Saturday, May 31, 2014


First, I haven't followed the Amazon versus book publishers storyline as much as I should have. Everything I have read indicates Amazon is seriously overstepping. Second, my German is pretty rusty, so I can't vouch for the translation in this YouTube clip. That said, it's still worth a look.

I know I'm violating Godwin's Law and assorted Plainsman Corollaries. Don't judge. Watch. I hope someone does a musical soon.

Quotation Of The Day: How The Ultra Rich Are Changing Politics Edition

Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel infiltrates a Koch brothers event and offers this summation:
[The event] was a snapshot of an extraordinary shift: the reordering of the political system by an elite fraternity of the superrich and a small brain trust of consultants who cater to them. Starting in 2010, a few dozen of the wealthiest donors turned on a gusher of mega-checks that have made them more important than the thousands of grassroots activists, small individual donors and even party leaders put together. Together, these donors have injected into campaigns sums that were once unimaginable, even as recently as the 2008 presidential election.
Intentionally or not, this new system has eroded the power of the official parties that have rigidly controlled modern politics for decades by doling out or withholding pork-barrel spending earmarks and campaign cash. Suddenly, party leaders have none of the former to offer (the result of symbolic belt-tightening reforms), and far less of the latter than big donors operating outside the party system. The result—the one Obama lamented on that rainy day in Washington state—is the privatization of a system that we’d always thought of as public. It amounts to the takeover—hostile or not—of American politics by the ultra-rich.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Has Anybody Else Noticed Some Republicans Are Getting A Little Testy Lately?

The first item for consideration is this Robert Skjonsberg tweet:

The next words after "pal" are usually "You wanna take this outside?" Since this is an online version of a prelude to a challenge, I'm guess that "taking it outside" will mean they'll move from Twitter to Facebook for the real fisticuffs. I am saddened by that possibility. Nothing is more fun than watching the equivalent of a drunk football player trying to hit the local smartass, but I have avoided Facebook religiously

Speaking of religon, there's this Reverend Steve Hickey effort to contain his exasperation.

First, this is what happens when parents political parties let their children United States Senate Candidates run with scissors hold press conferences and debates without adult supervision. Parents get angry and pastors tell people to start drinking. I am of an age that I remember pastors eschewing the recommending of drink to solve problems, and I grew up in a denomination that forbade alcohol, so Pastor Hickey's advice is a bit jarring. I was also of the belief that conservatives didn't want anyone telling the press what to write or how to write it, but I will not look for splinters while afflicted with a plank.

I also don't want anyone to stay unhappy for long. I think the following tweet is sardonic, so if morale is low, Republicans shouldn't schedule any meetings to fix it.

Friday Morning Musical Interlude: Johnny Cash And Louis Armstrong Together

A Post Wherein I Jump The Gun On Political Speculation

On June 4, 2014, the South Dakota Republicans will begin to enjoy a relatively drama free life. Mike Rounds will be the nominee for the open United States Senate seat. Larry Rhoden and Jason Ravnsborg will have conceded graciously and endorsed him. Stace Nelson, Lora Hubbel, and Gordon Howie will make a few valid points about South Dakota's culture of cronyism, scream RINO more than they should, and be ignored by the media outlets that most South Dakotans use. Dr. Annette Bosworth will announce a post modern book club. The group's first selections will be Michel Foucault's classics: Madness and Civilization and Discipline and Punish. The race between Shantel Krebs and Pat Miller may provoke a tear or two, but the drama will all be handled behind closed doors in the finest South Dakota Republican tradition.

On the other hand, the Democrats will have to select a Lieutenant Governor candidate. Last night's debate televised exchange indicates that a unity ticket with the loser of the primary taking the second spot is highly unlikely. Given the paucity of Democrats in the legislature and the fact that the big names have decided to sit out this election season, the party will have to select an unknown. That selection may open a rift between party idealists who will want to select someone who illustrates the Democrats' values of diversity and inclusion and party realists who will want to select someone who gives the ticket a puncher's chance against Republican incumbent Dennis Daugaard.

Debates between realists and idealists usually become vociferous affairs. The trick for the Democrats will be using the debate to generate positive press.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

First Thoughts On The Lowe And Wismer SDPB Exchange

First, I would have preferred a debate. I'm not sure what this event was, but it didn't provide much of a contrast

Second, Wismer came off better than I expected stylistically.

Third, both candidates' supporters can claim their candidate won. I doubt any minds were changed.

Fourth, they have few differences on the issues.

Fifth, I have no idea who's going to win on Tuesday. Wismer brought up her contacts with county organizations, and Lowe mentioned his appeal to independents. Both reflections seem accurate. Independents can vote in the Democratic primary. If Tuesday brings out low to average voter turnout, I suspect Wismer will have the better ground game and will win. If enough independents are upset with Daugaard and single party rule, I believe Lowe has the edge.

My Teaching Goal For The Next Four Years: A Minor Musing On The Moral Question Facing Teachers

A while back, PNR posted this quotation:
For the conservative, people are an asset — in the coldest economic terms, a potentially productive unit of labor. For the progressive, people are a liability — a mouth to be fed, a problem in need of a solution. Understanding that difference of perspective renders understandable the sometimes wildly different views that conservatives and progressives have about things like employment policy. For the conservative, the value of a job is what the worker produces; for the progressive, the value of a job is what the worker is paid.

At the time it struck me that conservatives and liberals are my cats at different times of the day. To them, I'm a unit of labor necessary to provide food, clean the litter box, and scratch behind their ears. I'm also a problem that needs to be solved when they try to wake me up to get kitty treats every morning.

I also wondered whether how self-proclaimed Christian conservatives squared the analysis in the quotation with the belief that humans are created in God's image. I shrugged off that question, mused that I believe that Kant's idea that humans should be treated as ends unto themselves rather than means to an end is superior to utilitarianism, and went on with my day.

That quotation came back to me yesterday as I was sitting in an in-service-- professional development a really boring training session over the Charolette Danielson model for teacher evaluation. Danielson and the Common Core, for that matter, view teachers as a unit of labor whose sole purpose is to produce other units of labor. As one of my colleagues said, there's no idea of what it means to become an educated person in any of this model.

As I sat there, I came to the distinct conclusion that the real moral question that education has created for teachers is rather simple: How does one teach within these models or under the Core without producing students who chant mindless aphorisms such as "Four legs good, two legs bad" or "I must work harder."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Try To Make Sense Of The "Jason Ravnsborg Is A Mike Rounds Plant" Storyline

Throughout an interminable albeit entertaining primary season the comment sections of Dakota War College have been filled with charges that one or more of Mike Rounds's challengers is a plant to draw votes away from one of the other candidates, usually Stace Nelson.

The most recent candidate to be charged with being a plant is Jason Ravnsborg. In the past few days, Ken Crow, a former campaign associate has claimed that Ravnsborg was not attempting to win the race. Ravnsborg may or may not have fired Crow.

I like stories of political intrigue more than the next person, but I also believe William of Ockham held a pretty sharp razor, so I tried to see if seeing and hearing the story play out helped it make sense.

After hearing and seeing the story play out. the conspiracy still doesn't make sense. I, therefore, offer another Plainsman corollary to a famous principle: without firm proof, never attribute to a conspiracy that which can easily be answered by incompetence or self-aggrandizement.

Some Snarky Predictions About How The South Dakota Political Landscape Will Look On June 4, 2014 And Beyond

1. Governor Dennis Daugaard will conduct a purge of all GOP county chairs in counties where he did not defeat Lora Hubbel with at least 88% of the vote. Speculation will surface that Daugaard lost money betting the Vegas over/under on this race. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley will not investigate charges of illegal gambling.

2. Larry Rhoden will endorse Mike Rounds for United States Senate. Rounds and Rhoden will appear together in several commercials. The most scintillating commercial will feature the two men silently watching grass grow for 30 seconds.

3. Stace Nelson, Gordon Howie, and their new Iowa friend, Ken Crow, will begin Howie's quixotic campaign against Rounds. Blog speculation will run rampant as to who will join them to form a quartet to produce a campaign ad that features "To Dream the Impossible Dream," the most memorable song from The Man from La Mancha. The ad will also feature Lora Hubbel as Dulcinea.

4. Mike Rounds will attempt to buy good karma by investing heavily in DuPont, the parent company of both Teflon and Kevlar. (Being metaphorically slime proof and  bullet proof is every politician's dream.)

5.Annette Bosworth will run from Haiti until all potential statues of limitations have expired.

6. Rick Weiland will revisit every town in South Dakota. He will serve kuchen, South Dakota's official dessert, instead of pie to forestall Republican charges that he lacks South Dakota values.

7. South Dakota Democrats will hold a coin flip to determine the winner of the Joe Lowe vs Susan Wismer race after the election ends in an absolute tie. Wismer will call heads. The coin will land edges up in a crack in the floor.

8. A new poll will reveal that 57.3% of South Dakotans believe Larry Pressler died in 2007.

9. Independent candidate Mike Myers will get his 15 minutes of fame when Mike Myers of Saturday Night Live fame appears on YouTube telling South Dakota's Myers to "Party On!" while the candidate does push ups. Ironically, the cameo will destroy the Independent's candidacy because no one under 35 will understand the reference.

10. Secretary of State Jason Gant will forget to put the United States House of Representatives election on the ballot. The oversight won't be noticed until after the November election.

Quotation Of The Day: Belief, Faith, And Doubt Edition

From Matthew Sitman writing at Andrew Sullivan's blog:
But most of all, Misener’s essay points to the sad state of so much American religious life, especially the messages delivered by too many Christian churches. She makes clear that, at times, she still feels “a wave of something truly ineffable, a surreal flutter in my soul that the world was vast and overwhelming and rich and meaningful and also not really fucking meaningful at all.” That’s something most of us have felt, I’d guess, whether believer or not. It’s a pity that the brittle, ahistorical, and ultimately untenable evangelicalism she was peddled convinced her that those feelings are alien to Christianity, that faith demands the silencing of doubt and uncertainty. It’s a shame that too many Christian churches present the Bible in such a way that, when an earnest young person encounters the historical-critical approach to it, the result is shock and perplexity. It’s lamentable that more churches aren’t places where such difficulties can be worked through, where you feel welcome even if you are far from having what you believe figured out. Pope Francis has said that the Church should be a “hospital for sinners,” which is to say a refuge for all of us who struggle in all kinds of ways, profound doubt included. Misener’s story is testimony to how far Christians have to go to make the Pope’s words a reality.
The essay Sitman refers to is here. Rod Dreher gives his Orthodox take here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Scripture And Song For The Week: Jeremiah 17 Edition


5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.”
11 Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
    are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
    and in the end they will prove to be fools.
12 A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,
    is the place of our sanctuary.
13 Lord, you are the hope of Israel;
    all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
    because they have forsaken the Lord,
    the spring of living water.
14 Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed;
    save me and I will be saved,
    for you are the one I praise.
15 They keep saying to me,
    “Where is the word of the Lord?
    Let it now be fulfilled!”
16 I have not run away from being your shepherd;
    you know I have not desired the day of despair.
    What passes my lips is open before you.
17 Do not be a terror to me;
    you are my refuge in the day of disaster.
18 Let my persecutors be put to shame,
    but keep me from shame;
let them be terrified,
    but keep me from terror.
Bring on them the day of disaster;
    destroy them with double destruction.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

My Wife And I Have Differing Views Of Guardian Angels

Who'd have thought that we would discover this fact after nearly eleven years of marriage? We were doing some late spring cleaning and she discovered these two cards lying next to each other under a pile of stuff on our dresser. (Yes, most of the stuff was mine.)

Here's her traditional Catholic view of guardian angels.

My ideal guardian angel is slightly less orthodox.

It is good to know that couples can still learn new things about each other after a decade. If might be beneficial, however, if all believers were to join Mrs. Plainsman in praying that her husband grow up soon.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Post Wherein I Express My Disappointment At Being Unable To Watch A Political Train Wreck In Real Time

I want to be a real political  blogger like Heidelberger and Powers. In order to do that I need to cover a live political event. Besides, I think I might enjoy watching a slow motion train wreck.

Like the national Republican party, South Dakota's GOP has a country club/business uber alles faction, a religious conservative faction, and a libertarian faction.

Yesterday's decision by six same-sex couples to challenge South Dakota's laws and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage brings divisions between South Dakota's religious conservatives and libertarians into sharp focus.

Ken Santema gives the libertarian perspective:
An important concept in America the right for all citizens to be treated equally under the law. Political activists from all perspectives use this concept to advocate for their beliefs. As a libertarian I believe this means that any law created must apply to all citizens equally and special ‘classes’ of people would be unconstitutional. A more authoritarian person would believe this concept means the government has to use its power to create equal outcomes for all citizens. Ironically both viewpoints should theoretically see same-sex marriage in a similar manner: reserving the right to marry to one subset of the citizenry creates a special class and is therefore unconstitutional. . . .
The legal benefits become apparent last summer when the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found to be a violation of the US Constitution. At that time I noted that DOMA was passed, in part, to prevent people who were in a same-sex marriage or civil union from receiving federal benefits. Now those same-sex couples that are legally married by the State will be allowed access to the same federal benefits and welfare programs that other married citizens enjoy. That is the only part of the expansion of marriage I truly dislike: it will lead to an expansion of federal benefits and entitlements to more people. Yet as distasteful as I find the current entitlement policies in DC, I find it even more distasteful to outright arbitrarily classify citizens based upon the religious beliefs of some Americans. Perhaps this expansion of the entitlement state will now force social conservatives to get the government out of the business of marriage. I doubt it, but I can always hold out a little bit of hope.
Santema may be an outlier, but unless South Dakota's Republican party is an island unto itself, there's little reason to believe that a not unsubstantial number of the state's Republicans share his libertarian leanings.

The religious conservatives are royally pissed off markedly less sanguine about this legal turn of events. Bob Ellis, the angriest man in the South Dakota blogosphere, contends:
You didn't seriously think homosexual activists would be happy with their partial Supreme Court-awarded victory over marriage, did you? You didn’t think anything less than the total eradication of what is good would appease them, did you?
Homosexual activists have been threatening for some time to attack marriage in South Dakota by going to another state and counterfeiting marriage, then returning the South Dakota to attack marriage here. Now they have finally pulled the trigger on their plan. . . .
Because homosexual activists have had marriage in their crosshairs for several years, the people of the overwhelming majority of the states took the extra steps of defining and spelling out in law what human beings have instinctively understood for thousands of years (that marriage takes a man and a woman).  Allowing these vicious activists to counterfeit marriage and render meaningless the constitutions of multiple states is absolutely unconscionable and should not be entertained even for a second by rational, moral people.  This is an attack on liberty and our republican form of government, as much as it is an attack on the institution of marriage and the moral fabric of our society. Our constitution and our government belongs to “we the people,” not to narcissistic activists and tyrannical oligarchs in black robes; self-government is not their personal plaything.
Pastors and good people all across the state of South Dakota should rise up and demand that Representative Kristi Noem and Senator John Thune make it clear in public on television that we are prepared to pull the trigger on any judicial activist who would attack marriage, the will of the people, and the South Dakota Constitution, and impeached them as is our right and obligation under the U.S. Constitution. It should be made clear that the U.S. House will prefer articles of impeachment, and by the time those articles reach the Senate, it will probably be in Republican hands next year to carry out the full impeachment of said judicial activist judge.
Or shall we just slink away like impotent cowards and allow radical Leftists to make a mockery of the Republican Party, the conservative movement, democracy, the rule of law, the South Dakota Constitution, the United States Constitution, Christianity, and the very Creator who created humanity and established marriage as between a man and a woman?
Some South Dakota Republicans, Ellis chief among them, hold the party's platform at a level usually reserved for sacred not secular texts. Seeing these two factions argue about the marriage plank in the platform while watching the business faction trying to determine which position will earn them the greatest profit would have created some fun blogging opportunities. Unfortunately, I have a work commitment.  I suppose I could see if the Democrats give out credentials to bloggers. Demolition derbies are almost as fun as train wrecks.

In Case You Really Want To Waste A Little Time Today . . .

The Week has created a Bad Opinion Generator that gives documents some of the world's worst opinions and projections.

After 10 minutes or so, I came across a few repeats. So far my favorite is a 1970 William Helton prediction: ""Mankind also faces the ominous possibilities of armies of asexually produced identical soldiers…." Coming in at a close second is Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer's 2007 prediction: "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Quotation Of The Day: This Movie Must Really Suck Edition

From this A.O. Scott film review in the NYT
Most of “Blended” has the look and pacing of a three-camera sitcom filmed by a bunch of eighth graders and conceived by their less bright classmates . . . . 
You see very little of that here. You see a lot of overdone reaction shots and strained attempts to generate credible emotions in a story that has no room for them. It has time for maudlin tributes to the virtues of parenthood, for moments of cherubic cuteness and adolescent awkwardness from the kids — blameless young actors whose résumés will outgrow this embarrassment — and for one or two honest laughs, mostly courtesy of Kevin Nealon as a cradle-robbing fellow vacationer who speaks almost entirely in gerunds.
“Blended” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It will make your children stupid.

A Minor Musing About The Survival Of The Letter C

I have been worried about the letter C for the past few years. It has all but disappeared from my grade book. The letters A, B, and D now fight to dominate. Many students now fear C in the same way they fear F. Coincidentally, those students who do not fear F seem quite fond of C, but they are a distinct minority.

A few weeks ago, I made a journey into the prepper wing of the internet. It's filled with interesting folks. I plan to go back to visit a few times this summer. While there, I discovered that the letter C has made a stand to help humans survive. Dave Canterbury who operates the Pathfinder Store and School uses the letter C to indicate the 10 elements he deems necessary for survival: cutting tool, combustion, cover, container, cordage, candle, cotton, compass, cargo tape, and canvas needle. I was reassured. If the letter C can help humans survive; it should be able to survive as well.

A couple of days ago, I found that the letter C has apparently branched out. had a post that indicated that there are 7 Cs for effective communication: Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete, and Courteous. I try to practice these in each post. Like Animal Farm's Boxer, I will work harder.

Yesterday, I discovered that C is not only surviving and communicating; it's taking a new role in the classroom. I sat through an in-service about the new American Literature textbook that we will start using. The presenter, an earnest young woman, took 6 Cs from William McBride, Ph.D to explain to us how to engage our students: Choice, Connection, Connection, Challenge/Competition, Communication, and Commotion. I will note that my favorite educational Cs, Content and Curiosity, are absent from this list, and I would prefer Context be separate from Connection. We live in the Common Core era, however, and I am undoubtedly a dinosaur headed for extinction.

It's good to see that C has found a career beyond the grade book. Ironically, it's as an alliterative mnemonic tool at a time when many such tools seem to have fallen out of fashion. Even more ironically, C is being used creatively at a time when conformity seems to be de rigueur. Over the next few years, I hope I'll be able to adapt as well as the letter C has. If I can't, I hope I can remember Canterbury's 10 Cs of survival. I may need them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Republican Primary Senate Race: Two Weeks Out View

I was never in the military, so I will not copy PNR's "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot." I deal with young'uns and blog, so I'll use social media and blogging platforms: What the Wordpress Twitter Facebook is going on?

Governor Mike Rounds, the front runner with the best name ID, smiles a lot. He has some folks wondering about some questionable practices dealing with the EB-5 program. When he left office, the state had a structural deficit that his successor, Dennis Daugaard, dealt with in a rather draconian manner. Daugaard, who wears red plaid shirts to remind everyone he's just a normal guy, has endorsed Rounds, an act that cemented Rounds front runner status. Did I mention Rounds smiles a lot?

In a normal political universe, the four candidates challenging Rounds would be exploiting Rounds's record. Given that there are four challengers, one might expect, in a rational political universe, that the airwaves and newspapers would be plastered with advertisements chronicling Rounds errant ways, but South Dakota is, apparently, an alternate political universe. (Trekkers should feel free to insert their own Mirror Mirror reference here.)

One candidate, Larry Rhoden, is a state legislator with leadership experience. One would think he has some political skills. Rhoden, however, seems content to copy Rounds. During the recent debate, he even used the phrase "South Dakota common sense"; Rounds has made that phrase one of the key catch phrases of his campaign. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but one would think that Rhoden would want to metaphorically bury Rounds not flatter him.

Two other challengers, Messrs. Nelson and Ravnsborg, have taken to arguing about which man had the greater military service and whose service created the person more fit to serve as senator. Instead of attacking Rounds, they are attacking each other. Rounds didn't even have to implement his own divide and conquer strategy. The performed the circular firing squad maneuver of their own volition.

The final candidate, Dr. Annette Bosworth, has not paid some of her former employees and conducted a raffle for which no prizes were awarded. She may have perjured herself to get her name on the ballot. She claims that she is undertaking a heroic quest. The comparison is not totally without merit; she has the hubris of an epic hero. She merely lacks any of redeeming qualities that epic heroes traditionally possess. Yet, Bosworth, the most flawed of all the candidates, is the only one who seems to understand that forcefully attacking Rounds is the only chance any of the challengers have. Of course, Bosworth's ethical lapses mean Cassandra had a better chance of being believed in Troy than Bosworth does in this campaign.

In The Picture of Dorain Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, "A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies." Rounds could not have hand picked a better set of opponents to create the opportunity for an easy victory. It will take the most monumental of gaffes to keep him from the Republican nomination on June 3.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Help Stace Nelson Learn About Pop Culture And Give Jason Ravnsborg A Theme Song (Sort Of)

Stace Nelson apparently said some impolitic things equating himself with Mark Harmon while contending that Jason Ravnsborg was Greg Evigan. (You young'uns will will have to follow the links to learn about bad TV from the early 21st Century and the late 1970s.)

There may not have been a TV show about military truck drivers in Iraq, but Steve Earle did give them their own song in 2004.

Steve Earle is, of course, rather famous for his liberal leanings. He may not give Ravnsborg permission to use the song. Besides Nelson will likely just use the song as an excuse to call Ravnsborg a RINO.

About That New Mike Rounds Ad

Rounds may have produced the most boring ad for this cycle.

I guess Mike is a leader. He's got vision too. A young woman, a senior citizen, and mature gentleman told me so. Mike smiles a friendly insurance salesman smile too. The video has him smiling that smile as he tells the audience that he approved this message.

The ad doesn't tell me where Rounds is going to lead South Dakota or the nation. No one explains what his vision is. More importantly, it doesn't give viewers a single reason to trust him. Watching well-coached people tell me to trust someone is usually a cue to distrust the candidate.

On the plus side, speech teachers have a good example of the glittering generalities propaganda technique. Absent context words like "leader" and "vision" are meaningless.

It also allows one to point out visual cues like the Voices of Freedom book box prominently displayed in the center of the frame at about 5 seconds in. I'm guessing it's this book, an oral history of the Civil Rights movement.Of course that bit of product placement might backfire. There's probably a conservative commentator somewhere who has claimed the book is full of liberal lies. Using that book box as a prop may cause some to confirm their belief Rounds is a RINO.

Either way, the ad is short, so students probably won't fall asleep.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Quotation Of The Day: Goal Of A Liberal Arts Education Edition

From this Michael S. Roth piece in the New York Times:
Liberal learning depends on absorption in compelling work. It is a way to open ourselves to the various forms of life in which we might actively participate. When we learn to read or look or listen intensively, we are, at least temporarily, overcoming our own blindness by trying to understand an experience from another’s point of view. We are not just developing techniques of problem solving; we are learning to activate potential, and often to instigate new possibilities.

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Open Letter With Some Debate Advice For 2014 U.S. Senate Candidates Not Named Rounds

Dear Dr. Bosworth and Messrs. Nelson, Ravnsborg, and Rhoden,

Let me begin with a side note, I really hate the let's-line-up-every-candidate-on-the-stage-and-have-a-reporter-ask-audience-submitted-questions format. It's not really a debate.

On to the matter at hand, allow me to state the obvious; you really are not going to beat Mike Rounds in June if you don't engage him in the debates and chip away at that smiling facade.

First, even last night's event had debate expectations. In debate, there's an element called clash. It means that all sides are discussing and hopefully disagreeing about the same topics at the same time in the discussion. Clash can't happen if you agree with the opponent or repeat his "common sense" talking point nearly as often as he uses it. (Mr. Rhoden, that last sentence applies to you.)

In last night's line-up that was called a debate, you were all given rebuttal time.  A rebuttal should involve not only "I'm correct": it should involve a strong "You're wrong and here's why" component. Most of you did well on the state budget issue, but too many of the rebuttals were speeches that repeated your talking points. You need to tell viewers why Rounds or your other opponents are wrong.

Second, you can't claim you want the debate to be about issues not personalities if you spend most of the time restating your bio or some sort of life experience. Granted, some experiences may be relevant. For example. Mr. Rhoden, you can use your experience as rancher to deal with the farm bill question. Dr. Bosworth, I'm not sure the Republican electorate is going to respond favorably to your experiences with food stamps. Mr. Nelson, you should be honored for your career in the Marine Corps, but that experience cannot be the answer for nearly every question you're asked. By the way, Dr. Bosworth, if you're going to offer an analogy, it should be analogous to the topic being discussed.

Third, none of you seemed to have anticipated any of these questions. I'll grant the climate change question was an odd choice to lead off the debate, but many of the rest seemed rather standard. Further, you didn't seem to anticipate what your opponents were going to say. Heck, I had people on Twitter telling me that Mr. Ravnsborg was going to bring up CARE before he mentioned it. By now, you should all know Rounds is going to use the line "South Dakota Common Sense," you aren't' going to beat him repeating the line. You're going to have to show he doesn't have common sense, South Dakota or otherwise.

Remember preparation and clash are the only way you're going become the 2014 Republican nominee. Rounds has an overwhelming lead. If you can't force Rounds into making an error, he's not making one.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Republican Senate Debate: One Sentence Takes

Annette Bosworth wants to be an epic hero, but she doesn't know that epic heroes all have tragic flaws that cause spectacular downfalls.

Stace Nelson needs to upgrade his I'm a Marine and a good ol' country boy shtick.

Someone needs to tell Larry Rhoden that The Invisible Man is a good novel but being the invisible candidate means you've lost.

Rounds looked tired but did the political rope-a-dope fairly well; no one had a performance that will allow him or her to gain ground..

Jason Ravnsborg fired the best shot of the night when he used the line "skeletons and scandals," but he just doesn't seem ready for prime time.

Quotations Of The Day: College Commencement And Free Speech Edition

Last week, I had wanted to write a post about Condoleezza Rice's withdrawing as the commencement speaker at Rutgers. I opposed the Iraq War from the onset, but the idea that an accomplished woman who supported the war would have nothing valuable to say struck me as foolish stubbornness that college graduates should have tempered after four years. I guess I was stuck in 1979.

Via this Andrew Sullivan post, one sees that getting commencement speakers to withdraw is all the rage., so I will let a few other folk make my point. Greg Lukianoff provides alarming analysis about the depth of the problem:
Students and faculty have the right to protest speakers and to criticize their colleges for choosing speakers they dislike. Yet to function as a true “marketplace of ideas,” the university community must be open to hearing from people from different walks of life, professions, experiences and philosophical and political points of view. When students (or faculty, who should definitely know better) work to exclude a speaker from campus, they are thinking like censors, not scholars. A scholarly community should approach speakers with even radically different points of view as opportunities to be engaged, not as a political loss that must be avoided at all costs. Exercising a little intellectual humility might lead students and faculty away from asking “what can I do to get rid of the speaker?” and towards “what might I learn if I hear this person out?” After all, if you’re only willing to hear from people with whom you agree, it’s far less likely you will learn new things.
Universities have only themselves to blame for this mess—not just for caving to pressure, but for teaching students the wrong lessons about the value of free and robust discourse. The Foundation for Individual Rights inEducation (FIRE), of which I am the president, has found speech codes—policies that heavily restrict speech that is protected under the First Amendment—at 59%of the more than 400 colleges we survey, and deals every day with campus censorship of often even mildly offensive speech. Colleges have taught a generation of students that they have a “right not to be offended.” This belief has inevitably morphed into an expectation among students that they will be confirmed in their beliefs, not challenged. It’s no wonder, then, that they apply increasingly strict purity tests to potential campus speakers.[emphasis mine]
The best phrasing comes from Olivia Nuzzi:
Millennials have grown up in a world where you are never forced to see, hear or read anything that you haven’t personally selected. 7,000 TV channels, a DVR to skip commercials, millions of websites—we have been able to curate our own little worlds using technology, wherein nothing unpleasant or offensive can creep in. So when we’re forced to sit through a commercial or, heaven forbid, listen to someone talk who isn’t Mary-freakin’-Poppins, we can’t handle it.
The entire point of college is to be exposed to different things: Different types of people, different ideas—and maybe some of those people will hail from organizations that negatively impacted poor countries, or maybe they were partly responsible for a war that ate up the country’s resources and resulted in human rights abuses and lots of needless death. But if, at the end of your time as an undergrad, you haven’t learned that oftentimes you find great wisdom in shitty people, or just that there might be some value in hearing what someone you don’t like or respect might have to say, what on earth have you learned?[emphasis mine]
Read the Sullivan post and the articles he links to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

YouTube Video Of The Day: Net Neutrality Explained In Three Minutes Edition

Is Susan Wismer Actually Seeking The Democratic Nomination For Governor?

I ask because I see no campaign presence anywhere and the election is less than a month away.

Granted, our household got rid of cable and are viewing only Netflix and Hulu Plus on the television, so I won't see any ads there. However, I would expect to see ads on YouTube,  but when I do a YouTube search, I see no Wismer campaign videos. I see several for Joe Lowe.

I don't read the hard copy of the local paper every day, but I have seen no ads when I do. I've driven from home to Mitchell and Sioux Falls within the past two weeks and haven't seen a road sign. The job isn't conducive to listening to the radio, so if a reader can reliably inform me of a large radio presence, I'll take that as evidence of campaigning.

During the weekend, I checked her website on my phone. Let's just say that a Scott Heidepriem endorsement should not be both the top news story and the featured element on the home page tab.

I had planned to register Republican to vote in the U.S. Senate primary and cast the most disruptive vote possible. Unfortunately, that vote would have had to go to Bosworth, but I have a conscience that I don't want troubling me for the next 20 years. Voting for Bosworth would have had that effect, not to mention the eternal damage that vote would have done to my soul.

In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't switch registration. As an independent I can vote in the Democratic primary and cast a vote for Lowe. I don't know that much about him, but at least he has something of a campaign presence. If I want a two party system in the state, having an opposition party candidate who will campaign is better than having an opposition candidate who won't.

If Wismer believes this race is about the Democratic establishment, such as it exists in South Dakota, showing that they will bring out the vote for one of their own, then Governor Daugaard may top 75% in the general election if she is the nominee. That result will not help develop a functioning two-party system within the state.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quotation Of The Day: Being An Anti-Republican Edition

With the exception of voting for Obama in 2012, these Damon Linker paragraphs sum up my current political philosophy and activity:
Today, my voting record says I'm a Democrat. I voted for Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008 and 2012. I nearly always support Democrats in House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections. But I don't identify closely with or feel deep loyalty to the Democratic Party, its agenda, or its electoral coalition.
You could say that I'm less a Democrat than an anti-Republican. I vote the way I do because I want the GOP to lose, lose badly, and keep losing until it comes to its collective senses, which at this point seems a very long way off indeed.

A Minor Musing About Government

PNR waxes philosophic while analyzing the Stace Nelson candidacy:
I think we in this country have, for the most part, made a god out of the government as if they can solve every problem - all they need is the right bureaucracy, the right law, the right regulation, the right court decision, and everything will be good and right and true.  This idolatry of the state goes back to the kings and potentates of the ancient near east at least, and their claims of divinity.  It changed only slightly in the middle ages of Europe with its notions of divine right.  And it blossomed into the modern era in the French Revolution which, quite literally, did seek to make a religion out of the state in direct opposition to the church.  Most of what ails us in this country springs from this idolatry.
Certainly a large number of America's self-professed Christians have not taken to heart Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
I hold little hope that government will solve most or any of our problems. I do not, however, see the worship of government to be a deeper root cause of the problems facing the nation than the worship of any other false god.

The nation can no longer seriously debate about whether it is a republic or a democracy. (Whether that debate was ever necessary is a question for a different post.) The current political divisions are not about the size of or the nature of a good government. Rather, these debates seem to be about which plutocratic element gets the lion's share of the spoils. If there were no government, I'm quite certain the plutocrats would discover ways to preserve their ability to protect their frequently inherited wealth and ensure that fruits of others' labor flow to the plutocrats' coffers.

For every Tower of Babel, there is a Golden Calf (my choice for the chief god in the pantheon of ills) and an image of Baal. Further, we humans each have our share of foibles, hubris chief among them. It may or may not take a village to raise a child, but it certainly takes a pantheon of false gods to explain the problems facing the county.

Quite frankly, the current situation shows Madison's observations in Federalist 51 correct:
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
Shakespeare has Cassius tell Brutus that the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves The largest fault might lie in the fact that we've run out of ideas for auxiliary precautions.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Belated Musing On Ravnsborg And Relevancy

I was a little busy last week. A young plainswoman was graduating from college, sort of. (She's got one class left to take this summer.) Mrs. Plainsman and I spent last week rushing about, so we could pretend to be ready to face finals week before driving off to see her walk through the graduation line bedecked in all sorts of academic and non-academic cordage and regalia. (There's something about spending 18 hours in a car that's not conducive to getting real work done, hence last week's rush.)

I wanted to weigh in a bit on the kerfuffle surrounding Republican Senate candidate Jason Ravnsborg claiming to be the "ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience." I am in no position to weigh in on whether candidates' military experience qualifies them for the United States Senate. (PNR has a take here.) I do want to mention what the ad reveals about the candidate

It strikes me that the most "relevant" job a United States senator has is protecting his constituents' lives and liberties. To the best of my knowledge performing those duties entails crafting well-written legislation to serve constituents, repealing harmful legislation, and preventing the enactment of legislation detrimental to the senator's constituents. The U.S. Senate also has "advise and consent" power. (I know that in the political world the vast majority of a senator's job involves glad handing rich folk to raise money to get re-elected, but I so rarely get to wax romantically about politics that I'll ignore that detail for this post.)

The vast majority of a senator's job seems to involve parsing language. If Ravnsborg didn't anticipate that other veterans would take umbrage at his claim to be the "ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience," then one has to doubt that he's up to the job. "Only" is rather strong, limiting word. Further, the idea that something is relevant carries the connotation that other things, other candidates' military service in this case, are irrelevant. One does need to be a linguist to anticipate that others will take offense at the claim that their military endeavors were "irrelevant."

It's more likely that he did know the effect that his word choice would have. He either didn't care or wanted to stir up the race. In that case, he's just another pharisaical candidate who follows the letter of Reagan's 11th commandment not to speak ill of another Republican but uses language carefully to skirt the intent. If that's the case, then he'll soon be spending all of his time glad handing rich folk to raise funds to get elected and I can go back to being cynical.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chart Of Day: American Equivalent Of Bread And Circuses Edition

Via an Andrew Sullivan post aptly titled "You Can't Feed Your Family With A New TV"

Life's good for those who don't need to go to college, never get sick,
don't need to repair the used vehicle they bought, and never eat

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Minor Musing About The Republican Challenge To Gordon Howie's Nominating Petitions

The only persons who root for Goliaths in the giants' conflicts with the assorted Davids are, unsurprisingly, the Goliaths.

That small fact explains why no one should be shocked that Minnehaha County Republicans or a "volunteer group" of that county's Republicans are undertaking an effort to disqualify Gordon Howie's petitions to run as an Independent for the United States Senate

State Republican Party chairperson, Craig Lawrence, claims to be worried that Howie's candidacy will give Rick Weiland an upset victory in November. From a Dakota War College post:
I [Lawrence] suggested that if he were to get 12% of the vote as he has in the past, he could be the spoiler who gives the seat back to the Democrats. He said, “I expect to get much more than 12%.”
Pat Powers concludes his post with one of those lovely either/or logical fallacies beloved of parents punishing a wayward child.
Gordon probably should figure out what party his loyalties run with. Republicans? Or the Democrats he will be aiding.
Powers is echoing the tone of Minnehaha County Republican chairperson Dave Roetman who claims,
"We're trying to make sure we heal the wounds within the party. If people are disaffected, we like to bring them back around." 
When I was a wayward child, my father undertook efforts "to bring [me] back around." To this day, I would not classify those endeavors as healing events.

The Rounds campaign claims to be polling at 61% in the Republican primary. Conservatively, that puts the Rounds over/under bet at 59.5% in the general election. Even if Howie pulls 15%, a possibility as likely as earthquake occurring every time someone reads this post, and all his votes come at the expense of Mike Rounds, the former governor will defeat Rick Weiland 44% to 41%. Even with Howie in the race, Rounds will top 50% unless his contract with Teflon expires.

I've never met Gordon Howie; I'm not going to vote for Gordon Howie if he makes the ballot. I doubt he's a friend of the blog, and my reading of his blog makes me believe that his major goal in life is to sell an unsuspecting soul a lifetime supply of snake oil.

That said, one party rule is unhealthy. South Dakota needs more candidates not fewer. If the state can't develop two major parties, then several  minor ones along with a gargantuan one will have to suffice.

The David and Goliath story resonates because it illustrates a wish that rarely is fulfilled. Some may believe the Republican effort to keep Howie off the ballot is redolent of the fear giants have of a sling and five small, smooth stones. It's not. It's just another boring example of a South Dakota political Goliath attempting to crush a David merely because he can.

Quotation Of The Day: Net Neutrality With Very Brief Comment Edition

From this post:
[Eliminating net neutrality] is the first step toward a world where corporate monopolies on content start affecting not just what you can see and read online — but also how you gain access to it. The signal will be out there, but your ISP just won't deliver it to you.
An internet without network neutrality will look a lot like television does now. You'll depend entirely on your cable company to get broadcasts, and they will only deliver their handpicked channels in their cable packages. There will probably be a little room for the web equivalent of public access television, but it will be so underfunded and slow to load that almost nobody will see it.
The post is in response to proposed F.C.C. rules changes. This decision is just one more item on the list of reasons that makes me glad I did not vote to re-elect President Obama. I really can't imagine a Mitt Romney administration being able to give away more to corporate America than the Obama administration has during the past two years.

I'm Having Trouble Figuring Out Who's The Real Republican

Is it South Dakota legislator Charlie Hoffman who writes words like the following?
People compared to animals? No that is not right.
The giving of help to people who are hurting and need help is honorable and necessary. Certainly different levels of need are “Out There”. We as a country of individuals who value a penal system of forgiveness; instead of torture and beheadings and religious extermination, find many ways to help the needy
Or Annette Bosworth who believes that humans and animals both lack reasoning ability and rely on only base instinct?

Perhaps it's Sarah Palin who conflates sacraments with water boarding. (Some may deny water boarding his torture, but forcing someone to  listen to her nasal twang likely violates the Geneva Convention.)

On the other hand, I could just be remembering Dana Carvey's "Church Lady."

I wonder who could confuse me like that?

It could be the Devil or it could be a political party that really doesn't know where its soul lies.