead,” he said. “And that’s one of the series small children love most … because it’s attractive, it’s from comics that are attractive, the figure, the colors and movements … so much so that we finished watching it at four in the morning.”
Our Alternative will be to reject the Affirmative until Venezuela is able to develop its own superhero genre based on historical Latin American liberators such as Simon Bolivar or the most famous 20th Century opponent of imperialism and violence Gandhi.

Melrose provides another card to give the kritik an added advantage.
Tag: Rejecting Aff Will Preserve Important Venezuelan Historical And Spiritual Connections
Citation: Melrose, Kevin. "Venezuelan president blames Spider-Man for nation’s violence." Robot 6. Comic Book Resources, 20 09 2013. Web. 21 Sep. 2013. .
Before J. Jonah Jameson orders that special edition of the Daily Bugle, it’s worth pointing out that Maduro has also claimed the spirit of his late predecessor Hugo Chávez spoke to him through a little bird to say he’s doing a fine job running the country.
Clearly, increasing economic engagement with Venezuela will destroy that nation's spiritual roots and cause it to descend into spiral of violence as kids seek to emulate Spider-Man.

Our format may not quite follow that of a traditional kritik, but our cards and story are solid. I'm pretty sure my young'uns who don't know this blog exists will be angry I gave away their best argument when I tell them on Monday.

A Minor Musing About Character And Critical Thinking

I think it was this P&R post about character combined this DWC comment about MBA's inability to think critically that caused me to remember this anecdote told by a business guru. (I have no direct knowledge about the veracity of the story.)

According to the business guru, a toothpaste company was trying desperately to increase sales. They tried new packaging, researched new formulas so that they could claim to be "new and improved," and conducted several new advertising campaigns. Nothing worked. Finally, at a frantic meeting of all department heads, the head of the division in charge of the toothpaste tubes suggested making the hole in the mouth of the tube bigger. Everyone harrumphed approvingly and made it so. Sales and profits increased. The guru pointed to the suggestion as an excellent example of critical thinking.

Americans, of course, use too much toothpaste, We use too much of everything. I'm hard pressed to see why surreptitiously getting folks to use even more is critical thinking. It certainly doesn't exemplify good character, unless one believes that caveat emptor means only the customer should act with character; yet it seems to be good business.

Critical thinking and character have been divorced for too long; a reconciliation is in order. The problem, however, is that divorce was not amicable. Those in the critical thinking camp view those who emphasize character as impractical, and those in the character camp erroneously assume that they will be listened too by repeating the word "character." If the posters lining the walls and classrooms of many South Dakota schools are any indication, these advocates need to learn how to think more critically about crafting a message.

P&R asserts that one should pick character over intellect. He may be correct in ideal world in which both qualities are abundant. Right now, it seems necessary to emphasize both. Critical thinking is necessary to create opportunities, but character is necessary to remind everyone that the fact that one can do something doesn't mean one should.

A Note To Congresswoman Kristi Noem

Dear Representative Noem:

First, I wish to congratulate you for being able to avoid a primary challenger. Mike Rounds, a person of superior accomplishments albeit inferior tea party rhetoric, has no shortage of opponents. A cynic might suspect that you possess video of prominent South Dakota Republicans sitting naked in a Native American sweat lodge, smoking Cuban cigars, drinking Jose Cuervo shots, worshiping an  idol of Barack Obama while singing the old National Anthem of the Soviet Union.

That said, a few of your recent votes seem problematic. Apparently, Republicans are taught from the cradle that cutting welfare is a holy mission. Devout Republican mothers may have secret lullabies about waste, fraud and abuse. That said, cutting $40 billion from food stamps during high unemployment and a jobless recovery seems counterproductive. John Steinbeck correctly noted that there's a thin line between hunger and anger. America has had a cheap food policy for a long time because wise folks discovered Steinbeck's truth.

I'm sure that you or one of your staff members will respond by reminding me that Rome fell because citizens wanted bread and circuses. It might be worth the effort to have a qualified independent historian or two examine the records to determine if the bread extended Rome's life a few decades. On a side note, start taking talking points from a think tank other than Heritage; Jim DeMint has turned that think tank into a political rhetoric tank. Cato's scholars may slant libertarian but they are at least scholars.

Finally, there's the matter of the Farm Bill. The first rule of legislating should be do no harm. Your food stamps vote likely violated that principle. The second rule should be avoid the appearance of evil. When you and other members of the House of Representatives get Farm Bill benefits of $150,000 or $1,500,000 a year, it's difficult to avoid the appearance of evil. If a percentage of the American populace is going to be tempted to defraud the American taxpayer for about $150 a month, it seems likely that an equal percentage will be willing to commit fraudulent practices for $150,000 a year.

Congresswoman Noem, you have no Republican challengers. You live in a state that is so Republican, the very idea of a Democrat challenging you is a punch line to a bad joke. Perhaps, you can start voting on the above principles instead the pragmatics of re-election. I'll even give you a pass on the next 40 wasted votes to repeal or defund Obamacare.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guns Rights Advocates Willing To Throw Away Every Other Constitutional Right

John Stewart does the honors.

If forced to choose, I'd rank the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment ahead of the Second. I believe that the rights protected by the former are much more fragile. On a snarky level, I believe that the right to proclaim faith in or deny faith in the Holy Trinity is more important than purchasing faith in Colt, Smith, and Wesson. That said, I would never want to eviscerate the Second Amendment the way Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and the others Stewart skewers in clip do.


If Abraham Lincoln had possessed the prophetic ability to foresee that South Carolina would one day elect Lindsey Graham to the United States Senate, I'm willing to bet he would have let the state secede.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I Think This Will Be My Last Common Core Post

Michael Larson reports that there was a bit of sturm und drang at a Common Core meeting tonight.

My previous Common Core posts can be summed up with the following sentences:
  1. Folks who worry about the Common Core being a U.N. conspiracy are wrong. 
  2. The standards are neither markedly better nor worse than the ones South Dakota used prior to the Core's adoption. 
  3. The amount of time students spend testing will increase.
  4. Because administrators will hold English departments responsible for all of the reading standards, the teaching of fiction will be dramatically reduced to students' detriment.
  5. Some short sighted administrators will use the Core as an excuse to eliminate speech and debate, once again to the students' detriment.
The Core is backed by corporate entities including testing companies, textbook publishers, and tech gurus. All are producing product designed to "help" teachers and schools implement the Core. Seven or eight years from now, it's going to be hard for these businesses to sell "New and Improved Common Core" materials.Customers will rightly ask why the previous products needed to be improved.

Because public education is an untapped cash cow, these companies will do what good business people do; they will create new demand. The easiest way to create that demand will be to have a new set of standards. In about three years, there will be another education crisis. Some business leaders will write pompous editorials that will be deemed "important" or "serious" or some new buzzword indicating that the author is indeed an expert, even if that person hasn't been inside an elementary or secondary school for thirty years. Some quasi-official groups will bring some testing experts and tech folks together, and a set of new standards will emerge. The federal government will be lobbied, and states will be blackmailed to adopt the "reforms." It's a proven method that worked for NCLB and Common Core. 

Maybe students will "Flesh Out the Core" or "Layer the Learning Onion" or "Engage The Newest New Tomorrow." It doesn't matter. Corporate backed reform will last as long as there's a profit to be made.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Irony Alert: I'm Going To Say Government Is Stupid And Inefficient And Conservatives Will Disagree With Me

I am in the process of gathering the documents necessary to renew my driver licence.  I'm so old I can remember when the documents were called driver's licences.

The fact that I am alive is insufficient for the state of South Dakota to believe I was born, so I had to obtain a copy of my birth certificate. In fairness, the state of South Dakota wants to be sure I am a legal resident who is not a terrorist. Apparently I might have been not have been the former but a member of a group who supports the latter the previous times the state issued me a license.

In order to get a copy of my birth certificate, I had to provide a copy of--and I'll bet no can guess what's going to come next--my driver license. So, to a get a driver license, I need a copy of a birth certificate. To obtain a driver license, I need a copy of a birth certificate. I believe that's called a catch-22 or a cluster . . . .

One more time--the old driver license isn't good enough to show a state bureaucrat that I am a legal resident, but it is enough evidence for another state bureaucrat to give me a birth certificate. Of course logic is not a necessary tool in the war on terror. Waging war on an emotion is an illogic all its own.

I guess it's a good thing that no one's worried I'm going to try to vote. I can't imagine the paperwork they'll devise for that


Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Fall Without Football

I've decided to stop being an American. I'm not going to renounce my American citizenship like Superman renounced his or Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship; I'm just not going to watch football or play fantasy football this season. Let's be honest, football is now America's game; fantasy football is something all the cool folks do, and not watching makes one a suspect citizen. I fully expect increased NSA surveillance.

The concussion stories of the past few years have given me pause, and I'm having a tough time justifying watching people voluntarily risk of brain damage for my entertainment. The NFL is taking a few steps but I'm not sure it's enough. I'm not going to go on a crusade. If I visit someone and the game is on, I won't demand the game be shut off. I'm not calling for a government investigation, and I'm not going to make hyperbolic comparisons to Roman gladiatorial combat. I'm just going to try to get through the fall and winter without turning on a game

I anticipate some problems like withdrawal. I have spent thousands of hours watching National Football League games. When I was a young'un I even spent a few hundred hours listening to Monday Night Football on the radio because ABC was not one of the networks our TV antenna picked up. I watched all through college. For the past few decades, it's been a habit to take a pile of work that needs to be corrected, turn on the game, and correct and watch.

Right now, baseball season will get me through most Sunday afternoons. After baseball, season, I expect a few problems. I'm not going to try to replace American football with soccer. I find soccer neither beautiful nor entertaining, and soccer fans grate worse than fingernails on a chalkboard.

I'll  watch Sports Center so that I can talk with the young'uns. Knowing a bit about sports and pop culture has always been part of the job. I may be making a distinction without a difference, but I don't believer that my watching the news makes me responsible for violent crime or Assad's use of chemical weapons; the same holds true for Sports Center. When I watch a game, however, I'm helping provide the advertising dollars that fund the $9 billion industry that cannot avoid causing concussions.

Scripture And Song For The Week: Micah 6 Edition

Micah 6
NIV
8. He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I Muse About Reasons Some Voters Might Remain Independent Instead Of Registering Republican

Bob Mercer reports that South Dakota's Republicans are beginning to look for the underlying reasons that more voters are registering as independents.
We’re told by some reliable sources that Republicans under new chairman Craig Lawrence are trying to figure out why new voters have been trending independent so heavily, especially in the Sioux Falls area. In rough numbers, since the 2006 general election, Republicans are up nearly 5,000, while Democrats are down 1,000-plus (and have seen the huge 2008 Obama-Clinton surge melt away). Meanwhile independents are up more than — and this is not a misprint — 25,000.
On a side note, the fact that Democrats are losing registrants in the only area of the state that can be remotely considered metropolitan should cause the party consternation. The party is either unconcerned, playing things extremely close to the vest, or too disorganized to openly discuss stopping the hemorrhaging. (I suppose Mercer could have conveniently failed to mention that they, like their Republican counterparts, are attempting to discern why they are losing voters, but there's little to be gained from withholding that bit of reporting.)

In college I was a proud non-fraternity GDI (God Damned Independent.) Politically, I remain displaced, so I'll offer Republican chairperson Lawrence a few observations.

First, the Republican coalition is more than a little weird. Libertarians want to legalize drugs and have minimal regulations on personal behavior. Christian conservatives who vote only on social issues are frequently at odds with the libertarian wing. The tea party folk want to shut down the government, but many of the corporate Republicans lobby for more corporate welfare. If these constituencies created Jesus from whole cloth, he would be smoking a joint, perpetually angry, and wearing a $5,000 suit.

Second, the party's RINO hunters are so loud and off-putting that I feel dirty every time I agree with them. I usually can console myself with the fact that I have far different reasons for coming to similar conclusions. I know of no one who agrees with another person 100% of the time, but RINO hunters seem to demand complete agreement. Most folks who can choose between being screamed at and registering as independent will choose being independent.

Third, having controlled Pierre for decades, some Republican leaders are smug and condescending. I know Republicans have been in charge and balanced the budget every year. I know they claim to have created a business climate that gets high ratings. I also know that the state gets back more federal tax dollars than it sends in. The good hasn't been accomplished only through in-state thrift.

In a similar vein, Mike Rounds's flying around the state and putting his entire extended family plus a few dead ancestors on the state payroll provides another reason to stay independent. (The extent of Rounds's nepotism depicted in the previous sentence constitutes hyperbole, an accepted literary device.) More recently, Jason Gant's follies provide another example the corrosive arrogance that accompanies unchallenged power.

Finally, I have seen no evidence that Republicans will favor policies that benefit a hard working plumber instead of  polices that benefit a spoiled trust fund brat whenever those two policies come into conflict.

I doubt Craig Lawrence will like this post, but if he didn't want to know why I register independent, he shouldn't have asked.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Bloggers' Prayer From Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor, one of America's best 20th Century authors, sought to "depict the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil." 

No lover of the sanctimonious or shallow, O'Connor frequently used her violent and unethical characters as catalysts for her protagonists' epiphanies. She has a spree killer known only as the Misfit kill a racist, self-righteous Grandmother seconds after she recognized him as "one of her babies.". She also depicts an atheist posing as an Bible salesman stealing an artificial leg from woman who proudly believed in nothing. O'Connor's effort to depict grace is not without bits of crude humor; the Bible salesman takes the pseudonym Manly Pointer.

First Things reports that a prayer journal O'Connor kept while a student at the Iowa Writers Workshop will be published in November. The last two sentences of one of her prayers should be uttered by all of us who hit the publish button and send our thoughts into cyberspace.
“I dread, Oh Lord, losing my faith. My mind is not strong. It is a prey to all sorts of intellectual quackery.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Rich Continue To Get Richer And Richer And Richer

According to USA Today, the top one percent had a good year last year.
The gulf between the richest 1% of the USA and the rest of the country got to its widest level in history last year.
The top 1% of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3% of total household income in 2012, which is their biggest slice of total income in more than 100 years, according to a an analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Paris School of Economics at Oxford University.
The richest Americans haven't claimed this large of a slice of total wealth since 1927, when the group claimed 18.7%. The analysis is based on data from Internal Revenue Service data.
I'm not an economist, but I'm better these data will show that raising the minimum rage will limit the top 1% to earning only 19% of  next year's total household income. However will they survive?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Of Losers And Self-Righteousness Edition

There is a certain breed of gabber, generally white men who have over-indulged in the fiction of Ayn Rand, afflicted by a conception of life as a competitive game in which everything they have marks them as “winners,” morally entitled to sneer at the “losers” who aren’t big, bold, swashbuckling independent creators-of-their-own-universe. Indeed, the founding of the Tea Party Movement is generally attributed to a televised rant about “losers” wanting his money from one such swashbuckler named Rick Santelli, who I am sure emerged from the womb a fully autonomous Titan who has richly earned every dime he’s ever been paid by dint of his own unassisted efforts.
We presumably must just let these people luxuriate in their own puerile sense of superiority; perhaps they will depart en masse to Galt’s Gulch and rid us of their company. But contempt for broad swaths of humankind as “losers” should not be quietly accepted more generally, particularly from those who claim allegiance to the Judeo-Christian ethic in which nothing is more damnable than self-righteousness unless it’s the inability to see the image of God in the faces of others.

Pink Slime: The Sequel

I thought the best example that American culture had fallen to a dangerous low could be found in the contrast between Jaws and Sharknado. I was wrong. It's that fact that pink slime, like many other amorphous chemically enhanced pieces of flesh from dozens or horror film series can't be killed.

From Politico:
Kids are going back to school and so is the ground beef filler dubbed “pink slime.”
Thousands of schools across the U.S. rushed last year to stop feeding their students meat that contained the ammonia-treated beef, known by industry as lean finely textured beef. Their action followed a massive media uproar, which included a prime time show featuring British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and a series of critical reports by ABC World News.
But new government data show schools in four more states have since put aside concerns and resumed buying the controversial product.
As of Sept. 3, seven states put in orders to the USDA for about 2 million pounds of beef that may contain the controversial product for the meals they serve in the 2013-14 school year. At this time last year there were only three states — Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota — that had put in orders for beef that may contain lean finely textured beef.
As a quick reminder, pink slime may or may not actually be meat:
. . .lean finely textured beef is made from the remnant scraps of cattle carcasses that were once deemed too fatty to go into human food. The scraps are heated and centrifuged to reclaim bits of muscle and then the product is treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli before being mixed into ground beef.
The offal "lean, finely, textured beef" is, however, cheap and therefore good enough for students:
Lean finely textured beef brings down the cost of ground beef by about 3 percent, which can add up quickly in a program that feeds more than 31 million school children each day.
Schools are under more financial pressure than ever before, thanks in part to the new school lunch nutrition standards that hit the ground last year, observes Margo Wootan, head of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Although schools can now get six cents more per lunch to help cover the cost of more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to meet new requirements, the increase doesn’t cover all the changes, she notes.
 Like the government officials in horror classics like Jaws, USDA assures consumers that their safety will not be compromised:
Lean finely textured beef is safe, asserts Al Almanza, administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
“Isn’t that what we want - a safe product to feed our families?” he says.
If those assurances have the same integrity as the NSA proclamations that Americans' emails and phone records were not searched "wittingly," I expect mutations to begin soon. On a personal note, I hope the slime turns me into one of the X-Men not a zombie from World War Z. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Plains Pops: Another Set Of Random Musings

1. I wonder why one of the few Republican office holders willing to acknowledge my existence in public wouldn't tell me who to vote for in South Dakota Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat. I'd be more than willing to switch from Independent to Republican to vote in that election.

2. After spending the weekend at Speech Communication of South Dakota convention in Aberdeen, I am convinced that implementation of Common Core will decimate speech and debate programs across the state.

3. On a side note, SDDOE took a survey of high schools about maintaining a requirement that each school require students to take a semester of speech or debate in order to graduate. At the convention no one had heard any of the results. It's curious that it should take between 4 to 6 months to tabulate the results of that survey.

4. My final speech convention musing is a simple statement: I am very impressed with the young college professors who attended and presented at the convention. (At my age, they're all young.)

5. I may be more cynical than I should be, but I find it odd that President Obama is speaking to the nation urging an attack on Syria on the eve of a 9/11 anniversary. Surely, that speech could have been delivered last week. If I may play debate judge for a bit, this timing seems like an effort to have pathos dominate over logos and ethos in an irresponsible manner.

6. Situations like Syria remind me why I view myself as politically displaced. I haven't forgotten the hype that took the nation to Iraq. I didn't believe Bush II then. I don't believe that Syria is in our national interest now. I find it odd that there are more than a few Republicans who supported Bush II but won't support Obama merely because Obama's a Democrat. I find it equally disconcerting that more than a few Democrats are supporting Obama in Syria merely because he's a Democrat.

7. I hope to resume a more regular blogging schedule this week.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Scripture And Song Of The Week

Colossians 4
KJV
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tweets Of The Day John McCain Makes Nero Look Good



McCain had a classy response:


I've long thought that a 3 hour debate is too long for a minor issue like going to war. Nero at least sang songs related to conflagrations.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Workers Get Little Respect

I thought Paul Krugman was being hyperbolic in the last sentence of the following paragraph:
It’s all hard to imagine now. Not the bit about financial crisis and wage cuts — that’s going on all around us. Not the bit about the state serving the interests of the wealthy — look at who got bailed out, and who didn’t, after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans [emphasis mine].
However, it's 12:35 pm on Labor Day and I have checked the Twitter feeds of Speaker John Boehner, Harry Reid, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell's press office. (McConnell apparently doesn't have his own account.) I also checked the timelines of Kristi Noem, John Thune, and Tim Johnson.

Only Eric Cantor has a tweet honoring working people. Strangely, it's from his @GOPLeader account not his @EriCantor account.

Nancy Pelosi also has a tweet about Labor Day. She tweeted it on August 30, and it seems to be an effort to create a political issue rather than show respect for American workers.

Jean Giraudoux famously said, "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." I'll offer the Plainsman corollary: if you can't get people to feign respect for you, you're totally screwed.

Quotation Of The Day: Why English Majors Edition

From Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker:
So: Why should English majors exist? Well, there really are no whys to such things, anymore than there are to why we wear clothes or paint good pictures or live in more than hovels and huts or send flowers to our beloved on their birthday. No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Minor Musing About Syria

President Obama will seek authority from Congress to use military force against Syria because Syrian President Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people. The evidence of chemical weapons use seems overwhelming.,

History should remind us, however, that George W. Bush convinced many that Saddam Hussein had massive stockpiles of WMDs. None were found. George H. W. Bush was aided in his efforts to go to war in Kuwait when stories surfaced about Iraqi soldiers removing babies from hospital incubators and leaving them to die. Those stories were fabrications.

Skepticism aside, there are major principles to follow before going to war. The most simple elements of just war theory include just cause, comparative justice, competent authority, right intention, probability of success, last resort, proportionality.

Upholding international norms against using chemical weapons against civilians meets the criteria for a just cause. Further, Assad's use of chemical weapons disproportionately affected the civilians even if they actively supported the forces opposed to Assad. The comparative justice criterion seemingly has been met.

President Obama is requesting Congress to approve limited strikes to punish Assad for chemical weapons use. If Congress grants approval, war will have authorized by proper authority and force will be used with right intention. Assad is a stubborn man, so this may well be a last resort. Limited strikes seems proportional as well.

The probability of success, however, does not exist. The military strike will not topple the Assad regime. A military strike will not take out chemical weapon stockpiles because such a strike will disperse the chemical agents. Assad will, therefore, remain in power and be able to use chemical weapons again. More importantly, the forces against Assad contain elements as dangerous as he is, so it's unclear that it's in anyone's best interest to have those on the other side come to power.

This situation does not involve self-defense; it will do little to hamper or deter Assad. More importantly, weakening Assad may be a Pyrrhic victory. In that light, military force in Syria is not justified.

Scripture And Song Of The Week:Labor Day Edition

Ecclesiastes 5
KJV
11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.