Too many tabs open: time to clear the queue! Here's a potpourri of my weekend reading:

1. My friend The Displaced Plainsman offers his take on a fascinating study that finds beautiful people rationalizing their genetic good fortune into a greater acceptance of economic inequality. From a political perspective, that means that if you're looking for a candidate more sensitive to inequality and injustice, you vote for Stace Nelson.

2. Some bosses evidently think they are entitled to enhance income inequality. Washington Post columnist calls for stiffer penalties for wage theft. Hmmm... would server tip-out be a form of wage theft? And do any of South Dakota's pretty politicians care?

3. If you waiters and waitresses are looking for fairer-paying jobs, South Dakota's job outlook isn't too ugly. Moody's Analytics predicts South Dakota will see 6,809 new jobs this year, an increase of 1.62%. Minnesota will see 51,359 new jobs, growth of 1.85%. Tell me again, where's that competitive advantage we get from not doing a state income tax?

4. Speaking of tips, your tips (informational and financial) have helped this blog fight a real David-and-Goliath battle. The Madville Times has apparently been leading the charge against the biggest 2014 Q1 money-raiser in the South Dakota Senate race. My blogging and her fundraising demonstrate either my fearlessness or my ineffectiveness. Maybe both. Onward!

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Bernie Hunhoff allows me to sully the online pages of South Dakota Magazine this week with a proposal for a dirty trick: how about we Democrats help Gordon Howie get on the ballot? Howie says he's running as a Plan B in case Stace Nelson doesn't win the primary; could we turn that Plan B in Rick Weiland's favor?

The only reason I like Howie's Plan B is that it helps Rick Weiland. It boxes Rounds in: he can't attack Nelson too hard in the primary, because that would alienate Nelson's hard-right supporters, who could (as Kevin Woster notes) happily hand their votes to Howie in November. That increases the chances that Nelson can stage an upset in the primary, and Weiland can beat the cash-poor Nelson more easily than he can beat the Nine Million Dollar Man [Cory Allen Heidelberger, "Openly Dirty Tricks," South Dakota Magazine, 2014.04.16].

Check out my full argument, Democrats, then tell us: would we sell our souls signing Howie's Independent nominating petition? Or would we just be maximizing our advantage by further dividing the GOP electorate?

p.s.: One more reason to put Gordon Howie on the ballot: since they are both musicians, they could wrap up the State Fair debate by performing Dueling Banjos.

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Rounds for Senate staffer Justin Rollins got really excited about casting his primary ballot early yesterday. He took a picture of his marked ballot and posted it on Twitter to encourage all of his followers to vote for Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard, "Two great South Dakotan's." Aside from misusing the apostrophe (hey, my typing fingers slip and do it, too), no big deal, right?

Well, Jonathan Ellis points out that displaying your marked ballot violates SDCL 12-18-27:

Marked ballot not to be shown--Folding for deposit in ballot box. No person may show a ballot after it is marked to any person in such a way as to reveal the contents of the ballot, or the name of any candidate for whom the person has marked a vote. Nor may any person solicit the voter to show the voter's ballot. Immediately after marking the ballot the voter shall fold and refold the ballot, if necessary, leaving the official stamp exposed [South Dakota Codified Law 12-18-27, passed 1939, amended 1974, 1976, 1990.].

Rollins tells Ellis he had no idea South Dakota outlawed sharing images of marked ballots. Neither did I. Upon being informed of the law, Rollins deleted the photo tweet.

This issue came up nationwide during the last election, when folks on both sides proudly and propagandistically posted images of their ballots on their social media accounts. Such laws are meant to inhibit vote-buying:

[Boston Reporter David] Bernstein said that, after asking around, he’s come to understand that the law stems from the state not wanting people to buy votes. ”The idea being if someone was buying your vote, you’d take a picture to show that you voted for who they wanted you to vote for,” Bernstein said. “So you could see the thought behind it in that sense” [Nate Goldman, "That Photo Of Your Ballot You Posted On Social Media? It’s Against Mass. Law," WBUR, 2012.11.06].

One may also justify ballot-display bans on grounds of protecting the integrity of the polls. We prohibit electioneering activity at polling places, and taking a photo of your ballot may be construed as electioneering activity.

I see no ill intent in Rollins's ballot photo-tweet. I know I've taken photos of my ballot before (though I can't remember if I posted such photos or if I ultimately just kept them for documentation; I trust some ambitious reader will sift through my online trail to find out). But Rollins's ignorance of the ballot photo ban is worth noting considering his resume:

In the summer of 2010, Justin returned to South Dakota as campaign manager for Jason Gant for Secretary of State. Since the election, he has served as State Election Coordinator in the Secretary of State’s office, serving as the office’s point-of-contact for campaign finance issues, as well as school and municipalities election law [SDGOP, press release, 2011.11.15].

The man who had no idea this election law existed was hired by Secretary of State Jason Gant to explain election law to schools and municipalities. South Dakota, that's the quality in government we got by hiring Jason Gant as our Secretary of State.

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Annette Bosworth admits she misspoke yesterday... about something that she really should have done before submitting her illegitimate nominating petition. In her appearance on KELO-AM radio yesterday, the fake GOP Senate candidate told host Greg Belfrage that she had recognized mistakes on her petitions and asked her lawyer if she should recirculate them. She said (to the extent that she said anything clearly) that her lawyer said no, her petitions would get by just fine. Now (under orders, I suspect, from a very upset Joel Arends, her attorney), Bosworth recants:

Bosworth Clarification of KELO Radio Interview

(Sioux Falls, South Dakota) – Statement by Dr. Annette Bosworth regarding yesterday's radio interview with KELO Radio's Greg Belfrage.  "Yesterday while appearing on the Greg Belfrage show, I incorrectly and inarfully [sic] suggested that I was advised by legal counsel prior to submitting my petitions to the South Dakota Secretary of State's office.  This was an incorrect suggestion on my part, as I did not direct or ask my legal counsel to review the petitions or process before they were submitted.  Any suggestion that counsel reviewed the petitions, the process or offered advice beforehand is incorrect and I regret suggesting otherwise" [Annette Bosworth for U.S. Senate, press release, 2014.04.18].

Inarfully... that means failing to bark properly?

Not recanted from Bosworth's Thursday KELO-AM interview:

  • Bosworth's apparent contention that my being a "self-proclaimed communist, atheist blogger who lives out of state" has any bearing on the facts of her petition violations.
  • Bosworth's statement that her fundraising is a miracle worked by God Almighty.
  • Bosworth's statement that her invalid signatures aren't "dead Indians under the ground."
  • Bosworth's accusation that I have paid people to say negative things under oath about her.
  • Bosworth's attack on the character and credibility of Ethan Crisp, the campaign staffer whom she used and still hasn't paid.
  • Bosworth's absurd allegation that the mysterious and nameless "entrenched powers" tried to stop her raffles.
  • Bosworth's false accusation that people on her team weren't "faithful," let stress get t them, got greedy, and stole raffle money and papers from her.
  • Bosworth's declaration that Steve Hickey and I and other citizens have no right to raise legal questions about her campaign without first forming a personal relationship with her.
  • Bosworth's implication, repeated from her Tuesday train-wreck video, that I am really some big-money political mastermind trying to shut her down. (Let me just say that I didn't even get a refund from the IRS this year, while Bosworth is reporting $900,000 in campaign contributions.)

Of all the misstatements and outright lies Bosworth told on the radio yesterday, her misstatement about the advice she got from Joel Arends is the least of her errors. And this admission only strengthens the case that she is wholly responsible for willfully submitting a petition that she herself recognized had problems that could invalidate it.

Related: Greg Belfrage graciously invited me onto his program for the first time this morning. We talked briefly about Bosworth's irrelevant (his word) attacks on my character, then focused on the questions of fact and law surrounding Bosworth's illegitimate petition. The podcast is now available on KELO.com.

And yes, even on the radio, I did wave my arms a lot. Enjoy!

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...Contractor Still Out $2.1 Million; Workers Unpaid

I have frequently cited Scott Waltman's July 2013 summary of the costs of building Northern Beef Packers to discuss how much money that failed EB-5 project made disappear. Dirk Lammers now offers updated figures showing the state lost more than I was saying. His breakdown of the $4.3 million we handed to the now bankrupt and fire-saled plant includes the $2.1 million that then-Governor Mike Rounds hurriedly shoveled toward NBP in his final days as Governor.

  1. $67,600: Future Fund grant to Mentor Group in November 2010 for plant appraisal;
  2. $150,000: Future Fund grant to Aberdeen Development Corporation in December 2010 for economic impact study and marketing;
  3. $1 million: Future Fund grant to Northern Beef Packers in December 2010 for construction costs (actually to fill Richard Benda's golden parachute);
  4. $200,000: Future Fund grant to Brown County in December 2010 for road construction;
  5. $582,000: portion of $843,000 Future Fund grant in January 2011 for workforce training;
  6. $300,000: grant to South Dakota Department of Agriculture in January 2011 for the South Dakota Certified Beef Program (another Rounds failure);
  7. $1.2 million: grant in June 2010 "to provide a conditional loan to Northern Beef Packers for construction costs and employment recruiting";
  8. $845,000: state construction tax refunds.

Lammers's total: $4,344.600.

Now that's a small portion of the $167 million in total investment that Northern Beef Packers made go poof. Neither figure is the $80 million that Senate challenger Jason Ravnsborg offhandedly said during last Saturday's debate that we had lost. Senate candidate Mike Rounds tells Lammers that the state loss figure is actually zero, because NBP generated tax dollars and will generate more tax dollars in the future.

The Governor's Office of Economic Development estimates that Northern Beef would account for at least $3 million in sales and use taxes and contractors excise taxes paid to the state, based on filings made during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Rounds added that he expects that the plant will eventually be processing cattle.

"In essence, the taxpayers of South Dakota did not lose any taxpayer money on the bankruptcy of the Northern Beef plant," Rounds said. "And we still have the plant. It has been built, and it will be operational" [Dirk Lammers, "South Dakota's Help for Northern Beef was About $4.3M," AP via AgWeb, 2014.04.17].

Evidently did not means will not, and balancing a Mike Rounds budget requires a time machine.

Rounds also does not account for the losses suffered by Scott Olson Digging, which is still suing to get the $2.11 million it says NBP (now bankruptcy raiders White Oak/New Angus) owes it for work done in 2007. Rounds does not account for the paychecks that hundreds of NBP workers did not get last year.

Rounds of course is playing word games, as seems his wont. He forgets (check that; he wants us to forget) that had we not poured money into the NBP money pit, we could have invested in other projects that might still be operating and employing hundreds of South Dakotans. Instead, he wasted money on an unsustainable business plan that satisfied his dreams of a legacy on which to run for Senate in 2014.

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The Hot Springs Star is burning bright with debate over the Powertech/Azarga uranium mining proposal. Local project manager Mark Hollenbeck tells his neighbors that in situ uranium mining is "inherently safe" and is "Nature's perfect solution to global air pollution problems."

I'm not sure what "inherently safe" means here. Certain methods of mining may be safer than others, but firing up machines, disrupting geological formations, and exposing radioactive material has basic, unavoidable risks.

Nor am I sure what "Nature's perfect solution" means. A perfect solution would mean a response with no downside. A "perfect" solution to air pollution would make all air pollution go away without creating any other pollution in the soil or water. Mining uranium pollutes the land and water. Mining, processing, and transporting uranium brings people and the Black Hills biosphere into closer contact with radioactive material. Producing energy from uranium, while notably clean and efficient compared to burning coal or wood, still produces nuclear waste and the chance of nasty industrial accidents that can condemn entire regions. If Nature offered any "perfect" solution, it would be to wipe out the one species doing singular and extensive damage to all the others (and I'm asking for a veto on that one!).

Hollenbeck's April 7 letter has sparked responses from neighbors who see his foreign bosses' mining scheme as less than perfect. Pringle's Gardner Gray counters Hollenbeck's industrial propaganda with this letter to the editor, sent to my inbox yesterday:

Dear Sir:

A recent Guest Editorial in the Hot Springs Star from Powertech spokesperson Mark Hollenbeck brings to mind the words from Robert B. Thomas of the original Farmers Almanac who tells us that "it is by our works and not our words that we would be judged". This is of course good advice for all of us but particularly in this case it might apply to Mr. Hollenbeck and Powertech.

Our only assurance that this mining is going to be safe is their word. They can certainly have their own opinions about this mining issue but they cannot have their own facts. Scientists from the USGS, scientists from the School of Mines, including the highly respected Professor Rahm and other independent scientists, have repeatedly pointed out the dangers in assuming that this mining is safe from a water or environmental standpoint. Relying on scientists who are on the Powertech payroll to paint as rosy a picture as possible is unwise and counterproductive as well as confusing.

We are being told that uranium is safe thereby trying to convince us that ISL uranium mining is safe. Nothing is further from the truth. The USGS clearly states that there is no ISL operation in this country that has ever remediated the water or the land back to pre-mining condition or better. In other words, it cannot be done. Powertech knows this, as does the NRC and the EPA and the DENR.

Because of this scientific fact, Powertech wrote SB158 in 2011, invited incumbent representatives Verchio and Russell to misrepresent the bill to the legislature as a removal of duplication, but in truth stripped the DENR of its oversight and removed most of the water laws of the state that protected the water quality in the first place.

May we not make a clear judgement on the poor quality of the works of Powertech by just this one action? Who, in their right mind, would decide to weaken the public's water protection laws for private gain? What kind of person would risk billions of gallons of public water for any kind of monetary gain? Would you endanger public water supplies for $500,000 or one million or two? I certainly hope not.

This water does not belong to Powertech. It belongs to the public. The only requirement now for Powertech to remediate the water and the land to pre-mining or better condition is to get the contamination to as low as reasonably achievable, or ALARA which is the NRC minimum. What kind of protection is this? What kind of requirement is this? Powertech has agreed to a 25-million-dollar bond to cover remediation expenses where the NRC itself has assured us that remediation will take upwards of possibly 150 million if memory serves. If Powertech walks away from the cleanup based on the assumption that it is unreasonable to spend the money it will take to do so, who will pay the difference between 25 million and possibly 150? Well sir, we will, the very few who want this mining and the very many who do not.

Dr. Cook is correct. Since there is no guarantee that the water and land will be successfully remediated, ( in fact expert data to indicate that indeed it is impossible to do so,) it is only reasonable that Powertech stop this project before it goes any further. Powertech has not mined a single ounce of uranium since its inception and has very little experience to do so. It is not Powertech's fault that they won't clean the toxic waste up. The glaring fact is that they cannot. No one can. We need to measure this company by it's works, not it's words.

Gardner Gray
Pringle, South Dakota

Civilization requires energy. However, there are better, safer, cleaner ways to get energy that don't require putting the earth, water, and people of the Black Hills at greater risk.

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Denise Ross doesn't go quite as far as other observers who declared Stace Nelson the winner of last weekend's SDNA-sponsored GOP Senate candidates debate, but she sees signs in Rounds's debate performance and ad campaign that signal trouble in Rounds-land. She calls Rounds's attack on Stace Nelson "a move uncharacteristic of him during his time as governor and a potential violation of the unwritten rule that a candidate far ahead in the polls ignores the other candidates." 

She also sees Rounds's attack as the first clear sign of the influence of Rounds consultant Dick Wadhams:

Dick Wadhams can be remembered as the guide who shepherded John Thune to a seemingly impossible victory over Tom Daschle in 2004, serving as Yoda to Thune's Luke Skywalker. A decade later, Wadhams is working for Mike Rounds.

I covered that 2004 race and am confident very little, if anything, from the Thune camp was unscripted or unprepared for, even an infamous barnyard expletive uttered by Wadhams to a Daschle campaign aide. I learned years later that utterance was meant to distract the press from another issue, and it worked.

All of which is to say Rounds' retort to Nelson Saturday surely was planned and rehearsed during debate prep with Wadhams [Denise Ross, "Could Rounds Be in Trouble?" Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.04.17].

One would think Wadhams would counsel Rounds not to expend any more effort than he has to. If Rounds is attacking Nelson, he must have to. Just how close could Nelson be to Rounds?

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Blog pal Joe Loveland from Minnesota fires a shot across the border at Governor Dennis Daugaard's refusal to provide health coverage to 48,000 low-income South Dakotans through the PPACA Medicaid expansion. In full satire mode, Loveland reports that wealthy philanthropist T. Denny Sanford has a solution:

Sanford stepped into the fray today, announcing that he is creating a new Medicaid-like health plan, which he is calling SanfordCare™.  Any South Dakota citizen who would have been eligible for the Obamacare expansion would be eligible for the free SanfordCare™ coverage, provided they agree to legally change their surnames to Sanford™.  Any children born while under the health coverage would also have to adopt the first name Denny™ or Denita™ [Joe Loveland, "Billionaire Purchases Naming Rights to Uninsured South Dakotans," Wry Wing Politics, 2014.04.17].

Let's hope we can find real solutions that treat our fellow citizens as human beings and not as profit points.

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