Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tweet Of The Day: Trump Encapsulated

This post is also an experiment on how posting and sharing with a new phone will work.

@stephenWalt: Trump's views on foreign policy suggest he also thinks he can control weather, reverse tides, make pigs fly, and make NYJets a winner. Shared via TweetCaster

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quotation Of The Day: We May Have A Problem With Rights In The United States Edition

From this Washington Post story:
“I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it.” 
The right in question was a woman's "right" to have Lowe's send a white delivery driver. The manager who granted her request has been fired.

I'm not sure nation can survive if rights exist without the idea of responsibility or citizens refuse to recognize that rights may conflict in ways that makes the exercise of rights in an absolute sense impossible.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tweet And Quotation Of The Day: Reading As Soulcraft Edition

From John Merrow

Mosley's continuation is equally eloquent:
I’m not saying that you have to be a reader to save your soul in the modern world. I’m saying it helps. Artists, musicians, naturally empathetic children and people born to the beat of a different drum often embark on more original lives than the Company Store wants for us. They’re naturally more resistant to the forces of big business and big government.
But readers don’t have to be all that special. They have the guidance of a thousand stories to help them make their way. They are never alone. They are equipped to challenge (or ignore) the expectations laid down by standardized testing, fifth-grade bullies and parents that gaze upon the present-day world with eyes that only see the past. They can envision alternatives to economic and political systems that have no heart, art or true ­humanity.
Most readers stop here. They gather their ever-widening circle of favorite writers and read and reread their beloved books. But some are compelled to become writers. The stories they were told or read kindle an obsession that cries out to be heard. Like minor gods, they rummage in the mud looking to make characters with whom to explore their dreams, and nightmares.
Paragraphs like these also likely explain why politicians like Governor Daugaard seek to ignore literature and focus on STEM.

Scripture And Songs For The Week: Jeremiah 31 Edition

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.
27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Republican Debate Reaction

I listened rather than watched. I did not see Rand Paul's eye roll or any other mannerisms that someone in my Twitter timeline criticized. Based on what I heard,  Kasich and Rubio should be considered the clear winners. (I did not watch or listen to the so-called happy hour debate, so I will take the conventional wisdom at face value; Fiorina won hands down.)

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the chart below, but I'll use it as a starting point to give my reactions to each candidate.

Ben Carson: If the chart is accurate, he has a cult following. He sounded stiff even when he was wasting time cracking jokes during his closing statement. He supported torture, so I hope his candidacy flounders quickly, but it looks as if it won't.

Chris Christie: He did nothing to change his image of being bombastic. Favoring a Reagan-era sized navy and implying that the NSA should expand domestic surveillance, he may have been the most bellicose in both style and substance.

Donald Trump: Trump was Trump and it should have cost him. I suspect that his hard floor is above 10%, so he won't be going away even though he didn't seem to fair well tonight.

Jeb Bush: He made no waves and didn't stumble. It was a lackluster performance but on a stage with ten people that effort was all an alleged favorite needed to live to fight another day

John Kasich: He handled all of the questions well. He sounded knowledgeable and passionate. He's probably running for VP.

Marco Rubio: See Kasich. On a side note, when the older candidates on the panel invoke Reagan, I'd give Rubio bonus points for saying "I was a teenager when Ronald Reagan was President; I was more interested in the red-head sitting two desks ahead of me than I was anything he did. I've moved on; the party should too." On the other hand, I can see why that would be political suicide.

Mike Huckabee: He wants to tax pimps and prostitutes. He took the hardest line on abortion and pretty much made himself unelectable.

Rand Paul: On substance he won the exchange with Christie; he lost it on style. One of his former major advisers is in legal hot water. This candidacy is over.

Scott Walker: I can't remember a single thing he said.

Ted Cruz: He seemed virtually absent until the God question. It seems as if he trying to hang around to get the angry voters who know Trump can't win. I'm surprised at the 50/50 split he earned.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Middle Class, The 1980s, And $100,000

There seems to be a certain meme running through some circles to try to convince folks that the middle class is not in bad shape. It runs as follows:
If you're still not convinced, consider this simple thought experiment from Washington Post reporter Matt O'Brien: "Adjusted for inflation, would you rather make $50,000 in today's world or $100,000 in 1980's?" Is that added dough enough for you to give up your flat-screen television, smartphone, and internet access? If it isn't, or if the answer isn't obvious, that would suggest living standards aren't stagnant or anything close to it.
The list left off ATMs, something I consider a necessity. No one in his or her right mind would trade superhero movies or television in the 1980s with contemporary offerings. Video games are certainly better now than they were in 1985. An average car today has all of the amenities of a luxurycar in the 1980s

I do admit to a certain nostalgia for a time when MTV actually played music videos, but YouTube has that covered. Looking through catalogs and making telephone orders was not an onerous undertaking, but Amazon is consumer's dream.

Going with the items mentioned in the quotation, smart phones are awesome. They are a computer and entertainment center that one can carry in a pocket. In 1985 the Sony Walkman or recently released Discman were portable. The IBM PC wasn't, and I couldn't have used one to post this on the Interwebs.

And yet, the comparisons produce a feeling of being distracted by, if not bread and circuses,  trinkets and treats Some things are more important than technological toys. To take one essential, the cost of new house in 1985 was $89,330. In 2013, the average new house cost $289,500. Hypothetically, $100,000 would have paid for the 1980s house. Fifty thousand dollars leaves one far short in 2015.

Although this thought experiment requires one to look backward, looking forward was cheaper in 1985.  The average college tuition for a public university was $1,318; the average tuition for private universities was $6,121. Harvard's tuition was $10,590. This fall average in-state tuition at a public university will be $9,960. Harvard's tuition and fees are $45,278.  The answer to above question might provoke less ambivalence if it were posed, "Would you give up your smart phone to pay for your child's college education?"

One can rightly assert that Americans obsess over first world problems and take for granted things that would have been luxuries thirty or forty years ago. That fact doesn't mean the American middle class is not getting squeezed when it comes to affording essentials.

The Republicans Will Debate: How Are They Going To Adapt To Conflicting Paradigms?

The Republicans will debate later today. The debate coach in me is happy even though it won't be a debate. Real debate involves delivering prepared cases, engaging in direct cross examination, and presenting concise rebuttals that sum up the key issues in the round. The event would more accurately be described as dueling extemporaneous speeches, but I digress.

 Before the young'uns go into a debate, we usually go discuss the judges. In preliminary rounds there's only one judge. In semi-final or final rounds there are usually three. Many judges have paradigms that determine how the young'uns approach the round. If the panel is composed of judges with conflicting paradigms, the young'uns have some tough choices. The Republicans on the big stage tonight have a few million judges with some fairly set but conflicting paradigms.

That fact prompts a few questions. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio all seem to be fighting to get the establishment vote. Will Bush solidify his lead with this group or will one of the other cut into Bush's support? Will Kasich, Christie, or Rubio make a play for one of the other constituencies. For example, Rubio might try to wrest the tea party vote from Trump or prevent Ted Cruz from making inroads into that constituency.

 Rand Paul seems to be the favorite among libertarian leaning Republicans. Will he make a play for the angry tea party folk that now seem to gravitate toward Donald Trump? For that matter will Trump try to allay some establishment fears or ensure that he heads off any efforts from Paul or, perhaps, Scott Walker to take some of those voters?

 Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee seem to fighting for the social conservative vote. Will one of them emerge as a clear favorite of that constituency? Will Carson cede this group to Huckabee and go after the tea party vote reasoning that social conservatives will follow him if he can outlast Huckabee? The same questions might apply to Ted Cruz,

The groups admittedly overlap and many candidates have their feet in two camps, but at this stage of the campaign, the Republican candidates are not unlike high school debaters trying to determine how to win a round with a panel of judges who disagree about what constitutes a winner.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Minor Musing About The Paula Hawks Candidacy

Let's encapsulate what will happen in the Paula Hawks challenge to Kristi Noem. First, Republicans will repeatedly cast Hawks as a tax and spend liberal; they will then go on to accuse her of being a socialist or a terrorist sympathizer who will weaken the nation and force school children to begin each school day by reciting entire suras from the Quran. Perhaps they will attempt to be creative and combine the accusations.

Later, the Noem campaign will find a news article or a Hawks social media post and use it to create a YouTube video to belittle Hawks. Hawks will respond by citing Noem's voting record; Republicans and South Dakota's incumbent-friendly mainstream media will accuse Hawks of negative campaigning.

Throughout the campaign, Noem will decry government waste but tout her work on the farm bill and the highway bill that should be finished later this year, and the conservatives who profess to hate pork barrel politics will applaud Noem's work on these bacony pieces of legislation because they provide South Dakota with a heaping helping of Washington's largesse.

Hawks has not begun well. The rollout has been underwhelming. Cory Heidelberger's mostly positive review admits the announcement video lacked thunder. Ken Santema finds it "lackluster." Pat Powers, as his wont for every non-Republican campaign, echoes those who call it "substandard." Whatever mistakes Hawks has made, her worst mistake is not having a professional war room ready to respond to the attacks and poor reviews, especially those from mainstream media outlets.

Another mistake she may be tempted to make is trying to copy Noem's efforts to tie Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to Nancy Pelosi  by attempting to tie Noem to Speaker John Boehner. I find orange skinned men who weep too easily disconcerting at best. Most South Dakota Republicans are not disconcerted in the least. Perhaps Boehner's orange hue makes them nostalgic for the television program Alf.  Pelosi, on the other hand, is a San Francisco Democrat. For most South Dakotans, that description is a pejorative only slightly less offensive than a short guttural verb that been appended with both prefix and suffix to imply that one has experienced carnal knowledge with one's female parent.

South Dakota needs competitive statewide races. I hope Hawks will successfully challenge Noem, but Hawks needs to be ready for fifteen months of rough and tumble campaigning.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Another Angry Image Of The Day

This image came across my Twitter feed over the weekend.

Picture from here.
The man, carrying a rifle and who has his hand on his handgun, was part of a rally held at Stone Mountain, Georgia to support the Confederate flag. As I understand the story, the man in the white t-shirt burned a Confederate battle flag to protest the rally. Until the hand went to handgun, both men were engaging in provocative political speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect.

This image troubles leaves me with dozens of questions, but I'll ask just three.

First, is the police officer preternaturally calm or would his reaction have been different if an African American had had his hand on the gun?

Second, has the nation really come to the point that any political speech must be loud and any speech which violates one's sensibilities must be responded to with the threat of violence?

Most importantly, if the answer to the second question is "yes," what can citizens do to protect free speech rights?

Headline And Chart Of The Day: Donald Trump And Nickelback Edition

From Nate Silver at comes this headline: Donald Trump Is The Nickelback Of GOP Candidates.

Silver, a master at both political and sports data analysis also offers this chart to show where the Republican candidate stand among the various Republican constituencies:

(If you click the chart, it will get bigger)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Two Ledes, A Body Paragraph, And A Tweeted Mashup Sum Up American Politics

The first lede is from today's New York Times:
Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.
The vast majority of the $388 million backing presidential candidates this year is being channeled to groups that can accept unlimited contributions in support of candidates from almost any source. The speed with which such “super PACs” can raise money — sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days — has allowed them to build enormous campaign war chests in a fraction of the time that it would take the candidates, who are restricted in how much they can accept from a single donor. [emphasis mine]
The second, from yesterday's Wall Street Journal re-frames the numbers:
Billionaires are bankrolling the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign to an unprecedented degree, with at least 40 of the wealthiest Americans plowing $60 million into super PACs aligned with the top tier of candidates.
The torrent of super PAC money is revolutionizing presidential politics in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals into these outside groups.
Super PACs backing 17 presidential candidates raised more than $250 million in the first six months of this year, roughly doubling the $125 million raised by the candidates for their campaigns, disclosure reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission show. [emphasis mine]
The New York Times also provides a body paragraph that makes one think that contemporary elections exist so that the real-life equivalents of Randolph and Mortimer Duke can wager a dollar on the outcome:
Many of the country’s biggest donors are not only financial peers but also friends, members of an elite class of contributors who gather at a series of enclaves around the year, from the Club for Growth’s annual Palm Beach retreat on the right, to the closed-door meetings of the liberal Democracy Alliance on the left. Some live or work in the same buildings in New York or Chicago.
The mashup in this tweet seems to capture contemporary politics fairly accurately even if done technically poorly.

Friday, July 31, 2015

What's An "R" behind A Candidate's Name Worth In A South Dakota Statewide Election

Yesterday, Dakota War College called the 2016 South Dakota United States Senate race for Republican incumbent John Thune. In the comments, Troy Jones makes an observation more interesting that the post's prognostication:
I hope Thune has competition. I want to know how low the yellow dog line really is in SD. This would give us a definitive number. I think it is 27%. (75% of registered Democrats). Weiland just about got there with 29.5%. My gut says it is a bit lower.
If Jones is using the "yellow dog" term in its traditional sense, Democrats who will vote for an actual yellow dog before voting Republican, then Susan Wismer's 25.4% in the 2014 gubernatorial race is probably an accurate number. If, on the other hand, the term is being used to indicate voters who absolutely will not vote for a Republican even without a Democrat on the ballot, then Chad Haber's 18% in the 2014 attorney-general race is probably a good number to set as an over/under.

I would like to look at the situation from a different angle. In competitive two-candidate races, each candidate is alleged to start with a base that comprises 40% of the electorate and the battle is waged to get the majority of the remaining 20%. It's pretty that in statewide races, South Dakota's Democrats do not start out with a 40% base and Republicans start with a base well about 40%. That fact raises an obvious question: What is the "R" behind a candidate's name worth? 45%?, 48%, 50% + 1 vote?

I don't know the answer. but I do have one more question; if it's truly impossible for a Republican to lose a statewide race in South Dakota, how long will it take to see the absolute corruption that comes with absolute power?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Minor Musing About Political Coalitions

In the Rod Dreher column that provided Tuesday's quotation of the day, Dreher opines, "the postwar Republican coalition of social conservatives, economic libertarians, and foreign-policy hawks....[is] dead, or at least dying."

For most of my voting life, those groups have been better known as the Reagan coalition. Since 1980, economic libertarians have fared well. Even after the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, the Dow is over 17, 000. It was at 950.68 on the day Reagan took office. None of those responsible for the recession have been punished. The country club Gekkoites who celebrate greed have little to complain about.

The foreign policy hawks have had plenty of sabers to rattle and bombings and invasions aplenty. One wonders what more Republicans can do for the hawks who represent the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned against.

For a quick summer quiz, other than rhetoric what have Republicans provided for social conservatives who arguably have done more to provide Republicans electoral successes than any other part of the Republican coalition? For an essay question, what good reason do social conservatives have to remain in the Republican coalition?

While Dreher may have been commenting about the national Republican party in general and United States Senate Republican leaders in specific, South Dakota has its own example of a fraying coalition. Steve Hickey, a social conservative of good standing, has forcefully challenged South Dakota's usurers. They have responded by disrupting Steve Hildebrand's business, Hildebrand is Hickey's ally in the effort to limit usury in South Dakota. Meanwhile, the mouthpiece of the South Dakota's country club Republicans chortles.

The Democrat's coalition is  also in flux. The Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing of the party are certainly not fond of Hillary Clinton's Wall Street supporters. Further, one can ask what Hispanics, African-Americans, and labor unions have gained from their unwavering support of Democrats.

Were I to bet, an activity that social conservatives assail, I would lay money that the 2016 cycle will be the last cycle in which the 20th Century coalitions hold. This is not to say that social conservatives will support Democrats, but they may stay home or in state and local elections support third-party or independent options.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I Learned A New Word On Twitter And It's Making Some Conservatives Very Angry

Scrolling through my timeline, I came across this tweet
Finding the Weigel piece, I confirmed that the word is what it sounds like, "a portmanteau of 'conservative' and 'cuckold.'"

I did not expect to discover that the term has it's origins in the white identity movement nor did I expect to discover that some very conservative folks have bee called cuckservatives. Weigel writes,
You might be one! The hashtag's targets are conservatives who seem to have made peace with elements alien to traditional white Americanism. That could mean the transgender movement; it could mean non-white immigrants. Certainly, criticizing Trump's visit to the border, saying he will alienate certain voters, is a trial run for cuckservative status.
"Just look at them!" said Spencer. "Glenn Beck, Erik [sic] Erickson, Mike Huckabee. They’re mediocrities, or sub-mediocrities. They’re grinning, obese doofuses. No person with a deep soul — no person who wants to take part in a moment that’s idealistic, that’s going to change the world — would want to be a part of 'conservatism.' In a way, the current 'cucks' are the residue of the Bush era. They were the 'conservative' and 'Religious Right' allies of the neoconservatives. They’re still around, for no apparent reason."

Erick Erickson at Red State responds
Despite the white washing by (pun intended), the phrase “cuckservative” is a racist slur. It is used by racists in support of a racialist agenda. The people who use it are not opposed to illegal immigration, but are opposed to immigration in general. They are opposed to evangelical Christians who support interracial adoption. They are opposed to anyone who does not think in terms of the white race.
They hate Rush Limbaugh. They hate conservatives. They hate actual, practicing Christians. They claim they are conservatives and Christians and they are not.


Given that RINO has been overused, it's no surprise that that conservatives would look for a creative, new insult for less their less conservative fellow travelers. That said, I wonder whether the South Dakota blogosphere will side with Red State or Breitbart. More importantly, if some far right South Dakota bloggers do side with Breitbart, which one will be the first to use #cuckservative to attack a South Dakota blogger or politician?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quotation Of The Day: Whither The Political True Believers? Edition

That said, . . . , it makes me think that the Republican Party is like a church whose congregation really doesn’t believe anymore, but who keeps showing up on Sunday for lack of anything better to do.
Maybe Democrats see their own party like this too. I don’t know.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Am Tired Of Hearing About Flags

A young man murdered nine people in church, so Americans started discussing whether, how, and when to remove a Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds. Another young man murdered four marines and one sailor. Some folks got really angry that the American flags were not lowered to half-staff quickly enough. Last week, an angry old man with a history of mental illness killed two people in a theater. He had a history of flying the Confederate battle flag, but we've already talked about that flag. Maybe someone will find a way to bring the Louisiana state flag into the discussion.

Granted, discussing flags, is much. easier that discussing why the American murder rate has risen dramatically in 2015. Discussing flags is much easier than trying to repair a mental health system that has been decimated. The flags discussion avoids settling old debates about the Second Amendment.

The battle flag may have come down from the South Carolina statehouse. Sunday morning church services are still the most segregated event in the country. The flags came down to half-staff, but no one has explained how  a war against an ideology can be successfully conducted, ideologies being nebulous entities notoriously difficult to shoot or contain militarily. Unlike repairing America's mental health system, talking about flags costs nothing. It doesn't accomplish much more.

Friday, July 24, 2015

This May Be The Most Frightening Political Tweet Of The Year

All I can say is Long Live the Republic!

I Think I Liked It Better When Churches Thought Technology Was The Mark Of The Beast

Using Gmail and  Blogger means I have to deal with Google's invading my privacy and the NSA getting data from a back door in Google's servers. I'm not sure I want churches to take a page from that playbook. From today's Washington Post:
Could Big Brother be coming to a church near you? One software company is now providing churches with facial recognition software to better track who shows up at their worship services.
Later in the article,
Greenshpan said about 40 churches have signed on, including eight in the United States, although he declined to name any of them. He also declined to say how much the churches pay for the software. He said the churches that use the software range in membership from 100 to 3,000.
A church will upload a database of photos of its members, and they usually use security cameras they already have in place to match the video with existing photos. Churches could use it to track regular attendance or see who’s missing.
“It’s simple to see if a member isn’t attending three or four events. Then they can give the member a call and say something like, ‘See you on Sunday,'” Greenshpan said.
I take it as an article of faith that God is omniscient and omnipresent. I also take it on faith that believers "are surrounded by . . .a great cloud of witnesses." I believe most Christians also hold those beliefs, so why do forty churches feel the need to track parishioners when God seems perfectly capable of doing that?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mall And Republicans And Terrorism, Oh My!

I really don't want to pick on John Kasich. In a Republican field that resembles March Madness more than a presidential primary, he stands out rather positively. Unlike Donald Trump, he is not a bloviating rabble rouser appealing to the lesser angels of our nature.  He has a resume that qualifies him to be president; Ben Carson does not. He isn't running because his father and brother held the office and now it's his turn. He also pays attention to detail; therefore, he will not utter "Oops" in the middle of a debate even if he doesn't wear the Clark Kent glasses Rick Perry suddenly favors.

Further, any Republican could have said the following, but since Kasich said it, he will have to own it.
First, it's not clear if shopping has become a Republican sacrament or their cure for terrorism. After all, George W. Bush recommended Americans undertake it shortly after 9/11. What should be indisputable is the fact that the United States has more important reasons to respond to ISIS than allowing Americans to continue to buy overpriced items at Hot Topic and eat at mediocre food courts.

More importantly, the statement reflects a Republican disconnect with the American middle class. People don't go to the mall as as they used to, and terrorism doesn't seem to be a reason as this US News article reports, "More than two dozen malls have shuttered their doors since 2010, according to Green Street Advisors real estate research company, and another 60 are particularly at risk of closure." The article continues
“If you’re a middle-class mall, and those are your anchors, what are you going to do?” asks Davidowitz, noting that "dollar stores" and stand-alone discount retailers like Walmart and T.J. Maxx have attracted traditional mall-goers who are now looking for cheaper alternatives. “The combination of e-commerce, what’s happening to the middle class and everything else is really bad news for the malls. It’s a tough business.”
Evidence of a “permanent shift in consumer behavior” is also mounting, says Neely Tamminga, a managing director and research analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. investment bank and asset management firm.
“We talked to a thousand women on a panel every six months to gauge their spending behavior,” says Tamminga, who is involved in an ongoing research project through Piper Jaffray that began in the fall of 2013. “No matter how we ask the question, we are seeing an overall shift away from frequently going to the mall.”
Americans, in general, are not going to the mall because they are forced to look for cheaper alternatives or enjoy the convenience and affordability of e-commerce. Linking the mall to ISIS prevents any discussion about substantive ways to help the economy or contain terrorism.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Some Minor Cynical Musings About The 2016 Presidential Race

First, Ohio Governor John Kasich will become the 16th Republican presidential candidate today, a fact that is basically irrelevant to South Dakota. Granted South Dakota's Republicans will conduct their fantasy politician drafts, create a few office betting pools, and make a few donations to their favorite candidate. South Dakota will, however, support the Republican nominee, whoever that may be, with about 63% of the vote. 

Second, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination. To win the presidency, however, she faces several, for lack of a better phrase, demographic obstacles. 

In my cynical moments, I wonder if the American electorate is willing to elect the nation's first female president immediately after electing the first African American president. Further, since 1952, there has been only one time when a two-term president was succeeded by a member of his party. 

Finally, Hillary Clinton is nearly 14 years older than Barack Obama. The last time Americans elected new president of the same party who was that much older than the predecessor was prior to the Civil War when James Buchanan replaced Franklin Pierce. Both were Democrats. Since then, when Americans have elected someone more than a decade older than the previous president, the new president has been of a different party. By the way, Democrats who support Bernie Sanders need to remember that he is six years older than Hillary Clinton.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Quotation Of The Day: Joss Whedon And The Meaning Of Life Edition

At the recently completed San Diego Comic Con, Joss Whedon of Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, The Avengers, fame, responded to a question about the meaning of life with the following:
The world is a random and meaningless, terrifying place and we all — spoiler alert — die. Most critters are designed not to know that, but we are designed [uniquely] to transcend that. To understand ‘Oh, I can quote myself! This is fun!’ A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. What we have right now and right here has as much meaning as anything we’re afraid of. The way we’re designed to do this: The main function of the human brain is storytelling. Memory is storytelling. If we all remembered everything, we’d be Rain Man and wouldn’t be socially happy. We learn to forget. We learn to distort. And from the very beginning we’re learning to tell a story about ourselves. I’m hoping to be the hero of my story. But I’m the annoying sidekick, . . . [hyperlink additions mine for clarity and to help the non-nerds who happen by this blog]

A Post Wherein I Ask Random Questions

This first question needs a bit of a set-up

Kevin Woster profiles Steve Hildebrand's and Rev. Steve Hickey's efforts to take on South Dakota's usurers. These paragraphs illustrate the importance the issue has for Hildebrand:
“In my 30 years of political activity I’ve never done anything this important before,” he said.
But wait, that job as an upper-level campaign official for Barack Obama in 2008 was kind of important, wasn’t it?
“I love the president and I think he’s phenomenal,” Hildebrand says. “But in those candidate campaigns you end up putting your faith in the candidate to do it. In this instance, I’m doing it. ”
Given that Hickey plans to leave South Dakota for Scotland and that President Obama's popularity with South Dakota's dominant Republican party is likely near -20%, an obvious question arises: How many mass mailing and other media soundbites will include the phrase "the same people who brought you the socialist Muslim Obama now bring you more assaults on free enterprise"?

Second, Cory takes umbrage at the idea that incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Thune is unbeatable. While I concur that Democrats cannot give Thune a second free pass, I am still left with a simple question: Do the Democrats have a viable candidate?

On the national level, this Ezra Klein tweet prompts a simple question: Is Klein right?
Finally, Pat Powers posts that "Daugaard says he doesn’t think there is a consensus on any approach to education funding. . ." Does this mean that South Dakota's Republican leaders' repeated and likely future decisions to do nothing about education funding do not represent a consensus?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

South Dakota Politics And Debate Camp: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Via Mr. Heidelberger, I note that the ACLU has challenged Attorney General Marty Jackley on his assertion that county clerks could refuse to issue marriage licences to same sex couples if the official's conscience or religious convictions so dictated, the recent Obergefell decision not withstanding. Jackley, who will almost certainly run for governor in 2018, likely anticipated this challenge and is probably planning campaign commercials  touting his quixotic effort, alleging that it was thwarted by a leftist, liberal, progressive, socialist, cabal of atheistic lawyers. (I hope I didn't leave out any current dog whistles.)

Meanwhile, at debate camp in beautiful Brookings, South Dakota, the young Lincoln-Douglas debaters are preparing cases on Resolved: In the United States criminal justice system, jury nullification ought to be used in the face of perceived injustice. The cynic in me wonders if Jackley will now appeal to the South Dakota Republicans of a more libertarian bent and advocate that juries be informed that they are judges of both the law and fact, at least in court cases involving weddings.

In other political news, Reverend Steve Hickey has announced he will be leaving the legislature and his pulpit to "study Christian ethics with an emphasis on surveillance in the modern world in the Bonhoeffer Studies program at the University of Aberdeen." In a serendipitous coincidence, the policy debaters are preparing to spend the next season debating Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance.  My knowledge of Bonhoeffer is limited to knowing that he prophetically spoke against "cheap grace." If Reverend Hickey stumbles upon this blog, my students and I would appreciate his forwarding any reading lists about both Bonhoeffer and surveillance.

Finally, in one other debate camp and politics connection, I notice that Cory has created a debate tournament for the Republican Presidential candidates. I look forward to his format for quarters, semis, and finals.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Some Sardonic Musings For Independence Day

It's Independence Day in the land of the free. Some of my conservative friends will contend that it is land of the formerly free since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled same-sex marriage legal and upheld the federal government's Obamacare exchange. If the Republic is indeed on life support, I suspect its first infection began with the Constitution's three-fifths clause and was exacerbated by the fact that humans are not angels and angels do not govern mere mortals.

It's been more than a week since the SCOTUS decisions and the cynic in me notes that I have not seen a quartet of horsemen riding different colored horses and carrying sealed books. Likewise, if love truly won, I have yet to see a marked increase in patience, kindness, and self control among the general populace, nor I have a noticed a decrease in overweening pride, envy, or boasting, all qualities which are constituent elements of love. Perhaps it's a bit much to expect human nature to change in a week, but surely I should have seen at least one rainbow coated unicorn.

If the land of free is disconcerted, the home of the brave is also suffering a bit of an identity crisis. A nation that once had nothing to fear but fear itself now tells its citizens to be very afraid and live under the motto "see something say something." A government created, media led effort to create a panopticon of citizen informants who tell the state about any activity that might indicate one's neighbor has become a "radicalized lone wolf" has more than a little similarity to the East German Stasi:
For the 40 years of the Cold War the Stasi – 'The Sword and Shield of the Party' – kept a lid on dissent in East Germany through a unique method of surveillance.
They did not need torture chambers and rubber truncheons to keep people in line, but instead exploited the insecurities of members of the public, according to author Christhard Laepple.
Turning one in three of the German Democratic Republic's 17 million citizens into informers, the Stasi injected fear, uncertainty and suspicion into every walk of life, making sure few people ever uttered anything which might anger the regime.
It's Independence Day, a day that Alan Jacobs accurately describes in this tweet:

As one celebrates the civic holy day, one should remember that Ben Franklin's proverbs not only warned Americans we would have to work to keep the Republic but also that giving up liberty to gain security create a fool's paradise.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Post Office And FedEx Show I Am Warped

Yesterday, these two items were delivered to my house. I ordered both but seeing them side by side gives me pause

I don't think I have explain AntMan collectibles co-sponsored by Marvel and Funko.

According to Amazon, A Secular Age
offers a historical perspective. [Charles Taylor] examines the development in "Western Christendom" of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created. As we see here, today's secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion--although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined--but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.
It may well be too deep for me, but the ideas fascinate.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Where One Lives Determines One's Political Leanings (Sort Of)

From this NBC First Read post
. . . 62% of those living in urban areas wanted to see the U.S. Supreme Court legalize gay marriage, while a plurality of rural residents (47%) opposed it, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll. In Urban America, 57% believe the federal health-care law is working well or needs just minor modifications, versus 63% in Rural America who wanted it overhauled or totally eliminated. And 50% of rural residents think free trade has hurt the United States, compared with just 27% who believe that in urban areas. . . .Indeed, the same NBC/WSJ poll finds 55% of urban respondents identifying as Democrats, versus just 31% of rural respondents who are Dems.
On the other hand, where one consumes or purchases foodstuffs might be equally important:
David Wasserman, who analyzes politics at the Cook Political Report, measures the change by examining how Democratic presidential candidates performed in counties with a Whole Foods—the upscale grocery store that stocks organic goods—and in counties with a Cracker Barrel, the homestyle restaurant featuring chicken n' dumplings.
In 1992, Bill Clinton won 60% of the Whole Foods counties and 40% of the Cracker Barrel counties, a 20-point difference. That gap that has widened every year since, and in 2012, Mr. Obama won 77% of Whole Foods counties and 29% of Cracker Barrel Counties, a 48-point difference.
"Politics hangs on culture and lifestyle more than policy," Mr. Wasserman said.
Either way, the political results are stark.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lessons From 2015 Legislature: South Dakota Republicans Are Afraid

One would believe that a party that recently defeated a sitting Senate Majority Leader, swept the 2014 races for constitutional offices, and possessed a supermajority in the 2015 legislature would be emboldened to do something other than cravenly conserve power.

Relatively early in the session, there was the "Let's Let John Do What We Wouldn't Let Tom Do" bill. It's unclear why a party that boasts of its deep bench, mocks the opposition for being unable to field candidates, and believes that no one will challenge its senior senator in 2016 would feel the need to enhance their ability to hold that seat unless they don't believe their own boasts and jeers.

Later in the session the Republican majority passed Senate Bill 69 which makes it harder for independent candidates to get on the ballot. Off the top of my head, I can't think of the last time independents of either conservative or liberal leaning successfully challenged an entrenched South Dakota Republican.

I am old enough to remember Republican leaders at a national level proclaiming their trust in the American voters. Apparently South Dakota Republicans don't have the same trust in the South Dakota electorate. They certainly don't seem to want to allow them any choices but those with an "R" behind their name on the ballot. I suppose if a party has no ideas and harbors a distrust of voters, it ought to be fearful.

Monday, March 9, 2015

I'm Pretty Sure I Told You So

This blog's January 2, 2015 post contained the following:
There will be talk but little action on anything relating to education funding.
Technically my predication might be wrong. The "blue ribbon" commission will likely talk about talking about education rather than actually doing anything about it. As a side note, I'll predict that the final report of the "blue ribbon" (I'm working really hard not to call it a Pabst) commission's findings will mirror Governor Daugaard's voter rejected HB 1234.

That same post contained the following prediction about the budget process:
At some point near the end of the session Republican leaders will bemoan a tight budget and without any sense of chagrin or irony congratulate themseleves on increasing all "rainy day trust funds" to record levels. 
Today's Yankton Press and Dakotan reports the following comment from Republican Representative Jean Hunhoff:
According to Jean Hunhoff, the projection is not going to be as great as everyone has thought.
“You remember when the governor put forth his budget in December?” Rep Hunhoff asked. “We were looking at fiscal year ‘15, which is this current year that we had about $26 million extra. We are seeing ... with some early returns that we will have a soft economy. And right now, we are down to having about $ 12 million (or surplus) instead of that $26 million. So, there are going to have to be some reductions there. As we look in the future for Fiscal Year ‘16, with the outlook right now, things aren’t looking so rosy.”
Of course one doesn't need to be Nostradamus, Cassandra, Tiresias, or Edgar Cayce to predict something that will happen during nearly every legislative session.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Daugaard's Education Agenda Follows A Democrat's Proposal

That Democrat was, unfortunately, Woodrow Wilson:
Addressing a meeting of the New York City High School Teachers Association in 1909, Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, set forth the requirements of America’s newborn industrial civilization. “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education,” he said, “and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific manual tasks.
Lewis Lapham who reminds readers of Wilson's snobbish assertion points to the logical outcome of a Wilsonian/Daugaardian educational policy. It will accustom students "to the design specs of a society geared to the blind and insatiable consumption of mediocrity in all its political declensions and commercial conjugations."

Lapham even points out why Daugaard's malignant neglect as illustrated by another education commission makes sense, if one is a politician in thrall to corporate interests:
Why would any politician in his or her right mind wish to confront an informed citizenry capable of breaking down the campaign speeches into their subsets of supporting lies? Burden the economy with too many customers able to decipher the hospital bills, or see around the corners of the four-color advertising, and the consequences would be terrible to behold.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Will It Be Ever Thus?

I have been struggling to blog since September or October. In part, it seems as if everything that I do now takes longer to complete. Getting old, an age that I will describe as being far closer to 60 than to 50, does indeed slow one down.

There is, however, another reason; blogging has seemingly become an exercise in futility. I going to cherry pick two quotations from a recent Madville Times thread and put words in the mouths of the majority of South Dakota voters to illustrate my frustration.

First, Bob Mercer writes, "Bottom line: Our economy isn't strong enough to do more for education and our voters don't seem to want to do more for education."

Cory responds to Mercer's analysis with the proper observation: ". . . if Mercer's bottom line is true, if South Dakota's economy cannot support greater investment in education, then 35 years of GOP rule has failed."

The majority of South Dakota voters will obliviously continue vote for anyone with an "R" behind his or her name on the ballot. They seem to be responding to the situation with a simple mantra: "Give me that old time politicin'; it's been good enough for 35 years; it's still good enough for me." The fact that "good enough" rarely is good or enough is deftly ignored.

Pointing out the obvious to those who refuse to acknowledge it is fun for a while, but it is becoming rather tiring when there is so little hope that the political situation in South Dakota will ever change.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Few Bosworth Questions

Gordon Howie contends that the felony charges against Annette Bosworth should be dismissed because everybody does it. Cory Heidelberger, who led the effort to show that Bosworth was not in the country when she claims she witnessed petitions being signed, takes issue with the Howie's claim.

I  grew tired long ago of the Bosworth circus. This political soap opera should have gone away before election day. In most normal situations, there would have been a plea deal. The lack of plea bargain prompts a few questions.

First, why hasn't a deal happened?

Second, has the prosecution offered a deal that Bosworth refused because the refusal helps her cause as a political martyr?

Third, did Bosworth offer to plea but prosecution rejected the deal for personal or political reasons?

Fourth, is it too much to hope for that a plea deal can be reached so that this political circus can finally end?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Scripture And Song For The Week: Luke 12 Edition

Luke 12
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Quotation Of The Day: Courage In The Political Lions' Den Edition

From Representive Reverend Steve Hickey in the comments section at Dakota War College:
We blew through our 125th anniversary year with no acknowledgement that 10% of our population resents we are even here. It’s not okay native families are struggling in third world conditions within a couple hundred miles of our hundred million dollar sportsplexes and entertainment centers. It’s not okay native kids are killing themselves. If a similar suicide rate was for white kids it’d be front page news. A 15 year old native girl in our state hung her self in her own home and no one even noticed for two weeks. Spare me the decades old excuses why these are their problems not ours. Time for a South African style truth and reconciliation to commission lead the way out of the past into the future. We brag about our low unemployment rate but ignore it nearly triples when natives are factored in. It’s not okay we have states attorneys who brag openly how many natives they’ve put on the hill. We create criminals and then wonder why there are more of them.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Predictions For 2015 Legislative Session

1. There will be talk but little action on anything relating to education funding.

2. Social issues, especially marriage and abortion, will create memorable sturm und drang. More than one socal conservative will espouse the concept of nullification on the marriage issue.

3. Republicans may leave the inflation adjustment of the recently passed minimum wage initiative alone this session, but they will at a minimum lay the groundwork to remove it during the 2016 session.

4. Representative Mickelson will start working his fellow legislators to lay the groundwork for a 2018 gubernatorial run. 

5. Republicans will bury any Democratic efforts at Medicaid Expansion.

6. Over 45% of the legislation proposed by Republicans will be a cut and paste from ALEC model legislation. (As a side note, I probably hate plagairism worse than I hate bad legislation.)

7. Republicans will continue to claim South Dakota has an open government while they continue to caucus behind closed doors.

8. At some point near the end of the session Republican leaders will bemoan a tight budget and without any sense of chagrin or irony congratulate themseleves on increasing all "rainy day trust funds" to record levels.

9. Nothing will be done to correct the practices that allowed Benda/Bollen et al to lose millions in the EB 5 mess.

10. In order to the retain the ability to call other Republicans RINOS, some of the more "conservative" Republicans will form cabal with the expressed goal of ensuring that no legislation that has a Democrat as the prime sponsor will pass. Any Republican who votes for Democratic sponsored legislation including resolutions that praise motherhood, the flag, angels, and puppies will, of course be labeled a RINO.