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Vacationing in the Black Hills

June 28, 2014 Comments off
Double Rainbow after a storm at Rocky Point State Park

Double Rainbow after a storm at Rocky Point State Park

For the last few days I’ve been in the Black Hills vacationing with the family and attending the Governor’s Agricultural Summit. We will be out here for a few more days.. So no more updates are expected to the blog until I return to Aberdeen (My internet access at the camp is very spotty). When returning I have the following posts planned:

  • Notes from the Brown County Democrat meet/greet fundraiser in Aberdeen this previous Tuesday.
  • Notes from the Thursday tour as part of the Ag Summit.
  • Notes from the Friday sessions of the Ag Summit. This portion of the Summit included one long session that was basically a sales pitch for Senator Vehle to raise fuel taxes.
  • Thoughts about the news (if any) from the SD Democrat convention.

Have a good weekend everyone!

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South Dakota has the 16th highest incarceration rate in the US.. and the world

June 24, 2014 10 comments

Recently the Prison Policy Initiative created a chart showing the incarceration rate of countries around the world along with each state of the US as a comparison (their site seems to be having problems right now, if the link doesn’t work here is the cached version). This chart does not look good for South Dakota or the United States.

Here is a view of the top 16 incarceration rates:

Chart Source: Prison Policy Initiative

Chart Source: Prison Policy Initiative

Here are some takeaway numbers from the whole chart. It should be noted that these figures represent the number of people incarcerated per 100,000 people. These figures include local, state, and federal incarceration numbers.

  • The top incarceration honors go to Louisiana with a rate of 1341!
  • South Dakota has an incarceration rate of 777, nothing for us to be proud of.
  • The US incarceration rate is 716.
  • The next lowest country is Cuba with an incarceration rate of 510. I would however recommend taking this number with a grain of salt. These numbers are what each country officially releases; and Cuba has a long history of locking people up for political reasons. It is unknown if these numbers include such cases.
  • The lowest incarceration rate for a US state is Vermont with 254.
  • The United Kingdom-England & Wales has an incarceration rate of 148.
  • Another questionable number on the chart is China with a rate of 121. I would have the same concern with these official numbers as with Cuba.
  • Canada is way below the US with an incarceration rate of 118.
  • Comoros is at the very bottom of the list with an incarceration rate of 16.

The incarceration rate I’m seeing for South Dakota is shameful! As a libertarian I am often trying to make the case that victim-less crimes do nothing but create criminals out of normal people. I would suggest that the failed war on drugs is large part of our over-use of incarceration. Unfortunately this trend seems unlikely to reverse itself. Here in South Dakota the Attorney General is proud of locking up people who committed victim-less crimes and has vowed to do even more! I guess having the 16th highest incarceration rate in the world isn’t enough for the AG….

I was sent a link to this infographic over at SecurityDegreeHub a while back. Perhaps it has a place in this discussion as well:

Infographic Source: securitydegreehub.com

Infographic Source: securitydegreehub.com

 

Americans confidence in Congress and the Mainstream Media continues to decline

June 23, 2014 1 comment

Gallup has released two interesting yearly polls this week dealing with public confidence in various institutions and the news media. Last year Congress set a new personal low confidence rating by receiving only 10% approval. Well, in the last year Congress has somehow managed to break that record by receiving only 7% confidence in this years poll. The mainstream media has also continued it steady decline, but somehow still has higher numbers than Congress.

Here is a look at the level of public confidence in Congress from 1973 to 2014:

Table Source: Gallup

Table Source: Gallup

It is interesting to look at the numbers for the Bush and Obama years. In 2004 public confidence was at its recent high of 30. That ‘high’ number was likely do the country and Congress coming together after 9/11. From that point on the confidence in congress had more than halved by the end of Bush’s second term. There was a slight surge in 2009, most likely thanks to the hope and change campaign from then newly crowned President Obama and the Democrat Party holding a majority in Congress. Yet the Democrats were not able to hold that slight increase. Now confidence in Congress is half of what it was when Obama took office. If this trend continues (which it likely will) we may see confidence in Congress fall below the margin of error for the poll. At that point it might as well be said that Congress has no support.

With ever-declining public confidence in Congress I find it odd that people keep voting the same status quo politicians into office. With such low confidence numbers it seems almost inexcusable that people keep voting for the same people to return to DC.

Perhaps some part of the problem is related the poll results for news media:

Chart Source: Gallup

Chart Source: Gallup

Since 1993 the mainstream media has had a steady decline in confidence levels from the public. I think the two polls have at least a casual relationship. Over the years true investigative reporting has declined due to cutbacks in the newsrooms of mainstream media institutions. At the same time news organizations seem to have really given both big parties a pass when ‘reporting’ facts. Yes, there are news organizations that seem biased towards one party or the other. But a bigger bias seems to exist against third-party and Independent candidates. After the 2012 elections I had many people ask me why there was little or no media coverage for third-party candidates such as Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Such blatant bias against anything that doesn’t stand for the status-quo seems like a possible reason confidence has been lost in the news media.

I don’t think media is the largest factor in the low public confidence in Congress. Yet the media failing to actually hold the two large parties accountable may be causing the mainstream media to lose confidence from the very audience they need to exist. Further, since most media sources refuse to actually give third-party and independent candidates any attention, it makes the mainstream media look as if they no longer care about informing their audience. A lack of information about alternative candidates means the voters never get a chance to learn who these non- status-quo politicians are. If the mainstream media continues its current downward trajectory we may see the industry having the same dismal numbers as the Congress they have helped keep the spotlight on.

PS. Yes, there re some good actual individual reporters in the mainstream media. Both in and out of South Dakota. However they appear to be the exception to the rule; and have no power to actually balance the decline of their industry.

About the SD GOP resolution calling for Obama’s Impeachment

June 23, 2014 7 comments
Bush-Obama Image Source Unknown

Bush-Obama
Image Source Unknown

Yesterday I noted the SD GOP state convention was pretty boring in its selection of candidates. That is not necessarily true in its passage of resolutions. One resolution in particular has garnered South Dakota quite a bit of national attention. By a vote of 191-176 delegate passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Obama.

Before continuing this post I will get three statements out of the way:

  1. I support the idea of this resolution due to the many illegal activities performed against civil liberties by the Obama administration.
  2. I supported the same idea of impeaching President GW Bush for the many illegal activities performed against civil liberties by the Bush administration.
  3. The chance of any President actually getting impeached is so slight that it might as well be considered impossible.

With that out of the way it is time to look at the actual resolution. Here is what a delegate sent me as the text of this resolution:

WHEREAS, The president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect it from all enemies both foreign and domestic,
WHEREAS, The president has violated his oath of office in numerous ways with the latest being the release of five terrorists in exchange for a soldier without consulting Congress as required by law,
WHEREAS, The president of the United States has willfully and wantonly lied to the American people telling them they can keep their insurance company, and they can keep their doctor under Obama Care, prior to an election,
WHEREAS, The president has ordered Federal Agencies to enact rules (laws) that threaten the security of the people of this great nation (EPA regulations) by passing Congress and usurping its authority,
WHEREAS, the president has abused his executive privilege usurping his authority as decided by numerous federal courts,
WHEREAS, The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are very clear on the authority of the President and the Federal Government, and when they violate their oath it is the right, it is the duty of the American people to act,
WHEREAS, America was designed as a Lex Rex (the law is king) rather than a Rex Lex (The King is the law) system of government. It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
THEREFORE, be it resolved that the South Dakota Republican Party calls on our U.S. Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States.

I definitely agree with some of the WHEREAS statements, yet I could build a similar list for Bush (or almost any previous President). There are a couple of  WHEREAS statements I would like to focus on a little bit.

Yes, the move by Obama to exchange POW’s was technically illegal since the President is required by the NDAA to notify Congress of such actions 30 days ahead of time. Yet it is the establishment war hawks in DC (from both parties) that have created this situation by keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention center open. If politicians truly cared about such situations they would work hard to end our interventionist wars and close Guantanamo Bay now; as opposed to playing political games in order to keep it open for at least another year. I somehow failed to see the SD GOP pass a resolution condemning the immoral and unconstitutional facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Yes, Obama lied to Americans and many people (including me) received letters saying their insurance would be cancelled. But should it be any surprise that a major piece of legislation that was written by special interest groups and unread by those voting on it (or signing it in Obama’s case) would be based upon lies? I never believed Obama. I can only think that enough people believed his “hope and change” campaign enough to think he was honest. Too bad they are just now realizing Obama was just a double-down on the same bad big-government policies of GW. I somehow failed to see the SD GOP pass a resolution condemning the many lies perpetrated by the Bush administration.

In order for an impeachment to actually happen the US House of Representatives would have to pass the resolution with a simple majority vote. Then the Senate must concur with that resolution by a 2/3 majority vote. Even if the resolution passes the House (which I doubt), it would be very unlikely to even be taken up in the Senate.

Basically this resolution was a political statement by the SD GOP. The resolution might have had more impact if the politicians representing the Republican Party would actually support small-government policies all the time.. instead of just when it suits their candidates.

For comparison, below is the resolution to impeach Bush (H.Res. 1258 – 110th) introduced by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) in 2008. Bonus question to those saying the impeach Obama resolution is the work of anarchistic anti-government Tea Party types: did you make similar statements about Kucinich in 2008 for doing basically the same thing?

Impeaches President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Sets forth articles of impeachment stating that President Bush, in violation of his oath of office:
(1) illegally spent public dollars on a secret propaganda program to manufacture a false cause for war against Iraq;
(2) misused intelligence reports to deceive Congress and the public about a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001;
(3) mislead Congress and the public into believing that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to the United States;
(4) illegally misspent funds to begin a war in secret prior to congressional authorization;
(5) invaded Iraq in violation of U.S. law, the United Nations Charter, and international criminal law and failed to obtain a declaration of war;
(6) failed to protect U.S. troops in Iraq by not providing them with body and vehicle armor and promoted false stories about the deaths and injuries of members of the U.S. military;
(7) used public funds to construct permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq;
(8) invaded Iraq to obtain control of its oil resources;
(9) created a secret task force to guide U.S. energy and military policy in usurpation of the role of Congress in legislating such policy;
(10) misused classified intelligence information and conspired to identify a covert agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA);
(11) established policies granting U.S. government contractors in Iraq immunity from prosecution;
(12) recklessly misspent public dollars on private contractors in Iraq;
(13) detained U.S. citizens and foreign captives indefinitely and without charge;
(14) authorized torture of captives in Afghanistan and Iraq;
(15) kidnapped and transported individuals to countries known to practice torture;
(16) authorized the arrest and detention of at least 2,500 children as enemy combatants in violation of the Geneva Convention;
(17) mislead Congress and the public about threats from Iran;
(18) created secret laws through the issuance of legal opinions by the Department of Justice and violated the Posse Comitatus Act;
(19) authorized warrantless electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens;
(20) directed telecommunication companies to create databases of the private telephone numbers and emails of U.S. citizens;
(21) used signing statements to claim the right to violate laws enacted by Congress;
(22) failed to comply with congressional subpoenas and instructed former executive branch employees not to comply with such subpoenas;
(23) tampered with the conduct of free and fair elections and corrupted the administration of justice;
(24) conspired to violate the voting rights of U.S. citizens;
(25) pursued policies calculated to destroy the Medicare program;
(26) failed to prepare for the predictable disasters caused by Hurricane Katrina;
(27) mislead Congress and the public in an effort to undermine efforts to address global climate change; and
(28) failed to take proper steps to protect the United States against the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, obstructed investigations into such attacks, and recklessly endangered the health of first responders near the site of such attacks.

Two candidates for statewide offices announced by the Constitution Party of South Dakota

June 23, 2014 5 comments

This previous Saturday the Constitution Party of South Dakota held its State Convention in Sioux Falls. At the Convention two candidates were chosen to run for statewide office. Here are the candidates named in the press release:

Wayne Schmidt of Mobridge for Public Utilities Commissioner and Lori Stacey of Sioux Falls for her second run for Secretary of State won their nominations by unanimous vote.

I think its great to see the Constitution Party putting forth candidates. It is too early to know if I support either candidate. But as always I will give candidates of all parties (or none) a fair chance and follow their actions over the next few months. It should be noted however that both candidates have a long road ahead of them to get votes.

Public Utilities Commissioner

Way Schmidt is not a surprise candidate. Technically the Constitution Party announced his entry into the Public Utilities Commissioner race back in January. As noted before Schmidt has run for a legislative seat in District 23 twice; once in 2006  going for a State Senate Seat and then again in 2008 going after a State House seat. This will place Schmidt against Gary Hanson this fall (who was chosen by Republicans at their convention to seek re-election). The Democrats have yet to hold their convention, so it is still unknown who the third candidate in this race will be.

No matter what it will be a tough battle for either third-party candidate (Constitution Party and Democrat Party). Here are the results of the 2012 PUC races:

2012 PUC

2012 Public Utilities Commission races results

The almost 6% that voted for Libertarian candidate Russell Clarke is likely mostly from the “I won’t vote for either big party” group. If Schmidt has any hope he is going to have to find support from outside of that group. Perhaps as the election progresses we will find out more about this candidate and see why he should (or shouldn’t) get votes.

Secretary of State

Lori Stacey’s entry into the Secretary of State race is no surprise. Stacey has been an activist trying to get voters away from the two big parties for years (well, one big party in SD). She also ran for this office in 2010. Here are the results from then:

2010 Secretary of State election results

2010 Secretary of State election results

It is worth noting Stacey received just over 6% of the votes. Similar to the amount of votes received by the Libertarian PUC candidate in 2012. This time at it Stacey must find a way to reach more voters. Her best chance may be to show how she can fix the problems that currently plague the SOS office. She might try some GOTV efforts with the reservations since ballot access is one of the issues I’ve heard speak about before.

Just as with the PUC candidate Schmidt, I am glad to see Stacey in this race. It is far too soon to know if I support her as a candidate. But I definitely support her being in the race and hope learn more about her solutions over the next few months.

No surprises from the SD GOP convention in choices of constitutional offices

June 21, 2014 4 comments
Shantel Krebs speaking in Redfield

Shantel Krebs speaking in Redfield

Today the constitutional offices were voted on by delegates at the South Dakota GOP convention in Rapid City. There are no surprises in the results… Of course the fact that only one office had multiple nominations made it a pretty boring set of ‘races’. Here are the results from today for the Republicans that will show up on the ballot this fall. I’ve also added some brief thoughts about what this means for the Democrats.

South Dakota Secretary of State – Shantel Krebs – This is the race I was hoping Shantel Krebs would win; and wow, she had a dominating victory over current Deputy Secretary Miller. If the Democrats decide to go after this office (which I hope they do), they will need to find a good candidate that can Shantel head on. The Democrat candidate cannot simply run on returning integrity to the office. Such an approach would make it appear they are simply mirroring Krebs campaign. I still think this is the office Democrats should go after with all they’ve got.. But the big question is: do the Democrats have enough to take the one constitutional office that is actually winnable for them? If Miller had won I think the answer to that could have been a strong maybe; but with Krebs in the race I would say it is a strong very unlikely.

Attorney General – Marty Jackley – Jackley being unopposed is not a surprise. I think the Democrats will make a case Jackley mishandled the EB-5 investigation. But I don’t think the general public will really care. The Democrats will also likely try to attack Jackley for defending South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban in court. But there again that will go nowhere. It is the job of the AG to defend the states laws in court. Technically a Democrat AG would have to defend the law as well. Unless the Democrats bring out an outrageously strong candidate I can’t see this race being competitive during the general election. Personally I will be interested to see how he handles the felony charges against former US Senate candidates Annette Bosworth and Clayton Walker.

Commissioner of School and Public Lands – Ryan Brunner – State Representative Jim Bolin was also in this race; but he decided to pull out of this race so he could focus on the fight against Common Core. I’ve spoken with Brunner a number of times since doing a post about the race last fall; these conversations generally revolve around the dam leak at Richmond Lake. I feel he would continue to push for what is right. I really don’t see how the Democrats will be able to be competitive in a race against the current Deputy Commissioner for a job that the average person doesn’t even understand or care about (they should if they care about education funding, but that is a rant for a different day)…

Lieutenant Governor – Matt Michels – No surprise here. Since the Democrats went with the timid choice in the Governors race I can’t see them doing much better in their choice for Lt Gov. Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers should also be mentioned. He chose lawyer and former Democrat lawmaker named Caitlin Collier as his Lt Gov. She is likely to be much more interesting than anyone the Democrat party puts forth.

Auditor – Steve Barnett – There are rumors the Democrats will try hard to take this office. I believe that would be a mistake. Barnettt is well-liked and has done a pretty good job from what I can tell. The problems with transparency in Pierre have to do with lack of open government laws; and not with the auditor.

Treasurer – Rich Sattgast – I can’t see the Democrats mounting any successful race against Sattgast. Overall people are happy with now the finances of the state are being handled.

Public Utilities Commission – Gary Hanson – The Democrats can maybe make a case the PUC should change hands. I just can’t see how they would make that case right now.

Overall I don’t see any of the above offices changing party hands this year. There are likely to be cases made by politicos and bloggers this summer against some or all of the above candidates (including possibly by me); but at the end of the day there simply isn’t the infrastructure in place for the South Dakota Democrat Party to be competitive in these races. That is sad. Even if I support a candidate I hate to see a race with no real opposition. It is unhealthy to the whole election process when one party dominates.

US House votes to keep Guantanamo Bay open for another year

June 21, 2014 5 comments

johnny_automatic_State_penitentiary_I’ve been looking through the amendments added to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 (HR 4870). Earlier today I noted that South Dakota’s Representative Kristi Noem voted on the side of civil liberties by defunding illegal NSA activities. I applaud her for that vote. Now it is time to look at another amendment to the defense appropriations act she voted for that I feel is bad.

Rep Cotton (R-AR) submitted an amendment (905) that basically prevents President Obama from transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for one year. This amendment was offered by Rep Cotton as a response to Obama unilaterally choosing to swap Sgt Bergdahl for Guantanamo Bay prisoners. That act from Obama was technically illegal because the NDAA requires the President to give a thirty-day notice to Congress before such transfers can happen.

I call bullshit on Rep Cotton’s reason for submitting this amendment.

Back when campaigning for this first term the closure of Guantanamo Bay was one of Obama’s biggest campaign promises. A promise he has failed to accomplish. There appears to be two very large reasons Obama has failed to keep this promise:

  1. Congressional war hawks in both parties do not want Guantanamo Bay closed. Rep Cotton is among those who will do anything possible to keep Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay.
  2. Obama has never really tried to close Guantanamo Bay. It is true that Obama has raised Guantanamo Bay as a talking point many times over the years. Yet he has failed to ever try using his political power to accomplish this goal. Now this late into his second term Obama simply doesn’t have the political power to make such a change actually happen.

Rep Cotton is using the current Obama Bergdahl scandal as political cover in a means to keeping Guantanamo Bay open. The Obama administration in turn is playing political games by saying this amendment would actually be unconstitutional because it would diminish the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief. Both Congressional war hawks and the White House are content with this battle because it keeps focus away from the debate that should actually be happening: should Guantanamo Bay be closed.

Personally I think Guantanamo Bay is the antithesis of what American is meant to stand for. The indefinite detaining of people without any true means of due process goes against the principles this country was founded upon. Ironically some of the very same politicians I hear talk about “natural-born rights” are also the same the politicians that support the existence of Guantanamo Bay. If someone believes in natural-born rights it has to be for EVERYONE; and not just for people who are born in the United States. Allowing the government to arbitrarily choose who gets natural-born rights and who doesn’t has the endgame effect of reducing the potential liberties for all people; including US citizens. Government officials have often claimed Guantanamo Bay is important because our Constitution and laws do not apply there. The very fact that claim is made in support of Guantanamo Bay should actually be the reason to show why it should not exist. Our morals should not disappear when we leave our national border!

Are the people in Guantanamo Bay bad? Most likely they are. But it is time to stop pretending we as a country have the right to detain people indefinitely in an ambiguous and unwinnable “War on Terror”. I don’t know what should be done with the prisoners that currently ‘reside’ in Guantanamo Bay; but I most certainly believe the current solution is NOT Constitutional or morally acceptable. It is time for Congress and the White House to actually try looking for an answer to removing this morally bankrupt detainment center from our country.

Back to Cotton’s amendment. The amendment passed 230-184 along highly partisan lines. Yet it is important to remember the vote was only among party lines because the Democrats voting knew it would pass not matter what they voted. If there were too many Republicans parting from leadership in this vote there is no doubt more war hawks from the Democrat side would have stepped up and ensured the amendments passage.

I don’t really think the amendment will make it through the Senate. But it doesn’t have to. Debate will take place about the amendment. Reid will accuse Republicans of playing political games. McConnel will accuse Reid of being a dictator. In the end the amendment will be dropped. That will be a case of Reid and McConnel showing modern-day bi-partisanship: both parties arguing over political games to keep attention away from the real issue.

Unfortunately in South Dakota our lone Representative Kristi Noem decided to be part of this political straw-man battle; instead of actually standing up for what is right and arguing about whether Guantanamo Bay should remain open. Maybe I was expecting too much to think that DC Republicans care about little things like natural-born rights……

Here is the actual text of Cotton’s amendment for those interested. Basically if passed it would prevent the President from transferring prisoners until the next defense appropriations bill is passed in 2016.

At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following:
Sec. __. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to transfer or release any individual detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the individual’s country of origin or to any other foreign country.

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